Passenger travel growth

This morning the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Anthony Coscia spoke at a mid-town hotel on the PANYNJ’s plans for the former World Trade Center site including the memorial slated to be built. But of interest to hoteliers and tour and travel professionals were his comments with regard to infrastructure for the greater New York area. Pressing projects that could do with an immediate start include a PATH train link to Newark airport, the single-seat ride from JFK to lower Manhattan (which he did not address but was asked about) and interestingly, but rarely mentioned, a fourth airport.

Coscia stated that based on current passenger growth the three New York area airports, JFK, EWR and LGA are all likely to be tapped out and incapable of handling any more traffic from 2015, a mere nine years from today. He noted that expected passenger volumes at the three airports at that point is likely to be in the 130 million annual range. A big number but oddly even by adding current volume at the three airports the total exceeds world leader, Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport (84 million passengers per year – 2004) by only 10 million. BAA (a private operator recently taken over by Grupo Ferrovial of Spain) operates Heathrow where annual passenger volume is approximately 67 million. So why do the three New York airports have relatively low traffic for a major entry and transit point such as New York? The obvious answer is the congestion Mr. Coscia referred to but also is due to the monopoly exercised by PANYNJ.

With no competition since its inception some 85 years ago, the Port Authority is a gigantic entity that wields control over an assortment of transportation and infrastructure areas. If a fourth airport is developed with a rail link to Manhattan, the PA will likely seek to take that airport over as well. As the New York Sun recently commented in an editorial in the aftermath of the Ferrovial takeover, it is time to get rid of the quasi-government behemoth that is largely immune to competitive forces and let companies in the private sector bid to run the ports and airports.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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