Much of the coverage last week about the sudden departure of United CEO Jeff Smisek focused on possible collusion between Smisek and former New York-New Jersey Port Authority Chairman David Samson — something the federal government is investigating. The reports noted that United had revived a money-losing route between Newark and Columbia, South Carolina, a route that Samson had requested because he has a vacation home there.
But what was in it for United? Better, faster rail links to Wall Street.
With its big hub operation at Newark Airport, United would stand to gain a greater share of the lucrative business travel market from New York’s Financial District if travelers could simply hop a direct train from Wall Street to the airport — a much more attractive prospect than long and expensive taxi rides to LaGuardia or JFK. United’s west coast routes would especially benefit, since the airline is moving its premium p.s. transcon service from JFK to Newark in late October. The Wall Street-area PATH trains operate out of a big transportation hub incorporated into the new World Trade Center project.
Don’t miss! How to survive insane San Francisco this fall
An editorial in NJ.com, a news website of the Newark Star-Ledger, prefaces its comments with all the usual cautions that nobody has been indicted and this is all speculation, it says that the Port Authority’s plan to spend $1.5 billion extending the local PATH trains to Newark Airport “seemed like a strange decision” since other projects should have taken priority. Following last week’s events at United, “there is reason to at least suspect that sinister motives may have been at work,” the editorial says.
The PATH train system (it stands for Port Authority Trans Hudson) is a network of underground commuter rail lines that link midtown and lower Manhattan to stations just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, extending as far as Penn Station in downtown Newark.
An extension of the PATH network to Newark Airport would mainly benefit riders from lower Manhattan, where the Financial District is based. In midtown Manhattan, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains already operate from Penn Station to the Newark Airport station.
NJ.com said some New Jersey Democratic legislators want to suspend funding for the PATH expansion project until more is known about the Port Authority-United business — something the editorial called “a prudent request.” A PATH extension to EWR would be used by about 7,000 people a day, while other infrastructure projects would benefit much larger numbers, the editorial said. It cited the need to build a long-overdue rail tunnel under the Hudson (something New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rejected a few years ago) and to expand the cramped Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, which serves 200,000 people a day.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Surviving San Franciso + Photos: New United first class seat + Save money on calls from other countries + 6 secrets for snagging low fares