By Steve Strunsky
October 03, 2014 at 7:35 AM, updated October 03, 2014
NEWARK — A $1.5 billion extension of PATH service to Newark Liberty International Airport would serve about 6,000 riders a day, who would pay just over one-third of its annual operating costs in fares, according to a feasibility study for the project.
Daily ridership on the mile-long link between Newark Penn Station and the airport would top out at 6,072, according to a study led by the Morristown-based Louis Berger Group, which was first conducted in 2000 and last updated in 2010.
After decades of discussion and study by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the airport extension was included in the agency’s $27.6 billion, 10-year capital plan adopted in February. The Port Authority issued a request for proposals to manage the project last week that reflected the $1.5 billion construction cost, with a construction schedule beginning in early 2018 and ending in late 2023.
The study estimated the annual operating cost of the service at $19 million, in 2010 dollars. Based on the PATH’s $2 fare in place at the time, the estimated share of the operating cost paid for by riders would be 37 percent, a lower share than the 45 percent realized by the PATH system as a whole from 2002 though 2008.
…A 2012 analysis by the Regional Plan Association, a non-profit transportation research group that supports the project, put the immediate ridership figure 20 percent higher than Berger’s projection, asserting it would be nearly double after 20 years.
Proponents also say the PATH extension would be used by low-wage airport workers commuting from from Hudson and Essex Counties, and that it would take thousands of cars off the region’s congested roads every day that would otherwise be driven to the airport.
That’s true, according to the Berger study, which projects that ridership would be divided almost equally between air passengers (51.4%) and airport workers (48.6%).