The Regional Plan Association says that a PATH train extension has the potential to not only improve access to the airport from lower Manhattan, Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken, but also to greatly enhance transportation options for neighborhoods.

Nat Bottigheimer, New Jersey director of the RPA, said passenger growth at Newark Airport is expanding and driving tourism to Manhattan. He said businesses want to be able to get easy access for tourists and visitors, both domestically and internationally, to the city.

Another angle is that there has been a huge amount of job growth in Manhattan and Newark. Bottigheimer said businesses there want to get better access to Newark Airport. It can take 35 to 70 minutes to travel from Manhattan to Newark Airport.

"You have a transit access, you're going to get straight to the terminal and it's going to be a reliable 35, 40 minutes every time," said Bottigheimer.

As far as an economic development opportunity for Newark, now commuters cannot get to the Newark Airport rail station from any other properties surrounding that station. So this is a huge opportunity for hospitality, for convention, for businesses that support airport activity and it's an opportunity that's right in the heart of Newark, he added.

Bottigheimer said this economic development opportunity is right where it's best for business and best for residents. Being able to get to the airport directly by PATH is a huge win for the region.

A report by the RPA finds that since 2013, ride-share services such as Lyft and Uber have disrupted personal transportation in the New York metropolitan area, including for airport access.

According to the Port Authority, there's been a growth in people getting to the airport via Lyft or Uber compared to buses, trains and personal vehicles. That means there's been a decline in parking use at the airports, which Bottigheimer said is a threat to the airport as far as loss of dollars.

Using ride-share services affects travel times, making the roads more congested. He said this makes mass transit such as PATH a much more attractive option.

The RPA has been partnering with the Downtown Lower Mannhattan Association, which has funded this report. It has also partnered with Newark Alliance and Newark Regional Business Partnership and the Prudential Foundation. RPA has increased the frequency of conversations with Port Authority leadership who, Bottigheimer said has been open to all of these suggestions.

The PATH extension and the Air Train rebuilding are not separate projects. Both will give people seamless connections to the airport and they have to be coordinated, Bottigheimer said. The Air Train is out of the gate right now. He said it needs to be coordinated with the PATH extension project to make sure that from a traveler's point of view, getting to the terminal from wherever they're getting on a train is going to be easy to do.

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