LaGuardia, LaGuardia, where art thou, LaGuardia?

By · Published in 2011

“So near and yet so far” could very well be the motto of LaGuardia Airport. Nestled north of Astoria, the airport isn’t very subway-accessible, and in fact, NIMBY opposition to a subway expansion shot down plans to extend the N to the airport. Now, as a I reported a few weeks ago, various stakeholders are working on an access plan for the aiport that will ostensibly focus around a potential bus rapid transit corridor. Now that the first meeting is in the books, however, it seems as though the MTA, DOT and Port Authority will engage in a full alternatives analysis.

The slides from the late June meeting have hit the web, and the agenda is clear: With 88 percent of LaGuardia customers taking taxis or private cars, the various stakeholders are going to try to develop better access into commercial hubs in Astoria, Harlem, Midtown, Jackson Heights, Flushing and the Bronx. The alternatives under consideration will include not only bus rapid transit, the long-shot subway and the painfully slow ferries, but also some more intriguing options: streetcars, light rail and an AirTrain-type automated guideway system. An airtrain over the Grand Central right-of-way would better connect the subway to LaGuardia.

Over the next few months, the three agencies will hold a series of outreach meetings as they plot out alternatives and potential alignments. The report calling for the locally preferred alternative is due next May with implementation to begin in 2013. Within five years, perhaps LaGuardia will be far more accessible than it is today with only some local Queens buses and the lonely M60 provided public transit service.

Categories : Asides, Queens

25 Responses to “LaGuardia, LaGuardia, where art thou, LaGuardia?”

  1. John says:

    I’ll say it again. Transit to LGA is not that bad right now, if you’re willing to take a bus. There are a lot of people that, for a variety of reasons, will take a train, tram, subway, or light rail, but won’t take a bus. Those people will look into airport transportation, see no train/subway option, and their next option is a taxi/friend/etc. (not a bus).

    I’m not sure what those people would think of a BRT. I think many of them would ride BRT.

    Would it be nice if there was a subway or airtrain to LGA? Of course. But it should NOT be on the top of the MTA’s list, and probably not even in the top 10.

    • Tsuyoshi says:

      I agree. But… if this could be used as an excuse to get physically separated lanes on 125th Street, and a limited-stop version of the M60, I wouldn’t complain.

      • Andrew says:

        Physically separated bus lanes (unless there’s more than one in each direction) mean that one bus can’t pass another. A bad idea in general when there’s frequent service, but it’s completely incompatible with limited-stop service – your M60 Limited will get trapped behind a Bx15 Local

    • Terratalk says:

      The M60 bus is a great idea if you can get them running properly but as of right now the service needs a serious looking into … I am frequently stranded during rush hour when they are supposed to be running 8 buses an hour and only one or two show up. We can see them go into LaGuardia but the one’s that come out are filled to the gills and others say “Next Bus Please” and are empty (and pass us by). Last Friday (July 8th) we waited an hour and 15 minutes in the pouring rain and no bus shelter (77th & Astoria – westbound). Two very filled buses showed; one passed us by, one at least tried to pick up two out of the crowd that was at our stop. I finally got on the third bus. I understand it was raining but this is not an uncommon occurrence even on sunny days.

      The route needs more supervision to stop the “Next Bus Please” syndrome. It could also benefit from a switch to the longer tandem buses like the one’s running on the “Select” on 1st and 2nd Avenue. They have more room for luggage and wider aisles.

      Quite frankly, if the bus ran like it was supposed to, it would be able to handle the volume and switching to tandems would allow to handle increase volume until everyone makes up their mind what to build to handle the volume in the future.

      The meeting that Benjamin was referring to was poorly attended due to lack of notice to the neighborhood and users of the various bus lines. If Ben wouldn’t mind posting the date of the next meeting on this blog it would be appreciated.

      And … this actually brings up another point. This increased volume that is anticipated is partially due to LaGuardia making plans to upgrade their gates to handle larger planes that they anticipate they will be allowed to land and take off from that airport. Since LaGuardia doesn’t seem to have included the local community boards in the planning detail meetings, this is another place to find out more details in the planned upgrade.

      As for the M60 fixes, I’m not holding my breath. Instead, I’m investing in a folding seat cane so I can at least sit down and wait. 🙂

    • Hank says:

      I fly out of LGA or JFK at least once a month for work. I almost always take the E to Airtrain for JFK and would prefer the same for LGA.

      Here’s the problem with the bus to LGA (which I took once and vowed never again). They are always on fixed (and the most congested) routes. I cannot count the times that a cabby has gotten me to my flight on time against seemingly-insurmountable traffic by knowing the back roads of queens. The bus cannot do that and is therefore hostage to the (horrendous) Queens traffic.

    • al says:

      I think that they should also look at other options like flexible intelligent routing for limited/express buses.

      I also found this while looking at transit technologies that reached prototype or operational stage.


  2. Bolwerk says:

    Hmm, I would think anything to LGA calls for heavy rail, not LRT or chintzier BRT.

    Bringing AirTrain from JFK to LGA, and making sure both can get, at a bare minimum, to Midtown East seems worthy.

    An el is probably just NIMBY bait without smarter laws. If underground subway is an option, this might be a good job for the G combined with a midtown-bound option that can be diverted from Queens Boulevard (E? F? M?) to a new imaginary line from LIC to LGA. Though its frequency sucks, the G makes good time between Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Court Square, and has a lot of spare capacity in both directions to take people to the 7, L, maybe the J/M/Z, and the A/C.

  3. jim says:

    I like the Flushing option: along Grand Central to the mess of spaghetti by the Stadium and then across the parking lots to connections with the 7 and the LIRR Port Washington line at their respective Mets-Willets Point stations. There’s not likely to be much in the way of NIMBYism to block it. And it’d look like the JFK Airtrain.

    • Brian says:

      You are wrong about the NIMBY’ism.

    • Andrew says:

      Given that most of the market for a transit connection to an airport is from Manhattan, why would you route it via Flushing? Who would go from Manhattan to Flushing to get to LGA?

      • Alon Levy says:

        If it’s just standard transit rather than an AirTrain, it could be usable by airport workers. Where do LGA workers live?

        • I saw a number of LGA workers get on the Q33.
          Some got off along the way, but over half took it all the way to the end at 74th – Broadway.

          With JFK AirTrain, around 23K of the 158K weekly turnstile entries/exits are 30 day or monthly.
          I assume all of those are from employees.

      • jim says:

        People don’t know it’s Flushing (or where Flushing is, or even that Flushing exists). It’s the connection point to the train that goes to Manhattan.

        But Alon on his blog suggested that there need be no connection. That the train from LaGuardia could simply merge into the Port Washington branch (Alon wants it rapid transitified, non-FRA, but that’s a counsel of perfection). He notes that travelers are transfer-averse. His is a much better idea. The model would be the Heathrow Express: twenty minutes to Midtown every twenty minutes. LaGuardia would be physically a (fairly short) spur off the Port Washington branch. The train would be a slightly modified (to add more luggage space) LIRR commuter train which would run non-stop between LaGuardia and Grand Central or Penn Station or both. Charge a premium fare: a cab from midtown to LaGuardia runs near about $40 with tolls and tip, so a LaGuardia Express one-way fare at $20 would be a bargain, no? Certainly $20 is comparable to the Heathrow express fare. Discount round trip tickets and heavily discount monthly passes (so as not to squeeze airport workers). The Port Washington branch sees half a dozen tph at peak now. An extra 3 or even 6 tph from the LaGuardia service isn’t going to break anything.

        We often do not think of commuter rail solutions. In this case it looks as though the AA won’t look at them. The logos on the slides are for the Port Authority, NYCDOT and

        “Metropolitan Transportation Authority
        New York City Transit
        Bus Company”

        No mention of the LIRR side of the MTA. Another indictment of the unintegrated nature of the beast.

        • ajedrez says:

          The problem with charging a high fare like $20 is that it discourages passengers who are traveling in groups. Hell, for $20, anybody whose destination isn’t Penn Station or Grand Central would probably take a taxi or the bus->subway.

          I think it should be a Zone 3 fare, which is $7.25 one-way.

        • Alon Levy says:

          One way this could be done in a hypothetical non-FRA situation: rapid transit shuttles terminating at QB have subway fare, express trains to Midtown are premium (though maybe less than $20). Even in an FRA situation, there’s a way to solve this – charge subway fare for trips on the north-south segment – but it’s less efficient because, for one, the express train becomes less express.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I don’t see any reason to do anything short of have a fast (if not express) subway service between Manhattan and both airports. It should let out at a terminal. There is no reason why they can’t charge a premium for letting in or out at the terminal, but it should be significantly less than the cost to park even for short periods.

            The line could certainly be useful in whatever neighborhood it passes through, so there’s little excuse.

  4. I took the q33 from LGA a week ago and it was painfully slow and overcrowded.
    In addition, the presence of lots of luggage on a standard bus was bad for both those with luggage and without.

    I’m sure that bus service could work better, but it would take more buses and ones designed for airport routes.

    • Andrew says:

      The buses with the luggage racks are even worse than the ones without, because the aisle is narrower. (The single seats are replaced with double seats to compensate for the seats taken out for the luggage rack.)

      Is it time to go back to perimeter seating on buses?

  5. Jason says:

    Getting to JFK from West Harlem is the bane of my existence. Too bad I can never find flights out of LGA. There is something wrong with the fact that it is faster for me to take public transport to EWR than to JFK.

    • Tsuyoshi says:

      I don’t know if it is wrong, since Newark is closer than JFK.

    • Anon256 says:

      According to Hopstop, A (Lefferts) to Q10L is very slightly faster (and of course cheaper) than A to PATH to NJT62, both taking between 90 and 100 minutes from 125th and St Nick. It’s close enough to depend on what terminal you’re going to, though.

  6. Al D says:

    A 1 seat ride from Manhattan would be nice. See Chicago for the Blue and Orange Lines (O’Hare and Midway respectively).

  7. Peter says:

    Why does the Q23 bus stop just outside of LGA? It’s baffling…

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