Laguardia-focused SBS to improve airport travel timesBy
Thanks to a bunch of NIMBYs in Astoria, we don’t have subway service to Laguardia Airport, and we’ve been waiting years for the city to wrap up endless studies concerning bus improvements. Today, though, marked a potential turning point in the much-maligned airport’s accessibility as the New York City Department of Transportation and MTA announced a sweeping series of bus improvements that will drastically reduce travel times to the airport.
Three new Select Bus Service routes will connect the airport to Manhattan, the Bronx and parts of Queens as well as nearby subway lines, the LIRR and Metro-North. With speedier buses running up and down 125th St., on Webster Ave. and through Jackson Heights, local bus service, as Streetsblog detailed earlier, should improve as well. According to the city and MTA, travel times could drop for some airport-bound commuters by as much as 40 minutes thanks to pre-board fare payment options, dedicated travel lines and signal prioritization efforts. The new routes should be rolled out over the course of 2013 and 2014.
“LaGuardia Airport is a transportation hub and a city unto itself that needs a better connection to the transit network and the region’s economy,” DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement. “These routes will open the terminal doors to new neighborhoods and bring more reliable local service to people across three boroughs.”
As many New Yorkers know, Laguardia remains infuriatingly close but oh so far from the city’s public transit system. Even with service from five bus routes, service is painstakingly slow, and buses fill up very quickly with folks using local service, those who work at the airport and travelers with giant suitcases. Without a direct rail link or any bus improvements, the current situation is untenable.
So what are the details? Well, in Manhattan, new M60 SBS service would bring speedier connections to Metro-North and the subways at 125th St. while speeding up airport service by nearly 10 minutes. Harlem community leaders have long voiced the need for better bus service as well. In the Bronx, some Webster Ave. SBS rides would cross the Triboro Bridge and head to the airport, cutting travel times by nearly 50 percent. This extension is still under consideration. In Queens, new service to Woodside and Jackson Heights would utilize the BQE to clear up local streets and provide quicker and more direct service. (A PDF summary of these proposal is available here.)
Ultimately, these bus improvements are welcome, but they are no substitute for rail service. Improving access to Laguardia has long been a goal of Mayor Bloomberg and his PLANYC2020 vision, and it appears as though a part of his lasting transportation legacy will involve faster bus service to this airport. Still, we should not lose sight of the endgame: The subway — or at the least, an airtrain — should extend to Laguardia. Until then, incremental improvements, and not a game-changing scenario, are the best we can hope to achieve,