Home Queens For LaGuardia, a new limited bus service looms

For LaGuardia, a new limited bus service looms

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA has proposed a new bus service for LaGuardia that will use the BQE and Grand Central Parkway to provide a speedier ride.

Absent extending the N train through Astoria — a dream that died at the hands of NIMBYs over a decade ago — the best way to improve transit to LaGuardia Airport involves buses. As buses have limited capacity especially for suitcase-laden travelers and with surface traffic heavy and variable on the roads approaching the airport, it’s not an ideal solution. Still, as the city examines various Select Bus Service routes to the airport, the MTA is working to boost existing service for a hub that’s near and yet so far.

This evening in East Elmhurst, the agency is hosting a public comment session on a proposed expansion of LaGuardia bus service. As you can see from the map above, the new route provides a connection from Jackson Heights to the airport via the BQE and Grand Central Parkway. If all goes according to plan, the new service would debut in the fall, and here’s how the MTA describes it:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) proposes revisions to MTA Bus Company operated bus service to LaGuardia Airport. A new limited-stop bus service is proposed connecting LaGuardia Airport with regional transit hubs in Jackson Heights and Woodside, traveling non-stop via the limited-access Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Grand Central Parkway. The service would be named Q70 Limited. The Q70 Limited would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Coincident with the implementation of the Q70, it is proposed that the current Q33 local bus route between Jackson Heights and LaGuardia Airport be shortened to no longer enter LaGuardia Airport. The northern terminus would be relocated to 95th Street and Ditmars Boulevard in East Elmhurst, and the southern terminus would remain in Jackson Heights at the E/F/M/R/7 subway station. The Q33 would retain its current hours of service, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There’s good and there’s bad here. The good is obviously the speedier connection via limited access roads from the subway in Queens to the airport. This 24-hour service could dramatically improve transit connections for travelers trying to reach LaGuardia, and eliminating local stops in Queens means that all riders of this bus will be trying to reach the airport as quickly as possible.

The bad aspects of this plan though are problematic. First, the BQE and Grand Central do not have dedicated bus lanes and feature soul-crushing rush hour traffic jams. The buses, as with most in the city, will be subject to the whims of the road conditions. Additionally, by cutting off the Q33 before the airport, many local riders who live in the area and work at the airport will find their transit route eliminated. Doubling back to pick up the new Q70 Limited will add time to these trips. Finally, these buses will face capacity problems as they fill up with luggage and passengers. It’s a problem on the M60 and on the Q33 that this plan doesn’t solve.

Ultimately, this is a band-aid for a larger access problem. It takes existing resources and reshuffles them around to provide a better transit experience, and that’s fine if we’re thinking bigger. But LaGuardia access proposals haven’t moved beyond buses since the failed attempt at proposing a subway extension in the late 1990s. It’s time to revisit that effort whether the alignment runs through Astoria or above the Grand Central Parkway. In 2013, one of the city’s major airports shouldn’t exist in a transit desert.

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Scott B. May 1, 2013 - 2:30 pm

The best solution is probably continuing the Airtrain from Jamaica to LaGuardia up the Van Wyck to the GCP and the airport. I am sure there would be a monstrous price tag with this solution, but it would come with the benefit of having connecting flights at different airports as an option.

It could have a stop in Flushing connecting the 7 and the LIRR to the Airtrain. You could even build it in phases so that the airtrain would connect from LaGuardia to Flushing in Phase 1 and Phase 2 connect it to Jamaica where it could continue to JFK.

Of course an N extension would be good as well… maybe cheaper, but NIMBY seems to rule the day…

Scott C May 1, 2013 - 3:22 pm

As long as we are dreaming, how about continuing the airtrain past laguardia to connect with the N Terminus, then across the East River to 125th Street to connect with Metro North. That would be sweet.

But in seriousness, aside from the cost, would there be an engineering reason why the current elevated portion of the N could be put underground and then extended to the airport thereby avoiding the NIMBY’s (who would probably still complain….)

Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 9:51 pm

Engineering? Well, it’s expensive, to start. And you lose the cross-platform transfer with the 7, which would be manageable but unfortunate. And, maybe least of all, an el is probably more accessible than a deep bored subway, which is likely what you’d need if you replaced the el while the el continues operating.

Or, if you go below grade at any point in Queens, you no doubt run up against NIMBYism.

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:09 pm

Most of the stations along the Astoria Line have two platforms, and making that ADA compliant would be more expensive and complex than with a two-track, island platform subway.

Astoria residents would probably not mind the replacement of the el with a subway, and in any case, you can’t go at-grade or above ground from the west to a LaGuardia station due to the lack of space around the ROW and the height restrictions due to the runway that ends right before the GCP.

A more complex engineering issue would be the fact that you’d either need to build a new underground Queensboro platform, or find some way to have the existing tracks dive right back down after Queensboro. There’s also the money issue.

Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 9:49 pm

I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, but the rest of us ought to mind. They get a subway line, when whole neighborhoods that need them don’t?

I don’t know that I find ADA conversion arguments very convincing either. It’s one thing to ADA convert a station as part of normal replacement/modernization, or when some other factor really calls for it, but it’s another thing to replace a whole line for the sake of the very few people who need ADA access. Even with ADA accessibility, subways are mainly for the able-bodied.

Priorities, please!

Henry May 3, 2013 - 12:58 am

That ADA tangent was a response to “an el is probably more accessible than a deep-bore subway”, which I may have misinterpreted to mean ADA-compliant.

Just because it’s bored doesn’t mean it has to be a particularly deep bore, either.

Bolwerk May 3, 2013 - 9:55 am

Well, it’s obviously easier to make an existing el accessible ADA-wise, but that wasn’t the point. The point is climbing two stories to an el is easier than climbing several stories underground.

Cut and cover is ideal, but probably out of the question with Astoria.

AG May 1, 2013 - 5:53 pm

Or AirTrain could do what it does at JFK… meaning it could go over the GCP until it reaches the closest point that it could connect to the LIRR and subway. That would be cheaper I believe.

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 3:17 am

It’s ridiculous to go from Manhattan all the way to Jamaica just to backtrack to LaGuardia. Getting off in Jackson Heights and taking this proposed Q70 bus would be faster than using your proposed Airtrain extension.

Really, airports are not large enough trip generators to justify the sorts of investment people are discussing here. The JFK Airtrain carries less than 12000 average daily riders, or 1400 per mile of route, while the subway system as a whole averages over 25000 per mile of route. Transit investment should focus on lines people would ride every day (2nd Ave, Triboro, Utica, etc), not a handful of times a year.

This Q70 bus proposal is long overdue and exactly the sort of transit improvement called for at LaGuardia. (Dedicated lanes would always be nice but as long as they require a political battle I’d again rather political capital be spent elsewhere.) I hope to ride it soon.

Eric May 2, 2013 - 7:08 am

12000 vs 25000 is not that big a difference. 12000 is misleadingly low, since the Airtrain runs a long distance without any intermediate stops, so of course the per-mile ridership is low. Also the system is automated, so operating costs should be lower than on the subway (or bus). And 25000 is misleadingly high, since that is an average of central and peripheral routes. A newly built route like Utica would be peripheral and have a much lower ridership than 25000. When you take all these factors into account, plus the desire to attract out-of-town visitors and their spending money, the return on investment is quite justifiable.

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 12:52 pm

12000 is total daily Airtrain ridership, the per-mile number is 1400 vs 25000 for the subway. Regarding Utica, even the B46 bus manages 6100 riders per mile, and subway ridership there would surely be higher. It’s true that a line like the Airtrain has lower operating costs, and so once built it can be worth running it even at lower ridership levels (I certainly wouldn’t call for shutting down the JFK airtrain!), but capital costs are a much more problematic issue and are roughly proportional to miles of route; expending scarce capital funds on an Airtrain line to LaGuardia would yield far smaller benefits than using those funds elsewhere.

Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 2:59 pm

I wouldn’t just look at per-rider numbers here. Making LaGuardia accessible to AirTrain opens up convenient access to LaGuardia for hundreds of thousands of people. These are trips that mean a lot more tourism and trade.

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 3:18 pm

LaGuardia is already congested to capacity, improved access won’t increase the amount of tourism/trade passing through it. The tourism/trade benefits are the same whether the passengers take taxis or transit. The point of improved transit would be to get cars off the road, but the same money could do that much, much more effectively elsewhere.

Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 3:35 pm

No they’re not. The less time users’ time wasted, the greater the benefit, and in the end that probably results in higher-value trips being made. Certainly redirecting some road traffic to rail is always a great thing.

Not saying it’s the best use of scarce funds, although it probably doesn’t exactly compete with the subway for funds either.

AG May 2, 2013 - 7:17 am

The time I used AirTrain I was so glad as I remember every single time there is a back up on the Van Wyck. If all the other users had to get in cars – that adds up to more traffic… more lost time (lost productivity)… more air pollution. Likewise going to Newark airport.
I do agree though it’s too expensive to extend it from where it is all the way to La Guardia. La Guardia should get its own separate version.

Eric Brasure May 2, 2013 - 9:13 am

Was an Airtrain-style solution from Astoria Blvd. on the Astoria line, over the GCP, to LaGuardia ever seriously considered by anyone? It’s probably the best shot.

AG May 2, 2013 - 11:08 am

I have no idea… but I think it should be considered.

Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 3:46 pm

One of the options that was suggested was using the old trolley sidings on the QueensboroEd Krotch Bridge for AirTrain to get to Manhattan. I can’t remember the details, but it likely could have meant a stop at Queensboro Plaza for Astoria/Flushing Line access, then maybe terminating in Manhattan somehow.

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:12 pm

You can’t, because a runway ends just short of GCP and restricts heights directly in the path – the streetlights immediately around the runway are a third of the height of normal streetlights, and on Google Maps you can see a giant barren space extending south of the runway.

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 1:14 pm

This is an important benefit on the often-gridlocked Van Wyck, but by comparison this part of the BQE and GCP is very rarely congested. Have a look at the traffic data on Google Maps.

AG May 2, 2013 - 2:34 pm

That is true… but doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Every car taken off the road is beneficial… even if there isn’t extreme congestion. As an aside – easier access to the airport to those who prefer public transport is also worthwhile.

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 3:19 pm

Every car taken off the road is indeed beneficial, but the same scarce capital funds would take more cars off the road if spent elsewhere.

Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 3:41 pm

Would it? I can’t really identify many potential routes where the drivers are likely big candidates for subway use. You might get more ridership than AirTrain on many new suwbay routes, but these would be shifted from bus-subway transfers or will be completely new riders.

The airports really do generate a lot of car trips, however, mainly because getting to the airport isn’t very feasible or convenient with rail right now, and buses are crappier than either mode. Fix that, and you actually do have a potential to eliminate some car trips.

Again, maybe not the best use of resources, but if getting cars off the road is the main goal here….

Larry Littlefield May 1, 2013 - 2:32 pm

Nah, it’s all good news, and a great credit to whoever thought of it. I wish I had done so myself.

The traffic in Jackson Heights is bad, but the portion of the BQE the service will use is not generally congested as other parts are, and the long term construction there is done. This bus, with a change to the subway, may be better than a ride on a taxi that does have to use more congested parts of the oard network.

With no stops the bus service should be pretty quick. Eventually, perhaps buses with more room for luggage will be purchased specifically for the route.

D.R. Graham May 1, 2013 - 2:37 pm

You took the words right out of my mouth. In all my years I have never seen the BQE congested in that area and in the direction of travel. Even the Grand Central in that area is not that bad considering the exists for the airport are literally within striking distance of entering the Grand Central.

R2 May 1, 2013 - 3:40 pm

I’ll second Larry on that one. There’s rarely congestion on that stretch of the BQE from Broadway (or from Roosevelt for those of you who remember back in the day) and I mean rarely. Usually an awful accident or really bad weather (which would delay flights anyway) would see this part lock up. Maybe the peak of the peak of holiday travel. And it could get out at Astoria Blvd right before entering the GCP if that way’s bad. From the airport to the transit hubs is a similar situation.

As for the Q33, it should be kept as is. At the VERY least, its final stop should overlap with a stop on the Q70.

Kevin May 1, 2013 - 10:43 pm

I concur…I drive that stretch on a daily basis and I’ve never encountered congestion. Traffic lightens up big time between Queens Blvd and the GCP merge.

al May 2, 2013 - 3:13 pm

No need, the revised Q33 will be overlap with M60 and Q72 near LGA. That will provide a transfer point.


Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:13 pm

Really? During the AM, the GCP West – BQE South ramp seems to always be filled with taxis and commuters trying to cut each other off. The fact that it’s a single lane doesn’t help much, either.

pink l May 1, 2013 - 2:39 pm

I know this is a long shot, but here goes
A good plan would be that there would be a 4 track subway along Ditmars Blvd, with the express train stopping only at LaGuardia and 31 St/ Ditmars Blvd in Queens. The local would stop at 3 more stops, 74 St, 43 St and 21 St.
Under both East river sides, it would be a two track tunnel, with a small local stop at the southern edge of Randall’s island.
Both the express and local would stop at 96 St/2 Av but then would split up right after this station.
The express would run express down Lexington to Brooklyn Bridge, or some other destination in southern Manhattan. The local would continue across 96 St, and would be considered the 96 St crosstown, stopping at Lex, 5, CPW and a new station under 96 St/ Broadway. The local would run with the 1 all the way down to South Ferry after 96 St. These trains could be called the 8 (exp) & 9 (local)
While this would be an awesome plan, as you could get from Grand Central to Laguardia in only 6 stops! This would be very expensive and would require two east river tunnels meaning more money.
But this would be most likely faster than the

pink l May 1, 2013 - 2:40 pm

N would from Astoria
Sorry it accidentally got cut off! 🙂

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:14 pm

There’s no room for a third express on Lexington. Lexington is overloaded as it is.

Bgriff May 1, 2013 - 2:43 pm

There are already some buses with luggage racks on the Q33, so hopefully those buses will be assigned to this new route, and perhaps those racks will get more use on this bus where everyone on board will be clearly traveling to and from the airport.

Otherwise I don’t anticipate this route will be at all overcrowded. The Q33 is typically pleasantly empty as it leaves the LGA property; it’s only as it picks up local traffic in East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights that it fills up. Indeed the bigger risk is that the new buses will be so empty that the service flops and is cut — the best outcome for this route would be if the MTA promotes the hell out of it so that cost-sensitive Manhattanites who currently flock to the M60 because it seems more direct than the Q33 (for most, it likely is not) will instead take this new service.

An easier way for passengers arriving at LGA without already holding a Metrocard to pay for their fare would be a big start…

MH May 1, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Transit service (especially subways) to NYC’s majors airports have always left something to be desired. I don’t think shortening a bus route and adding a limited bus route in it’s place will necessary help with airport service. I wonder what type of buses will be used for the route…The new accordion type bus models with the 3 exit doors that I’ve seeing on the B44 route?

Alex May 1, 2013 - 4:11 pm

I know this is the million dollar question nationwide, but how much longer before there will be enough will to start taking lanes away from cars on highways to convert to rapid bus lanes on a grand scale? In reality, it’s less far fetched than some of the other ideas being batted around here for better airport access. It’s certainly a lot cheaper. And why stop with airports? Better connecting the outer boroughs is a constant topic of discussion. Bus lanes on expressways would be a relatively cheap and easy solution to that. I’ve said for years that LA could have a world-class BRT system if they’d only convert a bunch of freeway lanes to bus lanes. Same could work here. Again, while we’re dreaming.

AG May 1, 2013 - 5:51 pm

In this area – that was planned for I-287 from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Connecticut state line. When Gov. Cuomo killed the transit portion of the replacement bridge – the plan stalled.

LA has too much congestion for them to consider it… ppl are complaining about the new tolls even.

Alex May 1, 2013 - 5:55 pm

Well, those HOT lanes might be the first step toward just that. People will always complain when you change things. Someone has to have the political will to deal with that.

Eric Brasure May 2, 2013 - 9:17 am

I think you’re going to have to wait another 20 years for that. If driving trends continue to dip down, and the next generation that ages into adulthood keeps or accelerates that rate, then it’s very likely.

AlexB May 1, 2013 - 4:46 pm

“Ultimately, this is a band-aid for a larger access problem.” I guess that’s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is to say this is the cheapest fastest way to use existing resources to get between Manhattan and LGA and it’s long overdue. In fact, it brings NYC in line with most cities which have express buses connecting their airports to city centers or regional rail. A direct rail link would be obviously preferable, but that’s kind of apples and oranges.

Referring to the people who shot down the N to LGA as NIMBYs really does miss the point. It’s silly and selfish to protest a bike share station or the taking away of a few parking spots. Protesting a new elevated train traveling through a residential neighborhood is much more reasonable. It you stand at Ditmars and 31st, it’s pretty apparent how awful extending the train would be. The Astoria line could be extended as an elevated branch over the Grand Central, similar to the AirTrain on the Van Wyck, which would be reasonable, but that’s not what was proposed at the time.

Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 9:58 pm

It’s reasonable to oppose it, and of course everyone should have a right to speak up, but it’s not reasonable for a few people out of what could only be tens of thousands to have veto power over the project that directly benefits hundreds of thousands or millions and indirectly benefits many more – or any other project.

Yes, els are noisier than below grade rail. Yes, they block out the sun. No, these problems aren’t as serious as they were a century ago, but they still exist somewhat (though noise can be brought about zero). Still, plenty of people live perfectly happy lives within blocks of el trains. There is no reason transit proposals shouldn’t consider el extensions sometimes. Astoria is a good example.

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:16 pm

“Not reasonable for a few people… to have veto power over the project that directly benefits hundreds of thousands or millions”

You get disasters like the Cross Bronx and the BQE when this sort of logic is used.

Again, an extension west to LGA has to be underground because the landing path of one of the runways places height restrictions on the highway itself, and the ROW is not wide enough to accommodate two train tracks.

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:18 pm

To add, judging by Google Maps, you need to eminent domain some properties to make that sharp right onto Ditmars.

Els are okay in some places, but there’s going to be some collateral damage.

Bolwerk May 3, 2013 - 9:53 am

You think subways don’t require eminent domain?

Bolwerk May 3, 2013 - 9:52 am

You get disasters like the Cross Bronx and the BQE when this sort of logic is used.

Maybe, but doubtful. If anything, the BQE and Cross-Bronx were both examples of a small minority getting what it wanted at the expense of everyone else too. Certainly public indifference was more to blame than popularity or usefulness of the said projects.

If the rest of the developed world is any indication, you more often than not get useful projects done, and at a much lower price.

an extension west to LGA has to be underground because the landing path of one of the runways places height restrictions on the highway itself, and the ROW is not wide enough to accommodate two train tracks.

An extension west will obviously eventually need to dip underground, but much of it would be above-ground. Not much can be done about that, except not build it.

Jerrold May 1, 2013 - 5:17 pm

Always one kind of idiotic bureaucratic thinking or another!

If they begin the special bus service to LaGuardia, there is still no rational reason for stopping the Q33 short of LaGuardia.
As you say, what about people from the neighborhood who work there?
And also, what about people from the neighborhood who are embarking on, or returning from, a plane trip?

Adding something good does NOT have to mean taking away something else that’s good.
Just like when they opened up the 148 St./7 Ave. (Lenox Terminal) station, they had been planning to permanently close the 145 St./Lenox Ave. station.
Community protests stopped them from closing it.

Maybe now it’s time for the people of the Jackson Heights neighborhood to rally to save the existing Q33 line.

al May 2, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Looking at the proposed modification to Q33 and the present Queens Bus map, there will still be an overlap with the Q72 and M60 near the airport. That will provide transfer points. If you are coming from the subway, use the Q48, Q70, Q72, or M60.

IsaacB May 1, 2013 - 5:36 pm

Extending the el past Ditmars will not fly (pardon the pun). A long shot that might work is to dip the N train under the surface (either north or south of Astoria Blvd/GCP) and replace Ditmars station with a subway. This way, the train gets an extension, while the locals lose the el.

As an intermediate step, Astoria Blvd station should serve as “the” Queens subway hub for LGA, branded “Astoria Blvd/LGA Connection”. The station and surrounding street should be improved (access, comfort, signage, elevators, surfaces) and customer service provided at all times of significant travel.

AG May 1, 2013 - 5:47 pm

As someone once mentioned – the Penn Station Access Plan over the Hell Gate Bridge curves fairly close to the airport. I’m not sure of the feasibility of putting a station somewhere there as I’m not familiar with the terrain. Of course a shuttle would be necessary – but is it not doable? I wrote to the Planning Committee so hopefully I’ll hear something.

Also is there direct bus access from the # 7 and/or LIRR stations anywhere near there? The map key seems to indicate there is/will be. Anyone familiar with it?

Dan May 1, 2013 - 11:48 pm

There are bus connections from Flushing-Main, Willets Point, the #7 and R stops at Junction Boulevard, and of course the Jackson Heights complex.

AG May 2, 2013 - 7:14 am

Ok – thanks.
What about the likelihood or feasibility of putting a station along the proposed route for Penn Access (close to the airport)?

marv May 1, 2013 - 6:35 pm

While congestion on the BQE north bound from Broadway is not bad, traffic from LGA backs up at the GCP (west)/ BQE (south) slit.

To deal with this, the right most lane of the grand central should merge with the traffic from Astoria Blvd onto the right lane of BQE. (They now each have their own lane on the BQE and there is no merge). Buses and HOV’s should then be able to exit the grand central parkway from the 3rd to right lane of the GCP and have the left lane of the BQE to themselves for a stretch.

Road dividers and cameras (perhaps needing legislative approval) would keep the unauthorized vehicles out of the HOV lanes.

Restriction may not be required through out the day but rather at specific hours.

JJJJ May 2, 2013 - 3:14 am

Ferries, ferries FERRIES!

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 12:58 pm

From where? The East 34th St ferry terminal is almost as transit-inaccessible as LaGuardia. I like the idea of a subway-ferry connection at Roosevelt Island (one place where the subway is actually near the water) but the transfer would likely be too inconvenient for airport passengers. There might be some niche for service between Pier 11 and LGA, but that’s a long way to go on a slow gas-guzzling ferry. And then you’re at the Marine Air Terminal and have to catch a shuttle bus to the other terminals.

JJJJ May 2, 2013 - 11:21 pm

Everywhere. Hoboken-La Guardia
Brooklyn – La Guardia
Wall Street – La Guardia

John Doe May 2, 2013 - 8:58 am

We spend countless billions on wars in distant lands and we can’t extend the N train one stop to the airport. Truly sad and senseless. We used to dream big and now we fight for awful bus service that carries nothing in capacity to a train. Maybe its time to move to Canada?

Eric Brasure May 2, 2013 - 9:18 am

Why? What is Canada doing for transit that we’re not doing in America?

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:19 pm

Vancouver just built a new rail line two years ago, is building another rail line as we speak, and is studying the addition of a third.

Adam May 2, 2013 - 11:18 am

I’m not sure if anybody has suggested this but why not build a two-lane limited access roadway above the BQE and GCP? The buses would use surface streets up until the entrance/exit to the highway and then would have exclusive access to the elevated roadway, thereby avoiding car traffic. Absent dedicated bus lanes, which most car drivers would bemoan because it takes away a lane of traffic, this may be something a little more amenable than extending the N or building AirTrain service out. I personally think that a subway extension would be best but given the NIMBYs, it’s unlikely to ever happen. This would provide a middle-ground between a subway extension and the proposed SBS service. Just throwing it out there.

Anon256 May 2, 2013 - 1:10 pm

In this case there’s very little need for street running at either end, since Jackson Heights station is two blocks from the BQE (or, if we’re talking about connecting to the N, it’s right over the GCP) and the other end is on airport property with no NIMBYs. On the other hand a busway would have to be wider (so more expensive per mile) and more expensive to operate and maintain than an airtrain-like rail line. There’s no way such expenditure is justified for a relatively small trip-generator like LaGuardia.

This would also miss one of the main benefits of bus lanes, which is taking space away from cars (which has benefits far wider than a single transit route, by decreasing traffic on connecting roads, decreasing pollution, and increasing systemwide transit ridership).

Anyway this part of the BQE and GCP is very rarely congested. Have a look at the traffic data on Google Maps.

Henry May 2, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Google Maps is probably not comprehensive enough to have data for individual ramps. GCP West – BQE South is problematic during the morning rush.

Any sort of fixed-guideway plan to LGA is unadvisable while the Port Authority is still planning a major revamp of the airport’s terminal layout.

Keith Istre May 4, 2013 - 12:59 pm

Wish they would convert the Q50 to a LGA express.

The worst part about the Bronx is going East to West. I suggest a BxQ Selected/Limited route that starts at Riverdale Metro-North > W254 > Broadway > Park South > Gun Hill > Bruckner > Whitestone > Flushings > CitiField > (maybe Jackson Heights) > LGA. It would stop at each of the north to south subway lines and only important intersections and places. Lets call it BxQ48 . Its similar to the Bx28 & 38 route but more extensive and limited.

And I want a Tram from the soon to be new Bay Plaza Mall > proposed Co-Op City Metro-Station > Pelham Park Subway Station > City Island. That would be an awesome view!

If we don’t dream, dreams don’t come true.

AG May 4, 2013 - 1:38 pm

Yeah – going east/west in the Bronx is tough. They are still making street improvements on the lovely Pelham Parkway… and Fordham Road now has dedicated bus lanes.

As to the Bay Plaza/Co-Op City/City Island… I’m not sure what you mean by “Tram” – but yes there should certainly be a shuttle to connect all of them (I know City Island has been lobbying for one for tourists)…. especially with the proposed Metro North and the #6 train. That said – if you drive on the Hutchinson River Parkway you see they are expanding bike trails and lanes… chronicled below. Aside from a good way to exercise and cross the highways… it would prove very useful for transit because the 4 proposed east Bronx Metro North stations won’t have parking lots but are proposed to have bike racks. Someone on City Island could ride their bike to the Co-Op City station:


I asked the question in another comment if anyone is familiar with where the Hell Gate line runs in Queens if there is feasibility to put a station there close to the airport and run a shuttle… but no one answered. I wrote to the MTA planning hoping for a response. If that were to happen it would open up a rail option to La Guardia for anyone from Penn Station… and also the East Bronx… eastern Westchester. That would certainly take cars off the Hutchinson River Parkway – the Whitestone Bridge and the Grand Central. It also would connect residents of that part of Queens with the East Bronx/Westchester/Connecticut without having to go into Manhattan…. and vice versa.

Henry May 4, 2013 - 1:46 pm

The line to the Hell Gate bridge is very high over Astoria, so a station with street level access wouldn’t be very feasible at all. You might be able to put a station at Astoria/Ditmars for the Metro-North trains, but if you get off at Ditmars, the M60 connects with the Astoria Line one station south.

AG May 4, 2013 - 9:40 pm

Well hopefully something could be done… it would benefit the region in several ways (in ways the Astoria Line can’t/doesn’t). Hopefully I will get a response from the MTA.

AG May 5, 2013 - 2:44 am

I decided to map it… yeah Astoria/Ditmars does look a slight possibility… but Astoria Blvd. looks even more doable to me…

Keith Istre May 4, 2013 - 1:01 pm

One more dream: Ferry service back from downtown & midtown Manhattan to LGA. Add from Brooklyn and Bronx too or even Westchester.

Bolwerk May 5, 2013 - 10:58 pm

I dunno. So far, ferries haven’t seemed so great at integrating into New York’s other transit infrastructure. And getting to the waterfront from the parts of midtown that need direct airport access is a bit of a hike.

Nyland8 May 5, 2013 - 12:29 pm

Local airport connectivity is something that should be advanced by the PANY/NJ, and the Van Wyck/GCP corridor is a perfectly reasonable approach to the airport. It doesn’t encroach on any of the air traffic patterns. Even if it swings wide at Willet’s Point to pick up the 7 Line, it is still well below the elevation of Citi Field.

AirTrain was a good idea, a good design, and relatively efficient. It is so quiet it cannot be heard over the din of the highway it follows – which is also where it casts most of its shadow. It certainly cannot be heard over the scream of approaching aircraft. That makes it as close to NIMBY proof as any train project on the drawing board.

Extend the AirTrain.

AG May 5, 2013 - 10:09 pm

Agreed…. the #7 and don’t forget the LIRR

I’m going to write to the PA… it’s up to us citizens to make our voices heard.

Alon Levy May 5, 2013 - 7:17 pm

Vancouver’s Expo + Millennium Lines (same technology as the AirTrain) are very cheap to operate, especially on the margin. A study about the UBC extension assumes a certain average operating cost structure on PDF-page 97, which when applied to New York suggests Vancouver has one third the operating costs per unit of service than New York.

Even if New York can realize the full benefit of those lower costs from the AirTrain, which I doubt since many of those costs are administration and maintenance and Port Authority has extremely high operating costs on PATH, it’s not enough to make the technology suitable for airport service. Ridership per unit of length is not one third as much as on the subway but one eighth.

Bolwerk May 5, 2013 - 8:36 pm

Yeah, I don’t see New York going driverless. We can’t even get rid of the obvious overstaffing, like the SECOND worker on the train or the token booth clerks.

If the PA and MTA could play nice, building on AirTrain to supplement the existing subway isn’t an altogether awful idea, but, and I think you said as much, the vendor lock-in is kind of troubling.

Alon Levy May 5, 2013 - 9:54 pm

Actually, the total train driver and conductor compensation is only about 10-15% of subway operating costs. The driverless operation on SkyTrain shows up heavily in the marginal operating cost, which is $11 per service hour, but the average operating cost includes relatively fixed costs like dispatching, management, and maintenance.

Bolwerk May 5, 2013 - 11:48 pm

10-15% seems fairly large to me, considering the number could possibly be nearly halved without any negative consequences for the system.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 12:11 am

Given the unreliability of the Metrocard TVMs, I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a token booth clerk as “overstaffing”, at least until the new farecard system is proven to be reliable.

Although, they should definitely be allowed to assist people outside of the booth.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 12:58 am

It’s the type of flagrant bumblefuck-do-it-wrong overstaffing that takes resources away from useful improvements like reliable TVMs.

And that’s not to say there is no place for clerks, but 24/7 clerks at virtually every station is plain silly.

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 7:30 am

Personally I find the New York TVMs to be much easier to use than Vancouver TVMs. The Vancouver TVMs don’t dispense multiple-ride tickets, but make you think that they do (it’s just one ticket usable by multiple people, with all rides expiring at the same time). Instead of a multiple-ride ticket, Translink sells books of ten tickets at a slight discount, but neither the books of tickets nor the monthly passes are available at any train station. You can buy them at convenience stores and pharmacy chains, and you’re expected to just know which stores you can buy tickets.

In contrast, from the first day of arriving in New York and using the subway I managed to use the TVMs there just fine, and only got lost when it came to getting off at the wrong station for a transfer or thinking it’s possible to transfer wrong-way from the A to the E at 50th Street.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 2:22 pm

I think the TVMs are pretty easy to use in NYC, and they’ve gotten easier in the past few months with the value/time option, but I think Henry is complaining about how often they break down. He may sorta have a point, though usually in a bank of three or so at least one is okay.

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 4:45 pm

I’ve never failed to find a working TVM. If there are breakdowns, they are rare.

In contrast, in Shanghai I saw two TVMs out of a bank of three break down. It was a subway station entrance serving Shanghai Railway Station, so the rush of people exiting an intercity train going to the subway led to a 15-minute ticket line.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 6:53 pm

Hmm, I now and then found the entire bank out in NYC, but it’s rare. It usually happened on sleepy stations like ones on the M stub. The most common reliability problem I seem to run into is a case where no machines are taking cash or no machines are taking plastic. Not usually a big deal for me, since I can pretty reliably use either, but some people depend on one or the the other.

Still, I don’t see how a slim chance of a non-working TVM bank justifies several hundred thousand dollars in expenses for token booth clerks’ shifts, especially at minor stations. People can adjust by planning their metrocard purchases ahead of time.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:36 pm

They’re more common in outer-borough stations – Flushing-Main St usually has two or three machines out of service in a turnstile bank of 6 or 8, and this is problematic, particularly when those are the only Metrocard TVMs for most of the bus riders feeding into the area. TVMs may also be damaged intentionally by people selling Metrocard swipes, which usually doesn’t occur in Manhattan stations due to the increased police presence.

In Flushing, the station booth agent is used quite heavily because all MTA foreign language material, including the TVM screens, reads as if it came out of Google Translate. This is particularly true for the non-Latin languages, although the Spanish ads do seem pretty egregious at times.

Michael February 6, 2014 - 3:47 pm

Right now on Staten Island there are only 3 places that MetroCard machines, at the St. George Ferry Terminal, Tompkinsville, and at the Elingtonville Transfer Center in the middle of the island. The only staffed booth the SIR maintains is at St. George, and that booth has limited hours of staffing. Simply trying to find a store that sells the cards on Staten Island is not easy.

A few years ago there was only the MetroCard machines at the Ferry Terminal, and one weekend those machines were out of order. A call to the MTA Helpline about the downed machines – produced the advice that if one wanted to place money on their MetroCard, that they had to take a half-hour ferry ride to Manhattan, use a MetroCard machine there, and then take a half-hour ride back to continue their journey.

The folks who complain that there’s too much staffing at stations because there’s always a MetroCard machine available – simply have no idea how good their transit situation is. Not everyone has it so good. Even now when the MetroCard machines at St. George are out of service, it can be a hassle to get to/from the only 2 other places on the island.


Wilton May 6, 2013 - 2:33 pm

Did I read this post correctly? Are “speedy” and “BQE” in the same sentence?

Wilton May 6, 2013 - 2:40 pm

Seriously, I don’t think an AirTrain from Jamaica to LGA is feasible (try routing above-ground tracks through the Kew Gardens interchange in a cost-efficient manner).

Now, a second AirTrain from Willets Point to LGA would possibly work. LIRR access, 7 train access, tracks could be routed along the GCP without much difficulty to all except the Marine Air Terminal.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:49 pm

FWIW, LaGuardia and JFK are both terribly flood-prone. Flights are not the future. Shut down LGA and move the flights to Newark or something.

Henry May 8, 2013 - 12:07 am

LGA won’t be shut down, because its convenience makes it the best spot to catch a business flight to domestic locations, similar to the function London City Airport in Canary Wharf serves.

Removing LGA might improve the amount of planes you can fit into the airspace above the New York metro area, but all three airports are also at physical capacity in terms of terminals and runways – they already have the lowest on-time performance of any airport in the nation. Super-long-term, the only place within reasonable distance that you can fit an airport onto would be the West Shore of SI, but that’s not happening within my lifetime.

AG May 8, 2013 - 3:40 pm

Aside from the fact it would make traffic totally unbearable – there is NO WAY Newark could handle all the La Guardia traffic on it’s runways and terminals. As it is now the Port Authority took over Stewart Airport up in the Hudson Valley as a way to relieve congestion at the big 3 (JFK/Newark/LaGuardia)… and your seriously talking about closing one….???
Not to mention – Newark can flood too.

Fredrick Wells September 13, 2014 - 8:23 pm

I will say the following:

1. The Bronx can use 2 routes to LaGuardia Airport (the Fordham Plaza to LaGuardia Airport via Webster Avenue, and a new Co Op City to LaGuardia Airport LIMITED route following the Q50 LIMITED routing in The Bronx and non-stop in Queens to LaGuardia Airport).

2. There is the major need for a LIMITED-STOP route from Downtown Brooklyn to LaGuardia Airport servicing Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Brooklynites need direct service to LaGuardia without excessive transfers (as they must currently travel to either East Harlem via the 4 or 5 trains, to Astoria or Jackson Heights via several transfers or Midtown just to connect with bus service to LaGuardia Airport).


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