Home Subway History Dreams of taking the N to LaGuardia

Dreams of taking the N to LaGuardia

by Benjamin Kabak

The Fiorello H. LaGuardia Airport in Queens is one of the nation’s most infuriating urban airports. It is so close to midtown and Manhattan’s Central Business District that a commuter in a hurry could make the trip in 30 minutes. Yet, it’s so far away because congestion frequently creates trips to Queens that last an hour and 30 minutes. The only public transit option to the airport is a packed and slow bus that, on a good day, goes from 125th St. and Lexington to the airport in a half an hour.

Over the last few decades, city officials have become quite intimate with the problems plaguing LaGuardia, and many have tried to fix it. The N train, whose northern terminus is less than three miles away from the LaGuardia terminals, is so tantalizing close to the airport and yet so far away.

Last week, in his “Why Train” segment, NBC 4’s Andrew Siff posted just this question. “What about the train to LGA?” asks Siff. In a one-minute piece, he mentioned how, 12 years ago, city and MTA officials were heavily invested in a plan to extend the N to LaGuardia, but in the face of other pressing transit needs and widespread community opposition, the agency eventually shelved this much needed link to LaGuardia.

So what then were the plans that engendered widespread community outrage and still cause politicians to chime in now and then, nearly a decade after the MTA discarded the idea? Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and explore some Giuliani-Era transit developments.

The plans to extend the N to LaGuardia first came to light in 1998 as city officials recognized the need to build better access to the airports. As part of a $1.2 billion package with funding coming from the MTA, the Port Authority and the city, Giuiliani put forth a plan to build an airtrain to JFK and extend the subway to LaGuardia. The JFK line — built over preexisting rights-of-way — survived. The LaGuardia plans, obviously, did not.

The first and biggest problem the city faced in Queens came about because of the proposed routes. The preferred route would have extended the N along 31st St. north onto Con Edison’s property at the edge of Astoria and then east along 19th Ave. to the Marine Air Terminal. The MTA also considered an eastward extension along Ditmars Boulevard, a plan to reroute LaGuardia-bound N trains from Queensboro Plaza through the Sunnyside rail yard and along the eastern edge of St. Michael’s Cemetary to what Newsday called “elevated tracks parallel to the Grand Central Parkway.” A barely-acknowledged fourth route would have seen trains head east via Astoria Boulevard.

On the surface, these plans seem no worse than building the Second Ave. Subway through densely populated neighborhoods on the East Side. In Queens, however, the MTA would have had to build a spur line off a pre-existing elevated structure, and all of the plans called for the train to LaGuardia to run above ground through significant portions of Astoria. So while airport access ranked tops amongst Queens residents transit expansion wishlist, no one wanted to see Astoria further scarred by elevated structures.

The Daily News termed the opposition response NAMBYism — Not Above My Backyard — and nearly every single Queens politician opposed the idea. Some preferred the Sunnyside alternative, but at the time, NYCDOT said plans to widen the Grand Central Parkway would interfere with the train proposal. Others called upon an extension from Long Island City to skirt the borough from 21st St. along the East River to the airport. Still others preferred a longer Willets Point extension of the LIRR to the airport.

Peter Vallone exemplified the opposition. “Extending the elevated track will cause unnecessary hardship to residents and businesses in the area,” the City Council member said in 1999. “The MTA wants to go their way, not our way.”

In the end, despite opposition, political support for the plan from City Hall continued well into the 21st Century. With the backing of Mayor Guiliani and Queens Borough President Clare Shulman, the MTA’s 2000-2004 Five-Year Capital Plan included $645 million for the LaGuardia subway link, and even though a $17 million planning study was the project’s only expense, in late 2002, Mayor Bloomberg threw his weight behind the LaGuardia extension as a key post-9/11 revitalization plan.

Finally, in mid-2003, the Queens communities won the battle as the MTA announced plans to shelve the airport extension. With money tight after 9/11 and Lower Manhattan on the radar, then-MTA Chair Peter Kalikow said that the agency’s attention had turned to the JFK Raillink from Lower Manhattan, another plan that never materialized, and that the agency was prioritizing the 7 Line Extension, the East Side Access Plan and the Second Ave. Subway over the LaGuardia N train extension. “LaGuardia is a good project, but you have to prioritize,” Elliot Sander, then at NYU, said. “In terms of political support from City Hall, Albany and Washington, it’s moved back in the queue.”

And so in the end, we sit here in 2010 with the same travel options to LaGuardia as we have always enjoyed (or suffered through). The M60 remains the best public transportation option, and the MTA is in no position to take another crack at sending the subway to the airport. Oh, what could have been.

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Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 2:30 am

Depending on where you’re going, the Q33 and Q72 might be better options for LGA access.

Anyway, I think extending the N just to LGA would miss a big opportunity to serve East Elmhurst and North Corona. If the NIMBYism problem of running trains elevated over Ditmars could be solved, the N could be run along Ditmars and then Astoria to Northern, or one stop further to Citi Field. A separate AirTrain would branch at Grand Central Parkway, running elevated over existing the highway to reach the LGA terminals.

At worst, this might require reconstruction of the current terminal to allow the train to run underground, at least on Ditmars (Astoria is wider, so it’ll be easier to put an el on it).

Benjamin Kabak January 19, 2010 - 2:36 am

I should be more clear about the bus distinction. The Q33 and Q72 are ok for intra-Queens travel back to Jackson Heights, but the M60 is the only bus route from Manhattan that goes to LGA. Either way, it’s generally a trip that involves taking the subway to a bus to the airport.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 3:48 pm

The Q33 and Q72 connect to the subway, and avoid Manhattan traffic. I’m pretty sure using them to get to the 7 would be faster than the M60 for everyone not going to East Harlem.

Benjamin Kabak January 19, 2010 - 3:52 pm

Except now you’re talking about three-seat rides for the most part. The 7 is great if you’re just going elsewhere along the 7. Otherwise, taking the 7 will involve yet another transfer. By then, the time savings from avoiding Manhattan traffic are close to nil.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 4:06 pm

The 7 runs pretty frequently – you don’t lose too much time from it.

Russell Warshay January 19, 2010 - 5:43 pm

“Except now you’re talking about three-seat rides for the most part.”

That is the problem. I’ve used this option, and it is way too time consuming.

Jesse Spector January 19, 2010 - 2:47 am

Instead of working with the N, which is aboveground, here’s a thought, albeit one that also will never, ever happen, and probably has reasons that I’m not thinking of that would prevent it from working (and I’d love to hear them)…

The G train runs underground, and terminating at Court Square, is almost completely useless. It can’t go to Queens Plaza 95% of the time because of “congestion,” so why not sever the link between Court Square and Queens Plaza? It’s not perfect, but you still have the transfer from the E/V at 23rd-Ely and the upstairs/downstairs switch from the 7 (which needs to be brought in-system, a la the Franklin Avenue Shuttle terminus).

Then, tunnel the G through the rest of LIC and run it along the south end of the Sunnyside Yards, bringing into Woodside to make another upstairs/downstairs connection with the 7 and the LIRR at 61st/Woodside.

From there, send it to an elevated track over the BQE in the style of the AirTrain over the Van Wyck. Follow the BQE straight to the Grand Central Parkway and the airport.

It would take a lot of work, and it would be ludicrously expensive, but so would any plan. And while it would take a little longer than a direct N train link, I think it would be easier to get over community opposition.

The other, possibly more feasible idea, would be a Ditmars light rail with an easy connection to the N train terminal. Or better freakin’ buses.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 3:52 pm

If you just want an AirTrain, then run one elevated over the Grand Central with a connection to the N at Astoria.

The problem with the G is that it doesn’t connect to anything. If you turn it into the LaGuardia line, then it still won’t connect to much. You can try putting transfers to the subway, but those transfers would be really inconvenient. So there goes the one-seat ride from the airport to Manhattan, which is where airport travelers want to go.

And please don’t use the term “light rail” to refer to a technology that has nothing to do with light rail, and typically involves service that’s incompatible with light rail. (I don’t know a single light rail line that’s automated, or a single airport people mover that isn’t; people movers need higher frequencies all day; light rail works well with proof of payment, people movers need to be free…)

Jesse Spector January 19, 2010 - 4:24 pm

I was actually talking about light rail, not necessarily an AirTrain. What they have in Jersey City would be ideal for some of the outlying neighborhoods where elevated tracks are subject to NIMBYism.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 4:33 pm

Light rail isn’t a very good technology for airport service. For one, it needs to have a driver, which means it’s expensive to maintain high frequencies at night. It’s also slower, which is a big problem for airport travelers, since the competing highways are not always congested.

Jason January 20, 2010 - 11:26 am

I agree; I’d love to see the G extended, underground, up to LGA. The extension through northern Queens provides lots of opportunities to create new transfers, which will improve its utility as the airport line.

Jesse Spector January 19, 2010 - 2:51 am

Also, having taken the Q33 and Q72… they’re awful. I usually take the M60 to get to LGA, but when coming back home, I will sometimes just grab whatever bus actually decides to show up, and usually regret it.

Anon256 January 19, 2010 - 4:58 am

It would be some help if the M60 (or a route supplementing it) just ran express on the Grand Central Parkway from Astoria N/W station to LGA. Waiting at stoplights and bus stops on that stretch of Astoria Blvd takes significant time and serves few passengers.

That said, in the great scheme of things, airports don’t generate all that much ridership. People travel to the airport a few times a year on average, but make multiple work-based and shopping trips per day. A huge 10-car heavy-rail subway train is massive overkill even for a very busy airport. Even if everyone going to or from LGA took the subway, this would only average around 60,000 daily riders, less than 5% of ridership on the Lexington Avenue Lines. At Heathrow, for example, only about 20% of air passengers take the underground, which for LGA would mean only around 12000 daily riders. Spending billions of dollars on so few passengers is clearly unwise when New York has so many more pressing transit priorities.

JPN January 19, 2010 - 6:12 am

Yeah, the design of SFO Airport station on the BART is a good example of planning that could be applied here. If only an extension to, say, Flushing or College Point was considered, wouldn’t the line be better utilized?

Boris January 19, 2010 - 2:54 pm

The last stop of any subway line only sees a small percentage of total ridership. AirTrain JFK ridership is about 12000, and that’s split between two different subway stops. So your figure is reasonable, although LGA is smaller than JFK. Taking the 12000 figure and assuming the N would run every 10 minutes around the clock, 167 people would ride every train to or from the airport. That’s probably about the same as the *rush hour* figure for an outer-borough terminus like 95th St on the R.

JPN January 19, 2010 - 6:06 am

From one of the Daily News articles linked above:

The project “should be on the back burner and remain there,” said George Delis, district manager of Queens’ Community Board 1.

“We will fight this thing as hard as we can as long as we have to, and we will raise money” to file a lawsuit against the project, he added.

Atlantic Yards, hmm? Anyway, has anyone considered having the line use Berrian Boulevard, one block north of 19th Avenue and seemingly less residential area? Or how about LGA as part of the Triborough outer borough line?

Harlan January 19, 2010 - 7:41 am

Anon256 is quite right, a good solution would be express buses, or better yet, bus rapid transit routes. What if the M60 ran every 3 minutes, had a dedicated lane, could make red lights turn green, and only stopped at subway transfers? That would make a huge difference!

I live in Astoria, and an above-ground extension of the N on 31st and 19th is not a good idea.

Why couldn’t an elevated train be built over the GCP from the Astoria Blvd stop on the N? Make half the trains terminate at Ditmars, and the other half go to LGA?

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 3:55 pm

Line splitting reduces frequency to each destination, which worsens service. This is especially bad at airports, which need high frequencies on their people movers.

But a people mover on the GCP, on the model of the JFK AirTrain, could actually be useful.

SEAN January 19, 2010 - 9:16 am

What happend to the AirTrain extention that was going to serve LGA?

AlexB January 19, 2010 - 9:56 am

I don’t understand why they can’t run the train over Astoria Blvd/Grand Central Parkway. It’s already an ugly, noisey highway; the only problem would be the connection at Astoria Blvd and 31st St. Adding a brand new elevated train would probably improve the look of GCP. The AirTrain to JFK looks pretty cool going over the Van Wyck.

In the absence of that, how about an express bus that leaves the Javits every 10 minutes, goes local on the new 34th St busway, then no stops running through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, LIE, BQE, & GCP to LaGuardia. Make it a $5 fare, use a bus with luggage racks, and be done with it. Why the MTA only provides local buses to the airport is beyond me, unless they are pressured by taxis and private bus operators.

AlexB January 19, 2010 - 9:58 am

I live in Astoria and you can’t imagine the difference between the street life under the N versus on the neighboring commercial streets like Ditmars. It isn’t NAMBYism or some vague quality of life issue, you would really be detroying the neighborhood.

Ray October 15, 2013 - 8:26 pm

I beg to differ, I live in Astoria too, and I have NO problem WHATSOEVER with an extended elevated train line. In fact, the businesses under the EL benefit from the passengers that get off the train and buy in those establishments. Those dam NIMBY’s are ruining it for everyone with their pigheadedness. Any plan to improve our transportation infrastructure is welcomed, especially a plan that would faciliate transportation to LaGuardia.

AlexB January 19, 2010 - 10:02 am

I could also easily see a spur off the 7 train in the vicinity of Citi Field running over the GCP to LaGuardia. It would involve less structure than extending the N train.

Joe January 19, 2010 - 10:46 am

I’ve always wondered why this idea never seemed to be a real alternative to constructing a N extension through Astoria. I don’t think you could do a true 7 line extension to LGA from the Citi Field stop, but if another AirTrain set up was done, it could make the connection to LGA a reality.

The AirTrain would start at Willets Point and crossing over the 7 and the Grand Central – Whitestone interchange and running over or on the river side of Grand Central into LaGuardia, stopping at the Delta, US Air and Central terminal buildings. While it’s not totally ideal to have people travel away from Manhattan to get into the subway and into Manhattan, I think it may be the most realistic way to offer a connection to LGA.

Of course, there are detractors of the AirTrain model, forcing a connection doesn’t lead to very high ridership, but it would probably help reduce congestion at JFK, and in this model, it would allow Citi Field’s parking to be used as LGA parking sometimes.

Josh January 19, 2010 - 11:38 am

As an added bonus, if you were to build a LGA AirTrain from the Willets Point station on the 7 train, there’s also already a built-in connection with the LIRR. As you say, it’s not ideal to have to travel that couple of miles southeast from LGA along the AirTrain, but it has the advantage of not really having to do much in the way of cutting through residential neighborhoods, since it could basically just follow the GCP for those couple of miles.

(This whole issue is why I prefer Newark to LaGuardia, even coming from my place in Brooklyn, with JFK obviously the first choice.)

Joe January 19, 2010 - 2:37 pm

The other added benefit is that while both Willet’s Point stops (the 7 and the LIRR) are built for the large crowds going to Mets games and the US Open, these stations are usually quiet the majority of the time (unlike LIRR Jamaica station), meaning that they should be able to accommodate an influx of AirTrain riders rather easily.

If the AirTrain were ever completely built out along the Van Wyck as originally planned, it could even operate as a sort of Cross Island transit system, offering a heavy rail connection without having to travel into Long Island City (though this is the same concept behind the Triboro RX proposal).

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 3:59 pm

Bear in mind, the JFK AirTrain is not built for high passenger capacity, or for intermediate stations. There’s nothing on the Van Wyck to connect to between JFK and Jamaica Station. Even the A stops at Lefferts, short of the Van Wyck. There is also excessive splitting on the line, since presumably LaGuardia trains would not turn east toward Jamaica Station. This would cut frequencies, reducing ridership.

Joe January 19, 2010 - 6:19 pm

I know that AirTrain in its current capacity cannot serve as passenger transport. I was talking about the concept of possibly running some service in a future where the entire line was built out. But the important thing would be the LGA to Willets Point system first.

Avi January 19, 2010 - 7:34 pm

I hope I never take an AirTrain to Willets point with my suitcase when a Mets game is getting out. Those subways are crowded enough as is, dumping some LGA passengers with luggage onto them will make it worse and be a good way to convince people not to take the AirTrain to begin with.

Joe January 20, 2010 - 8:43 pm

I know its not ideal the connection, but you’re talking about a 1-2hour time frame on 80 days in a year. There is enough time that the Mets aren’t playing that the Willets Point station can accommodate the traffic. The other added benefit is that the LIRR station is there too, meaning that there are two station options at Willets Point. I don’t know the gameday ridership at the LIRR stop, but I doubt its as hectic as the 7 train, and can accommodate passengers from a LGA AirTrain.

Considering that around 15,000 use AirTrain JFK to connect to the train, there may only be 5,000 or so passengers a day using AirTrain. Now, that may altogether question the viability and necessity of such a project (for all we know such a system may be more desireable than the JFK network), but it offer the transit connectivity desired.

If the Mets game traffic is such a concern, then maybe the system should be extended over the GCP and Astoria Boulevard to have a connection to the N at Astoria Boulevard. On game days you can avoid the 7 altogether, and still get to midtown Manhattan pretty easily.

Stephen January 20, 2015 - 4:34 pm

And you win!

John January 19, 2010 - 10:13 am

I’ve taken the M60 a couple times from LGA (never to LGA though), and didn’t think it was so bad. I wasn’t in any hurry, but it didn’t seem like it took forever either. A train would be nicer, but I don’t know if it’s worth the money at this point.

mj January 19, 2010 - 9:53 pm

CONSTANTLY packed with people arriving from Europe hoping to save cab money but with at least 3 suitcases. Multiply that by 10 people and that bus is packed up front. I think MTA should make a special luggage rack bus where people pay $5 each ride. Should pay for itself in 6 months.

Ryan December 20, 2010 - 11:20 pm

people arrive from europe at LGA? since when? did they connect in BOS, IAD, or CLT to get to LGA?

Robert West January 24, 2014 - 11:19 am

I live in Morningside Heights, near the terminus of the M60. I’ve had it take more than 90 minutes to get to LGA from here.

I’m hoping things get better when select bus service is adopted (http://web.mta.info/mta/planni.....lysis.html), but the MTA’s estimates are for *at best* a 20% improvement, which is disheartening.

Christopher January 19, 2010 - 11:06 am

Why not have a monorail or something quick to build of the GCP? Instead of trying to extend a subway line. As people have noted, extending subways is expensive for little ridership at airports. Seems like a ready built situation that could be constructed easily with a more standardized system that was less specialized for NY would be better.

Marc Shepherd January 19, 2010 - 11:13 am

The real question about the monorail is what it connects to. The N Train would offer a one-seat ride right into midtown. Where would that monorail go?

Kid Twist January 19, 2010 - 12:11 pm


Scott E January 19, 2010 - 11:53 am

I think the big issue here is of who would build such a rail connection? When the Port Authority built the AirTrain to JFK, the MTA didn’t have to. So as long as the Port Authority has any remote interest if either extending the current AirTrain up the Van Wyck, or building one from Willets Point #7/LIRR, then the MTA has no reason to do it. A PA-funded rail link would bring business to the MTA anyway, without any MTA capital costs.

D.J. January 19, 2010 - 12:50 pm

Speaking of the Port Authority and train access to airports, why doesn’t the PA extend the PATH tracks to the Newark air train station?
I’m relatively new to NYC so I’m not sure if it’s been discussed before, but it seems like it would make for an easy no-transfer ride from lower Manhattan to an airport.

Currently you can take PATH as far as Newark, but then NJT train or bus is required to go the last few miles to the airport station.

Joe January 19, 2010 - 2:42 pm

I don’t recall all the details, but I think PA is in talks with NJT to find the track space to extend the PATH to the Newark Airport station. However, with NJ’s fiscal crisis (and to a lesser extent NY’s too) I don’t think there is the moeny for such an extension, the same reason there is no money for a train to the plane at LGA.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 11:26 pm

It would be even more useful to extend the AirTrain to downtown Newark instead. That way there would be one-seat connections to more NJT trains and more buses.

Think twice January 19, 2010 - 12:58 pm

Public Relations 101:

The city and MTA shouldn’t have even thought of building els above local streets, let alone say it out loud. The moment Astoria businesses and politicians were within earshot of such notions they went into full DEFCON 1 Teabagging mode.

Sticking to the airspace above existing ROWs and highway medians is the only way to go nowadays.

Eric January 19, 2010 - 2:06 pm

Have you ever been to 31st Street in Astoria? Take the N/W to 30th Avenue and compare either stretch of 30th Avenue extending east and west from 31st Street with either stretch of 31st Street extending north and south of 30th Avenue and tell me it’s hysteria.

Think twice January 19, 2010 - 3:04 pm

Have you ever been to 31st Street in Astoria?”

I have and I grew up by els in Gravesend and Brighton Beach. Northern Astoria’s indignation at having the el rammed through their main thoroughfare is neither hysteria nor is it unfounded.

My issue is that the city and MTA executed it’s study of a La Guardia extension in an indelicate way—which in this city full of oblique, obtuse, self-serving, firebrand populists looking to win more brownie points with the locals—is quick way to get a project killed before it’s even considered.

Eric January 19, 2010 - 2:01 pm

I’m glad other Astorians are chiming in on extending the elevated train down Ditmars being a terrible idea. It would completely destroy a vibrant stretch of the neighborhood.

In a perfect world, we’d get the N rebuilt as an underground line extending out to East Elmhurst and College Point with a LGA spur, but since that’ll never happen, BRT down Astoria Blvd. is probably the best solution.

Russell Warshay January 19, 2010 - 3:19 pm

I’ve walked 31st St, and the El clearly causes blight. Rebuilding the El as a subway, with connections from the 60th and 63rd St tunnels seems like one way to go. The N could run to the local tracks of Queens Plaza, and then to the new subway. The F could be moved back to the 53rd St tunnel so that the V could join the N to LaGuardia. If this actually happened, the entire SAS would probably be fginshed, so an SAS line could run as a local on the QB.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 4:04 pm

There’s no transportation need for the N to run underground in Astoria. Sorry.

However, it might be an okay compromise in terms of costs to run the N underground on Ditmars (which would involve rebuilding the current terminal and nothing else), and then go back above ground on Astoria, which is wider, or the GCP, whichever gets the line.

For reference: at normal-world costs, a fully underground N extension to Willets Point would cost $1.3 billion, people mover connection to LGA not included.

Russell Warshay January 19, 2010 - 5:41 pm

“There’s no transportation need for the N to run underground in Astoria.”

That is the most politically viable way to get it done.

“it might be an okay compromise in terms of costs to run the N underground on Ditmars”

And how would such a connection be done so that the community would accept it?

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 6:49 pm

The connection would involve moving the existing Ditmars station slightly southward, and continuing the line on the same block, transitioning to underground in the 23rd-Ditmars block. This would reduce costs and make the future Triboro Line transfer nicer. Alternatively, the Ditmars station would stay in place and go underground, which would move the transition to the Astoria-Ditmars block group and make it nicer, at the cost of more money and a less convenient Triboro transfer.

In either case, the line would then continue under Ditmars until Hazen, at which point it would transition to the GCP/Astoria and then go above ground again. Astoria is a wide boulevard, which can take a two-track el in its center without causing too much trouble.

Russell Warshay January 21, 2010 - 1:44 pm

That would work. The next question, and I don’t know if anyone knows, is, “would the community be OK with this?”

Ray October 15, 2013 - 8:37 pm

In your NIMBY view rebuilting the N underground would be a perfect world, in my view and in the view of anyone who is looking to improve transportation and save tax payer monies [how many more millions would it cost to extend the train underground], extending the EL to LaGuardia Airport would be just fine. It’s the most cost effective and efficient way of connecting Queens residents to LaGuardia. What’s more, the EL’s are part of NYC transit history. They have a charm that I would not like to see come to an end just because a few spoiled property owners are upset.

mg January 19, 2010 - 4:49 pm

They should really consider extending the G train to LGA via 21st street and 19th ave. You could transfer at Queensboro or Queensboro Plaza. It would also make the G train WAY more useful.

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 6:42 pm

Extending the G this way would still ensure the G connects to nothing. 21st is too far away from Queensboro Plaza, and 19th is too far away from Ditmars.

Joby January 19, 2010 - 9:59 pm

Easiest way to do this (prob won’t happen tho) is simply to dig a tunnel along Thompson Ave into Sunnyside Yards, then follow the old NY Connecting Railroad ROW (Amtrack Hell Gate Line) to St Michaels, Then along the BQE & GCP to LGA. This would involve the least amount of elevated subways, however, I am pretty sure this ROW is going to be used by Metro North for access to Penn Station once the East Side Access project is finished. So I am not sure about capacity issues. Furthermore, it doesn’t address the issue that the G doesn’t provide a direct connection to riders from Midtown or Downtown. Maybe one day they will link the G to Hanover Square… yeah right.

Eric January 19, 2010 - 7:14 pm

How would trains transition from the 31st Street el to an underground Ditmars station without blocking an avenue?

Alon Levy January 19, 2010 - 11:24 pm

It would block a block. The 23rd-Ditmars block is probably long enough for the full transition to be made there without closing any intersection. If it’s not, it would require closing one intersection. It’s no big deal – you can’t cross Broadway at 123rd, either, because of the subway-el transition.

Brad January 20, 2010 - 5:06 am

There is nowhere to cross TO at 123rd and Broadway. The west side is just an extended long block of buildings. This is a weird area anyway, as the grid is disrupted by the building projects above 123rd.

Eric January 20, 2010 - 9:16 am

A block further down would be a much better choice. 31st Street between 23rd Ave and Ditmars is a busy and vibrant area and that would kill it.

Ray January 19, 2010 - 8:10 pm

I like the idea of LIRR directly to LGA.

Brad January 20, 2010 - 4:23 am

Why has this otherwise detailed analysis overlooked the taxi lobby? Surely they are partly responsible for blocking every effort. Think of all the lost quick $60 round-trips to LaGuardia that would be lost.

MikeH January 20, 2010 - 8:10 am

Having the M60 as an express bus would be great. It could even be an additional fare. It would help out travelers and Queens locals who are forced to share M60 with so much luggage

Trench January 20, 2010 - 8:14 am

Here’s a revolutionary idea: a new Trans 125th st line extending to Astoria and LGA with transfers to the N,4,5,6,1,2,3,A,C,B and D trains with a stop on Randall’s Island.

It’s fun to dream.

AstoriaHeights January 11, 2012 - 7:57 pm

That’s an excellent proposition. I thought of the same thing, but extending the line further via Flushing Meadows, Kew Gardens, Jamaica and the Van Wyck (this would eliminate the AirTrain to Jamaica) to JFK and the Far Rockaway transportation center. I thought the train might have two stops in JFK at two terminals and the line to Howard Beach would provide service to the rest of the terminals.

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sean January 20, 2010 - 2:21 pm

The answer here is really simple. The AirTran to JFK runs along the Van Wyck from Jamaica station. Just have the AirTran run along the Van Wyck to LGA. The MTA/PA doesnt want to invest in something unless they can make a decent $12 out of it. By making a Jamaica station transfer, it ensures that. In addition, with the completion of the Grand Central access, it will allow more trains to run between Jamaica and the city.
Other than that, a airport shuttle bus that is extra wide and extra long (think the M14 but extra wide for luggage). They do this in Berlin and Barcelona. Just make the bus semi-express stopping at only key places along the way to the city and its golden.
And yes, having a $12 fare to the airport by public transit is not a big deal. Again, quoting Europe, they charge $15 or so Euros generally to get by train from their airports…

Veritas January 20, 2010 - 2:59 pm

A lot of people here have mentioned how great an express bus to Manhattan would be. There already is a privately-run express bus. I’ve taken it many times and it’s pretty comfortable and a quick ride. The only problem is it’s not always that frequent and it costs about $12 each way.


Todd January 21, 2010 - 12:24 am

FYI: If you have any kind of student ID, they’ll knock off a couple bucks.

Larry Littlefield January 24, 2010 - 2:27 pm

The N to LaGuardia came out of the City Planning Department when I was there.

It’s worth noting that Queens NIMBY’s also killed an LIRR extension to JFK down the existing rail right of way branching off from Whitepot Junction. The RPA pushed that one for DECADES.

And the extension of the E train down one of the two LIRR spurs in Southeast Queens (one reason that the E train to Jamaica Center can only take 12 trains per hour is that it wasn’t built as a terminal).

And a subway line over the LIRR Montauk Line in Southwest Queens to connect with the 63rd Street tunnel into Manhattan.

Archie Bunker racism and fear of poor blacks coming to your neighborhood has gradually been replaced by Archie Bunker classism and fear of college educated whites swarming in from their jobs in Manhattan and changing the neighborhood. Opposition to subway transit remains the same.

What Queens residents want is express buses right to Manhattan at a local bus price. For the cost per ride on Queens buses that do go to Manhattan, take a look at the recently released MTA cost data and see what they have asked for.

Grass Mud Horse February 25, 2010 - 2:46 am

A good subway–LIRR transfer is more important. Why not build a free transfer facility that enable LIRR riders to transfer from L.I.City to 7 line Jackson-Vernon station instantly?

Transportation Nation - Take the IRT to the LGA? No way. April 29, 2010 - 5:12 pm

[…] Authority ended up using the planning funds for other purposes. (A local blog, Second Avenue Sagas, explores the complicated logistics that doomed the […]

Thinking big for the future and small for 2011 :: Second Ave. Sagas December 17, 2010 - 1:58 am

[…] the realm of rail, Schwartz advocates for a more trains to planes. He wants a subway the LaGuardia, the PATH to Newark, a rail link to Stewart Airport (I do not) and better integration between the […]

Streetsblog New York City » Schumer Calls for Increased Transit Spending, Slams Christie January 18, 2011 - 1:48 pm

[…] Schumer’s prepared remarks, sent to reporters in a press release, focused exclusively on the capital side of the transportation system. Instead of discussing fare hikes or service cuts, both of which were completely absent from his remarks, Schumer spoke about the megaprojects that will reshape the region’s transit network, including the Second Avenue Subway, the 7 train extension, East Side Access and Moynihan Station, as well as new projects that have yet to reach the construction phase, like high-speed rail and a single-seat train trip to LaGuardia airport. […]

Alshawn June 18, 2011 - 4:00 pm

Had they went with the Grand Central Expressway option we probably wouldn’t be talking about this and instead we’d enjoy having direct access to one of the nation’s busiest airport.

LaGuardia, LaGuardia, where art thou, LaGuardia? :: Second Ave. Sagas July 13, 2011 - 3:38 pm

[…] 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 […]

Airport Access vs. City Access | Pedestrian Observations July 13, 2011 - 5:58 pm

[…] New York’s MTA and Port Authority have just released slides from a meeting discussing alternatives for transit access to LaGuardia. While the airport is the nearest to Midtown Manhattan by road and thus the option of choice for many business travelers, its transit options consist of local buses within Queens or to Upper Manhattan, and as a result its passengers are the least likely to use transit: about 10%, vs. 15% for JFK and 17% for Newark. Transit to the airport has been on and off the agenda for quite some time, with the most recent attempt, a Giuliani-era proposal to extend the Astoria Line, torpedoed due to community opposition to elevated trains. […]

Making Elevated Rail Work | Pedestrian Observations October 22, 2011 - 12:31 am

[…] blighted, such as freeways; this also helps explain why the JFK AirTrain was built whereas the proposed subway extension to LaGuardia was […]

marvin November 2, 2011 - 11:49 pm

to strike a balance between nybism regarding an elevated line and the cost subway contruction, why not connect(really re-extend as it was during the world’s fare) the queens blvd IND local through the kew gardens train yard along the west side of the Van Wyck (away from residential properties). continue it north to just south of the Roosevelt Avenue. Have the line then turn west running between the LIRR and Roosevelt Avenue. A stop as part of the citifield/tennis center LIRR/#7 stop/complex would provide good connections and additional parking on non-game days. Have the line then rise to go over Roosevelt Avenue but under the #7 el where there is space due to the connection between the el and the train yard. Then have the line continue up to LGA. Rather than running two tracks through the airport a loop may allow one leg to remain along side the GCP.

On La Guardia, NIMBYism and a master planner :: Second Ave. Sagas November 9, 2011 - 10:30 am

[…] the light 1990s tried to grow support for a subway extension to the airport. He secured funding but lost out to Queens NIMBYs. As I’ve dug into that history, I’ve learned that New York City along with the MTA and […]

JetBlue: JetBlue grows in Washington and New York | Vehicles Spot December 5, 2011 - 11:37 am

[…] the N line, which ends just three miles away, was under serious consideration for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s.)But in the longer term, the real […]

Queens Rail Connections: La Guardia, Convetion Center :: Second Ave. Sagas January 9, 2012 - 12:18 pm

[…] faint glimmer of hope is better than nothing at all, but any such rail link would have to overcome extreme NIMBY opposition in Queens. If recent history is any indication, such a plan would involve a fight for the ages […]

mattd. April 26, 2012 - 1:09 am

I have no clue whether this will work or not, but i’ll state my idea anyway. Southwest of LGA’s runway 4 on Google maps their is a large strip of unoccupied park land for planes fly low there . what i believe is possible, (at what cost i don’t know) is that some train service, (lirr or nyc subway) can travel under the GCP from LGA, under the parkland, head west at 30th Avenue, turn south after I-278 under Amtrak’s existing ROW and under Northern Blvd. station. From there, it can either connect with the E or F trains under Northern Blvd as a new train line, emerge at sunnyside yard as a Lirr shuttle between Penn/ Grand central to LaGuardia, or become an extension of the G through Sunnyside as Jesse said.

what i like about this idea is that most almost all of the route exists on land unoccupied by residents or businesses, with a small exception of the houses on 30th ave and 78th street, which it will have to go under. Another reason i like this idea is that it is underground the entire way, avoiding elevated eyesores through the affecting neighborhoods. Also if built as a subway line it can serve the people of the area.

the only diasavantage i can think of bedsides the cost would be the damage the construction of underground structure can damage good (but loud due to the planes) park space.

Emmanuel September 6, 2012 - 1:13 am

I believe a air train service from LaGaurdia airport to the Mets station would be the best solution. I like how joe said that the Citi field parking could be used for airport parking during times of no games. However, most people using the air train service would’nt need a car to use the service unless they are being picked up.

New express bus lines to LaGuardia Airport proposed, plus past failed N train options | Queens NYC October 23, 2012 - 2:01 pm

[…] more interesting are two other proposals that were out there at the time. 2nd Avenue Sagas talks about it, The MTA also considered an eastward extension along Ditmars Boulevard, a plan to […]

Why is there no train to the plane for Laguardia? - City-Data Forum April 12, 2013 - 3:46 pm

[…] Astorians opposed it. Dreams of taking the N to LaGuardia :: Second Ave. Sagas […]

Ray October 27, 2013 - 7:31 am

Correction, NIMBY’s opposed it. I’m a lifelong Astorian and I welcome the dream of extending the N line to LaGuardia Airport. It would have faciliated transportation to LaGuardia Airport and made the lives of so many travelers easier. What a dam shame that these few loudmouthed NIMBY’s ruined it for everyone. The city should have just gone ahead and extended the line despite the screaming of the few hysterical property owners.

For LaGuardia, a new limited bus service looms :: Second Ave. Sagas May 1, 2013 - 2:12 pm

[…] extended 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 […]

MTA Reaches Milestone On Second Avenue Subway Line - Page 3 - City-Data Forum November 25, 2013 - 12:59 am

[…] recently than that: Dreams of taking the N to LaGuardia :: Second Ave. Sagas "despite opposition, political support for the plan from City Hall continued well into the […]

Mark November 26, 2013 - 12:18 pm

What about the M60 SBS plans that got scrapped, and the designated bus lane for 125th St? It’s really the most feasible option…

Jack D April 16, 2014 - 1:20 am

I like the original idea of extending the existing N at Ditmars. It only needs to pass two residential blocks. I can’t believe that those two blocks killed a project that would benefit so many more New Yorkers. I don’t live in Astoria anymore, but grew up there and am very familiar with the area. Once the rail got to the ConEd property there really would be no reason to complain. All of those properties are industrial or commercial. The residents who live on nearby 20th Avenue would benefit greatly by having a stop nearby, especially if they installed stops in several strategic areas on 19th Avenue. If anything, the residents of Astoria would benefit with reduced commute times by having a shorter walk to the train. I used to live on 21st Avenue at 46th street and definitely have benefited from having a closer train on 19th Avenue. Another thing to consider is that a new elevated extension does not have to be built the same way the existing one was one hundred years ago. There only need to be two tracks with no stations, placing the next nearest station on maybe the ConEd property. These two tracks can be gradually elevated higher than the existing el to give the area a more open feeling. The supports could also be spaced further apart with less bulky steel and maybe a light colored concrete instead. We could also incorporate technology that reduces the noise and vibration of traveling trains. Oh well, It will probably never happen.

On the flawed LaGuardia AirTrain proposal and Astoria’s N train :: Second Ave. Sagas August 5, 2015 - 12:08 am

[…] run this site, I’ve frequently returned to the idea of an N train to LaGuardia. As I detailed in 2010, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani had hoped to build a subway to LaGuardia in the late 1990s, but he gave […]

Op-Ed: Stop the Runaway LaGuardia AirTrain – Streetsblog New York City January 3, 2020 - 12:02 am

[…] a variety of ideas for improving transit access to the East Elmhurst airport, including reviving the long-dormant plan to extend the N train to the airport, but the governor would have none of it. He wanted the AirTrain to run from Willets […]

Cuomo, the La Guardia AirTrain, and the Art of the Possible – CryGET July 21, 2021 - 6:44 pm

[…] terminal, get off in the central business district. The Giuliani administration has moved closer to extension of the metro to La Guardia, but the funding was withdrawn after the September 11 attacks. During this more recent push, around […]


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