Home Buses Turning to buses for better LaGuardia access

Turning to buses for better LaGuardia access

by Benjamin Kabak

Initial DOT plans for bus access to LaGuardia have focused on five potential routes.

For an airport so close to Midtown Manhattan, LaGuardia often seems very far away. The N and Q trains terminate tantalizingly close to the airport, and the 7 train seems to skirt right on by. But with no direct subway access, one of the nation’s busiest airports remains trapped on the wrong side of a bunch of roads, accessible only by cars, taxis or buses that slowly wind their way through local Queens streets.

The dearth of adequate transit options for the nearly 24 million passengers who pass through the airport isn’t for lack of trying. As I’ve written in the past, many wanted to bring the subway to LaGuardia, but intense NIMBYism and a high pricetag killed the project. Now, we’re left with five local buses, an array of private operators and surface transit. That might change soon.

For as long as the New York City Department of Transportation has focused on its so-called “bus rapid transit” plan, the LaGuardia-Elmhurst corridord has sat atop the priority list. New Yorkers long identified it as an area in need of better access, and city planners know that the area is underserved. Finally, DOT is getting around to studying the corridor.

I learned today — via Cap’n Transit’s post to Twitter — of this DOT web page touting the LaGuardia Airport Access Alternatives Analysis. The snazzy map up on top of this post came from that page in fact. Right now, the website is bare bones. In addition to the map, it features three paragraphs of text:

LaGuardia Airport is the only major airport in the New York metro area without a rapid transit connection, and much of western Queens lacks easy access to the subway for local travel. The idea of providing rapid transit for the airport and the surrounding community has been studied many times over the years, but nothing has ever been implemented.

The LaGuardia Airport corridor was identified as needing shorter term, lower cost transit improvements by area residents as part of the Bus Rapid Transit Phase II study in 2009. In particular, the area generates a high density of transit trips that are a long distance from the subway. The corridor is currently served by the M60,Q33, Q47, Q48 and Q72 bus routes, but service on these routes is often slowed by narrow streets and long dwell times.

With this in mind, DOT requested and received funding from the Federal Transit Administration to conduct a LaGuardia Airport Access Alternatives Analysis. The Alternatives Analysis began in May 2011, and will focus on implementable recommendations. The study will look at both airport trips and trips made by the many residents that live close to the airport. DOT will work closely with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and other City and State agencies throughout the study.

Essentially, two years after residents urged DOT to explore improving access to LaGuardia, the department is finally ready to begin that study. The process is going to be a slow one, and it will likely be at least two years before we see any real transportation improvements. In fact, according to DOT’s schedule, although this month will play host to the first public meeting, the selection of the “Locally Preferred Alternative” won’t happen until next May, and the agency anticipates implementing the initial recommendations sometime in 2013. Obvious transit improvements happen very slowly in New York City.

What then should we anticipate? Although the plans are rough sketches based upon public input from 2009, DOT will have to find a way to overcome the narrow streets and long dwell times. To that end, we’ll see buses focused on wider corridors, and we’ll see Select Bus Service-like improvements implemented. Pre-board fare payment is an obvious one, and while a Manhattan-to-LaGuardia route would be ripe for a truly dedicated lane, the city has not been able to overcome small but loud complaints concerning those types of beneficial travel lanes.

Essentially, earlier studies identified five potential routes, and each should see travel upgrades. The city would like to connect LaGuardia to Willets Point and the 7 in Flushing, the Jackson Heights hub at Roosevelt Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, 125th St. via a stop along the N/Q in Astoria and into the Bronx via Third or Webster Avenues. That’s the easy part. Getting the right improvements implementing on the ground will not, but DOT now has a chance to improve travel to and from a popular urban airport that has never been connected to the subway. It’s an opportunity the city can’t afford to let slip away yet again.

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Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 2:08 am

To be honest, I’d be a lot happier if the plan was “connect East Elmhurst to the rest of the city, and then we might as well have buses continue to LGA” rather than “connect LGA to the rest of the city, and maybe serve East Elmhurst in between.” Take a lesson from the low, low ridership of the JFK AirTrain, which unlike LGA buses can actually beat taxis to many Manhattan destinations, and focus on ordinary neighborhoods first.

Eric F. June 21, 2011 - 9:49 am

The Airtrain has low ridership? I didn’t realize that. Does it not meet ridership projections?

Shawn R. June 21, 2011 - 10:54 am

Actually that is not true, the ridership actually exceeds the projections.

Lawrence Velázquez June 21, 2011 - 1:43 pm

I think Alon means that AirTrain could have much higher ridership if it actually served South Jamaica rather than just ran through to/from JFK.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 4:22 pm

I don’t know what the projections were, but the JFK AirTrain has 4.2 million annual riders, which is 10% of JFK’s air traffic. By the standards of the rail access to e.g. Frankfurt, it’s pitiful.

It also has trivial mode share among airport workers, because it only serves passenger terminals, is expensive and not fare-integrated with the rest of the city’s transit system, and skips the neighborhoods close to JFK.

Eric F. June 21, 2011 - 5:24 pm

10% is actually more than I expected. A lot of travellers to JFK are coming from L.I. Many come from CT and NJ. You’d have to figure that very few of those people are going to take multiple trains to go to an airport carrying luggage and the rest. I’d imagine that Air Train has probably cornered the market on backpackers from Europe, and other younger travelers with carry-able lugagge, not too much cash, but a lot of time.

Anon256 June 21, 2011 - 5:37 pm

Travelers without much cash but a lot of time consider the Airtrain a ripoff, and save $5 each way by taking the Q10 bus from JFK to the subway.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 6:39 pm

At Frankfurt’s airport, 28% of passengers arrive by train.

Eric F. June 22, 2011 - 8:38 am

Been there. It’s pretty impressive. Frankfurt has an inter-regional train stop in the basement. That won’t be coming to southern Queens anytime soon.

Alon Levy June 22, 2011 - 1:36 pm

They could string catenary to Jamaica and extend surplus Amtrak trains not going to Boston there. Not as nice as what they have at Frankfurt, but still somewhat useful.

Bolwerk June 22, 2011 - 3:51 pm

Don’t Amtrak trains going through the North River Tunnels work on third rail anyway?

Either way, it’s a bit ridiculous that JFK, not Jamaica, isn’t an Amtrak terminal itself for any train going exclusively between NYC and DC. It should be something that costs somewhere in the mid-millions to build – if we were sane anyway.

Alon Levy June 23, 2011 - 6:06 pm

No, there’s 12 kV catenary there.

Going to JFK is hard now that they gave away the available ROWs to a compatible-with-nothing-else AirTrain. Sending Amtrak to Jamaica should be a decent second best for connecting JFK to Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Bolwerk June 23, 2011 - 7:48 pm

There are two under-utilized ROWs to the Babylon Branch that could be used in part. The trick from there is the tunneling or an el to JFK from one of them.

AlexB July 13, 2011 - 4:53 pm

The AirTrain is build on standard gauge track. They’d have to change the electrification, but trains can technically move along the same stretch of track if they (PA, Amtrak) wanted to modify it someday.

Steven Faust, AICP October 17, 2012 - 2:39 pm

Not only standard rail gauge track, but with 600-700 volt DC third rail too. The Air Train’s linear motor is different from subway and LIRR cars, but the track portion lays below track level, out of the way. A standard subway/LIRR motor can operate on Air Train tracks. This was the critical outcome following the rejection of the original PORT monorail plan – that Air Train be compatible with standard local trains.

The primary constraint to using current rail cars is sharp turns built into the line to get around runways and buildings. This will require short rail cars, shorter than LIRR 80 feet or subway 62 feet. This design can be met with articulated car sets, similar to the BMT Triplex, at 50 foot x 3 = 150 feet.

The Air Train platforms are at LIRR height above track level. So the LIRR can run from Penn and/or GCT, probably missing Jamaica Station, to JFK terminals with sets of these special articulated trains that will fit and run on the Air Train tracks.

Once GCT East Side Access opens, there will be sufficient time on track to add these JFK trains.

Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 12:35 pm

At least, operationally, AirTrain could be salvaged someday by being extended to Midtown or Lower Manhattan, especially if done with an eye towards intelligent service connections.

If I were pushing a holistic regional transportation plan, like the RPA occasionally pretends to do, I’d point to AirTrain as a good solution for medium density grade separated services. IND capacity was overkill for the G Train, and I can’t imagine any fantasy outer borough-only service will ever need that kind of capacity.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 4:24 pm

Triboro RX can get a fair amount of ridership. The problem with the G is that the IND didn’t give a crap about connecting to the IRT and BMT, and therefore there’s no transfer from the G to QBP or Atlantic/Pacific. Circumferentials work iff they offer easy transfers to all the radials they hit.

Bolwerk June 22, 2011 - 12:33 am

I dunno. I’m skeptical of Triboro RX. But it seems like a good example of where something like the ART used in JFK could be reasonably implemented, anyway.

The G really was badly built.

Alon Levy June 22, 2011 - 2:50 am

No need for vendor-locked tech… just make it subway-compatible, for maximum flexibility and economies of scale. (If FRA regulations were sane, making it regional rail-compatible instead would be another option.)

Andrew June 22, 2011 - 6:59 am

The G isn’t a circumferential. It serves inner Brooklyn and Queens.

Bolwerk June 22, 2011 - 7:55 am

I think that’s what he was saying. But, it doesn’t seem to fit neatly into either category. It connects two job centers, at least one of which was much more important back when the G was built.

Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 3:21 am

This is a case where anything less than a full subway connection is going to have a very low bang:buck ratio. Nobody who can afford a taxi is going to want to lug their suitcases onto a bus slowly winding its way to Midtown, much less take a local to some distant outer borough train station. Even SBS would barely help that. For the airport’s sake, such services will mostly only attract the rare starving student or impoverished airport concession employees who can’t afford to drive.

What is a “locally preferred alternative” here? Is it what NYC wants, or what some NIMBYs in Astoria want? If it’s the latter, this is just a waste.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 3:55 am

The airport employees are actually a huge market, but to serve them well, the transit system needs to hit not just the terminals but also various employee-only points on airport grounds.

Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 1:12 pm

The totality of airport employees might be kind of large, even at LGA. The totality of airport employees who can and are willing to use transit + airport employees who must use transit is presumably quite a bit smaller. I have a hard time believing that LGA can support several buses based on that.

Christopher June 21, 2011 - 5:03 pm

I don’t know. I fly out of LGA almost exclusively and almost always take the bus to or from the airport and even those slow, low capacity buses on the M60 and Q33 are full every time day or night I take it. And I think there is room to get even more ridership if the time was approved. (For instance it’s a 20 minute cab ride from my North Brooklyn neighborhood to LGA but took my an hour and a half just last night to come back. Although not bad when you consider it was a bus ride and 3 subway trains — 7 to the G to the L.)

Scott E June 21, 2011 - 8:03 am

I’m surprised Ferry service isn’t being evaluated here. Buses are relatively narrow and not conducive to carrying luggage, plus they are susceptible to all sorts of traffic jams — not the kind you want to get stuck in when trying to catch a flight.

Ferries, on the other hand, can easily get to the airport waterfront property, with connections(I think) from Elder Ave(6) in the Bronx, Lower Manhattan, Long Island City, Red Hook Brooklyn, Staten Island, and your choice of stops along the LIRR Port Washington and MNR New Haven Lines.

Ferries aren’t limited to the width of a tunnel or a traffic lane, so carrying luggage on and off is much easier.

I thought such ferry service exists (or existed), but I’ve never seen it promoted and it’s not on the latest MTA maps.

Eric F. June 21, 2011 - 9:50 am

Delta ran a ‘water shuttle’ to the Marine Air Terminal for years. I don’t think it was very well-used though. Sounds like a great way to get to lower Manhattan, but not so useful for any market besides business travellers heading to lower Manhattan within a short walk of the pier.

al June 21, 2011 - 3:51 pm

They could connect a Midtown and Downtown direct ferry at the Marine Air Terminal with a frequent low floor shuttle bus – or build an automated people mover – to all the other terminals running on roads in the airport. It could be part of the East River ferry system. There seems to be a clearance for a ~100′ beam and 50′ air draft vessel under the Rikers Island Bridge. The Manhattan stops would use the regular and shuttle bus connections for East River Ferries.

Andrew June 22, 2011 - 7:02 am

All of those connections are inconvenient – none of the trains stop right by the water. So you’d only be serving the people who live or work in easy walking distance of the pier. Not quite the M60, which connects with 5 subway lines.

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[…] Department of Transportation is finally examining increased bus service to La Guardia Airport. [Second Avenue […]

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[…] Ben Kabak Games Out the Future of DOT’s Better-Buses-to-LaGuardia Project […]

Jason June 21, 2011 - 9:41 am

I never understood the nimbyism here. The residents that the train extension would bother most ( I assume extending the N/Q rather than the 7) live in such close proximity to a very active airport that how can they derail the whole thing based on it lowering their quality of life (noise essentially)? When i lived in Maspeth, i used to hear jets going over daily, non-stop and you get used to it. I assume the same would be said about train noise. Would having better, more accessible trains lower their property value? Or is it just that they don’t want an elevated structure being built?

Of all the projects that need to happen, this is one that baffles me on how it still hasnt happened. Is there any possibility of steam-rolling nimbyism by use of eminent domain?

Matt June 21, 2011 - 10:04 am

Its a relatively small-scale residential neighborhood the line would be running through. And its not just the noise. An elevated route would block out all the sunlight for those poor folks who live on that street. Not to mention all the dust, noise, garbage etc. generated during construction.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 10:17 am

Jason, not sure what part of town you currently live in, but how about we put up an elevated train line directly over your home or apt? I’m sure you’d love to see 100s of trains screech by your window every day. While we’re at it, why not an elevated highway over your backyard? Maybe add a couple hundred thousand cars and trucks per day? You see where i’m going here? NIMBYism is when somebody else bitches about construction in their n’hood, not yours.

Jason June 21, 2011 - 10:24 am

I lived off the uptown 215th street elevated stop for years. Its not that big of a deal hearing trains (in fact it became white noise to me). But my point really wasnt to say it doesnt suck, but that shouldnt the benefit of the many out way the detriment of the few (collectivism vs individualism)?

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 10:29 am

Well, unless you moved to 215th St prior to 1908, then the elevated train was already there when you moved in. But to buy a home on a nice, quiet street in Astoria and then have the city build a noisy, ugly elevated structure over your home AFTER you purchased would be quite annoying. Your quality of life and property value would drop like a rock. Collectivism is fine when it’s somebody else doing the collecting.

AlexB June 21, 2011 - 10:44 am

I agree with you that the elevated structure would be an eyesore. However, these days, no one would build an elevated line 20 feet above street level, with steel columns on both sides of the street spaced 40 feet apart. Today, the structure would be much higher, much quieter, and involved a lot less mass and fewer columns and other structural members which could be in the middle of the street. Think JFK Airtrain.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 11:01 am

Think JFK AirTrain going over your front yard or past your apt window. Maybe have some concrete support columns running down the middle of your block or on the sidewalk in front of your home. Sounds lovely, don’t it? There’s a reason the AirTrain runs down the middle of a highway and not along a residential street: it’s big and it’s ugly.

Whatever would be built would still foster a huge change to the character of the street, and change forever the way the block looks.

Benjamin Kabak June 21, 2011 - 11:08 am

One of the plans included building the elevated to LaGuardia over the Grand Central. That too was shot down because of neighborhood opposition, and that’s less defensible than an elevated through Astoria (which would have been b-a-d for the neighborhood).

At some point, though, someone is going to be upset by transit improvements, and when they benefit a large number of people, that’s part of the equation. It’s just like 34th St. and the buses.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 11:13 am

Well, dems da breaks. It’s not like it’s a huge burden to get to LGA from most parts of town. I fly out of LGA a few times a year, and the trip via ferry from Staten Island, IRT to Grand Central and express bus to LGA takes about 90 mins and costs me $15 total. I can deal with that. If I want to get there faster, I can drive or take a taxi.

If folks who bought homes on quiet residential streets don’t want huge, noisy BMT trains rumbling overhead, who am I to complain and call them NIMBYs? Living in NYC ain’t perfect (as we all know). Deal with it or move to Philly.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 10:00 pm

90 minutes for airport access is downright terrible. I get to JFK in 60 (and used to be able to get there in 35 in principle by using a taxi east of Forest Hills), and LGA in between 45 and 60 depending on traffic.

Woody June 22, 2011 - 9:20 am

He’s talking Staten Island to Midtown to LGA in 90 minutes. You certainly should do better, don’t you live UWS in Manhattan?

Alon Levy June 22, 2011 - 1:43 pm

Yeah, I do. When I lived on the UES, it took a little less time and cost much less because I used the E and not the LIRR.

But what I said about a 90-minute trip being terrible is a general statement.

AlexB June 21, 2011 - 4:36 pm

Actually, the JFK Airtrain in my front yard wouldn’t bother me at all, so long as it wasn’t as loud as a normal train. I think it looks quite good. Besides, it’s human nature to assume any change will be for the worse, often way worse, even though most changes are adapted to and forgotten about very quickly.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 4:26 pm

Everything I’ve seen about els indicates that they increase property values, though less so than subways. Do you have any evidence they decrease property values, other than NIMBY hysteria?

Bolwerk June 22, 2011 - 1:28 am

I suspect they would increase them, but AFAICT it’s hard to say. Not many els have been built in the past century. What we have is plenty of evidence in both directions of neighborhoods with els increasing and decreasing in value. Since the 1980s, the trend has probably been more in the upward direction.

Either way, if any els are built this century, they’re more likely to look like low impact versions of AirTrain, not massive, squealy metallic street canopies.

Andrew June 22, 2011 - 7:04 am

Els certainly increase property values in the general vicinity (assuming there are periodic stations, which this line might not have), but don’t they decrease property values to their immediate neighbors? The immediate neighbors are the issue, not Astoria as a whole.

Bolwerk June 22, 2011 - 8:01 am

Why would they (by necessity)? I could see them reducing values relative to some of their neighbors, but I don’t see why an el wouldn’t raise all boats.

Andrew June 22, 2011 - 10:06 pm

Because els are noisy and make for an unpleasant street below.

Bolwerk June 23, 2011 - 1:58 am

There’s no reason a modern el has to be noisy. As I said (to ferryboi?), the street canopy effect can probably be lessened by modern construction, though not eliminated.

I see a tradeoff: lose some peace and quiet, but you gain a lot of accessibility.

Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 12:59 pm

I live within a block of an el – an old, squealy one. It’s less annoying than a high traffic street or major highway. Living here is plain blissful compared to when I lived on West 30th Street in Manhattan, and the most obnoxious noises usually come from…well, as usual, drivers.

Sorry, but I don’t see why residents anywhere should be entitled to not have an el nearby, just like I don’t see why they should be entitled to a view of the river,* or a parking space in front of their homes, or a doorman, or a subsidized apartment, or all kinds of other amenities that people feel entitlement over because politicians were stupid enough to hand them out in the first place. If you buy a house, you should be aware of and prepared for the risks.

Anyway, with modern construction techniques, about the only legitimate complaint that can be universally made about els is they take away light, and there is no reason modern concrete construction needs the footprint of an early 20th century BMT structure. They can be operated so quietly that you wouldn’t even hear them if you weren’t focusing. Even the light problem can be largely mitigated by running them down the center of a wide boulevard, with minimal eyesoreness.

* because someone else could build a taller building in front of their window

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 1:57 pm

Well, in that case I don’t see why an elevated highway couldn’t be built across Midtown Manhattan, say around 30th St or Canal St. It would collectively benefit those areas since all the traffic from east to west would move off crosstown streets. Actually, it would benefit a lot more people than a train to LGA would.

Amazing how people are ready to give up SOMEBODY ELSES peace and quiet to help the “collective” whole get to the airport quicker.

Is NYC in some kind of economic peril because you have to take a bus to LGA? From the looks of the hundreds of thousands of tourists and business folk in Manhattan and elsewhere, NYC seems to get by just fine without another el train. And yes, some residents of quiet, residential n’hoods ARE entitled to some peace and quiet. That’s why they didn’t move underneath el trains or to noisy Manhattan. I know it’s hard for many of the train nerds on SAS to understand, but don’t get all hyper about any of this. Last time I looked, the MTA was piss-poor and could barely afford to run the trains and buses it already has. A train to LGA won’t happen in any of our lifetimes.

VLM June 21, 2011 - 1:59 pm

If you hate New York City so much and feel the need to be so nasty to your so-called “train nerds” here, why do you live here and visit this site so frequently? Really, haven’t you ever heard of polite discourse? Or perhaps I’m expecting too much from you.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 2:07 pm

“Sorry, but I don’t see why residents anywhere should be entitled to not have an el nearby…or all kinds of other amenities that people feel entitlement over because politicians were stupid enough to hand them out in the first place.”

Real nice and polite. If you don’t want an el train near your house after you’ve moved in, your a stupid NIMBY Luddite.

I don’t hate NYC, I just dislike people telling others how they should live their life, or make changes for the “collective” good when it really doesn’t affect THEM. I like trains just as much as the next nerd, but I don’t want one built right over my house.

You want “polite discourse”, then join the Princeton debating club. Sorry if the word “nerd” sets you off.

AlexB June 21, 2011 - 4:38 pm

I dislike people who complain so much. “Neighborhood character” and “quality of life” are hard to define and usually made up by people with too much time on their hands.

Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 4:39 pm

You’re missing the point. It’s not about one Luddite or even one neighborhood. These decisions should be made wisely, preferably in rough consensus but at least democratically, with the costs and benefits to all stakeholders weighed before a decision is made. By your logic, Forest Hills residents should be allowed to sever itself from the Queens Boulevard Line and keep Briarwood residents from getting to Manhattan because, well, we don’t want those smelly Briarwood plebes passing through.

And I hate to burst your bubble, but nobody anywhere gets a free pass when it comes to changing circumstances. My parents bought a rural farm house near a sleepy four-lane highway in 2000. New development many miles (10+?) spurred a lot more traffic on that highway that wasn’t there in 2000. At a distance of I’d say a quarter to a half mile away, it’s a lot louder inside that house than the el train that I live a short block away from. There was no public input process, no chance to be a NIMBY, no way to even have a say because the development was in another county – that’s just how the chips fell. (Ironically, the result was higher property values for them, but it’s much less pleasant.)

Jason June 22, 2011 - 9:23 am


Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 4:18 pm

No, an elevated highway would only produce a net harm in Manhattan and probably anywhere else in NYC at this point. We already have clogged streets, and building more highways correlates to more clogged streets.

BTW, note that I didn’t say an elevated highway should never be built. I don’t think we should set aside the possibility that it might one day make sense. I personally think it doesn’t make sense these days, but the main reason for that has nothing to do with NIMBY notions of peace and quiet and everything to do with the simple fact that a highway would produce a net harm for everybody while we can’t even keep congestion under control on the road system we have. Beyond that, the record of urban highway construction in the United States has been nothing short of disastrous. It’s probably because of highways that it’s now so difficult to infrastructure that we actually need built.

Maybe an el to LGA is a bad idea, maybe it isn’t, but your notion that els might have a negative impact on some entitled Lilliputian is only a tiny piece of what should be a much more holistic decision-making process. For every person who is disrupted on a street where an el is built, there could easily be 5-10 blocks of people who benefit much more than the others are harmed. They count too.

AlexB June 21, 2011 - 10:18 am

If the plan were to create a spur over the Grand Central Parkway from the N, that might be OK with the community. The original plan call for extending the N/Q along 31st St past the Ditmars Terminal and then a mile or two through a residential neighborhood.

If you’ve ever been to the area, it is quite an active street, but only becomes active north of the terminal. Under the train, the street is dead and an unpleasant place to be. I completely sympathize with the nimbys in this case.

John June 21, 2011 - 9:57 am

I don’t think the bus access to LGA is so bad right now. There are a few options and all take about 15 minutes to get from the train to the airport. Not as good as it could be, but still not that bad either.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 10:41 am

Not to mention a few private bus companies run express service from Midtown to LGA every 15-20 mins most days.

Eric F. June 21, 2011 - 10:54 am

LGA is close enough to Manhattan where the cost of a cab is not prohibitive. The relatively expensive train to Newark will save a solo rider a ton of money relative to a cab, but that won’t be true for LGA. Assuming a $5 airtrain surcharge is tacked on, the cab is still fairly affordable.

VLM June 21, 2011 - 2:00 pm

LGA is close enough to Manhattan where the cost of a cab is not prohibitive.

That isn’t remotely true. And what about the millions of other people who use LGA but don’t come from Manhattan? Where I live, a cab ride to LaGuardia costs upwards of $40. That’s cost prohibitive.

Eric F. June 21, 2011 - 2:27 pm

Ok, but what would a subway connection to Manhttan do for you in that case?

Cabs are not cheap, but the context here are travellers who just got off a plane for which they bought $300+ roundtrip tickets.

Bolwerk June 21, 2011 - 4:48 pm

The reason I would think the best options are either

(1) do nothing


(2) build a subway connection to the airport

is that I don’t think people are going to leave cabs and cars without the subway connection. At least a subway terminating at an airport guarantees a seat and space for all your luggage.* No way in hell do buses even have much space for a lot of luggage, and they’re significantly slower than cabs and trains.

* while making people further down the land have less of a chance at a seat (which according to ferryboi, they’re whitely entitled to)

Woody June 21, 2011 - 12:16 pm

The M-60 bus that serves Uptown Manhattan could easily be greatly improved. And note this route is not well served by private opertors going to Grand Central, Penn Station, or the big Midtown hotels.

The M-60 starts near Columbia U, goes across 125th St and the Robert F. Kennedy/Triboro Bridge, then wanders along a lot of frontage roads and streets serving mostly rental car lots and whatnot, then to LaGuardia where it makes on stop in front of a hangar and the rider says, Whaaat?, then it goes to the farthest end of the airport (Delta) and works its way back to that hangar stop and back to 125 St.

So what is it? A 125th St Crosstown bus? A bus serving stops in Astoria and near the airport? Or access to the airport?

It should become two buses, not one. The airport access section should run more than every 20 minutes (the schedule last I looked). Frankly, lots of white people still feel uneasy standing on a corner in the middle of Harlem waiting for a bus that may not come for 20 minutes. This on top of the anxiety of the whole airport hassle lying ahead.

An airport access bus should start at 96th and Broadway, a major hub with 1,2,3 trains, a crosstown bus, and two or three north-south buses on B’way and Amsterdam. It should stop at Columbia, then stop at the subways stations on 125. St Nicholas Ave for the A,B,C,D lines; Lenox for the 2,3 lines: Park Ave for MetroNorth, and Lexington for the eponymous 4,5,6 line, and last, Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria for the N,Q line. Then non-stop on the expressway to LaGuardia Airport. At the airport, SIGNAGE and an announcement from the driver should tell riders that the FIRST stop in front of a hangar is actually a very short walk from the American Airlines gates in the Main Terminal.

Easy, simple steps to faster airport access from Upper Manhattan. We’ll need a few years study on this first, of course.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 12:34 pm

Or you can take an express bus from Grand Central (4, 5, 6, 7, B, D, F, M and 42 St shuttle very close by) to LGA or JFK for $12 a pop. Buses run every 15-20 mins and go to all terminals at both airports. Very, very easy and inexpensive.

ferryboi June 21, 2011 - 12:35 pm

Some buses also originate at Penn Station and midtown hotels, so there’s access to just about every subway/commuter train in Manhattan.

Alon Levy June 21, 2011 - 4:33 pm

Woody, the M60 comes every 10 minutes. And I’ve seen plenty of white people on the bus.

The bus is really everything you say it is. It’s a 125th Street crosstown, like several others; it’s also an access route from Upper Manhattan to Queens and LGA. In my experience, the bus is fairly empty at the LGA end; it’s used more for access from Astoria to Upper Manhattan or service along 125th.

To improve this route, the single most important thing that can be done is bus lanes on 125th. 125th can get very congested, even more so than the east-west streets of Midtown, and then the bus is slower than walking. This would be useful for all buses on 125th, not just the M60.

Woody June 22, 2011 - 10:21 am

Alon, I certainly support bus lanes on 125th. And glad to hear that service on the M-60 has been doubled to 10-minute intervals. (They still have to sometimes wait to pull into a bus stop, because other buses on this busy route are extra-long articulated buses with lots of slow boardings, so a skip-stop service is still worth a look.)

But geez, if I didn’t know it’s only 10 minutes maximum wait, how many others haven’t got the news? MTA’s marketing efforts could use a boost here. Because yes, I still think many white people will be concerned about waiting on a street corner in Harlem for they don’t know how long. The fact that you’ve seen many white people on the M-60 — perhaps you saw me — tells us nothing about how many white people you DIDN’T see because they chose a taxi or some other route instead. Maybe it’s no matter. Many would not use it if the wait were 2 minutes max.


A bit off-topic, but I wonder how many white New Yorkers (nevermind the suburbanites) have NEVER been to Harlem, at least outside of their vehicle. It must be millions. Ferryboi must know some, but there’s plenty of ’em in Manhattan. A friend of mine said she’d looked at a very nice apartment in Harlem, liked it a lot, but her East Side friends told her they wouldn’t come visit. The white people I see living in gentrifying Harlem are young, college-student/ stroller-pushing young. And the tourists are all Europeans, not white Americans.

Bolwerk June 22, 2011 - 5:01 pm

A fair point, but for many New Yorkers, it’s hard to go your whole life and never visit Harlem. Many social services agencies are located there, and it at least used to be the Manhattan drop off point to pay your ConEd bill. The number of people who would never go for the fun or hell of it is probably staggering, though.

There are Lilliputians in most of the city though. I’ve met “middle class” Manhattan housing project residents who are as myopic and O’Reilly-enamored as the worst suburbanites, and who watch just as much TV. Ironically, they often rail about welfare just as much too….

Alon Levy June 23, 2011 - 6:13 pm

I didn’t even know the headways had been increased. I just saw the frequency when I made my frequent bus maps.

The (almost invariably white, almost invariably under 30) New Yorkers I know are, with one possible exception, completely unafraid of Harlem. Many live there – in West Harlem, or on the east side of Morningside Park – in order to have more affordable housing; the rest sometimes visit the people who live there. I lived in Central Harlem facing St. Nicholas Park for a year; it wasn’t a nice neighborhood or anything, but there was nothing scary there. And even the one person who told me flat out she wouldn’t live in “The Hood” lives in Manhattan Valley.

Andrew June 22, 2011 - 7:06 am

No need to run to the congested 96th and Broadway (which would increase operating costs significantly over the current turnaround at 106th) – the M60 already connects with both the 1 and the 2/3.

AlexB June 21, 2011 - 10:03 am

LaGuardia is served very well by the Grand Central and the BQE and these should be better utilized by the MTA. The problem of access to LaGuardia should be solved with 2 bus services that avoid local streets and local stops as much as possible:
– 125th and Lexington to Woodside via the Triboro and GCP with stops at Park Ave, 31st St in Astoria, stops at each terminal, back on the BQE, a stop at the EFRM/7 stop in Jackson Heights and a stop at Woodside. This should not continue on 125th west of Lexington. 125th just slows everything and would make the service unreliable.
– Penn Station to Flushing with a stop at Grand Central, then through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, on the LIE/BQE to LGA terminals, back on the GCP, ending in downtown Flushing.

These wouldn’t replace the existing bus services which still provide access for local trips to and from LGA. I would think these services would be like express buses, with a $5+ fare and more comfortable buses.

Separate SBS services should serve Elmhurst and Corona. One should run from Flushing, via Northern Boulevard, to Midtown over the Queensboro. The other should run from Queens college, Corona Boulevard, Queens Boulevard to Midtown via the Queensboro (or maybe midtown tunnel). Dedicated lanes should be created wherever the local community boards will allow.

I don’t really see the logic in combining service to LGA with service to neighborhoods. They each have different needs and expectations.

Andrew June 22, 2011 - 7:08 am

The longer the route – especially if it involves midtown – the less reliable it will be, since it’s more likely to get tied up in random traffic. And since midtown isn’t a single point (or even a line), most people are going to have to take the subway or bus to reach this special express bus. Might as well stay on the subway to 125th for a shorter, more reliable, quicker bus ride.

Lenny Reyes June 21, 2011 - 10:17 am

Another obstacle against speeding bus trips between LGA and Jackson Heights will be those shopping strips (specifically Little India on 74th St and Little Colombia on 82nd Street) who don’t want to lose parking for the sake of buses that are passing through the neighborhood

al June 21, 2011 - 4:03 pm

Then get quiet buses and shunt the routes onto other streets.

Lenny Reyes June 21, 2011 - 10:17 am

Another obstacle against speeding bus trips between LGA and Jackson Heights will be those shopping strips (specifically Little India on 74th St and Little Colombia on 82nd Street) who don’t want to lose parking for the sake of buses that are passing through the neighborhood.

Brian June 21, 2011 - 3:54 pm

There should be a subway that goes crosstown on 125th street since uptown lacks any crosstown line that goes in to Queens and out to Lagaurdia. Then turn south for a transfer with the 7 EFMR at 74th broadway/ Jackson hts roosevelt. Will it ever happen no, but that would be great.

Larry Littlefield June 22, 2011 - 11:23 am

The ship has sailed on a rail connection, killed by Astoria NIMBYs.

What is actually needed is bus service “put ins” at 31st Street in Astoria.

The M60 is pretty quick from the N line to LGA, but gets stuck earlier in the route. This makes the connection unreliable. What is needed is buses that just go from Astoria to LGA, filling in as required, so those choosing transit would know that a bus would meet every train.

The buses to Jackson Heights take too long and are too unreliable, as they must cross a series of major east-west arterials with signal priority and move through narrow, congested streets.

Discussion: Rethinking a Second System :: Second Ave. Sagas June 22, 2011 - 2:56 pm

[…] should they build a subway in currently underserved areas? We talked earlier this week about a rail connection to LaGuardia, and the Utica Ave./South 4th St. line remains a great unrealized part of subway history. Would a […]

Terratalk June 27, 2011 - 3:18 am

The M60 would adequately serve the Manhattan to LGA market if the buses scheduled would show up. There are supposed to be eight (8) buses running between 3 and 4pm and eight (8) buses running between 4 and 5pm. We are lucky to see two, maybe three an hour and after 4 they frequently pass the 77th and Astoria Blvd.-westbound bus stop without stopping (if they show up at all) because they have filled up at La Guardia. Lately the wait has reached 45-60 minutes. We are starting to wonder if the buses are turning around before La Guardia to make up time on their route.

As a side note: There was a poorly attended public meeting regarding the LaGuardia Airport Access Alternatives Analysis on June 22nd at PS69 in Jackson Heights. I was surprised to see no more than 75 people attending a meeting that had a great deal of significance to the area surrounding LaGuardia. This study is being utilized in part to evaluate the increased volume of passengers expected when LaGuardia starts accommodating larger planes. The few community board members that found out about the meeting at the last minute were quite vocal over the lack of local advertising for the meeting and also took a LaGuardia employee to task for not including input from the local community boards about the neighborhood effects of these larger planes landing and taking off at LaGuardia. Hopefully the next meeting will be better attended!

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[…] local businesses along the corridor. At the same time, said Carlson, DOT should be completing its alternatives analysis for improving transit access to LaGuardia Airport, which could include better service along the M60 […]

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[…] to improve bus access to LaGuardia Airport are still taking shape. Right now, though, efforts appear to have focused on two bus lines in […]

At Transpo Hearing, Council Members Ask for More Select Bus Service | AECDigest June 19, 2012 - 7:05 pm

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[…] NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota this morning announced a long-anticipated plan for Select Bus Service to LaGuardia Airport, which should speed travel times to and from neighborhoods in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens […]

Upgrades to LaGuardia Bus Service Will Speed Local Trips Too « livethelife336 October 15, 2012 - 11:00 am

[…] NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota this morning announced a long-anticipated plan for Select Bus Service to LaGuardia Airport, which should speed travel times to and from neighborhoods in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens […]


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