Home MTA Absurdity A short rant on LaGuardia Airport

A short rant on LaGuardia Airport

by Benjamin Kabak

I arrived home from my trip to Minneapolis this afternoon and had the unfortunate occurrence of landing at LaGuardia. After spending a decent amount of money in the Twin Cities, I didn’t feel like forking over $40 for a cab ride back to Park Slope, and so I attempted to take the M60 and the subway. A whopping two hours after I collected my luggage, I walked through my front door. It would have taken only another hour and a half to walk.

The first part of my trip involved a lengthy wait. I missed an M60 while waiting for my luggage and had to wait another 15 minutes for the bus. So while the schedule says they run every 7-9 minutes, this one showed up 15 minutes later. The driver apologized after we left LaGuardia and claimed the bus that should have arrived in between had “broken down or something.”

Meanwhile, the bus was utterly packed, and it reeked of stale urine. The luggage rack filled up quickly after the Delta terminal, and as we slowly crawled through Astoria, I reflected on the absurdity of the situation. It took nearly 40 minutes for me to get from LaGuardia to 125th St. and Lexington via a bus, and I still had to take a lengthy subway ride. Somehow, LaGuardia, which sees nearly 24 million passengers a year, is barely transit accessible.

Now, flyers of course have their shortcuts. Many take cabs to the nearest subway stop and hop on there. Others simply book out of JFK. But with a highway right next to it, LaGuardia should be transit-accessible. Whether it’s a true bus rapid transit route to the airport, an extension of the AirTrain or the N or something as easy as pre-board fare payment, the city and the MTA should make an effort to make it easier to get there. Next time, I might just walk.

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Donald August 22, 2011 - 5:47 pm

Why did you take the M60 all the way to Manhattan? You should have gotten off in Astoria and took the N or Q to Manhattan.

Bolwerk August 22, 2011 - 7:02 pm

I was going to ask this, since the Q does go to Park Slope – though maybe the wrong part?

Chicken Underwear August 23, 2011 - 6:41 am

I was about to type the exact same thing.

Janice August 22, 2011 - 5:51 pm

Woah, you’re usually right on the ball, but the M60??? Take the Q33 to Roosevelt Ave. It’s the shortest bus route and then a one train ride to Park Slope.

Mike August 22, 2011 - 7:49 pm

Janice is right Benjamin….Q33 is the way to go (not very far from LGA.) Then you get to choose from so many trains.

John August 23, 2011 - 9:48 am

Yeah I took the M60 once and didn’t like it. I’ve taken one of the Q buses ever since any time I fly in or out of LGA, and liked them better. Of course it can depend exactly where you need to go.

ajedrez August 24, 2011 - 5:53 pm

The problem is that the Q33 has the potential to get stuck in bad traffic once it gets south of Northern Blvd, in particular the stretch along Roosevelt Avenue.

But I don’t know how much traffic the M60 was caught in.

The reason for going to Lexington Avenue rather than 31st Street was because the Astoria Blvd/31st Street station isn’t ADA-accessable.

Lawrence Velázquez August 22, 2011 - 5:52 pm

I wonder if the buses to Roosevelt Avenue are any better. I’ve never had the “opportunity” to fly out of LGA.

Cap'n Transit August 22, 2011 - 5:55 pm

Why didn’t you take any bus that came? You could have taken the Q33 to Jackson Heights and changed to the F, or the Q48 or Q72 to the 7 and transferred to a train to Brooklyn. If you took the M60, as Donald said, you could have taken the N or the Q – all the way to Brooklyn.

If you’re just going to Upper Manhattan you’re stuck with the M60, which is pretty shameful, but to Brooklyn you’ve got other options.

Benjamin Kabak August 22, 2011 - 5:57 pm

Mostly it’s because I wasn’t really thinking. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and had the M60 stuck in my head. The Q33 showed up first, and I could have taken that. I’m not sure how much faster it would be. My route was the worst.

Clarke August 22, 2011 - 7:54 pm

Another option: don’t check luggage. A half-hour or more timesuck on either end of a long journey.

Bolwerk August 22, 2011 - 8:10 pm

Great idea if you can do it. It’s often not practical, or even possible.

CK August 23, 2011 - 12:42 pm

Yeah, I always end up taking the Q33 to Jackson Heights F train stop since it usually shows up first.

Bg August 22, 2011 - 6:05 pm

The M60 is almost always the wrong choice for airport access unless you live in Harlem or the UES/UWS, and maybe not even then–but because it has a reassuring “M” in the name, people take it over the almost-always-superior Queens buses to LGA. The Queens buses are much less crowded as a result, too.

Dan August 22, 2011 - 6:06 pm

Thankfully living in Astoria the taxi ride is only 14 bucks and it’s worth every penny. JFK is too far away via public transit for me and the M60 always leaves me very, very stressed. Extend the N!

Nick August 22, 2011 - 6:49 pm

Cab indeed. I even walked home once (when we lived in Astoria), though that was from one of the rentals by LGA. Still seemed a better option than waiting for the M60. Now that we’ve moved to Brooklyn I don’t think I’ll be using LGA as frequently.

SEAN August 22, 2011 - 6:54 pm

Did you ride the lightrail to & from MSP?

As Delta has split hub opperations at LGA for short & meadium hall flights & JFK for long hall service, they should fund an extention of either the N through Astoria or extend the current AirTrain system from JFK to Jackson Heights via the Port Authorities capital improvement programs.

Mike August 22, 2011 - 6:57 pm

The Q33 can be a little sluggish during afternoons and early evenings, but it runs reliably on schedule, and there are lots of trains to pick from at 74th St.

Bolwerk August 22, 2011 - 7:05 pm

I know we’ve all been through this before, but I still don’t see any sense in anything short of a subway from the terminal to Manhattan. The Q is a good choice for such an extension, but not the only one.

Jerrold August 22, 2011 - 8:40 pm

But the Q will be on the Second Avenue route when it finally opens in 2016, 2018, or whenever.

Alon Levy August 22, 2011 - 10:23 pm

Then send the N and a restored W.

John Paul N. August 22, 2011 - 7:32 pm

I’m on the M60 right now, I swear to God. This trip is going all right so far. The driver is ahead of schedule, actually, and we’ve been told to wait about 3 min at 31 St. 24 min so far from LGA. Bus is clean, about 80 percent seated. I have taken this bus before, and I say this is the best trip I have had on the M60 in my life.

As I took the Q53, then Q33 to this bus, all 3 had luggage racks. Why the Q53? (I’m now at 2 AV.)

Spendmore Wastemore August 22, 2011 - 8:35 pm

All of BK’s proposals make complete sense.

Therefore none will happen.

Al D August 23, 2011 - 8:56 am

And that’s why I drive! 30 minutes in traffic is my actual eta.


Mike August 23, 2011 - 11:29 am

OK, but normal people don’t have cars.

Jerrold August 22, 2011 - 8:43 pm

As soon as I read this, I was thinking “Why didn’t he take the Q33 instead? He doesn’t live in Upper Manhattan”.

I see that a lot of people beat me to the punch.

Donald August 22, 2011 - 8:55 pm

Stupid question:

But why on earth do people take flights out of LaGuardia? It’s a third tier airport with horrible transporation. Heck, I’d rather go to Newark. It’s further, but at least it’s all highway driving.

Benjamin Kabak August 22, 2011 - 8:57 pm

Because it is a third-tier airport with horrible transportation, flights are often cheaper. That’s why I flew into LGA today. It’s not my first or second choice.

Adirondacker12800 August 23, 2011 - 3:53 pm

Ya get what you pay for….

SEAN August 23, 2011 - 10:08 am

But why on earth do people take flights out of LaGuardia? It’s a third tier airport with horrible transporation. Heck, I’d rather go to Newark. It’s further, but at least it’s all highway driving.

I flew out of Newark a few years ago to Los Angeles & it was horable. I arived 3-hours early for a 6:45AM flight & the security line already was backed up to the entrence. It took 2-hours to go through & yet with all that time I almost missed my flight.

I chose that flight in part figguring that the crowds would be minimal & I couldn’t believe my eyes at the amount of people there were at such an off hour. Needless to say, that is the last time I’ll be flying out of Newark if I can help it.

Fly from JFK if that option is avaleable. It’s a lot less stressful, especially on JetBlue, they make it almost paneless.

John August 23, 2011 - 10:46 am

Yeah I actually like flying out of LGA. I usually fly on Delta and they have their own little mini terminal at LGA, so security isn’t really an issue. It seems like JFK has the biggest delays on the tarmac and Newark has the biggest delays at security.

Mike August 23, 2011 - 11:30 am

I avoid LGA when possible, but for some destinations (Chicago, Atlanta) it’s hard to get a flight from JFK.

LF October 3, 2011 - 6:07 pm

JetBlue usually has flights to Chicago from JFK. I don’t believe it goes to Atlanta though…

Al D August 23, 2011 - 11:58 am

It is also very convenient for many people, and as a small airport, you don’t need to schlepp all around on a shuttle bus or AirTrain.

JP August 22, 2011 - 9:02 pm

Consider yourself lucky Ben. My girlfriend did the same thing about a month ago and it would have been faster to walk. The buses she tried to board were all too full, so she ended up waiting an extra HOUR.

oscar August 22, 2011 - 10:42 pm

My last five trips out of town were to :

Hong Kong

All with far superior transit options to/from the airport than our embarrassing mess in NYC

Peter September 14, 2011 - 3:47 pm

My last trips out of town were to:

Las Vegas
San Juan

All (but Jacksonville) are heavily-used airports serving some of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, and all have transit options worse than LGA. I wonder if there’s a correlation…

MMP August 22, 2011 - 10:49 pm

If you must get yourself there through alternative means (not driving), which I am assuming is the majority of the readers of this blog) LGA is my top choice – I live LES. Cab ride is about $30, which is about the only time I use them. The savings though in time both in transit and check-in/security is what makes it worth it for me. You can be dropped off and through security in less than 10 minutes – no other major airport can say that. Newark and JFK are both lengthy trips (at least an hour) on public transit, not to mention usually much more crowded. The ticket to Newark also gets a little pricey with NJTransit plus AirTran. But it all comes down to the cheapest ticket. My next trip home is out of Newark and back into LGA… but I always prefer LGA. Which reflects just how poor our airport infrastructure is.

Rick August 23, 2011 - 1:17 am

The mta had the money to extend the n to lga as an el via Astoria blvd. However the community went crazy( nimby) and killed that idea. The money that the mta had saved for this el extension went to build the metro north station at Yankee stadium. So everytime I look at that station I think what could have been because the m60 sucks and it sucks more when u live inthe Bronx and have to goto queens because there’s no direct connection between the two.

Bill August 23, 2011 - 4:11 am

Why don’t they just route it on an elevated line that goes above the Grand Central Parkway?

There would be no NIMBYs complaining about noise and a direct path to
LaGuardia Airport.

pete August 23, 2011 - 6:55 am

Taxi drivers would be out of business.

There is a secret cabal of the airports (AKA PANYNJ) and the taxi drivers. Only taxis can do curbside pickup/dropoff at LGA/JFK now. If you use a private car, you have to cross many lanes to the “service road” to get to a private car. Wasn’t like this 6 years ago.

Bolwerk August 23, 2011 - 1:02 pm

Any realistic train line probably would have scarcely any effect on taxi drivers, and if it does have an effect there’s no reason it can’t be positive. More people would be willing to fly in and out of LaGuardia, so it might even help cabs if more people split the difference between transit and cabs (e.g., take transit when departing and take a cab when returning).

Even if it does eat into the cabs’ business, there will still be people who want to take cabs.

Anon August 23, 2011 - 9:33 am

Apparently, last time that idea was floated, there were some NIMBYs.

Bolwerk August 23, 2011 - 1:30 pm

NIMBY arguments should generally just be ignored if they can’t come up with something that’s not all about them.

Chris August 23, 2011 - 11:55 am

Why would there be no locals complaining about noise? I doubt an elevated line would be silent.

Bolwerk August 23, 2011 - 1:37 pm

I don’t know about silent, but modern structures can probably be significantly quieter than a traditional el, and can probably bring noise down to well below the ambient sounds of traffic. Go check out Cologne or Dusseldorf; surface trains are sometimes actually dangerous because you don’t really hear them.

Here‘s a Hong Kong video of a modern underground train – most of the noise sounds aerodynamic to me.

Bill August 23, 2011 - 5:45 pm

Because they already live next to a “parkway” (highway), and the noise would be further from their window than a traditional on-street el.

Chris August 23, 2011 - 11:27 pm

Why wouldn’t they just say that they already live on a parkway, and therefore shouldn’t have to put up with another noisy eyesore? Point is that building something in a neighborhood that is (arguably) detrimental locally, for the benefit primarily of non-residents, will always attract significant local opposition. The only benefit of the GCP alignment is little/no cost for takings would be required.

Bolwerk August 24, 2011 - 1:03 am

Why wouldn’t such an extension just follow the parkway similarly to the AirTrain? Two eyesores in one. It’d be the quietest el in the city. The loss would be in accessibility, I presume.

a.v. August 24, 2011 - 1:40 pm

The sense I get is that whatever the airport, in the U.S. relatively few people take mass transit. If they have cars they drive and if they don’t they take cabs. Families have too much luggage for the subway and business travelers can expense the cabs. That just leaves young single people on short trips. What you would really need is a satellite terminal in, say, midtown, where you can check your luggage and board a nonstop train directly to the terminal. $$$$$$$.

BTW, once you own a car, airports like Hartford, Newburgh and Allentown start to look pretty convenient depending on where you are going. You can park there for a week for the cost of the cab rides to/from NYC airports and you don’t have to wait long for security, for luggage, or to take off.

Bolwerk August 24, 2011 - 2:22 pm

In NYC, a non-trivial number of airline/airport workers almost certainly take transit to the airports. There are business travelers coming in and out who could probably be roped into a train trip if the time and distance is short enough. Even those cases where people won’t want to take transit might sometimes only be the return leg of the trip. There are potential intermediate stops between the airport and the terminal to support the service. Tens of thousands of out-of-state students at certain times of the year. If you go crazy, and do it right, the concept could be proven for other U.S. cities, just like places like Frankfurt and Rome prove it for NYC. There are even people traveling between airports (the fare could be built into their tickets).

Find a way to make LGA to Midtown a 30m trip and it’s easily cab or POV competitive. Can’t comment at the cost of parking at them, but Hartford, Newburgh and Allentown would all look even better with reasonable transit options too – they aren’t exactly a cab ride away.

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