Home Queens A powerful call for LGA transit, but only for a bus

A powerful call for LGA transit, but only for a bus

by Benjamin Kabak

Let us pretend you are a member of an industry group that could be a fairly powerful advocate for airport accessibility. Let’s say you are hoping to improve the way New Yorkers relate to their airports. This isn’t a particularly long stretch as New York’s airports have a reputation for being inaccessible and generally awful. And now let’s say you’re focusing on getting to and from the airport. Do you advocate for something challenging but more beneficial such as, say, a rail extension or do you settle for the bus?

If you’re the Global Gateway Alliance, an organization that includes Joseph Sitt and Kathryn Wylde, apparently a bus is good enough if you’re trying to “address the major challenges facing the metropolitan region’s airports and related infrastructure that, if left unaddressed, will serve as a major impediment to the long-term growth of New York City.” Who knew a simple bus would do the trick?

Maybe I’m selling this idea short. In a letter to NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast, the Global Gateway Alliance urged the city’s transportation leaders to install a true BRT line between Ditmars Boulevard and LaGuardia Airport. It’s not a call for a subway extension, and it doesn’t involve the plans to bring BRT to Woodhaven. Rather, it’s a modest three-mile proposal, but the letter seems to create and give in to the opposition before wheels are even on the ground. Here’s an excerpt:

we believe the project should allow for the first true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in New
York City, linking the N line terminus at 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard directly to LaGuardia, less than 3 miles away. The short distance between the N and the Central Terminal Building presents the opportunity for the elements of a BRT line that aren’t allowed by longer bus routes throughout the City – a dedicated lane, tickets purchased off the bus, and one or no stops along the route.

In addition, there are a number of potential route options. Ditmars Boulevard is the most direct and could increase foot traffic to and awareness of the shopping district. It may be difficult to remove parking spaces along Ditmars, however, so other alignments including down 31st Street to the Grand Central or another surface road could also be explored…

We know that an extension of the N line to LaGuardia was considered in the early 2000s. Ultimately, it was shelved due to community opposition from the disruption of constructing new elevated tracks. While an N Line extension would be a great boost to LaGuardia and mean the first one-seat ride to one of our major airports, a BRT plan is more workable right now…

We know that there may be new community issues associated with any additional mass transit plan, but we believe they can be overcome. Meeting with and including the local community in the planning process now will go a long way toward making the neighborhood a partner in this effort.

The GGA recognizes the recent moves to bolster Q70 service and install an SBS along the M60, but the organization notes that these two routes do not address the need for “direct and dedicated access” to the public transportation system from LaGuardia. Whether a BRT line from the airport to a subway terminal that’s a slow 11 stops away from Times Square qualifies is up for debate, but that’s my issue.

Rather, the GGA has the ability to impact decisions for the foreseeable future. These are powerful interests who care about mobility and have the resources to work with communities (and, if necessary, battle NIMBYs) to get good transit for everyone. They should be focusing on a faster rail link rather than a slower surface option with much less capacity. We used to think big; now we just think buses. How disappointing.

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Frank B May 16, 2014 - 12:03 am

Virtually pointless over existing options.

A one-seat ride to Manhattan via the BMT Astoria Line is the only practical option.

Is it possible that the Port Authority Run an Airtrain directly from LaGuardia? The distance between the Astoria Line and the airport is far less than Jamaica and JFK. Couldn’t the Airtrain run along Grand Central Parkway to Astoria Boulevard station?

What’s the harm there? GCP is at or below grade for that entire stretch.

I suppose the real problem is LaGuardia isn’t large enough to justify the cost…

lop May 16, 2014 - 12:53 am

44th and Steinway have overpasses over the GCP, pretty close on both sides to the rail line to Hell’s Gate. Seems too close to go over the roads and under the rail line. If you have to go over the catenary on the rail line then the airport connector would tower pretty high. Sounds expensive, and sure to generate local opposition. And it wouldn’t even give you a direct connection from Manhattan, you’d still need to transfer.

What’s their problem with the Q70? Stops at LIRR, then subway, then the airport. Sounds like that’s what they’re asking for.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 9:50 am

The idea of BRT is a political choice – lower objections, lower risk, but lower reward. Very sad indeed….

To me, there are only two viable options, neither of them will likely happen:

1. Extending the BMT Astoria line to LGA.
2. Building a new Airtrain from Jamaica to LGA.

The first choice would cost much less and would be much more practical than many alternatives. But this would only be an MTA project. The second choice would cost much more because of the engineering headaches, as well as the traffic disruptions likely to occur. However, it would be the choice most likely to get federal funding, as it “couldn’t be used” for general purpose commutation.

What would I build?

To get things done quickly – the Astoria Line extension, and begin using the center track for express runs during rush hours.

To do this right (ignoring budget and funding issues) – The Airtrain, with one proviso – build it from Jamaica to LGA, but also build elevated connections to NYP and GCT. (The Manhattan connections are pipe dreams. But why not put the ideas on the table for brainstorming….?)

Ryan May 16, 2014 - 10:28 am

“However, it would be the choice most likely to get federal funding, as it “couldn’t be used” for general purpose commutation.”

I don’t understand the logic here.

Wouldn’t that make it much less likely to receive federal funding? Especially since there’s far more demand for connections to the CBD from two airports then there are for connecting two airports to each other so that the most extreme of tight-budget road warriors can connect off an LGA flight onto a JFK one to save $100 minus the time and AirTrain fare cost of a connection.

Personally, I’d take advantage of the potential silver lining in the fact that PATH is still under Port Authority control and start exploring options for PATH to LGA. We could use some more upriver connections. 86 St to North Bergen?

Bolwerk May 16, 2014 - 11:06 am

Not for nothing, but it’s fed attitudes that play a large part in why transportation ends up being balkanized to begin with. There just isn’t a framework for multi-purpose infrastructure. It was verboten for the AirTrain to be used in general transit service because of how it was financed by ticket sales – and that caused a (probably frivolous) lawsuit anyway.

Of course, if it was used in general service, the TWU probably would have started its own war because AirTrain is driverless.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Yes – it’s easy to be driverless on simple routes and modern design platforms – something the subway doesn’t have. Unless we replace the entire NYC subway infrastructure, we’ll never see driverless trains.

Bolwerk May 16, 2014 - 12:43 pm

OPTO seems like a reasonable compromise on existing NYCTA infrastructure. TPTO is already ridiculous today. ZPTO could even be possible if the crew members ended up on platforms that needed crews rather than on trains for every platform that doesn’t.

But new infrastructure should generally be driverless – which is a major reason why this bumblefuck BRT obsession is foolish.

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 9:55 pm

What exactly is modern about the infrastructure of Paris Metro Line 1?

Chris May 16, 2014 - 12:02 pm

The feds were in a mode to expand airport transit, as long as it wasn’t used for normal commuters – you figure out the absurdity in this…..

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 12:39 pm

Jamaica is really out of the way. I read somewhere that a majority of LGA’s local users live on the Upper East Side; they’re not going to go to the airport via Jamaica.

sonicboy678 May 18, 2014 - 10:18 pm

You also have many that head from other places to LGA via UES (Lexington Avenue is usually the fastest and simplest option for those that live in some parts of Brooklyn or the Bronx).

AG May 16, 2014 - 3:56 pm

I asked the PA about Airtrain to LGA to the N and to the LIRR. I was basically told they had other priorities but would look into options in the future.

That was before they announced plans to extend PATH to Newark. So to answer your question – being that LGA has lower volume of passengers and is not a cargo hub like JFK and Newark – I do believe it’s the lowest priorty. Remember the subway extension was to be an MTA project.

So based on how things have gone (Airtrain Newark – then JFK – now PATH to Newark) – and the response I got… I don’t think the PA will seriously consider it until PATH is extended to Newark airport. The money and manpower aren’t there to do it all at once.
It doesn’t seem the MTA wants to jump back into the fray…

Nyland8 May 24, 2014 - 9:49 am

” … I suppose the real problem is LaGuardia isn’t large enough to justify the cost…”

HUH ?? It’s the 20th busiest airport in the country! By any standard other than being third in the NYC region, it is huge.

AG May 24, 2014 - 11:17 am

Yes – and that is why the NYC airspace is the busiest in the nation. None of the 3 major airports is the busiest – but all 3 are in the top 20 as you said. In fact – only London’s airspace is busier in the entire world.

Bolwerk May 16, 2014 - 12:24 am

This reeks of something being promoted by people who never need to use buses and perhaps never use transit. They don’t understand transfers are annoying at best, and anything more than a cross-platform transfer is detrimental when you have luggage. They don’t see how that transfer to the N is stupid when you consider many people might already have to make other transfers. It doesn’t occur to them that the small size of a bus even makes little things like boarding and alighting with all but the lightest luggage considerably more time-consuming, which in turn slows trips along the whole line.

“Buses for thee, cars for me”!

Ralfff May 16, 2014 - 1:51 am

You nailed it. It’s telling that they cite airport express buses in other cities and are concerned only with getting to Midtown. They’d want an AirTrain 10 years ago, but BRT is in fashion now, and they need to compete with other cities’ airports (the only public transportation they might use is, of course, airplanes).

Even the JFK Airport Express had poor ridership in its time, but LaGuardia will no longer be a joke, or something, so now it deserves its own specially branded transit boondoggle.

In any case, if Kathryn Wilde had her way we’d all be swaddled in rags and burning furniture for warmth.

sonicboy678 May 18, 2014 - 10:24 pm

I think the JFK Express had low ridership due to how it was structured. Since that’s not really the point, though, I’ll let that link die.

Even if the N can’t go past Terminal A, at least it would be in the airport. Worse comes to worst, the buses that already serve the airport could be used to shuttle passengers from Terminal A to Terminals B, C, and D.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 10:10 am

Bolwerk –

So true….

This morning, I saw two ladies with large suitcases trying to get on the #2/#3 line at Times Square during rush hour. If this was a half hour earlier, these ladies would never have been able to make it into the train. Imagine the experience if they had to make a couple of transfers with that baggage before getting to the airport. It’s enough to make you swear off mass transit forever.


Bolwerk May 16, 2014 - 11:10 am

FWIW, I don’t see airport transit as particularly useful anyway. The proper way to do it is to have the airport be a stop on a multi-purpose rail line. Residents and commuters are likely to use a transit line, but airport users probably are more likely to want a taxi and a taxi makes more sense for them.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 11:33 am

Airport transit should have been designed into a city’s mass transit plans from the beginning, as there are thousands of workers who go to the airport, many of which are in low paying jobs, and can not afford to park there….

Ideally, the airports would be accessible via both suburban rail lines and city mass transit (both subways/els and buses). Why is it that I can get to SFO via BART, DC’s National (and eventually, Dulles) via Metro, and even O’Hare via convenient mass transit, and not the same in New York?

The answer to my rhetorical question has a lot to do when the airports were planned – the 1930’s. Air travel was for the rich, not the working class – and they could afford to have smell, well paid people staffing the airports. Now, things are very different….

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 5:15 pm

Because San Francisco was willing to wreck its transit funding and believe ridiculously inflated ridership projections, and New York wasn’t? BART to SFO was such a disaster that SamTrans had to cut bus service to pay for it; it missed ridership projections by a factor of four; and because there are two separate terminals, SFO and Millbrae, Caltrain riders from points south have an additional transfer from Millbrae to the airport, so the transit is worse than it was before the extension opened.

As a result of this smashing success, BART is building a new airport connector, which, if you believe the ridership projections, will get about a weekday boarding per $100,000 of construction cost (link 1, link 2).

AG May 16, 2014 - 5:46 pm

BART is expanding to Oakland’s airport as we speak… similar to an Airtrain actually.

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 9:55 pm

I’m well aware. This is what I was talking about in the second paragraph. And it’s a disaster, opposed by most transit activists in the Bay Area because of the enormous costs and limited benefits.

AG May 17, 2014 - 4:25 pm

Ppl will complain about everything. Projections are projections. The reasons cities have rail access to airports are because airports are great economic engines. Any major city internationally has those links. Even in the U.S. much lesser cities have them. Even a city that doesn’t care about transit – like Miami – has rail connections to it’s airport.

The reason BART is expanding to Oakland’s Airport is the same reason the others have it. La Guardia carries almost 40 percent more passengers than Oakland’s airport does (not sure how the cargo volume compares)… Which means LGA – though less significant than JFK and Newark is still an important engine. The only ppl who should be against rail to LGA are cab drivers and car service companies. Then again – ppl who have so many bags they need to take a cab won’t get on the train anyway. Not to mention passengers – after JFK – LGA is the largest employment center in Queens.

If/when they finally get next-generation tracking systems – LGA will be able to handle more planes (as will the other 2). At the end of the day one could argue “well since there are record passengers now in it’s poor state – it doesn’t need a new terminal”. Just because costs are high doesn’t mean it’s not a good project. East Side Access is great on merit – but it’s been poorly executed and grossly more expensive than it should have been. The problem is costs – not the ideas.
I mean look at it this way – there were 32 million Amtrak riders in the entire country in 2013. Almost 27 million passengers used LGA.

Alon Levy May 17, 2014 - 8:43 pm

Airport connectors exist because of rent-seeking sleazebags and urban boosters. Look at you, for example: you say “projections are projections” to dismiss projections of low ridership – would you ever do that in defense of a subway project elsewhere?

Ryan May 17, 2014 - 10:22 pm

I can’t answer for AG, but every single fucking time I’d defend a project with low ridership projections if it had merit outside of “number of bodies moved,” like an airport connector, or bringing the R to Staten Island (another project that certainly sucks on ridership, and another project that we ought to do anyway).

Cost per rider is not the only metric by which we can or should judge which projects have merit and which do not.

Alon Levy May 17, 2014 - 10:50 pm

See, I don’t think the R to Staten Island would have low ridership at all. The buses going across the bridge have 54,000 riders among them; a subway connection could squeeze some more riders by diverting people from cars and ferry-bound buses.

The issue is that infrastructure is useless except insofar it gets used. An airport train that nobody rides – i.e. most of them – is a white elephant. It aggrandizes the city, but makes its infrastructure worse since it competes for funds with other things; SamTrans had to cut bus service throughout San Mateo County to pay for BART to SFO.

The airport connectors built in American cities don’t even have a huge cost problem. The AirTrains to Newark and JFK had a per-km cost at the upper end of elevated transit, but nothing extraordinary, unlike the subways. They just get shit ridership. Per route-km, the JFK AirTrain gets about 1,500 riders per weekday, and the Newark AirTrain gets slightly less than that. The subway averages 15,000. The R to Grasmere, if it got exactly the same ridership as the buses that go across the bridge, would average about 11,000.

AG May 18, 2014 - 9:39 am

how can you compare an airport connector to a subway line? subways can take you all over the place… airport connectors do just that – go to the airport… for an extra charge at that. It’s not the same thing.

lop May 18, 2014 - 2:23 am

Airtrain JFK cost about two billion dollars I think? A little more than half financed by airport fees wasn’t it? Where was the rest from? General PA funds? If the PA hadn’t taken airport profits for years to pay for other projects could they have paid for the whole thing only using airport money? Airtrain ridership numbers are only paid riders? Or do they include the ones who just travel between terminals?

Also, wouldn’t a better metric to judge project costs be rider-km?

AG May 18, 2014 - 9:45 am

and access to the airports are fully within the realm of what the PA is supposed to do.
The N to LGA was to be an MTA project though.
Airports are always a traffic bottleneck.. anything that takes cars off the road is a benefit… Even if it’s “only” BRT.

AG May 18, 2014 - 9:36 am

“rent-seeking sleazebags and urban boosters”

huh? what?

in any event – I do make the same comments about “projections” for any project. it all depends on who is making the projections. For some projects – the powers that be overstate in order to get money. In other cases – when money is not an issue – they understate to look like heros later. It all depends.

Fact is that in this area – Airtrain (which is not even ideal) at Newark and JFK – paid ridership continues to go up (though slowed during the recession when less ppl were flying). Neither is a single seat ride and you pay an extra fare. If they were “better” services many more ppl would use. I would expect the PATH to Newark to be more effective.

Alon Levy May 18, 2014 - 12:35 pm

“Also, wouldn’t a better metric to judge project costs be rider-km?”

No, because people-km don’t vote; people do. The excessive focus on passenger-km is why transit agencies build low-ridership exurban commuter rail extensions at great cost while neglecting inner-urban neighborhoods.

“For some projects – the powers that be overstate in order to get money. In other cases – when money is not an issue – they understate to look like heros later. It all depends.”

For recent US projects, projections tend to be very accurate, except in the Bay Area, where they are severe overestimates; VTA light rail ridership underperforms expectations as well. BART to San Jose also looks unrealistically overestimated.

And as for AirTrain ridership growth, we’re still talking about six figures per rider. It’s not rising fast enough to reduce this to the cost per rider of ordinary transit. Second Avenue Subway Phase 1 is $23,000 per projected rider.

AG May 16, 2014 - 3:41 pm

I think that is an unfair characterization. They stated plainly that it was community opposition that killed the N extension… Basically saying they don’t see what will change it…

In reality unless the governor “pulls strings” with the local reps and institutes eminent domain – a subway to LGA won’t happen.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 3:49 pm

Yes – community opposition.

It’s the same reason we don’t have adequate mass transit in more areas of NYC.

lop May 16, 2014 - 3:56 pm

What property do they need eminent domain to take in order to extend the N?

AG May 16, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Not sure – but making a reasonable assumption there would be some.

As an aside – looks like Chicago is going to do that with their Red Line extension:


Bolwerk May 16, 2014 - 5:44 pm

You can pick the characterization you think is most “fair,” but there isn’t a benign one: (1) they are merely ignorant of what constitutes good transit. Despite my occasional harsh critiques of them, even I think Pratt means well; maybe these guys do too. (2) They are aware of the futility of what they are demanding and demand it anyway because, hey, why not? (3) They really are hostile to good transit.

John-2 May 16, 2014 - 12:47 am

If the only viable option for an above ground line is to parallel the Grand Central Parkway, and if there are two lines going to Astoria (N and the Q now; presumably the N and the revived W when the SAS opens), the solution seems pretty simple — split the line off at Astoria Blvd., where it crosses the GCP, keep the N train terminal at Ditmars and run the Q/W along the GCP’s right-of-way to LaGuardia.

A one-seat Broadway local or express to LGA from midtown would be far more likely to attract a serious customer base for the short flight/day trip passengers LaGuardia has than having to transfer at Ditmars to the BRT — that’s pretty much how the JFK connection from Howard Beach ran pre-Airtrain.

sonicboy678 May 18, 2014 - 11:07 pm

Key word: seems. If you really look at the area, it’s simply more practical to extend from the end rather than at a really awkward midpoint.

Scott May 16, 2014 - 6:01 am

Why not run the Airtrain from Jamaica center to LaGuardia. Then you could have connecting flights across airports. The Airtrain could run up the Van Wyck to the GCP and connect the three terminals in the Airport. It’s better to have the connection at a central hub that services the region and not just Manhattan.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 12:06 pm

Connections via multiple airports doesn’t make much sense. Instead, it would allow for people who dump their cars near one airport to come back into a different airport, and still access their cars.

Eric May 17, 2014 - 5:38 pm

I recently flew from a US airport to LaGuardia and then from JFK across the Atlantic. (Separate tickets, but only a few hours in between). I imagine this could be a useful option for many people if there were an easy transfer between the airports.

Eric May 17, 2014 - 5:39 pm

(By “a few” hours, I mean enough to comfortably make the connection, including accounting for some flight delays)

Irwin May 16, 2014 - 6:33 am

If you dig back far enough, you’ll find the original plan for Airtrain was for it to run from Kennedy, to LaGuardia, then to Manhattan. But the airlines, who paid for Airtrain via the extra charge on their passengers’ tickets, balked at the cost and the scaled down JFK – Jamaica / Howard Beach link was all that was built.

Spendmor Wastemor May 16, 2014 - 8:47 am

“original plan for Airtrain was for it to run from Kennedy, to LaGuardia, then to Manhattan.”

That would work, especially if they don’t limit the Airtrain to speeds attainable on a bicycle and have it stop every ten feet.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 11:35 am

Airtrain would need 2 Manhattan stops, with a possible 3rd downtown: the 2 midtown stops at GCT & NYP. Alas, this will never happen….

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 5:35 pm

That would work, especially if they don’t limit the Airtrain to speeds attainable on a bicycle and have it stop in neighborhoods that non-rich people actually live in.

Translated into less sanitized English.

I’m not just being mean. It’s a problem with all those EXPRESS!!!!11 rail proposals. If you want ridership, you have to stop where people live and want to go. If your stop spacing is too express and your operating plan is too focused on long-distance traffic to the CBD, you get disasters like BART; not mentioned in the linked post, but mentioned in comments, is that BART’s stop spacing is twice that of the Washington Metro, which is already toward the express end as far as major subway systems go.

And this is exceptionally true of airport connectors. There aren’t many airports with high transit access mode share, and one of them (possibly with the highest share), Narita, is hard to compare with the rest since it is exceptionally far from the city it serves, which encourages a more express stop spacing. But if you look at Zurich or Frankfurt, you see the following pattern:

1. There are regional trains to the CBD, which run a mixture of local and express trains.

2. There are intercity trains, connecting to other cities: you can ride a train from Frankfurt Airport to Cologne or from Zurich Airport to Basel without changing trains. The intercity train station is located at the airport, without requiring an additional people mover connection.

Paris has the same pattern, except all the regional trains to the city are local. London has no intercity trains to Heathrow, but some of the UK’s HSR plans include a branch to connect Heathrow with points north; conversely, it has multiple layers of regional connectors, including the Underground and two separately branded mainline trains, a local and a premium express.

Just trying to build an EXPRESS!!!!11 connector to the CBD results in disaster. Not content with BART’s factor-of-four ridership projection miss, Seoul’s express airport connector is missing projections by a factor of more than eight.

Spendmor Wastemor May 16, 2014 - 6:15 pm

“Translated into less sanitized English.

That would work, especially if they don’t limit the Airtrain to speeds attainable on a bicycle and have it stop in neighborhoods that non-rich people actually live in.”

Translated into honest language:

Alton has an elitist attitude, takes car service or drives when he/his family have luggage and disdains people who need to use public transit without being treated like cattle.

We already have local service, and a system which will get one to/from the airport with multiple transfers. There are already local buses serving the airports which do the job if one is within a mile or so. San Francisco has its MUNI for short trips, you don’t need BART for those. SF is known for massive corruption, so no surprise that honest estimates were not provided.

If you are taking the train to/from an airport, you are probably going some distance. For that, you need a limited stop train that gets you from the airport to one of
1. Your destination (unlikely, but possible)
2. An less-pain cross-platform transfer to the train/subway going to your destination
3. An express stop where you catch a cab to get you and your bags where you’re going
4. Central points such as GCT, Penn, Barclays, +/or Queensboro Plaza where you can get either a train (which is not set up for baggage) or catch a cab.

What you are missing fundamentally is that after grinding through LGA/JFK, then domestic wingbus misery, then repeat on return most people are not worried about saving $15. They want to get back without dragging luggage through puddles, losing the odd piece, getting rained on, being assaulted as they make a phone call, a text, or check directions, or running the clock an extra hour before going to work the next day. Take the A from JFK while juggling luggage to Inwood some weekend when it’s running local.
Was that 20 miles worth two hours?

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 10:00 pm

Get my name right. Also, get the modes I use for airport trips right. Hint: I don’t own a car.

And if you think a stop every kilometer is equivalent to being treated like cattle (as in, um, every major subway system in the world), I’m glad you’re not involved in transit design anywhere in the world.

Bolwerk May 18, 2014 - 2:01 pm

Serious question: is your only experience with transit in New York circa 1985?

Miles Bader May 21, 2014 - 8:59 am

Both Narita rail links (JR and Keisei) also run slower trains to the airport, which make many more stops (though not every stop), and use normal rolling stock. A large proportion of the riders on those aren’t going to/from the airport (but a fair number are, in part because they’re much cheaper than the real expresses)…

pete May 16, 2014 - 7:11 am

Ditmars at 31st street is insanely slow. Its like Metropolitan Avenue. The suburban “everyone has a car, but nowhere to park it” part of NYC, with 4 lanes, 2 for parking. Double parking, trucks or cars is normal on Ditmars totally blocking it until you wait for the light, then you pass the double parker. No one sane in North Astoria drives along Ditmars unless they are picking someone up. Put the bus on 20th or better yet 19th Avenue where tumblweeds and sports cars roll around. Notice the M60 goes along GCP service roads, a wide, FAST, low retail area.

This letter is either an April Fools joke, or written by someone by a ghostwriter who lives in the Sunbelt and hasn’t been on public transit since the 10th Grade and was given a PDF of a subway map by their boss. What happend to the M60? Is this a plan to demolish the Astoria El back to Astoria Blvd?

LLQBTT May 16, 2014 - 9:13 am

If they could make it like Boston’s Silver Line with its own dedicated ROW, stations and extremely limited cross traffic intersections, it could work. Then again, that idea could bring it all the way to 125/Lex-Park for connections there.

Ryan May 16, 2014 - 9:48 am

Too bad that Boston’s Silver Line has a dedicated ROW only where it didn’t need one and is forced into mixed traffic at precisely the point where traffic usually clogs up.

Still, they managed to figure out how to switch from electric to diesel power without having to shut the bus off, and it does use a tolled freeway, and the airport shuttle is still worlds ahead of the #49 bus, whose “dedicated ROW” isn’t worth the cost of its paint thanks to bad signaling (and, of course, they couldn’t find the money to paint through the part of the route most likely to become gridlocked – but at least you can get off at the end of its painted line and then out-walk the bus to its rapid transit connection up the street).

The point is, holding the MBTA up as an good example of anything except for “how to fuck up rapid transit expansion, settle for bus beautification, and then fuck that up too” is a very bad idea.

Alon Levy May 16, 2014 - 5:40 pm

Fun fact: because the (non-airport) Silver Lie has no dedicated lanes for the most congested part of its trip, the services rank in the bottom ten in average speed.

The airport branches of the Silver Lie are a lot faster, since they run in a tunnel to the CBD rather than in mixed traffic. The tunnel also makes this not particularly cheap.

Phantom May 16, 2014 - 10:37 am

The N train is not slow from Times Square to LaGuardia!

I take the N / M60 to LGA often enough, and when I pass by Times Square, I’m finishing up my reading, because Astoria is coming up soon.

I more and more like the alternatives between Q70 and M60 that I have. These are very good services – not ideal but very good – and they connect to NYC subways that are very useful to me and to anyone going to much of Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Nyland8 May 24, 2014 - 10:10 am

You travel light. Luggage on a city bus is a non-starter. Even if you’re the first to board, you have a hard time keeping the aisle clear.

Eric Brasure May 16, 2014 - 10:49 am

I especially like the part of this proposal that posits an alternate routing down 31st St BACK to the Astoria Blvd station to run alongside the GCP. Why not just… have the BRT route start at Astoria Blvd?

SEAN May 16, 2014 - 11:21 am

Rather, the GGA has the ability to impact decisions for the foreseeable future. These are powerful interests who care about mobility and have the resources to work with communities (and, if necessary, battle NIMBYs) to get good transit for everyone. They should be focusing on a faster rail link rather than a slower surface option with much less capacity. We used to think big; now we just think buses. How disappointing.

Somewhere over the past few decades the nation went from “yes we can” to “no we cant aford it,” while our infrastructure crumbles & other global cities build more & more transit lines of all sorts. By the fact that the GGA has settled for BRT, shows where we are as a region as far as transit growth is concerned,. It’s sad when you really give it some thaught since it’s become a higher priority to give tax breaks to the 1% & overbloted defence contractors & for what?

Michael May 16, 2014 - 11:23 am

Sometimes, there’s the issue of “doing what you can right now” because it can be “done right now.”

That does not make the above solution the best of all that is possible, or the one that solves every problem, or the most elegant solution, or even the solution that responds to the dreams and passions.

At the very least there is a dialogue, a discussion among the quickly achievable options. There are times when to not reject the “possible” because you’re really, really want the “so much better, that also happen to be so much more difficult to get”.

SEAN May 16, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Sometimes, there’s the issue of “doing what you can right now” because it can be “done right now.”

Really? We cant do the simplest transit infrastructure improvements without apeazing entrenched NYMBY’s. Yorkshire Towers anyone? Those groups maybe small in number, but they become dangerous once they get lawyered up or have the ear of a poll who is as nutty as the NIMBY’s are.

Michael May 17, 2014 - 1:14 pm

Since when has public transit or transportation issues in general have ever been simple? Especially in New York City?

Is there some golden age where things were done at the snap of a finger? Where there were completely unlimited amounts of money, manpower and resources? Where there were no competing land usage issues? Where there was no opposition or problems of any kind – land use wise (residential, commercial, industrial, park, etc), land configuration issues, financial, governmental, resource, logistical, etc? Or competing interests or persons/groups/institutions with other good ideas and resources? A completely blank canvas kind of like the Sim-City computer game, where the “planner” has God-like powers?

Within this stream of messages there are folks claiming that the only “obvious true path” to LGA is the extension of the N-train! There are others wanting to build an Air-Train extension, while others want to connect both airports via Air-Train or a new subway, or by something. Then there are others who not only want to do all of the above but also increase service to the Rockaways with an airport connector, increase service to local Queens communities with this airport connector, provide a quicker rider to midtown with this airport connector, provide a quicker ride to downtown Brooklyn with this airport connector, build an SBS-LRT-HSR-DVR-thingie that connects all three of the regions airports, AND, AND install a space-station on Mars!

None of that is simple!

There is the idea that “it ain’t pretty but it works.”

Is the M60 bus becoming an SBS type route the best that is possible for right now? Or the Q70 bus? Those are the facts on the ground right now, and what’s available right now!

Or to paraphrase the Rolling Stones:

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
“But sometimes you just might find you get what you need”.

Alon Levy May 17, 2014 - 1:36 pm

Well, for what it’s worth, New York construction costs relative to average incomes used to be lower than they are today. The IND was about $120 million per km after adjusting for inflation, which works out to about $600 million per km after adjusting for US GDP per capita.

AG May 17, 2014 - 3:46 pm

yeah – nothing has ever been easy… i’m not sure where ppl get the idea. i think what it is today is there is much more media coverage.
For instance – ppl bemoan the loss of the original Penn Station. Could you imagine if a powerful company tried to buy up a poor area like the tenderloin now? there would be every type of protest and non stop media coverage.

William M. May 18, 2014 - 2:07 am

This is why we need a mass transit Robert Moses. We need to have someone willing to demolish city blocks for subway lines…….

AG May 18, 2014 - 9:40 am

Yeah – I doubt we will see one though. It’s a different world. That said – he faced plenty of opposition… He just “steam-rolled” it.

Michael May 18, 2014 - 12:07 pm

Robert Moses at least for the highways and bridges had a plan established about 1929, that he followed over the decades for the NYC area. The various “parts” of the plan fit into the unified whole, making changes in the “plan” more difficult. The various linkages in the plan created there own kind of logic – creating the “you can get there from here” decision process. Now add in the various real estate interests, the construction interests, the automobile interests, manufacturing interests, etc. – a whirlwind of support gets created. While it is simple to think that one man, a “Robert Moses” by himself did all those accomplishments – many forget the massive elements that were behind him. Yes, being commissioner of public works, and the commissioner of 12-16 government agencies and their funding over the course of his career mightily helped. Robert Moses for a time also had massive support from a variety of sectors.

Bolwerk May 19, 2014 - 7:41 am

Wholly unnecessary. Subways can typically fit under existing streets. Highways need several times the footprint of subways to move a fraction as many people.

Some incidental demolition is sometimes maybe necessary for subways (e.g., a ventilation structure). But not whole blocks.

William M. May 19, 2014 - 8:53 pm

When the neighborhood opposes the project you have to demolish city blocks. It strikes fear against opposition….

Alon Levy May 19, 2014 - 11:23 pm

I kind of like not being in constant fear of the government.

Bolwerk May 20, 2014 - 11:53 am

Okay, you’re either trolling or you’re a slope-browed fascist, but regardless the solution is the same: ignore the opposition. It’s always a minority having its voice amplified by tabloids and the like.

Michael May 20, 2014 - 1:08 pm

Just for reference:

In order to build the westside IRT subway for what is today the #1, #2, and #3 – Seventh Avenue South, the avenue below 14th Street had to be created. In the 1811 Street Grid Plan, and in fact on the ground Seventh Avenue ended at 14th Street, until the building of the IRT subway. That is why many of the nearby streets are at odd angles, and the interior of the blocks can be seen.

Early in the building of the IND subway Houston Street on the eastside of Manhattan had to be widened to accommodate the new subway.

There are a few other examples of blocks and buildings removed to accommodate rail transportation.


Alon Levy May 21, 2014 - 8:38 pm

That was then, with cut and cover. Now, this is not necessary, not economically justified based on the costs of compensating owners at modern-day property values.

tacony May 16, 2014 - 11:40 am

Wait a sec… they mention the M60 being upgraded to SBS in the letter, but do you think they know that the M60 connects to the N at Astoria Blvd? And do you think they realize that Astoria Blvd to LGA is actually quicker than any scheme to send a bus along Ditmars would be?

I have a feeling they just didn’t know that the M60 SBS will already connect to the N. Embarrassing, but would not be surprising from the kind of people who I’m sure take car services whenever they fly anywhere.

johnny May 16, 2014 - 2:06 pm

I take the M60 from Astoria Blvd to eastern Astoria every day. The free transfer is used by many people, who arrive at LGA pretty quick. This connection needs to ba advertised ore, now that SBS is coming in 2 weeks.

lawhawk May 16, 2014 - 11:42 am

It’s an admission that NIMBY blocked any and all rail links between LGA and the rest of the subway system. And their solution is half-hearted, but the only one that can get done anytime in the coming years.

How pitiful that we can’t get proper rail links to the local airports in a way that would integrate them into the transit system around the region. A rail link would do wonders for congestion around LGA, and if done properly, could provide better links between LGA and JFK, allowing them to better complement their roles as national/regional and international airports. It could better rationalize the airport usage, as well as the airspace, which is in such short supply.

But all because there’s a bunch of folks who don’t want rail running through their neighborhood, we can’t get it done.

AG May 16, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Yup – even strong arm Guiliani couldn’t get it done. It will take an extra-strength strong arm governor to make it happen.

Bolwerk May 16, 2014 - 5:51 pm

He was especially ill-equipped to get it done. His strong-arming usually directed towards brown people of lower social class. Like most so-called tough guys, he was otherwise fairly cowardly when faced with people who could defend themselves and didn’t hesitate to sell his own city out when it suited him politically.

Sycophancy = “Leadership

AG May 16, 2014 - 6:56 pm

Those were not “brown ppl” in Astoria…
As an aside – made his name prosecuting his own ethnicity in organized crime… He was abrasive to everyone.
Anyway – let’s not get off topic.

Bolwerk May 18, 2014 - 1:50 pm

That’s the point. He wouldn’t take on the people who voted for him, even if it was nakedly in the best interest of his city.

Isaac B May 16, 2014 - 12:17 pm

Reading the GGA’s letter, I get the impression that this effort is more about branding and customer experience than it is about infrastructure.

The key “tell” for me is the comparison to LA’s “Flyaway”. Flyaway uses conventional buses to connect LAX to destinations in the region. Tickets are purchased from agents in most cases. There’s a true “terminal” with park & ride at Van Nuys (with poor connection to local mass transit). Other lines use existing bus stops and terminals. It’s not “true BRT” in any sense of the word.

New York already has the same services, leaving from near GCT and PABT. The issue is that these are not well publicized, and not a great “user experience”. You’re essentially thrust into the “maelstrom” of Midtown Manhattan with all your stuff, to wait for a bus. The location is not clearly marked. Essentially, you’re waiting for a bus in a windswept alley, unsure if you’re in the right place, on the right bus and what comes next.

If you’re “transit-savvy”, Astoria Blvd, 74th Street and Woodside are offer decent connections from LGA buses to the subway. It can be bewildering and the barriers and stairs you need to navigate are no picnic. It could be argued that there are actually “too many” bus options offered to LGA visitors. There could be better branding of the buses (“Select Bus Service” is pretty confusing). The operators should keep it simple: “LGA”. “Manhattan” “Queens”. Perhaps Astoria Blvd should be tweaked to be more visitor friendly (waiting area, attendants, escalators) and renamed “LGA”. The GGA also seems to be dealing with people’s “reaction” to “city buses”.

Going back to the LAX example raises the irony of the letter: Flyaway is operated by the airport authority. A logical equivalent in NYC would be for the PA to run LGA buses, They already run the buses on the airport property. They run AirTrains at JFK and EWR. They’re actually more experienced at creating “customer experience” and directing people to where they need to go. Yet, the letter was not addressed to the PA. Hmm.

Chris May 16, 2014 - 2:28 pm

Yes – you cite the examples of bus service. I’ve used the airport bus from GCT, and I couldn’t find it now, given that I think its’ ticket office has moved, or is no more. Fixing that issue wouldn’t be hard – just have the buses board/let out on Vanderbilt Avenue.

The big problem is with the bus getting to the airport from either PABT or GCT – street traffic. When some savvy people tell me to get off MNRR at 125th street and hail a cab from there to LGA, there’s no way to avoid realizing how crummy a transit system we have in NYC.

Too bad that when NYC was flush with cash (many years ago), that the Airports, the railroads, and the city didn’t design and build easy interconnections between these modes of transit….

Isaac B May 16, 2014 - 9:46 pm

> When some savvy people tell me to get off MNRR at 125th street and hail a cab from there to LGA, there’s no way to avoid realizing how crummy a transit system we have in NYC.

Seems to me that this proves how good transit is in bypassing traffic in Midtown and western Queens.

I think the GGA probably knows about the M60. They may just not envision visitors using it.

If you want to see what could really use some work, research the “Airporter” service. Its web site is hard to follow, especially on mobile. Their own content indicates how difficult it is to find the bus stop at GCT. The service runs every 30 minutes at best. Reviews on sites like Yelp skew to “2 stars”.

Phantom May 17, 2014 - 9:33 am

I see large, and increasing numbers of locals and visitors using the M60.

Publicize it more as the it becomes even better, and watch those numbers climb more.

For a lot of us, the frequent and cheap M60 from Astoria Boulevard is a no brainer.

Alon Levy May 17, 2014 - 1:33 pm

The M60 is more useful for locals than for visitors, since locals tend to live farther north than where visitors want to go, and also live far enough east not to be as affected by 125th Street traffic.

However, the M60’s utility rapidly diminishes as one moves west and south. Both when I lived near Columbia and when I lived at 72nd and York, I preferred to fly out of JFK because the all-rail route to JFK (1-LIRR-AirTrain or 6-E-AirTrain) was more reliable than the M60.

Phantom May 17, 2014 - 2:35 pm

I live ” south ” in Bay Ridge,near the N, and I think that the N / M60 via Astoria Boulevard option is terrific.

The trains and buses run constantly, so you never need to even think about it.

It compares so well of course with the options to poor Newark Airport, where if you’re unlucky you might wait an hour for the next NJT train.

Alon Levy May 17, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Fair enough… but your LGA connection is Astoria, your JFK connection involves the Franklin Avenue Shuttle since BMT/IND connections are so piss poor, and your Newark connection is basically nonexistent.

Phantom May 17, 2014 - 6:23 pm

Hi Alon

Hope life is treating you well.

My JFK connection is actually not bad.

I take the R to Jay St, then the A to Howard Beach for Airtrain. That Jay Street connection for R / A,C,F has proven very useful, esp during this time of the Montague tunnel being closed.

Newark is the worst. Half the time, I will just take the 62 city bus to Newark Penn for PATH, rather than wait forever for a NJT train.

Alon Levy May 17, 2014 - 8:46 pm

Oh, yes, I totally forgot the A/R connection exists now.

Newark is awful, and on my previous trip to the city, one of the reason I flew with the airline I flew is that it went to JFK whereas the other went to Newark.

AG May 17, 2014 - 3:43 pm

and that’s why they are setting the stage to extend PATH to Newark

lawhawk May 16, 2014 - 2:31 pm

That may be because the GGA understand that Cuomo and Christie may be in the process of getting the Port Authority out of the airport business (Cuomo’s already trying to shift construction responsibility away from the Port Authority). That may be the most savvy part of the letter, ignoring all the other shortfalls.

AG May 16, 2014 - 3:44 pm

Well you are correct in that they do focus on customer experience. Their first stated goal though is the rebuilding of LGA’s terminal (for which they got Cuomo’s ear).


so they are not a transit group… they are an “airports group” first.

tacony May 19, 2014 - 4:04 pm

You’re right that it’s now going to be pretty confusing for a tourist arriving at LGA. They’re confronted with private airport buses, shuttles operated by hotels and car rental companies, and now, among MTA NYC Transit buses, three classes of service: SBS, “Limited,” and local. (Thankfully we don’t have any “Express” buses going to LGA as well.)

It makes me wonder if they should just make the Q70 a Select Bus as well. Why not? They’d only have to put machines in at Jackson Heights. It’d be nice to be able to brand the M60 and the Q70 as both being Select Bus Service, both with the same process for boarding.

AG May 16, 2014 - 4:01 pm

Ben – looks like they answered you on their Twitter feed – saying they are just being “realistic”:


Winfield May 16, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Even better than LGA train service would be this: http://www.thelirrtoday.com/20.....ounty.html

Jason Baxter May 16, 2014 - 8:40 pm

A BRT from Ditmars to LGA is completely redundant to the M60, especially since we’re about to go SBS on the M60.

Also, the M60 connects better to the N. It’s on a wider street (Astoria Blvd).

Jonathan English May 18, 2014 - 1:57 am

One of the biggest beneficiaries of a Jamaica-LGA AirTrain connection would be Delta. Their slot swap with US Airways has given them a major hub position in both LGA and JFK. Unfortunately, most of their domestic flights are at LGA, which makes it rather difficult to use them to feed their international flights out of JFK. If the connection were easier, as it would be with a terminal-to-terminal AirTrain, they’d be in a very competitive position vis-à-vis United, which has a consolidated hub in Newark. Surely Delta would be willing to pay at least some of the cost of a project that would finally provide them with something resembling a consolidated northeastern hub.

Alon Levy May 18, 2014 - 12:37 pm

Delta’s international flights are currently using a terminal with 1-1.5 hour waits at immigration if you’re not an American. An AirTrain to LaGuardia isn’t going to improve their competitiveness.

Jonathan English May 20, 2014 - 12:38 am

Is that different from Newark though? Or Chicago, for that matter? Because that’s what they’re competing with. No non-American with an alternative is flying an American carrier and clearing American customs if they’re not going to the States.

Alon Levy May 20, 2014 - 1:36 am

Newark is better, yes. My recollection is that Newark makes you wait 40 minutes to an hour, not an hour to an hour and a half as at Terminal 4 at JFK. (The other terminals are better; I clear immigration in 15-30 minutes at Terminal 7.) Boston is also much faster, but I no longer remember by how much. I have no idea about Chicago.

I bring up Terminal 4 specifically, because I strongly suspect that things are better at airports that do not have a single international terminal that concentrates all the foreigners.

Jonathan English May 20, 2014 - 11:32 am

Interesting. I’ve had some pretty brutal waits as a foreigner at Newark while my waits as an international JetBlue arrival at JFK T4 haven’t been that bad. I suspect a big part of the problem is that so many transatlantic flights to JFK arrive at the same time, creating absolutely brutal lines at immigration. The focus these days seems to be getting the Americans and other frequent travellers into Global Entry programs while pretty much leaving everyone else to endless waits.

Alon Levy May 21, 2014 - 8:39 pm

It’s not just trans-Atlantic. The worst experience I’ve had was transcontinental overnight: Delta from Vancouver, arriving in the morning, shortly after the flights from Tel Aviv. The flight landed at 6:30 am and I was out of the airport after 9.

Ryan May 18, 2014 - 12:40 pm

For far less than the cost of an AirTrain, Delta could simply reorganize its slot usage at both airports to permit connections at both of its hubs. The only thing actually stopping them is the perimeter rule banning flights longer than 1500 statute miles out of LGA except to Denver or on Saturdays, and then construction of an international section at LGA.

The perimeter rules are almost certainly going the way of the dodo, and construction of an international section is going to be worlds cheaper than the AirTrain, and – again – you’re vastly underestimating how cumbersome and obnoxious this “transfer” would be.

Even as a domestic – domestic transfer, this would require exiting security, retrieving your baggage, dragging your baggage with you out of the airport and onto the AirTrain, paying the AirTrain fare (maybe not, if both AirTrains are inside the same fare control and it remains a “pay on entry/exit only at a non-Airport station” setup), dragging your baggage off of the AirTrain, re-checking your baggage, and re-entering security at the other airport. The entire process is liable to take an hour and a half, maybe two, and that’s if everything goes mostly right, and that’s without even introducing the potential time-sink of clearing customs on an international flight.

I’d be stunned if Delta wanted any part of such an arrangement. As I mentioned in another comment, the only people liable to take “advantage” of an airport-airport connection are the most extreme of tight-budget road warriors – the people who have frequent flying down to a science and who also value their money far more than their time, the guys who take eight hour layovers because it saves them $100. To be fair, that market is growing, but only in the sense that you can no longer count the number of guys who would do it on one hand.

And, in fact, the guys who would be willing to engage in that sort of thing are all equally likely to take an airport connector to the CBD where they switch to a different connector back out of the CBD, but the difference is those connections are then useful to a far wider customer base.

Alon Levy May 18, 2014 - 11:36 pm

International sections are expensive. You need large waiting halls, large staff, fingerprinting machines for all the foreigners, etc.

Jonathan English May 20, 2014 - 12:50 am

International to Domestic connections at O’Hare (and many at Newark) also require exiting security, retrieving baggage, dragging it out of the terminal and onto a train only to re-check it and go through security at the other end. The only difference with the LGA-JFK arrangement is that the ride on the train is 30 minutes rather than 5 or 10. Obviously it’s far, far from ideal, but pretty much everything about New York’s airport system is far from ideal. The basic fact is that Delta has decided to establish a domestic hub at LGA and an international hub at JFK. If they could somehow connect those two in a reasonably efficient fashion, they could definitely get some additional traffic out of it. They’re already selling tickets with LGA-JFK connections. Delta also has no alternative northeastern hub; the closest are Detroit and Atlanta.

LGA will never be a non-preclearance international airport–the planned new terminal will still have no customs facilities–and JFK will never be as desirable a domestic airport (within perimeter) as LGA. Until they close LGA, which might be good for the region’s airspace, this won’t change.

I obviously agree that a CBD connection is far more useful. From a personal standpoint, a Jamaica connection would be useless to me. I’m just saying that if a Jamaica connection were built–and it’s being discussed–Delta should pay at least some of the cost as it would be the major beneficiary.

AG May 20, 2014 - 10:57 am

I agree with everything you said…but I can’t see any scenario where LGA could close. Newark and JFK can’t absorb all those ppl.

Jonathan English May 20, 2014 - 11:49 am

The idea is that closing LGA would let you move a lot more flights through the other airports because LGA’s approach paths conflict with those of the other airports, especially during bad weather. JFK’s still not at capacity outside the transatlantic peaks, and it could accommodate even more flights without the airspace conflict. I agree that closing LGA is not a very realistic prospect and the NextGen revamp of the air traffic control system is supposed to remedy the conflicts anyway, if it ever gets completed.

The real problem with capacity and congestion at New York airports, especially LaGuardia, is that there are more slots than the airport can reasonably handle during even mildly inclement weather. And since the airlines would lose the slots if they stopped using them, they have even been known to “squat” on them with flights with tiny aircraft that they wouldn’t even fly otherwise. The 30+ US Airways flights per day from LGA to Philly on tiny Saabs were the most infamous, though that was cleared up by the Delta slot swap. If you look at a busy European airport, you’ll see very few regional jets and most domestic/regional flying on 320/737-type aircraft (or bigger!). In New York, an immense amount of the flying is on tiny regional jets. Take United from LGA to O’Hare, for example. You’d think that would be about as major a route as there is, but a bunch of flights are still on 70-seat Embraer regional jets. There are lots of reasons for that, including the lower wages to staff on code-share regional jets, but it’s a major contributor to congestion. If we could somehow reduce slots and persuade airlines to reduce frequency slightly and upgauge to at least 737/320s on major routes rather than just eliminating service to smaller cities, it would solve a lot of New York airports’ problems. But that’s a big if.

Alon Levy May 21, 2014 - 8:48 pm

Are you sure you’re not overrating your perspective on this as a transit user and a foreigner? (Granted, one who lives in a preclearance city with tons of flights to LGA, but still.) For domestic flights, LGA is actually busier than JFK. A big chunk of the frequent users are high-income people who will forever take taxis, and for them LGA is much closer than JFK; another chunk are tourists, who are less likely to use trains because of issues like forced transfers.

To me, JFK is far more useful, of course. I’m a transit user, I travel internationally, and right now I live in a city that not only is beyond the perimeter rule but also doesn’t have preclearance at the optimal time (i.e. overnight flights). But I’m skeptical about the average user.

However, since LGA’s traffic measured by takeoffs and landings is dominated by very small planes to nearby cities, HSR could make a serious dent in its traffic. HSR also makes it easier to serve JFK: there’s more travel demand on the NY-DC segment of the Northeast Corridor than on the NY-Boston segment, and then they could have some trains serve Jamaica instead of turning at Penn Station. If HSR opens, especially if it serves more than just the Northeast Corridor, and if Flushing is interested in building a taller CBD, then closure should be considered.

Jonathan English May 23, 2014 - 1:21 am

I actually live in New York and I use one of the three airports about once a month. From my home in Brooklyn, I’d always ride transit to EWR and JFK. I sometimes end up taking a cab to LGA since it’s about 12 minutes from my home while transit is around an hour and a quarter. Even when I lived in West Harlem, I knew people that took a cab to LGA because it was at least able to take the side streets rather than get stuck on 125th with the M60.

I completely agree that LGA is a far better airport for passengers from most parts of New York and for tourists. It’s the one I choose to fly from whenever I can. I’m not 100% sure exactly what you’re getting at here but I’m not saying that LGA should be closed, just that its closure would bring some benefits to the airspace given its conflicts with Newark and JFK. I’m quite sure that the three-airport system will persist for my lifetime.

That’s a very interesting point about HSR. It definitely could make a dent in LGA’s traffic, as long as the airlines don’t keep operating flights just so that they can maintain their slots–a valuable asset.

Jonathan English May 20, 2014 - 12:04 pm

Actually, the even-more-fundamental problem is that US courts have ruled that slots are owned by the airlines as long as they use them. It makes no sense to me that effectively space in the air above us is owned by the airlines simply because it’s been assigned to them. The ideal system seems to me to be an auction every few years, so that scarce slots are allocated to whomever can use them most productively. A number could be set aside for flights to smaller cities so they don’t lose service. I suspect we’d see a lot more low-fare flights on larger planes and fewer 14th daily frequencies to Philly.

MARV May 19, 2014 - 12:25 am

*Build a (JFK) compatible airtrain shuttle (one track) between LGA and Citifield with a passing siding.
* Two train sets passing midway will provide enough and frequent service
*have the track terminate in between the Port Washington tracks with cross platform connections to the Port Washington trains in both directions (lirr platform airtrain platform lirr)
*the #7 would be available via the existing connecting bridge (especially for airport workers without luggage)
*The LIRR (Port Washington line service will be upgraded once ESA is completed with fairly frequent service to both Penn and Grand Central
*View the shuttle as a feeder for the MTA lines and do not charge for the one or two stops
*Citifield parking could then become overflow lots for LGA
*Construct this shuttle such that it can easily be double tracked to become part of a LGA-JFK link and or a line into Manhattan

*********how much would such a one track line (with the LIRR track/plaform modifications) cost?

*Could this allow for hotel construction (over the parking lots and train yard) at Citifield/the tennis center?

*Could the tennis center/Citfield be modified for support small conventions?

*What would travel time into Manahttan be via this shuttle and the LIRR?

AG May 19, 2014 - 9:44 pm

Citifield and the USTA stadia are in the park… you can’t build hotels there. A convention center was planned for the adjoining Willets Point reconstruction. I’m not sure where that stands – but a hotel or two are certainly a part of it. You make a good point though.. I’m not sure why something like your idea wasn’t pushed when Citifield was being built and they knew they were trying to redevelop Willets Point.

Not to mention – the persons who got the N train extension killed – were the same ppl who suggested the 7 going to LGA instead… Not sure why we didn’t hear more.

lop May 20, 2014 - 1:16 am

Is the rail yard or the bus depot part of the park?

Even if they technically are, so are the parking lots around Citi field that the Wilpons are clearing out for a big mall. I think the parking lots between Roosevelt and the bus depot/rail yard are left untouched by that development, or at least the first phase of it.

Decking the rail yard of bus depot might be too expensive, but the parking lots could be turned into hotels for a lot less, and those lots sit between the 7 line and the port washington line, on either side of the pedestrian boardwalk linking citi field to the rest of the park.

Although if there was demand for anything in the area other than an airport hotel it would probably be cheaper to build just outside of the park, there’s a lot of low density housing along roosevelt and just off it.

Alon Levy May 20, 2014 - 10:27 am

How much interest is there in hotels in that part of Queens in the first place?

AG May 20, 2014 - 10:48 am

Well there are plenty around JFK.. and not enough near LGA… especially since it’s closer to the main biz and tourist districts. That is changing:


as an aside – as tourism and business travel continues to grow – hotel growth in the outer boroughs continues to grow as a lower cost alternative to Manhattan:


MaximusNYC May 25, 2014 - 1:40 pm

I’m not sure I agree with every detail of this (why not just build 2 tracks?), but in general, I agree that an AirTrain from the Citifield 7 stop to LGA looks like the easiest way to get a rail link between the airport and the subway. The right of way is entirely over a large expressway corridor, the distance is shorter than if you come from the Astoria Blvd. station, and the AirTrain station can be built on public land. Also, you’re approaching the terminals from the east, without having to pass thru that flight path area on the southwest side of the airport where even the streetlights on the GCP have to be at a very low height, and without having to get over (or under?) the Amtrak rail viaduct with the caternary wires.

This seems like a winner in terms of both cost and politics. The only slight downside I can see is that it would be a hassle to pass thru the 7 station while going to or from the airport on a Mets game day. But the station can be adapted to accommodate the load.


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