Behold! Your New LaGuardia Airport Transit Options (Including One Old One)

The governor has apparently killed her predecessor's pet project, the "wrong way" LaGuardia AirTrain. Graphic: Streetsblog photo composite
The governor has apparently killed her predecessor's pet project, the "wrong way" LaGuardia AirTrain. Graphic: Streetsblog photo composite

You must choose, but choose wisely.

The Port Authority has revealed the options for a new transit link to LaGuardia Airport in the wake of Gov. Hochul’s decision last October to pause her predecessor’s reviled AirTrain between the airport and Willets Point. In a press release, the Port announced that it was considering five light rail routes, five bus routes, two subway extensions, one ferry service and, alarmingly, “other emerging technologies” to get travelers to and from the Queens airport.

The Port Authority maps are just lines on the ground — the agency didn’t reveal much about frequency of service, cost to build and maintain, or ridership projections — and even included its much-reviled “Wrong Way AirTrain” route between LaGuardia and the Willets Point/Citi Field 7 and LIRR station as one of the five potential light rail links.

So that idea isn’t officially in the garbage yet, but now it has a lot of competition. Other light rail links include a route between the 61st Street-Woodside 7 train stop, a route between the Jamaica hub and LaGuardia that would also connect to the JFK AirTrain, a route between the Astoria Boulevard N/W station and the airport, and a Jackson Heights stop that connects to both the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue 7 stop and the final stop of the proposed Interborough Express.

Check them all out in this handy slideshow:

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Breaking it all down

For the bus routes, there are two options with existing bus routes and three new options that are characterized as “bus rapid transit.” For the existing buses, the PA identified the Q70 running between the airport and the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue 7 stop as a route that could get a “possible dedicated bus lane” or the M60 that runs from 125th Street in Manhattan into Queens as a candidate for unidentified “improvement.”

New bus routes, all of which are pitched as using “dedicated bus lanes” would between the airport and either the Astoria Boulevard N/W station, the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard N/W station or the Northern Boulevard R/M station.

The subway extensions being studied are both mostly elevated trains, with short below-grade sections close to the airport, that in one case would connect to the 30th Avenue N/W stop and run above the Grand Central Parkway and in another configuration connect to the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard N/W station.

Once seen as a both cost-prohibitive and not worth the fight with area NIMBYs, a subway extension to LaGuardia was put back on the table at the end of 2020 when the Federal Aviation Administration allowed passenger facility fees collected by airport authorities to be used for rail projects that don’t exclusively serve airports they connect to.

If a ferry service is chosen, the idea that’s being pitched appears to be a boat that runs from Pier 11 in lower Manhattan that then makes stops at 34th Street and 90th Street, with options to unload seafarers at either Terminal A or Terminal C at the airport. The ferry would be paired with a shuttle bus that brings travelers to whichever terminals the boat doesn’t land at.

Most concerning, the Port Authority includes one scenario right out of science-fiction (or Elon Musk’s snake oil brochure): a mention of “narrow tunnels with electric vehicles” or “small group pod systems” that run on a fixed guideway, both of which sound like Tesla-branded grifts, one of which is running in Las Vegas and the other once pitched as a solution to get people to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.  (The slide that mentions such “emerging technology” offers no route map, suggesting that passengers will be beamed to their destinations through molecular transportation.)

In announcing the new options that are under consideration, the Port Authority said that it distributed questionnaires to 70 “key stakeholders” such as local elected officials and community groups to weigh in, and that it will host a pair of in-person workshops this month.

Sessions will be at the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel in East Elmhurst on Wednesday, March 16, at 6 p.m., and the other will be on Thursday, March 24, at the Astoria World Manor, at 6 p.m.