An article on Second Avenue Sagas made us dream of a day when we could get to LaGuardia without playing Bussian Roulette on the M60 or watch the meter tick up and the beads of sweat trickle down our cabbie's neck as we sit motionless on the Kosciuszko Bridge. As late as 2003, $645 million was budgeted for an N train extension to LaGuardia, before being torpedoed by elected officials from Queens. When can we expect direct service to LGA to be a priority again? "Don't hold your breath," says Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association.
The plan to extend the N line from the Astoria-Ditmars Avenue station to the terminals originated in the mid-nineties, and was strongly backed by the MTA and the city. NAMBYs (Not Above My Backyard) like Queens councilmember like Peter Vallone, Jr. objected to the elevated tracks that would cut a three-mile swath through a chunk of his district.
"There was a fair amount of community and political opposition the last time we proposed a direct line to LaGuardia," MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg says. "And we listened."
He added, "We have nothing in our plans right now to bring rail service direct to LaGuardia. Right now, we're building the Second Avenue Subway, digging in Long Island and the East Side, finishing the 7 Line extension. We've got lots on our plate."
According to the Port Authority, 46.8% of travelers heading to New York's Saddest Airport come from Manhattan—89.3% get there via taxi, private, or personal car service. Only 8.9% take the bus, compared with 17.9% of travelers from other boroughs [PDF]. The MTA's proposal for an expedited bus service to LGA originating in Harlem was scrapped this summer after it got no support from the community.
"It's very much a businessperson's airport," Zupan says. "A high share of people are using it for business, so they don't carry a lot of luggage, which does speak in favor of adding public transit to LaGuardia. But it also means that if they're using it for business, they can afford a cab." (Or get reimbursed.)
Zupan says he supported a link that would originate at the Woodside LIRR station, which connects with the 7 train, and build an elevated line that would track along existing freight lines and the BQE with an Airtrain (think the Disney ride that takes you to JFK). But that might cost around $1.5 billion, which is the amount that the PA just pledged they would spend to directly connect the PATH to Newark Airport via the World Trade Center station in Lower Manhattan.
"Unlike Newark, where there's a rail solution, it's very hard to find an answer to LaGuardia," Zupan says. "I looked around the room at a panel discussion on this the other night, and I told them that even the youngest among you, not in your lifetime."
There is, of course, another bus. A newer bus. The MTA's new Q70 Limited-Stop Service from the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave E/F/M/R stop or the Woodside LIRR stop. It's a 24-hour service, though it only runs every 12 minutes from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and every 20 minutes from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
"It's zippy, and it's not a lot of money," Lisberg insists, noting that the transfer is free from the E/F/M/R. Some of our commenters agree, one even calls it a "gem." We'll still do our damndest to fly out of Newark.