'Tis the season for leaving New York to see your family somewhere else, or vacationing somewhere warm that will one day be swallowed by the angry ocean. Which also means it's the season of your face going ashen with horror as you contemplate how to get to either of the city's failports, JFK or LaGuardia. Public Advocate Tish James, aware of the problems that await anyone trying to enter or leave the city through an airport, released a report today with some ideas on making traveling to and from the airports a little bit easier.

James's first idea is to cut down on the wait times and potential confusion for out-of-towners by directing every A train to the Rockaways, instead of splitting them at Rockaway Boulevard in mainland Queens. According to James's report, the wait at Rockaway Boulevard for a Far Rockaway-bound A train, which can bring a traveler to the Howard Beach AirTrain station, can be up to 24 minutes on Sunday mornings and 20 minutes in the middle of a weekday.

Rerouting every A train to Far Rockaway would, per the report, double the amount of A trains running through Howard Beach. The C train would also have to be extended from Euclid Avenue to Ozone Park to cover the stations that Ozone Park-bound A trains would no longer service. As an alternative to the A train plan, James also suggests that the Broad Channel shuttle can permanently be extended to Rockaway Boulevard, which would add another way to get to Howard Beach other than Far Rockaway-bound A trains.

James also is calling on the Port Authority to decrease the wait times for the AirTrain itself to under 10 minutes, compared to running every 15-20 minutes after 8 p.m. on weekdays and every 16 minutes on weekends.

James's report stressed the importance of bus travel, suggesting there's room to improve the fact that only 10% of LaGuardia travelers and 4% of JFK travelers use the bus to get to and from the airports. While the report admitted that Governor Cuomo's idea for an AirTrain to LaGuardia could be a link on par with other airports in places like Tokyo and London, she also noted the criticism of the plan as "a circuitous journey that would require travelers to and from Manhattan, Brooklyn, western Queens, and the Bronx to backtrack several miles."

For the much-ballyhooed $4 billion LaGuardia II, James's report is calling on the Port Authority to make sure that drop-off and pickup locations for the bus are located near check-in and baggage claim areas. The report also says that "curb space must be dedicated for buses and vans in a way that makes them visible and convenient."

The first bus-related improvement James recommends for existing airports is adding a bus stop at each terminal at JFK. At the moment, JFK only has a bus stop at Terminal 5, requiring bus riders to then get on the AirTrain to get to their terminal. As for the LaGuardia we have now, James recommends following a suggestion from the Riders Alliance and make the LaGuardia Link (previously known as the Q70) free to ride.

The LaGuardia Link runs between Woodside LIRR station and LaGuardia, making one stop at Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue, for a 21-minute ride to and from the airport. According to a study by the Riders Alliance (previously covered here), while making the LaGuardia Link free sounds like a proposal that would cost the MTA money on its face, the way it would make money works as follows:

  • Eighty five percent of riders already transfer to or from the subway, meaning that these riders bring in no additional revenue to the MTA due to the existing free transfer between buses and subways.

  • The remaining 15 percent of riders brought in approximately $489,000 in fares in 2014.

  • Riders Alliance estimates that if just an additional one percent of City-bound LGA travelers switched to the LaGuardia Link service, rather than take a taxi, it would result in $663,000 in new revenue for the MTA, offsetting any revenue lost by making the Link a free service.

Elsewhere, as far as bus service to LaGuardia goes, James suggested that the M60 should get a dedicated bus lane in Queens. Calling the route "the best transit option to LGA for residents of uptown Manhattan and the Bronx," James pointed out that while the M60 has a dedicated lane for parts of 125th Street in Manhattan, it's slowed down once it goes over the Triborough Bridge merges with traffic in Astoria. To fix this, James is asking the city to look at the feasibility of putting a dedicated bus lane on Astoria Boulevard to speed travel to the airport.

Finally, James is asking the state to extend the 3 train to the Livonia Train Yards, for a new Linden Boulevard station. According to James, this would allow the B15 to run a route on wide roads that can accommodate a dedicated bus lane and make it easier for a large number of airport workers who live in the area served by the B15 to get to work.

While the changes aren’t on the scale of Governor Cuomo’s AirTrain and appear to be cheaper and easier to implement, the list of proposals is at the moment, just that: a list of proposals with no actionable next steps. We've reached out to the MTA for comment on the report and will update this story if we hear back from them. In the meantime, here's the MTA's friendly guide for getting to the airports using mass transit.