LaGuardia Airport

With AirTrain Plans Derailed, MTA Pitches Different Ways to Get to LaGuardia Airport

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Now that plans for the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain are officially dead, there are new ideas being floated to help get people to the Queens airport — a few by land, and even one by sea.

The Port Authority has pitched a new plan that would involve improving bus service to the airport. That plan includes a shuttle bus from Astoria (the end of the N and W lines in the neighborhood are just two miles from LaGuardia), increasing Q70 bus service between Woodside and Jackson Heights subways, and a dedicated bus lane near the airport.

"The AirTrain that was conceived was a wrong way backwards air train," said Lisa Daglian, of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. "The cost was just going up, up, up — and ridership going down, down, down."

Daglian said expanding bus service is a good short term solution as long as these buses get dedicated lanes so they don’t get stuck in traffic. The plan to expand the bus system is expected to cost $500 million.

Plans were abandoned Monday for a rail link that would have connected LaGuardia Airport to the city's subway and commuter rail system, after intense criticism about its $2.4 billion-plus price tag and the potential effects on surrounding neighborhoods.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul accepted the recommendations made by a panel of transportation experts who determined it would be more feasible in the near-term to increase bus service and add a shuttle. Hochul's action effectively means that LaGuardia will remain among the major U.S. airports without rail service.

The Port Authority found that any rail link to LaGuardia would face "serious funding and constructability challenges," and would take 12-13 years to complete — with an estimated cost of $5 billion to upwards of $7 billion.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 proposed the 1.5-mile elevated link, similar to one serving John F. Kennedy International Airport elsewhere in Queens. The link was envisioned to serve air travelers who currently rely on taxis and car services, and was originally estimated to cost $450 million.

LaGuardia's multi-billion dollar facelift is finally finished, after a long six years.

Hochul ordered a review of the project after Cuomo resigned in 2021 amid a sexual harassment scandal. Criticism of the plan had intensified by then, with elected officials and environmental advocates saying the new rail would harm the Queens neighborhoods it traversed and wouldn’t be appreciably faster than driving.

Democratic Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who represents part of the area the link would have passed through, spoke out against it, as had former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

With the AirTrain plans out of the way, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards pitched a different idea: a ferry service from Manhattan's East Side, going across the East River and into Flushing Bay.

"We have to use our waterways, this is not rocket science," Richards told NBC New York.

New York City's other airport, JFK, got its AirTrain service back in 2003, after it had been pitched more than 20 years prior. As for hopes of ever having some sort of train option to LaGuardia, passengers can still dream: The Port Authority said that light rail could be an option in the future.

"With federal funding still in the mix it should be considered," said Daglian.

The Port Authority plans to bring the expanded bus service proposal to the full board by the end of June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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