March 3, 2022 By Allie Griffin
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released new public transit proposals Wednesday to get travelers to and from LaGuardia Airport — including the largely unpopular AirTrain plan.
The Port Authority has put forward 14 potential mass transit options for the public to consider after the agency paused the LaGuardia AirTrain plan at the direction of Gov. Kathy Hochul in October. However, that plan — a $2 billion proposal to build a 1.5-mile rail line from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport — is one of the 14 options.
The other potential options include two subway extensions, four light rail routes, five bus routes, one ferry route and other “emerging technologies”.
One subway-based proposal is to extend the N/W line from the 30th Avenue station to the airport via elevated tracks along the Grand Central Parkway. The other suggested subway option is to extend the N/W line from the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard station to the airport via elevated tracks along local streets like 31st Street and 19th Avenue.
Both options call for the creation of elevated tracks before going underground near the airport.
The five light rail options proposed by the Port Authority include the route of the LaGuardia AirTrain project which would connect the 7 train and Long Island Railroad to the AirTrain at Willets Point. The route was criticized by many New Yorkers and transit advocates because it would take commuters from Manhattan past the airport to Willets Point to then backtrack to the airport.
Nonetheless, the plan made it onto the list of possible transportation options.
Another light rail option the Port Authority included is one that would connect to the 7 train and Long Island Railroad at the 61st Street-Woodside station. The light rail would then travel on elevated tracks up 55th Street and along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to reach the airport.
A third option the Port Authority proposed is building a light rail north-south along the Grand Central Parkway from the Jamaica E/J/Z station to LaGuardia. It would also have connections to the Long Island Railroad and the JFK AirTrain.
The Port Authority also proposed creating a light rail option that would go from the Astoria Boulevard N/W station and over the Grand Central Parkway to the airport.
The last light rail option the agency proposed would take riders from Jackson Heights to LaGuardia. It would start at the 74th Street Roosevelt Avenue-Jackson Heights E/F/M/R/7 station and run along elevated tracks over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to reach the airport.
In addition to light rail options, the Port Authority proposed five bus options. These options include either completely new routes or improvements to existing routes.
For instance, the Port Authority proposed creating a dedicated bus lane for the Q70 route along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and Grand Central Parkway to get to LaGuardia. The lane would connect to several subway lines and the proposed Interborough Express. Another option the agency proposed is to add unspecified transit improvements on the M60 bus route which takes commuters from Manhattan through Queens to LaGuardia.
The Port Authority proposed creating three new dedicated rapid transit bus routes as well. One would run from the Astoria Boulevard N/W station and run along Astoria Boulevard and the Grand Central Parkway to reach the airport. Another would run from the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard N/W station to the airport via 31st Street and 19th Avenue. The third would run from the Northern Boulevard M/R station along Northern Boulevard turning up 94th Street to reach LaGuardia.
The Port Authority also included a public transit option via the East River. It proposed creating a ferry route with stops at Pier 11, East 34th Street and East 90th Street in Manhattan and stops at Terminal A and Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport. A shuttle bus would take commuters to the remaining terminals the ferry cannot reach.
Lastly, the agency offered “innovative and emerging technologies” — like narrow tunnels with electric vehicles, a fixed guideway with autonomous shuttles and individual or small group pod systems — as possible transportation options.
The Port Authority is seeking public feedback on the 14 options. It has sent a questionnaire to more than 70 key stakeholders, including elected officials and community organizations, to gather input.
Later this month, the agency will host two public workshops to collect further feedback on the options. Attendees will be able to share comments that will be recorded for the evaluation process.
The in-person workshops will be held on Wednesday, March 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel in East Elmhurst and on Thursday, March 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Astoria World Manor.
To view maps of all 14 options, click here.
The original proposal goes back to 1943! The City Board of Transportation proposed an extension of NYC Transit’s BMT Astoria line (today the N & W lines) from the Ditmars Boulevard terminus Station.
There was another proposal back in the 1990;s to extend the subway beyond the Ditmars Boulevard Station. It died due to local community opposition.
Why not bring back the old Triboro Coach Bus Company bus route which ran from the 21st Queensbridge F Train subway station closed door express to LaGuardia?. This would save five or more minutes for those coming from Manhattan to the Jackson Heights Roosevelt Avenue subway station who use the Q70 LaGuardia Air Link connection. It could start within months.
79 years later, extending the Astoria subway line is still the best option. There would be no need for MTA NYC Transit to build a new maintenance and storage yard. Existing equipment already in use on the N & W lines could be used. The MTA NYC Transit might have to purchase additional rolling stock to maintain rush hour head ways. This might be 40 to 50 additional subway cars at a cost of between $2.5 to $3 million each. You will need a decade or more before boarding.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)