AIRPORTNEWSTRAVEL

New York LaGuardia International Airport Improvement (Update)

New York LaGuardia International Airport

New York

(This post was originally published on January 21, 2015 and updated on January 24 and July 28, 2015.)

New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) is one of three serving the Greater New York area. The other two are Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and New York JFK International Airport (JFK).  In 2013, these three airports served over 112 million passengers combined (which would put New York in the top three by passengers).

Individually, as noted in our 2013 airport review (refer to link), JFK is ranked No.19 in 2013. EWR is in the 40th spot and LGA is just outside the top 50 busiest by passengers.

Of these three airports, only LGA does not have a direct connection to commuter/regional train or subway systems. This is about to change.

Detail

In an event hosted by the business group Association for a Better New York on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, current state Governor Andrew Cuomo said that “New York is a world-class location. But our airports are outdated and lag behind our competitors.” Further,   “You look at any report and it will talk about how New York airports sorely lag in terms of development.”

As part of the US$3.6 billion New York airport improvements program, the governor pledged to build a US$450 million AirTrain service that would connect to the city’s number 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter train service at Willets Point with a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) long track along the Grand Central Parkway. It is expected to be operational within five years, the governor’s office said.

Below is the potential routings for this AirTrain connection. It is likely that option 1 would be used to avoid Citi Field.

New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) Improvement Airtrain Potential Routing
Image taken from Google Map on January 21, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Once built, the AirTrain could provide convenient service for both subway (Line 7) and regional train (Long Island Rail Road – Port Washington Branch) passengers to LGA. It would be very easy for the transit authority to build a covered walkway to connect both modes of transportation.

New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) Improvement Airtrain Station
Image taken from Google Map on January 21, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Additionally, both the subway and LIRR have stops at Penn Station and Woodside.  This will facilitate great connections to JFK (from Woodside) and EWR (from Penn Station) in the future as noted below.

New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) Improvement Airtrain Potential Routing
Image taken from Google Map on January 21, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Analysis

New York LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) is the only one serving the Greater New York area that does not have direct train or subway service available. This may change in the next 5 years as an AirTrain would be built with connections to the subway (Line 7) and Long Island Rail Road(LIRR) (Line Port Washington Branch).  This might cut down on the time required to travel to this airport and will create an easier travel experience to transfer between all three airports.

Some items that should be considered by the transit and airport authorities:

1. Fare system used by passengers going directly to LGA or transferring between LGA and JFK/EWR should be convenient and economical.

2. Additional capacity should be introduced on the respective subway and LIRR lines to manage the increased passenger load using these options to travel to LGA and beyond.

3. Signage and instructions on how to use these options should be clear to avoid confusion (especially for transfers between LGA and JFK / EWR).

4. Additional development at the Willets Point station should be considered to create a better passenger experience. This may include airline check in facilities, shopping and food options.  Auxiliary revenue can be gained for both the airport and transit authorities through this development.

5. Hotel operators may want to build options at this station to provide passengers with places to stay if their flight lands late at LGA and it was not time efficient or economical to stay at the airport or go to Manhattan.

Update on January 24, 2015

Experience The Skies received a lot of readers’ feedback after this entry was posted. In particular, New Yorkers and frequent travellers to the New York City area suggested that there may be a more convenient way to transfer between LGA and JFK currently.

Instead of relying on coach bus, taxi, limo or uber to transfer between the two airports, some passengers can take the Q47 (Terminal A), / Q70  bus (Terminal B, C and D) and connect either at Woodside for the LIRR or at Jackson Hts – Roosevelt Av for the subway (Line E) before transferring onto the AirTrain. As the Q47/Q70 bus is a limited express route, it will only cost US$ 2.50 from LGA to JFK (all transfers included). The LIRR option would cost more.

New York LaGuardia Airport to JFK Airport transfer option
New York LaGuardia Airport to JFK Airport transfer option. This option is mapped to taking the Q70 bus, onto the LIRR and then the AirTrain Image taken Google Map on January 25, 2015, (All Rights Reserved)

Depending on the schedule, total travel time using the Q47 / Q70 bus to LIRR to AirTrain option will take about 1h 10m to transfer between LGA to JFK. Replacing the LIRR with the subway would take around 10-15 minutes more travel time.

Other readers also suggested that instead of building an AirTrain solution to Willets Point, passengers may be better off if the AirTrain starts at Jackson Hts – Roosevelt Av where they would have access to the subway lines E, F, M, R and 7.  The path of this AirTrain (space dependent) would be along the Grand Central Parkway and Brooklyn Queens Expressway East (refer to map below). This would be able around 3 miles in length (double the distance of what the Governor suggested and would likely cost more time and resources to complete).

Distance from LGA to Jackson Hts - Roosevelt Av station
The path from LGA through Grand Central Parkway and Brooklyn Queens Expressway East towards Jackson Heights – Roosevelt Avenue Station. Image taken from Google Map on January 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Analysis

The Q47 / Q70 bus option is a great alternative for passengers currently. However, it is important to consider accessibility. Experience The Skies noted that selective Q47 / Q70 buses are wheelchair accessible as is the Jackson Hts – Roosevelt Av subway station.  There are also luggage racks provided in some selective buses for luggages.

From a trip planning perspective, MTA includes a useful map online (as shown below) from LGA.

MTA map from LGA to JFK / Manhattan / New York State East
Information taken from MTA’s website on January 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Using the trip planner function on MTA’s website, it is clear on the options available for English speaking passengers on trips from LGA to JFK.

MTA trip planner from LGA to JFK
Information taken from MTA’s website on January 25, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Next time we visit New York City, we will use the bus to subway option for the transfer and revisit whether the current option is navigable by international or less savvy passengers.

July 28, 2015 Update

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office unveiled a new video showcasing the redesign of LaGuardia Airport on July 28, 2015.

Here is a list of highlights:

  • A dedicated ferry dock to provide better access to water taxis to Manhattan
  • The 35 gate new Terminal B will be constructed with Terminal C/D connections on the arrival level.  The main tenant of this terminal will be Delta Air Lines (refer to news release from Delta Air Lines for specific airline information here)
  • Construction is set to being early 2016 with an opening date scheduled tentatively for 2019.
  • Construction cost is budgeted at US$4 Billion and led by a consortium led by consortium led by Vantage Airport Group known for the Vancouver International Airport.
  • There will be new HOV lanes and ramps for better transportation access into the new terminal but there was no news to build an AirTrain extension.

Although the costs will be shared between public and private fundings, there is no word on any new passenger fees to cover the public components.

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