Port Authority Board of Commissioners Approves $30 Million for Planning and Preliminary Design to Improve Mass Transit Access to LaGuardia Airport

June 23, 2023

The Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved $30 million in funding to plan and design improved bus service to LaGuardia Airport, marking an important step toward implementing the recommendations of an expert panel after an exhaustive analysis of 14 mass transit options to the airport.

After thoroughly reviewing the analysis, “Options for Mass Transit Solutions to LGA,” the expert panel in March recommended that the Port Authority move forward with substantial improvements to airport access by improving the existing MTA Q70 LaGuardia Link service and creating new non-stop airport shuttle service from Ditmars Blvd, the terminus of the N/W subway line in Astoria, Queens. With the funding approved by the Board, the Port Authority will immediately advance the planning and design process.

“A vital part of building world-class airports is creating the modern and efficient public transportation that will get passengers and the public to our new facilities. That’s why the Port Authority is continuing to make major investments in mass transit improvements to LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and JFK International airports,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “The finest airports in the world deserve the quality mass transit options.”

“Today’s vote by the Board of Commissioners is a major step forward in making the improvements in mass transit to LaGuardia Airport that were recommended by the panel of experts after an exhaustive study,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “We look forward to working with the MTA and other stakeholders in planning and designing effective and efficient bus service to LaGuardia that will serve an estimated 5 million passengers a year.”

The wide-ranging analysis commenced in late 2021, at the request of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and was carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of well-recognized outside engineering, construction and transportation firms. The three-member independent, outside expert panel of world-class transportation leaders was established at the governor’s request to oversee the study and to make recommendations based on the analysis.

This panel consisted of Mike Brown, former commissioner of Transport for London and former managing director of Heathrow Airport; Janette Sadik-Khan, principal at Bloomberg Associates and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation; and Phillip A. Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport and former CEO of Los Angeles Metro.

The MTA worked closely with the engineering/construction firms and the expert panel throughout the study and attended all panel meetings.

The panel recommended that the Port Authority move forward in the near term with two bus options evaluated in the study:

  1. Substantial improvements to existing MTA Q70 LaGuardia Link bus service connecting to Jackson Heights and Woodside:
  • Transit signal priority on Roosevelt Avenue and Broadway to minimize travel time;
  • A mile-long exclusive bus lane built on the shoulder of the northbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway between Northern and Astoria boulevards subject to federal, state and local approvals, to increase service reliability between Jackson Heights and LaGuardia Airport;
  • Frequency improvements, as needed, in response to increased demand;
  • A new specially designated bus pick-up and drop-off area near LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal C with direct, exclusive road access to avoid congestion on the airport frontage;
  • Wayfinding and lighting improvements at the MTA’s Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av/74 St (7, E, F, M, R) and 61 St-Woodside subway stations (7, LIRR);
  • Further enhanced branding and signage to promote the improved service.
  1. New, non-stop shuttle service between the airport and the last stop on the N/W subway line at the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd subway station serving all three terminals at LaGuardia Airport featuring:
  • Exclusive use of fully electric buses to eliminate noise and emissions;
  • Dedicated bus lanes, potentially during peak hours, on 31st Street and 19th Avenue with transit signal priority, to minimize travel time;
  • Improved facilities at the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd station, providing ADA accessibility;
  • End-of-the N/W line station will assure ease of use by airport travelers

The panel expressed a strong preference for a “one-seat ride via subway” as the most effective way to move travelers from cars to mass transit, but given the serious unresolved constructability and cost challenges to building a subway extension identified by the engineering/construction firms, the panel recommended a near-term focus on improving bus service to provide better, faster transit access to LaGuardia Airport, as the public benefits would be realized sooner at lesser cost. The improved bus service is projected to benefit nearly 5 million total passengers annually. The engineering/construction firms estimated capital costs for the bus options at just under $500 million compared to estimates ranging $2.4 billion to $6.2 billion for the light rail options.

During the course of the analysis, the Port Authority sought and received input from dozens of elected officials, community stakeholders, advocacy groups, and the general public by holding two public workshops, conducting 10 focus groups with members of the community and airport travelers, and reviewing hundreds of public comments. Going forward, community input and feedback will continue to be solicited during the design phase.

The multi-disciplinary team that carried out the analysis will help advance the planning and design. The team was comprised of representatives from:

·       Bechtel – study lead

·       WSP – engineering and estimating

·       Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates – bus planning technical lead

·       Foursquare ITP – emerging technology and equity

·       Ramboll – international emerging technology