PANYNJ recommended to move forward with improving existing MTA Q70 LaGuardia Link service

March 14, 2023
The recommendation was made by an expert panel of transportation experts after the panel reviewed the “Options for Mass Transit Solutions to LGA” report, an exhaustive analysis of 14 different mass transit options to LaGuardia Airport.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has been recommended to move forward with improving the existing Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Q70 LaGuardia Link service and creating new non-stop airport shuttle service from the terminus of the N/W subway line in Astoria.

The recommendation was made by an expert panel, made up of well-recognized outside engineering, construction and transportation firms. The panel was established at the request of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. The decision was made once the panel reviewed the “Options for Mass Transit Solutions to LGA” report, an exhaustive analysis of 14 different mass transit options to LaGuardia Airport.

The 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 the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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

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

1. Substantial improvements to the 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 Boulevard and Astoria Boulevard, 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 Terminal C with direct, exclusive road access to avoid congestion on the airport frontage
  • Wayfinding and lighting improvements at Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue / 74 St. (7, E, F, M, R) and 61 St-Woodside Stations (7, Long Island Rail Road)
  • Further enhanced branding and signage to promote the improved service

 2. New, non-stop shuttle service between the airport and the last stop on the N/W subway line at the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard station serving all three terminals at LaGuardia, featuring:

  •  Exclusive use of fully electric buses to eliminate noise and emissions
  • Dedicated bus lanes, potentially during peak hours, on 31st St. and 19th Ave., with transit signal priority to minimize travel time
  • Improved facilities at the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard 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, as the public benefits would be realized sooner at lesser cost. The improved bus service is projected to benefit nearly five million total passengers annually. The engineering/construction firms estimated capital costs for the bus options at just under $500 million compared to estimates ranging between $2.4 billion and $6.2 billion for the light-rail options.

PANYNJ plans to bring a planning authorization request to the board of commissioners for approval in the next 60 to 90 days, addressing the panel’s recommendations and starting the process for the PANYNJ to fund the costs associated with the improved bus service.

The panel did not recommend any light rail options, but advanced bus options that carry equivalent ridership as the former Mets-Willets Point alignment. The panel also did not recommend either of the ferry options, which the study concluded would attract a low level of ridership. The panel did not recommend any emerging technologies the study said are still too unproven.

During the course of the analysis, PANYNJ 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.

The multi-disciplinary team that carried out the analysis was:

  •  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

 “At the start of this process, the Port Authority committed to conduct a fair, thorough, and impartial evaluation of mass transit solutions to LaGuardia Airport,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the PANYNJ). “We assembled a team of top-quality engineering and transportation firms to conduct the study and appointed an outside panel of world-class transportation leaders to deliver independent recommendations. That report is now complete, and the panel has delivered its recommendations. We thank Mike Brown, Janette Sadik-Khan and Phil Washington for their tireless efforts and thoughtful recommendations. We also thank the elected officials, community stakeholders, and members of the general public who offered their input and feedback.”

"New Yorkers deserve world-class transportation to world-class airports,” said Gov. Hochul. Shortly after taking office, I asked the Port Authority to thoroughly examine mass transit solutions for LaGuardia Airport that would reduce car traffic and increase connectivity while meeting the demand of our customers. I am grateful to the expert panel, the technical consultants and the Port Authority for providing a clear, cost-effective path forward with an emissions-free transit solution for customers. I accept the recommendations of this report, and I look forward to its immediate implementation by the Port Authority in close coordination with our partners at the MTA, in the city of New York and the federal government."