-- Forget the air train or a subway extension – build a Busway from Manhattan to LaGuardia | LTV Squad

Forget the air train or a subway extension – build a Busway from Manhattan to LaGuardia

Published on: February 6th, 2015 | Last updated: September 22, 2016 Written by:

The idea:
We should build an entirely new bus-only (or maybe light rail) route to LaGuardia (LGA). It would follow the existing M60 bus route across 125th street in Harlem (connecting to all north/south subway lines in Manhattan as well as Metro North) and go east across the RFK Triboro bridge to Randalls island.

LGA-Access

From Randalls island, the bus would enter a brand new, bus only bridge, taking it across the East River and into the massive private Con Ed property at the northwest tip of Queens. An existing roadway would bring us to Luyster Creek – where a short new bridge (or fill – it is at the end of the creek after all) would connect the property to the end of 19th avenue (a wide road through an industrial area that abruptly and dangerously dead ends).

Once on 19th avenue, it’s a short hop down existing streets to LaGuardia.

The route through Con Ed and over the new bridge would need to be camera enforced to automagically ticket any random drivers who enter (the technology exists in the form of specialized ez-pass readers & traffic cameras).

Pluses:
1) This all new routing would be/is devoid of existing traffic through Queens. 19th ave is lightly used and very wide.
2) With the exception of a short stretch along the east end of 19th avenue and 81st street, the route does not subject residents to a new transit service ‘in their backyards’. If this stretch is really a problem, move it into airport property at the end of 19th ave.
3) If a bus is not suitable for the high demand of ridership (it probably wouldn’t be), a light rail route would increase capacity significantly. Other cities use light rail on city streets just fine. This would jack up the initial construction cost, but would be far more sustainable in the long term.
4) It also fixes the abrupt end of 19th avenue. This dangerous dead end is poorly signed and really badly placed. It’s useless as a street. This would give it a purpose.

Negatives:
1) If this replaced the M60 bus, you’d have no connection from the Astoria elevated (currently the N/Q subway lines) to LGA. Given the ridership growth on along this route due to increased population (via overdevelopment), this might actually be a plus. There’s usually plenty of green cabs at subway stops. Or, you know, we could just add a shorter bus route from Astoria blvd, right onto the Grand Central Parkway, and into LGA. A quick, easy express bus.(Another transit option?! Blasphemy!)
2) We’d need a new bridge over The east river at a spot in the river where currents are harsh. Big deal. The Triboro and Hell Gate bridges span this waterway already. As an example, a new bridge in St. Louis was built in 4 years at a cost of $695 Million. (The entire Air train to JFK cost close to $2 Billion – and this bridge would be the biggest cost.). Tax some real estate ‘developers’. Make the Port Authority pitch in. They threw $1.5 Billion at the PATH train extension to Newark Airport. Why shouldn’t LGA get some money love?

Extension on the idea:
1)If the residential area near the east end of 19th ave is an issue, maybe build an Oak Point Link style cut around along the water. That’ll add a lot of cost but you’ll have a 100% residential area free routing. No residents, no “NIMBYS” (Though these days, a Nimby is often someone with valid concerns – we’ll get to that).
2) If you really want to get crazy, build a connection off the Metro North Viaduct, along with a new viaduct across 125. One seat ride from GCT to LGA. Commute time – maybe 25-30 minutes? Your pricetag probably goes up a few billion and the timeline for building it increases a few decades. For this you’d need fully FRA complaint rail cars and a whole lot more infrastructure. Wipe the foam from your chin – Let’s not even go there. This will never happen, nor should it.

I’m putting this idea out there because every single other idea I’ve heard about connecting LGA to rapid transit has completely sucked.

Why:
I’m putting this idea out there because every single other idea I’ve heard about connecting LGA to rapid transit has completely sucked.

Here’s a partial list of previous stupid ideas:
Air train to Willets Point: Doesn’t go to Manhattan, and actually increases commute times. It also relies on the already overcapacity 7 subway line. It’s like building an office tower on a wooden foundation. Dumb. The LIRR connection there is also moot and wouldn’t serve all long island residents without a transfer at Woodside.

Air Train to Jackson Heights:. I can’t even. Literally. Same issues as above. only slightly mitigated by access to the Queens blvd. subway lines. Plus you’re ramming a new transit route through a heavily populated area and will face “nimby’ negative reactions.

Extend the N at Ditmars: Brace yourself for that ‘Nimby’ answer you don’t want to hear: This route entails extending a noisy elevated line through a residential area that is already dumped on with multiple power plants, a sewage plant, and proximity to rikers island. Ask yourself this: would you want a loud elevated subway route outside your window running 24/7? The answer is NO.

Too “NIMBY” for you? Then forget all about ‘Nimbyism’ and look at the actual facts: Have you rode this subway route recently? Capacity is an issue and more ‘development’ in the area is increasing ridership year over year. It’s just not sustainable. The route already uses the maximum available trains-per-hour according to the MTA’s own numbers. Morning rush hour trains are often standing room only after leaving Astoria blvd. The stations are also ugly out dated pieces of shit covered in metal walls coated in peeling paint, consisting of single exits. This is a rickety elevated lined that the MTA barely maintains. They don’t even shovel the snow off the stairs in the winter.

Create a branch off the N at the Grand Central Parkway:: Cute, but you’re stilling plopping a new route in a densely populated residential area, along a subway route that is near (and/or exceeding it’s capacity limit). Oh and you’d have to build it really high above ground to get above the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct just east of Steinway street. I’m sure that’ll look great in a low rise neighborhood.

The simple fact is this: Much of Queens has very few subway lines compared to other parts of NYC. The existing routes are close to or above capacity, and huge residential developments throughout the boro are not going to make this situation any better. For reliable service to the airport, a brand new transit route that connects to Manhattan would be the smartest (dare I say only) smart choice.

The only other plan that avoids/mitigates justified nimbyism is the route to Willets Point – and that routing is 100% useless to the majority of city residents. I would rate this routing as a ‘nice to have’, at best. It absolutely should not be the first choice.

Footnote/Rant:I’m sure serious transit nerds will question my use of ‘at capacity and over capacity’ when describing the N/Q and 7 subways in Queens. I base this not just off the numbers – but every day commuting observation. When a train is just a few minutes late on these lines during the day (which happens just about every day now), crowding gets out of hand. At rush hour, it can be an absolutely dangerous nightmare with platforms overflowing with people and the occasional fight breaking out. When you consider all of the new taller buildings being built in Queens, and a city administration that believes we can pack more and more people into NYC and it’ll be great (for rich real estate owners) without adding new transit routes… you’ve got a prescription for a really undesirable, uncommutable, unlivable city. New Yorkers don’t want more density that isn’t matched by better basic services (like public transit). Asking for demanding new transit options is the only way to go. Other cities like Vancouver, Denver, Jersey City, etc all have expanded their public transportation options. Here in NYC it seems people just expect to keep cramming 50 gallons of people into the same old 10 gallon subway system with few new routes. What have we gotten in western Queens? Less than nothing. They took away the QM21 express bus (which didn’t run frequently enough to matter). A ferry? That’ll only maybe serve commuters at new high rise waterfront developments like Hallets Cove. The only new service around here in the last 10 years has been the Q100 limited bus… to Rikers.

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  • About The Author

    Bad Guy Joe

    Bad Guy Joe
    Bad Guy Joe knows more about the NYC underground than anyone else on or below the surface of this planet. He has spent nearly 30 years sneaking into NYC's more forbidden locations. When not underground, he's probably bitching about politicians or building something digital. 
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