Upgrades to LaGuardia Bus Service Will Speed Local Trips Too

Image: Port Authority, MTA and DOT. Full-size map available here.

Mayor Bloomberg, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota this morning announced a long-anticipated plan for Select Bus Service to LaGuardia Airport, which should speed travel times to and from neighborhoods in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens while improving service for local transit users.

On the table are three routes: a Select Bus line on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, to extend across the Triboro/RFK Bridge to the airport via Astoria Boulevard; an SBS upgrade for the M60, which runs along 125th Street in Harlem and is currently the busiest LaGuardia bus route; and a new direct route from Woodside and Jackson Heights via the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

The Webster Avenue line would offer a one-seat ride, and could reduce travel time between LaGuardia and Fordham Plaza from 83 to 43 minutes. Proposed options for Webster Avenue SBS include dedicated center lanes with elevated boarding platforms, which would allow for quicker speeds. The extension of the Webster Avenue route to LaGuardia is “still being evaluated as the public outreach continues,” according to a media release.

Advocates in Northern Manhattan have been active in lobbying for Select Bus Service for 125th Street, where passengers spend 60 percent of their time on stopped buses. The M60 Select Bus route should shorten cross-town trips by at least five minutes, and airport trips by nine minutes, while providing improved reliability. Twelve subway lines and Metro-North connect to the M60 for service to and from LaGuardia. Over 32,000 riders board one of 125th Street’s four bus lines every weekday, according to West Harlem Environmental Action.

Proposed SBS for Queens would bring new bus service to Woodside and Jackson Heights, potentially cutting trip times between LaGuardia and Penn Station by almost 32 percent, and over 60 percent between the airport and 74th Street at Roosevelt Avenue. Adjustments would be made to preserve local service while also providing airport connections.

While overall city bus ridership has declined, more transit users are turning to Select Bus Service, which features faster trip times thanks to pre-paid fares, all-door boarding and dedicated lanes. In addition to air passengers, the new LaGuardia service will speed commutes for thousands of airport employees.

The public input process for Webster Avenue is already underway. Further route and service specifics will be hammered out through a series of public hearings, the first of which was held Wednesday night at Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights. The new service is expected to launch in 2013 and 2014.