It is a truth universally acknowledged by New Yorkers that LaGuardia Airport sucks. It’s small and cramped, a pain in the butt to navigate, the security lines are always too long, and it’s sort of out of the way (to be fair, that’s a problem for all of the airports in the NYC area).
On the rare occasions that I do fly, I try to do it out of JFK Airport because getting there from my Brooklyn apartment is less of a hassle. (Thanks, AirTrain—and thanks, proximity to the Long Island Rail Road, which makes getting to the AirTrain itself a breeze.)
But for this, the airport transportation challenge, I decided to give myself a true challenge and use the public transit options at LaGuardia Airport—not just because Joe Biden once (not unfairly) compared it to an airport in a third-world country, but because unlike JFK Airport, there’s no direct subway or commuter rail connection.
There is, however, the bus—and it may have made me change my tune on New York’s airports. While several buses (and shuttles) travel to LaGuardia, it was only in the past few years that one of those—the Q70, which goes to Jackson Heights—was turned into a Select Bus Service line, with its LaGuardia Link providing express service between the airport and the Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue subway hub in Queens. And this, my friends, is a game changer—particularly for those who may be going from an airport to one of the city’s larger tourist hubs, like Lower Manhattan or (in my fictional case) Times Square.
I started my journey on a sunny Sunday morning at baggage claim near Terminal C, and meandered over to the public transit stand. Here’s where I started to realize that things at LGA maybe aren’t so terrible after all: The stand actually had details on which buses run where (the M60, to Manhattan, and several other lines within Queens), along with clear instructions on how to board and where to get your bus pass if you’re using the SBS.
I waited for about ten minutes before a Q70 pulled up, and this is basically the only annoying part of my story (that involves the bus, anyway): Like most MTA buses—aside from the shiny new ones that Governor Andrew Cuomo has touted—it’s cramped, with a luggage rack stuck in the back to make things just a bit more squished.
Combine that with tourists who are unsure about transit etiquette in the city, and you have a recipe for a slightly irritating ride. (I shared an eyeroll with another passenger after we pushed through a group who didn’t realize that you’re supposed to move to the back of the bus to accommodate crowds as they board.)
But I wasn’t even on the bus long enough to get truly annoyed—we went from LaGuardia to Jackson Heights in just about nine minutes. Before I even had time to settle in, we were already at the subway station. From there, I took the 7, a straight shot to Midtown that also happens to hit many of Queens’s diverse neighborhoods, and disembarked at Times Square. (And let’s be real—being in tourist-clogged Times Square was actually the worst part of this experience.)
My total travel time from LaGuardia to the tourist hub: just about one hour, which in New York City travel time—particularly to and from an airport—is basically nothing. (And again, all it cost was a MetroCard swipe—praise the free transfers from the bus to the subway.) So the TL;DR from my trip: use the bus, the bus is your friend.
Does it put other cities to shame? I’ll leave that for the judge to decide, but I can say for sure that my mind was changed about LaGuardia. (Sort of.)