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July 8, 2014

Biking to N.Y. airport faster than public transport

QUEENS, N.Y. — As a publicity stunt, a New York advocacy group staged a seven-way race to LaGuardia airport, clocking travel times and costs of the most popular transit options in order to underscore the need for better access.

A yellow taxi won the “Race to LaGuardia,” beating out the airport shuttle, Uber car service, Citibike, subway, train, and bus, according to the study by Global Gateway Alliance.

Departing on a Monday afternoon on June 30, survey volunteers found that the yellow taxi was able to make the trip in only 25 minutes while the subway to the M60 bus took just over an hour.

CitiBike, surprisingly, took only 49 minutes — and at only $2.50 had the best ride for your buck. Public transportation options were found to be time-consuming yet cost efficient, totaling just $2.50 each for the train and bus.

The executive director of the Global Gateway Alliance, Stephen Sigmund, rode a CitiBike, while six summer interns used other means of transportation. These are their stories (Ed.: Law & Order sound would be good here)


1. Fiona

Mode: Taxi
Time: 25 mins
Cost: $33
I took a standard NYC yellow taxi from 39th Street and 6th Avenue to
LaGuardia Airport. I expected the trip to have mod

Photos: Global Gateway Alliance

Photos: Global Gateway Alliance
erate traffic, but was also counting on an easy journey to LaGuardia. It was relatively easy to hail a cab at 2:45 PM taking around two minutes and 40 seconds.

Once in the cab, the trip was simple. There was very little traffic along the way, making it fast and easy. The driver took the Queens Midtown tunnel where there was very little congestion. Once out of Manhattan we barely stopped until we arrived at LGA.

In total it took me 25 minutes to get to Terminal B at LGA. I was the
first to arrive and waited 19 minutes for the next person (Alex taking
the NYC Airporter shuttle) to make it there.

Overall it was a very simple and stress-free travel experience. The taxi cost $33.00 (20% tip included). The NYC yellow taxi exceeded my expectations by getting me to LaGuardia in such a timely manner.


2. Alex

Mode: NYC Airporter
Time: 4
4 mins
Cost: $13
I took the NYC Airporter from Grand Central Station all the way to LaGuardia. I originally thought I would be waiting at least 15 minutes at Grand Central just to get on a packed bus. I have a poor sense of direction, so from the GGA office on 39th Street it took me about 15 minutes to find the bus stop at Grand Central.

Luckily, I arrived in time to catch one of the last seats on the 3:00 PM bus, which actually departed at 3:03 PM. For some reason there was no air conditioning on the 36-passenger bus, so at least half of the passengers were fanning themselves the whole way.

The ride was pleasant except for the lack of air conditioning and the simplicity of the logistics of my route made the ride relaxing. The driver was friendly and had a good sense of humor, which I appreciated.

I arrived at Terminal B at 3:29 PM, stepped out, and saw the driver scrambling to help people with their luggage.
In my opinion, the NYC Airporter is a cheap option ($13.00 one-way) for the low maintenance traveler.

Thanks to good timing, the shuttle was more efficient than I expected. However, the hot temperatures made the journey less than enjoyable.


3. Caroline

Mode: UberX
Time: 48 mins
Cost: $44
I took an UberX car from W 39th Street between 5th and 6th to LaGuardia. The race started at 2:45 PM and a colleague called the Uber for me. From past experience, I expected Uber to be the fastest and most convenient way of traveling.

The app said that the car was 5 minutes away and we should be on the lookout for a Ford Explorer. However, over 5 minutes passed and the car was still not there, and after a failed attempt to call the driver, the ride clean disappeared from her app.

So, we called another UberX. Again, this car said it was 5 minutes away. We watched the tracker and saw that the car passed 39th and went down 38th St., at which point we decided to call the driver. As it turned out, our location was off–telling the driver we were on 38th instead.
Unfortunately this technical glitch cost us.

After 23 minutes of waiting, the Uber Lincoln Town Car finally came and I was on my way to LaGuardia Airport Terminal B. The route took me through the Queens Midtown Tunnel and enjoyed a smooth ride.

I arrived at departures area at the Central Terminal Building at 3:33 PM. There was no traffic and the car ride in total took 25 minutes.

Once the Uber car had arrived, the route was no problem. The only issue was trying to contact the car. I recommend making sure that your current location is correct.


4. Steve

Mode: CitiBike
Time: 49 mins
Cost: $2.50
I started the ride outside GGA’s office at 39th street between 5th and 6th. It was a slightly hairy ride up 6th avenue with traffic to 48thstreet. 48th
Street to 1st Avenue had a good bike lane although it was very tight with cars and trucks. I turned up 1st Avenue, which has a wide bike lane to the Queensboro Bridge. There were lots of trucks in the bike route but they could be maneuvered around.

The long half-mile climb up the bridge was the toughest hill of the journey, although it had very nice bike/walking lanes and great views of Roosevelt Island and up the East River. Then it was downhill to Queens Plaza, through a lot of traffic on the bike path over another bridge to Skillman Avenue.

A police car there had stopped two cars, which made for some maneuvering around to 43rd Avenue. It was about 3 when I entered the Queens surface streets portion of the ride. There was a nice bike route up
43rd Avenue, but it was a hot slog for a mile. I turned onto 48th Street down to 39th Avenue through very pretty and shady residential areas for
another mile.

The biggest obstacle on that portion were lots of red lights, but thankfully they were mostly one way streets with little traffic at that hour, so stopping was, uh, optional. I took a right onto 34th Street, which also had a nice bike route, at about 3:15-3:20. It was a hot, crowded push for a mile and a half.

A police cruiser that saw me pedal through a red light stayed with me for a few blocks and made sure I stopped at the lights! I counted down (or up) the streets to Junction Boulevard and took a crowded left around 3:25, turning for the hot sprint the last 1.5 miles up it and 94th Street.

I crossed some major streets as fast as I could maneuver through traffic. I passed a weird art installation on 94th Street, saw the American Airlines hanger in the distance and pedaled hard to the airport grounds and to Terminal B.

Riding a bike to LaGuardia was more pleasant and well-marked than I had expected. It’s not a practical option unless you’re taking a day trip, but it sure beats sitting in traffic.


5. Mary Kate

Mode: 7 train to Q70 bus
Time: 56 mins
Cost: $2.50
My route to LaGuardia Airport involved a subway and bus combination that Google Maps estimated to take 47 minutes. However, my total travel time amounted to 55:30. This extensive commute leads me to question why there isn’t a simpler, more efficient route to get travelers from
Midtown to LaGuardia, a trip that is just 8 miles long.

My experience on the 7 train was fairly enjoyable. I didn’t have to wait long at the subway platform, and once the train came, I was able to find a seat and read my book in peace. I only saw one other person headed towards the airport, lugging a huge orange suitcase that probably would have annoyed me if we were in a crowded subway car. I arrived at my interim stop (61ststreet and Woodside) in just 17 minutes, and exited the train in search of the Q70 bus station to start the second leg of my journey.

There were signs highlighting my destination, with arrows pointing towards a desolate bus stop situated underneath the elevated subway tracks. Though the bus was already there waiting for me, the driver would not let me on for six minutes while she took a short break to make a phone call. To my surprise, the Q70 was less crowded than the 7 train, with few riders bearing luggage, duffel bags, or any indication they were headed to the airport.

Instead, the passengers got off at different stops along the route, using it to navigate the neighborhoods of northern Queens.
The bus ride took me to the final destination — LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal Building.

It was a quick walk to the terminal where I met up with the rest of the group. I finished the race in 5th place, arriving at at 3:41 PM. The one seat routes — shuttle bus, via taxi, Uber, and CitiBike — proved faster than those that required transfers.


6. Will T.

Mode: LIRR to Q70 bus
Time: 56 mins
Cost: $8.25
I took a train from Penn Station to the Q70 bus from 61st Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. I expected this method of transportation to be confusing and inconvenient, but I also knew it would be cheap.

I left the GGA office at 2:45PM and began walking to Penn Station. At a fast paced walk, it took me 14 minutes to arrive. Unfamiliar with the Long Island Railroad, I needed to be directed to the train I was looking for. The LIRR representative working at the ticket station directed me to the 3:03 PM train on Track 18.

I purchased a rail ticket costing $5.75, and a Metro Card for the bus costing $2.75. There was not much seating available on the train due to my last minute arrival, but it was only a 16 minute ride to Woodside,  where I would meet the bus.

I got off the train and followed the signs to the Q70 bus. I waited for four minutes for the bus, which departed at 3:24. The bus ride went smoothly, and was fairly comfortable. It arrived at Lot L at 3:41, which is the stop for the Central Terminal Building.

Actually reaching the terminal, however, proved to be a little confusing due to a lack of signage directing the passengers on how best to get there. However, I reached my fellow travelers shortly thereafter.
Overall, the trip cost $8.25 and took a total of 56 minutes.

The LIRR and Q70 met my expectations of being a long and inconvenient journey, however, the bus was much cleaner than I expected.


7. Will S.

Mode: 4 train
to M60 SBS
Time: 61 mins
Cost: $2.50
I started my journey at GGA’s offices on 25 W 39th St. in Midtown and  made the 4-block walk to Grand Central Terminal. I walked into the station and found the 4 train uptown. By the time I had arrived at the subway stop, I was 11 minutes into my trip.

I got on the 4 train and noticed no one with bags or luggage making the same trip as me. 3 stops later I ended up at the Harlem 125th subway stop and headed for the M60 bus stop. From when I got on the train to  when I arrived in Harlem, 11 minutes had passed.

I walked up the stairs and found the bus stop where the M60 was supposed to pick me up. I swiped my metro pass and received a receipt that worked as a ticket for
me to enter the bus.

Twenty-nine minutes later, in a bus filled with some travelers carrying luggage, I arrived at the departures area at the LaGuardia Central Terminal Building and met up with the rest of my group.

Sadly, I was the last one to arrive and in total it took me about an hour to make the whole trip. In conclusion, taking the 4/5 subway uptown to Harlem 125th, followed by the M60, is not the fastest way to get to LaGuardia Airport.




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  • Bill A[ July 9th, 2014 @ 6:34am ]

    There are major flaws in this article. The Q70 bus only makes one stop between the #7 train at 61 St and LaGuardia, so traveller #5's claim that the bus was primarily a circulator for Queens neighborhoods is wrong. Also, traveller #6 got off at the wrong stop - he should have remained on the bus until the Central Terminal instead of walking from a parking lot.

  • Andrew Peterson[ July 10th, 2014 @ 8:55am ]

    Great article! So interesting to think about various ways of actually getting to the airport. Good work!

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