Port Authority spokesman Tom Topousis said in a statement that...

Port Authority spokesman Tom Topousis said in a statement that Long Islanders will benefit from “substantial improvements to the MTA’s Q70 LaGuardia Link bus service.” But experts question whether Island residents will take the bus. Credit: Marcus Santos

The AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport is out, and upgraded bus service is in. But luring Long Islanders to leave cars might not be so easy.

Experts believe it will take a cultural shift to get residents into mass transit because of concerns buses can get stuck in traffic, be delayed and make catching a flight all the more stressful.

“There is some stigma against buses, and people just don’t like riding them,” said Maia Roseval, a sustainability manager at Farmingdale State College, who supports expanding the bus network to the terminal but believes it won't make much of a difference for the suburban car-dependent population.

"If I had to predict, not too many Long Islanders will use it," she said.


  • With the AirTrain to LaGuardia canned, officials are banking on shuttling flyers to the terminal with new and improved bus service.
  • Ridership on the Q70 bus near the LIRR is estimated to increase by 1.5 million annually under the proposed changes.
  • But experts believe getting Long Islanders to use buses will be a challenge.

A government-appointed transportation panel projected that an additional 1.5 million riders would take the free bus from the Woodside stop near the Long Island Rail Road Station with planned improvements, including a dedicated bus lane on the shoulder of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Long Islanders will benefit from “substantial improvements to the MTA’s Q70 LaGuardia Link bus service,” Port Authority spokesman Tom Topousis said in a statement.

Only major area airport without rail

Bordered by the East River on one side and the eight-lane Grand Central Parkway on the other, LaGuardia is the only major airport in the New York City area that lacks a rail link.

Once considered one of the worst airports, it underwent an extensive $8 billion overhaul that transformed it into a world-class hub, scoring multiple awards for excellence. The AirTrain was initially a key part of the modernization, where just 6% of flyers travel by public transportation, according to a Port Authority survey from 2017.

Pushed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the rail plan faced opposition from community groups, environmentalists and some elected officials. Detractors also called the proposed rail link at the Mets-Willets Point station a circuitous route that would only directly benefit riders on the LIRR's Port Washington line and MTA 7 line.

After succeeding Cuomo, Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2021 directed the Port Authority to evaluate other transportation alternatives. An appointed panel concluded last month that a train would be “most successful” to encourage flyers to take public transit, but it raised concerns about funding and construction challenges. Cost estimates for the AirTrain soared from an initial $450 million to $2.4 billion, and other light rail plans carried an even steeper price tag, of up to $6.2 billion.

Hochul said she supported the recommendation, effectively mothballing the AirTrain.

The appointed panel instead supported the less costly options of improving and adding bus services from two Queens locations. At a projected cost of less than $500 million, both projects would be a more immediate boon and serve an estimated 5 million passengers annually, more than the to 4.7 million predicted to use the AirTrain.

Exclusive bus lane on BQE

One recommendation by the panel is to improve the current MTA Q70 route by adding transit signal priority on Roosevelt Avenue, and creating a mile-long exclusive bus lane on the shoulder of the northbound Brooklyn-Queens Expressway between Northern and Astoria boulevards.

The panel also favors a new nonstop electric bus service from the last stop of the N/W train at the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard MTA Station that is estimated to carry 3 million riders a year.

Some experts held that many residents would continue to drive to LGA, despite modifications intended to cut travel time to the airport.

On a recent morning, there were no Long Islanders getting on the Q70 bus from the Woodside stop or the airport, and less than a handful of out-of-towners were using it to head to Nassau or Suffolk counties. There were a number of airport employees utilizing the service from the 74th Street/Jackson Heights stop.

Armando Galella, from Dunedin, Florida, was on the Q70 visiting his daughter in Hicksville. He said he uses the bus to connect to the LIRR whenever he visits. “It’s convenient,” he said. “I like the mass transit system here. It’s really good.”

Armando Galella waits at the Woodside Station where he can catch...

Armando Galella waits at the Woodside Station where he can catch the Q70 bus to LaGuardia Airport. Credit: Marcus Santos

MTA spokesman David Steckel said the agency does not track exactly how many LIRR customers use the Q70 route but added that approximately 15% of passengers board at the Woodside stop and another 85% at the 74th Street/Jackson Heights stop.

Long Islanders can transfer to the free Q70 bus from the LIRR’s Woodside stop. The Port Authority projects that the Q70’s current annual ridership of 1.9 million would increase by another 1.5 million under the proposed service change.

Only about 7% of travelers are heading or coming from Long Island to get to LGA, and about 48.5% of passengers are heading to or coming from Manhattan, according to a Port Authority survey.

Reluctant Long Island bus riders

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said residents in Suffolk and Nassau will be more resistant to switching to bus service.

“Long Islanders in particular are really reluctant to use buses … they’re much more comfortable with taking a train,” Levy said.

He also added that since renovations at the airport were completed, traffic has eased and most people will continue to do what they're accustomed to doing.

Roseval, with Farmingdale State, added: “We live here, we can get rides from family members and friends whereas tourists will look more to public transportation.”

Several Long Islanders who take the LIRR said they would have preferred some type of connecting rail option like the one at Kennedy Airport.

“We need better transportation. I do a cab or Uber, and it costs a lot of money,” said Port Washington resident Victor Schaefer, 64. Schaefer is flying out of LGA next month with his wife but said the Q70 bus is not an option for him.

"You have to carry luggage on and off the bus. That’s crazy,” Schaefer added.

Westhampton resident Bill Rignola said he just took the AirTrain at JFK and it went smoothly but was upset there are no such options at LGA.

“I have to drive to [LGA]. I get dropped off, but it’s so inconvenient. The bus isn’t as clean and as convenient,” Rignola said.

Yet others grabbing the Q70 bus after a flight said at least the area has transit options for those who need or want it.

Jeanne Taber, 75, of Edina, Minnesota, and her husband Rhett, 76, were on the Q70 bus and planned on later visiting their daughter in Sea Cliff.

“Yeah, it could need an upgrade, but you have stuff,” Taber said, noting there are other cities that lack extensive transportation infrastructure.

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