April 28, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Governor Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that the Q70 bus to LaGuardia Airport will be free for all riders starting Sunday.
The Q70 bus, which operates 24 hours a day, connects LaGuardia Airport to the 61st Street–Woodside station with its only stop being the Jackson Heights 74th Street station. Once the bus arrives at the airport it drops passengers off at Terminals B, C and D.
The bus service is currently free to ride on select weekends, holidays and for two hours after swiping a MetroCard.
Hochul said the MTA will scrap the $2.75 fee entirely from May 1 in order to make it easier for travelers and to boost ridership—thereby helping the environment.
“This not only adds cash back into riders’ wallets, it serves as an attractive, cost-efficient and greener option to travel to LaGuardia while we work on longer-term solutions,” Hochul said at an MTA board meeting Wednesday.
The scrapping of the bus fare is seen as a stopgap measure as the state looks to provide a more efficient public transit connection to LaGuardia.
The Port Authority, with the support of former Governor Andrew Cuomo, originally planned to construct a 1.5 mile AirTrain from Willets Point to the airport, which Hochul put on hold in order to study other options.
The state is now reviewing 14 potential proposals including the AirTrain. These involve subway extensions, light rail routes, new bus routes and ferry service.
Nevertheless, the announcement to offer the Q70 for free was welcomed by leaders of the public transit group Riders Alliance, which has been advocating for the fare to be removed for years.
Danny Pearlstein, the director of policy and communications at Riders Alliance, called the announcement “historic” and said it will encourage more residents to use public transportation.
Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement at the MTA Monthly Board Meeting on April 27th that the NYC Transit Q70 LaGuardia Link Bus would now be free is old news. Using either your Metro or OMNY fare card provided a free transfer from the E, F, M, R and 7 subway trains at 74th Street Roosevelt Avenue Jackson Heights subway station when traveling to the airport. The same free transfer was provided in the opposite direction when first boarding at LaGuardia Airport. What could have been new, would be resumption of the long forgotten other bus link to LaGuardia Airport. Hochul, her transit advisor and ghost speech writers all overlooked one of the previous NYC seven private franchised bus operators Triboro Coach who once operated the Q57 express bus. It ran from the Queensbridge NYC Transit subway station at 21st Street and 41st Avenue served by the F train to LaGuardia Airport in 1990. It was marketed as the “QT (Quick Trip) LaGuardia Express” bus route. The service was discontinued in May 1991 due to lower than expected ridership. The service ran every 20 minutes, arriving at the airport in 25 minutes, and stopping at all terminals. The route operated via 21st Street and Astoria Boulevard to LaGuardia Airport. Service was provided from 21st Street between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and from LaGuardia between 6:35 a.m. and 11 p.m. Restoration of this service might only require twelve buses to maintain a ten minute headway along with operating assistance to cover deficits. Farebox revenue will not meet all operating costs. The MTA and airlines would also have to market this new route along with other existing subway to airport bus connections.
This would save five or more minutes for those currently traveling to and from Manhattan to the Jackson Heights 74th Street Roosevelt Avenue subway Station who use the Q70 LaGuardia Air Link connection. The service could start within months versus waiting up to ten years for construction of a new air train, light rail, subway or commuter rail link.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office) .