Two of New York City’s major airports—John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia—seem so close and yet so far away for many people traveling between the airfields and their homes or hotels around the five boroughs.
Geographically, LaGuardia Airport is located eight miles and JFK Airport is just 11 miles from midtown Manhattan. This small distance should make the airports very accessible in a very short time, but the traffic on roads leading to them makes a shuttle commute seem longer than a trip around the world.
Congestion has been a problem virtually since LaGuardia opened in 1939, followed by JFK (then known as Idlewild) in 1948. City planners have been trying to find a solution for constant traffic jams for years, but to no avail.
Just last week, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) held a public meeting on its LaGuardia Airport Access Alernatives Project, which aims to find a new and better way for passengers to get to this airport nestled in Flushing Bay between Astoria and East Elmhurst.
The only real roadway directly serving the airfield is the Grand Central Parkway, which can be a bottleneck at virtually any time of the day.
Those more familiar with Queens use side streets to get there; the MTA also provides four local bus lines that service the area. The DOT indicated that its study found most trips between LaGuardia and points in Manhattan take about 45 minutes each way because of the constant congestion on nearby roads.
The same set of difficulties prevail at JFK, as can be attested by anyone who’s traveled to the airport by using the Van Wyck Expressway or the Belt Parkway. But travelers do have one other public transportation option: the AirTrain, which links their airport to subway stations in Howard Beach and Jamaica, as well as the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station.
However, both landing fields have one thing in common aside from vehicle traffic woes: they are both off major waterways, and the prospect of ferry or water taxi service is always mentioned as a passing idea.
Manhattan is an island. It is surrounded by water, and ferry service to and from both airports sounds like the most logical form of transportation. There is more ferry service to and from Manhattan than ever before. Why not expand it?
LaGuardia was originally built by the bay to accomodate the seaplanes that dominated air travel during the 1930s and 40s. Today, both major runways have been extended over the bay and makes landing seem as if the plane is heading straight for an airline carrier in mid-ocean.
Even so, there is still room to accommodate passenger ferry service. Aside from buying boats and hiring personnel to operate them, there are no other major infrastructure costs. It’s an idea that could prove more effective and efficient than other, more costly solutions.
Besides, what better introduction can visitors to the City of New York have than a scenic and swift boat ride to Manhattan?
And yet, at the meeting, someone proposed creating a bike lane on the Grand Central Parkway to LaGuardia before suggesting ferry service. Did anyone think of how travelers would carry their luggage while pedaling to and from the airport?
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