The wheels on the bus go round and round

Simple, predictable stops. Regular service. Good connections. The Q70 isn’t a train, it’s a bus line that actually works.

Buses have always been the stepchild of New York City’s mass transit system, and LaGuardia Airport is the butt of every commercial aviation joke.

But put the two stalwarts together and you get a nearly magical experience, at least until you remember that you’re still stuck at the gate.

Last week, the MTA acknowledged the usefulness of one of NYC transit’s pleasant surprises — the Q70 Limited bus to LaGuardia, which will enjoy boosted service starting in the spring.

The bus picks up passengers from the LIRR at Woodside and the subway at Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue and continues to LaGuardia. Passengers can go from midtown to New York’s very own “third-world airport” in just over half an hour, barring traffic.

The increased service will cut wait times, with buses running every eight minutes during the day and every 20 minutes at night. And by the end of the year the MTA plans to make the Q70 a select bus line, with riders purchasing tickets before entering to speed the vehicle along.

A bus that solves a problem

The Q70, originally introduced in 2013, is a point of focus for the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group that pointed to the Q70 as a practical solution while the city waits for a direct rail link from airport to city which was proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year.

That project is targeted to take five years to complete and has a nearly half-billion-dollar price tag, so we’ll hold our breath to see whether it’s done before the Second Avenue subway.

In the meantime, the Riders Alliance wants the Q70, transformed into a free shuttle between LaGuardia and the subway, to serve as a convenient, simple option.

The MTA hasn’t made changes on pricing or branding yet, but Nick Sifuentes of the Riders Alliance calls the increased service a “10 percent success” at least, and was gratified that the MTA was addressing the issue.

Sifuentes says the bus system is a major point of concern for Riders Alliance — making them faster, through dedicated bus lanes, more select bus service, and new technology, such as transponders which communicate with traffic lights to extend green lights slightly as buses are approaching.

Failing to pay attention to buses is a very “Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn-centric approach.” The outer boroughs rely on the workhorses for transport.

“We hear from riders all the time that buses need improvement, that they’re not working for them,” he says, citing bunching — when there’s no buses in sight and then suddenly two in a row — and long waits.

The fastest way to LGA, except when it’s not

At Roosevelt Avenue, the buses load up visitors and airport workers alike directly from the subway, and take them straight to the airport.

Robert Broaddus, 45, had taken the Q70 on the way to Manhattan and was about to take it back to LaGuardia. He took a cab once a few years ago, which he says cost $70. “Never gonna do that again,” he says.

Of course, they’re still buses, and it’s still LaGuardia.

This was John Tyler’s second time waiting for the Q70 in as many days, on the tail end of a visit to his boyfriend. On Monday night, his bus was stuck for three hours in a monumental traffic jam en route to LaGuardia, the result of a car fire and congestion on the Grand Central Parkway from the missed flights after our blizzard weekend.

Though they weren’t far from the exit ramp, the bus driver couldn’t let them off, Tyler, 33, says, even as passengers in taxis and private cars got out of their vehicles and hustled toward the pit of air despair, a stream of red lights ahead.

Tyler took the setback with good bus-rider stoicism, saying the Q70 was “actually a lot quicker and cheaper” than any other option.

He shrugs. “I had a place to go,” he says.

Mark Chiusano


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