It’s No Sky Train, But LaGuardia Airport Is Getting a Speedy Bus Service

m60 Its No Sky Train, But LaGuardia Airport Is Getting a Speedy Bus Service

M60: Not stuck in traffic anymore. (The Daily News)

Castles, trains, there are a lot of things we’d like to build in the sky, but it’s just not going to happen. So while LaGuardia Airport may not be getting a sleek new air train anytime soon, it will at least be getting some select bus routes.

The city announced today that there will be three new potential Select Bus Service routes to LaGuardia Airport as well as local bus service improvements, including a faster crosstown service on 125th Street. The new services could potentially reduce travel times to the rather disconnected airport by anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes.

“Select Bus Service improves travel times, enhances safety and increases ridership wherever we have installed it,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a release.“This new Select Bus Service to LaGuardia will not only cut travel time for people flying in and out of New York, but it will also benefit New Yorkers who commute to work at the airport every day from Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx.”

The plan, largely based around small efficient improvements like streamlined stops, bus-only lanes and transit signal priority technology to keep buses from getting stuck at traffic lights, highlights the city’s near obsessive design school thinking, where small changes can lead to big savings and metrics become an end in themselves.

The city is not known for downplaying its accomplishments, and it accompanied the news about the new service to LaGuardia by crowing about how great its fourth Select Bus Service on Staten Island’s S79 route is. A service that, “improved bus speeds by as much as 20 percent, with passenger satisfaction at up to 98 percent.”

Not that LaGuardia Airport couldn’t use a little design school thinking.  The airport itself served more than 24 million customers in 2011 and employs some 8,000 people, all of whom are served by just five current bus routes, which are often slowed by delays and congestion. Routes like the M60 service that are stopped, according to the release, more than 60 percent of the time and travel as slow as 2.7 mph across 125th Street. Since the area lacks easy access to subway lines, these already crowded local routes serve both local residents and air passengers with their accompanying luggage.

It’s a situation where almost anything would be a step in the right direction and for any traveler who has nearly suffered a panic attack watching traffic creep along toward the airport as boarding time approaches, we’re sure select bus service seems like a very big step indeed.

kdillon@observer.com