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LaGuardia is a Gridlocked Disaster and Must Be Avoided

Aug. 23, 2016
4 min read
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LaGuardia is a Gridlocked Disaster and Must Be Avoided
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Update 2/10/17: While the situation at LGA has improved somewhat since this post was published almost six months ago, traffic is still such an issue that passengers occasionally need to get out on the highway just to catch their flights:

From leaky ceilings to backed up gates, LaGuardia Airport has been in a state of disrepair for quite some time. But, despite the airport's overall state, it's still the go-to pick for many New Yorkers, due only to its proximity to Midtown.

Now, while it's physically located just eight miles from Manhattan, LGA might as well be in Philadelphia — in some cases, it'll take you just as long to get to LaGuardia as it will Philadelphia International Airport, some 100 miles south of NYC. The reason? Gridlocked traffic, which now plagues the airport at most hours of the day.

I flew into LGA earlier this month and waited 45 minutes for my Uber to arrive, even though it was less than a mile from the terminal. From there, it was 15 minutes to get out of the airport (from the very end of the main terminal) and stop-and-go traffic most of the way to Lower Manhattan. I made it to my destination roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes after first arriving at the curb.

The official NYC Airports Twitter feed recommends taking public transportation, but LGA doesn't offer train or subway service, and buses end up stuck in the same traffic as Taxis and Ubers.

So what are these public transportation options we're now expected to utilize? They're MTA buses, available only from Upper Manhattan or Queens. Here's a selection of routes you can use to get from Midtown to LGA, but note that the transit times are wildly inaccurate — budget up to an extra hour for the bus to navigate traffic at the terminal.

Bus options from Midtown Manhattan.
Bus options from Midtown Manhattan.

With the current traffic insanity, scenes like the below are now the norm. Rather than risk missing flights, passengers can often be seen walking from their cars to the terminal.

Fortunately, there is some light at the end of the tunnel — following the airport's massive $4 billion construction project, we'll have a state-of-the-art terminal complex that you'll actually want to fly through. For the next few years, though, expect massive en-route delays, both when you're heading to catch your flight and when you're making your way back to NYC. If you have no choice by to fly through LaGuardia, budget an extra hour or two — while you may end up arriving a bit earlier than you otherwise would, at least there's a very appealing lounge available to help you pass the time.

I'm now avoiding any travel through LGA, instead focusing my efforts on Newark Airport, which offers nonstop United flights to more than 100 destinations around the world. Following eased slot restrictions, other airlines, such as Alaska and Southwest, are making a big Newark push as well. If you time your travel right (departing in the early morning and returning late at night), it's entirely possible to get between parts of Manhattan and Newark Airport in just 20 minutes. And, while you'll drive far past LaGuardia to get there, JFK is generally a better option as well, since once you get to the airport you can expect smooth sailing to your terminal (most of the time).

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Are you avoiding LGA during this massive construction project?