Test run: We tried Via's $15 flat-rate rides from LGA
Last week, Via introduced flat-rate shared rides from LaGuardia Airport starting at just $15. In true TPG fashion, we wanted to it test out so at 4 p.m. on a Friday evening, I set out to give the service, called "LGA Connect," a shot.
LGA Connect offers travelers $15 rides to Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and $20 rides to the Bronx and Staten Island 24/7. These rides are shared, which is part of what makes them so cheap. In terms of price, however, if you're not taking public transit for $2.75 then it's hard to beat a $15 flat-rate ride from LaGuardia otherwise.
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Now let's talk about why I loved this new ride-hailing option.
For starters, rides from LaGuardia can be quite pricey depending on your arrival time and time spent navigating the never-ending construction. Can you say surge pricing? I once spent nearly an hour waiting on a Lyft after multiple cancellations. However, I've also been picked up fairly quickly on other occasions. It's always a gamble when hailing a ride at LGA, earning it a spot on TPG's list of most expensive airports in the U.S.
How to book
When you open up the app and type in LGA as your location, you'll be given the option to book a regular Via ride or LGA Connect, which is only available at terminals C and D.
Once you select LGA Connect, you'll be given an estimated pickup time to which I received a quote of 5 minutes. I accepted it and my Via promptly made its way to me.
When I requested the ride, I wasn't at the pickup spot yet because I was used to a "5 minute" quote turning into 10 with Lyft and Uber. I quickly learned that Via is a stickler on time and picked up my pace to get to the pickup area as the car's arrival loomed closer.
When I arrived to the pickup area, I was immediately greeted by a Via help desk, where I'm assuming an agent would typically direct riders. However, at the time I arrived the gentleman was helping another traveler.
Related: Your guide to Taxis, Ubers and Lyft during LaGuardia's airport construction
All of the Via vans were lined up curbside with clearly marked signage. I was impressed with the curbside pickup and thankful that I didn't have to wait under the cluster of other ride-share tents, searching for my ride. The Via attendant asked who was picking me up and promptly directed me to the proper van where I joined two other passengers.
All together, this quite literally took the 5 minutes Via quoted me from the time of request to time of pick up. The process was seamless. If I had already been waiting in the pickup area when I requested the ride, I'm confident I could have been able to hop in the van within 2 minutes or so.
So what about the shared aspect of this service? I didn't mind the company and if we're being honest, most people won't bug you. I only rode along with two others, which made for a very comfortable ride in the large Mercedes Metris. Some may even say that the legroom could pass as a poor man's business — look at all that space!
The worst part about the ride was the traffic, but that was to be expected given the time. I took the Via from LaGuardia to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square with a tourist's commute in mind. As someone who lives in Brooklyn, my commute from the airport is usually pretty brief at 30 minutes max during rush hour. To say I wasn't prepared for the hour and 15-minute ride into Manhattan would be an understatement.
Around 5 p.m. we finally made our way into Manhattan and 30 minutes later I was the second to be dropped off.
Lyft and Uber pricing
While I was enjoying my $15 Via ride into the city, Lyft and Uber were offering shared rides for $56-$75. And if you wanted the luxury of a private ride, you'd have to pay a whopping $76-$89.
LGA Connect is a game changer in terms of ride-share price for those constantly commuting form the airport and especially for tourists. It also seems like Via's got its pickup process down to a science. If you want to limit your time waiting around the airport, then Via is definitely the best option. The quick curbside pickup is convenient and alleviates the stress and confusion that is LGA Airport pick ups.
If you're looking for the most economical option, you can also take the bus to the subway from LGA for $2.75. All you have to do is hop on the Q70 bus to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station where you can catch the 7, E, F, R and M trains to your destination.
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Featured courtesy of Via.