They say things always get worse before they get better. In the case of LaGuardia Airport, a model for bad airports nationwide, “worse” has arrived in dramatic fashion.
Traffic around the entrances and exits to LaGuardia was hopelessly snarled today, exacerbated by the airport’s ongoing renovations, causing delays and missed flights.
Passengers flooded social media with tweets and photos of people abandoning cabs and cars along the Grand Central Parkway off-ramp to walk to terminals lugging suitcases, strollers, and babies down the highway shoulder.
Jennifer Schulze left the Upper West Side in a cab with her two daughters three hours before their 2:00 p.m. flight on United back to Chicago, where she lives. “We knew it was going to be tough getting to LaGuardia but holy hell. You roll up and the traffic just stops, and it stays stopped,” Schulze told the Voice.
Have never seen anything like traffic at LGA. Ppl just getting out of taxis and cars on GCP & walking. pic.twitter.com/FC5N9EPcTK
— katie rosman (@katierosman) August 22, 2016
Schulze said that passengers started getting out of cabs near the off-ramp on the Grand Central Parkway. “You realize, ‘I am never going to make my flight.’ I’m sitting here and people are just bailing from their cars,” she said. So Schulze and her daughters, frequent visitors to the city, eventually ditched their cab (the fare nearly doubled because of the delays) and joined the exodus, walking along the shoulder toward their terminal.
They passed a line for cabs leaving the airport that was “shockingly long,” one Schulze says rivaled the record TSA lines at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in May. When they finally arrived, their United flight was delayed: An attendant scheduled to work their flight was stuck in traffic.
— Jennifer Schulze (@WindyCityMom) August 22, 2016
Katie Rosman, a reporter for The New York Times, spent over two hours in traffic on the Grand Central and surrounding service roads trying to get to a parking lot. While at a standstill, she asked a police officer standing in the road what was going on. “We’re building you a new airport, that’s what’s going on,” he said.
Rosman missed her flight to Palm Beach, Florida, and had to pay a fee to be rebooked on another one leaving four hours later.
“Those people had a far walk, and they almost certainly got there faster,” Rosman told the Voice. “A lot had babies, strollers, big bags, men in business suits. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
A Port Authority spokeswoman said today’s gridlock was an unfortunate “confluence of events,” including an earlier security breach inside Terminal B, recently changed traffic patterns and lane closures, and heightened traffic caused by flight delays and cancellations following last night’s weather. Traffic will ease as the construction phases are completed, and in the meantime the Port Authority is encouraging passengers to take public transportation, including the LaGuardia-only Q70 bus, whenever possible.
To help ease the gridlock, the Port Authority recently relocated taxi stands away from drop-off and pick-up areas. Free parking is available for up to two hours in lot P-10 for drivers waiting to pick up passengers. And an alternate pick-up location was created for passengers arriving in Terminal B; a shuttle provides transportation from arrivals to the lot.
The major renovation of New York’s Third-World Airport began this year with Terminal B, part one of a $5.3 billion overhaul, and is expected to last until 2024. The airport will remain fully operational throughout the project. Officials recently told the Wall Street Journal that traffic is expected to significantly improve this fall with the use of temporary roadways. Two lanes in Terminal B are currently closed for construction. In March, a single pothole on one runway, two feet by eight feet, delayed dozens of planes.
“I appreciate that they’re trying to change [LaGuardia airport],” Schulze says. “But the idea that the greatest city in the world didn’t have a better plan to deal with this today is so surprising. I will not in a million years fly through LaGuardia.”