As we jump into the holidays, most of us are antsy to get the heck out of dodge after finals. If you tend to head out of America’s favorite B-tier flying option in New York City (NYC), the infamous LaGuardia Airport (LGA), then this article is for you. While Vassar College offers a shuttle to LGA for the not-insignificant cost of $50, I implore you to take a moment to consider public transit options instead that can get you there in a bit more time, but for under half the cost. Yeah, I’m not kidding—it’s half the cost. If you look closer, NYC commuter transit is incredibly useful for travel, and the route from campus to LGA is not that difficult.
First, Vassar’s shuttles to Poughkeepsie Station are free to use, making the first step of your journey free of cost. And if the timing of those shuttles doesn’t work for you, try the bus. It surprises me how few students realize that the entire Dutchess County bus system is free to use with the presentation of a Vassar ID. According to Dutchess County Public Transit, the L Route (Main Street Shuttle) stops at campus and runs around much of Poughkeepsie’s downtown. It’s about a 16 minute bus ride on the Eastbound option, and it’s cheaper than whatever you can get from a company like Lyft or Uber, costing on average just over $10 according to AboutList.org.
Once you’re at the train station, you’ll want to ride the MTA Metro-North into New York City. Trains leave Poughkeepsie station on the 45th minute of each hour, (8:45, 9:45, etc) and it will take about an hour and 45 minutes to get into the city. If you travel in off-peak hours, the ticket is only $19.25, as opposed to $25.75 for peak hours, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. If you ride the train all the way to Grand Central Terminal, you can access any train option from the heart of Manhattan, and the NYC Subway, which can take you just about anywhere (including JFK). Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Hey transit geek Harrison, doesn’t LaGuardia famously not have a metro stop?” to which I respond, “The metro isn’t the only public transportation in the city! Try the M60!”
If you instead stop at Harlem/125th St. (right before Grand Central) and walk a block and a half to the 125 St./Lexington Ave. bus stop, you can board the M60-SBS (Select Bus Service) which services LaGuardia airport. This is the only part of the journey that requires a little bit of navigation, but I promise it’s super simple. It’s a three-minute, 0.1-mile walk to the bus stop, as seen in the Google Maps screenshot. The bus fare is $1.50, and you can board with luggage because plenty of New Yorkers use the bus to get in and out of LGA too. It will stop throughout Queens before stopping at Terminals D, C, B and A, in that order. From Lexington Ave., the journey is about 30 minutes. Then you can go catch your flight! I’ve made this journey at least 5 times now, and nothing has gone wrong yet.
If you want your trip to be even simpler, download OMNY, MYmta and TrainTime on your phone. OMNY, or One Metro New York, is a contactless payment system for all NYC public transit, including metro and bus, per the website. I registered my smart wallet credit card with OMNY and can tap to pay and enter the bus or metro system easily. While designed for frequent travelers, it makes using NYC transit infinitely more convenient for even just occasional use. MYmta and TrainTime are both available on the Apple App Store and Google Play for your smart device, according to the MTA. TrainTime can help you buy online tickets and search for departures for Metro-North and other trains. MYmta serves a similar purpose, and you can use it to track the location of the next arriving subway, train or bus that you need to catch. After I arrive in Harlem on the Metro-North, I use MYmta to see how long I have to wait at the bus stop before the bus gets there, and it makes the process less stressful.
Looking at the total cost of the journey, it’s $19.25 plus $1.50, assuming you’re off-peak, and $25.75 plus $1.50 during peak times, totaling to either $20.75 or $27.25, both a pretty penny less than the $50 one-way shuttle Vassar offers. And while the shuttle runs at only specific times, you can leave campus early using these options if your finals schedule allows you to. According to Google Maps, it will take between an hour and a half to two hours by car using the shuttle, while the public transit will take likely two and a half hours, so the shuttle is certainly faster and more convenient. But supporting public transportation is important now more than ever: Metro-North is currently at 80% of its pre-pandemic ridership, and the subway and bus ridership range between 54% and 73% of what it had before COVID-19 hit, according to the MTA. These vital, publicly run systems are facing much less use, and to maintain them, it’s important that we use them wherever possible.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of an extra $20-30 saved, and give yourself the gift of public transit—because it ought to be valued. The Vassar shuttle is easier, but it’s worth looking at all the options before making the decision that works best for you and your travel plans.