LGA to Stamford, CT?
September 13, 2011 9:57 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get from La Guardia airport (LGA) to Stamford, CT during the evening rush hour? A lot of details inside.

My flight arrives at 5:20pm on a Thursday. I will not have checked baggage. It appears to me that my options include the following:

1. a shared van service (either CT Limo or GO Airport) directly from the airport to Stamford which will cost around $60 - $70 and take, I hope, between 60 and 90 minutes depending on traffic and on where it drops people off, etc.

2. the "NYC Airporter" bus to Grand Central followed by a Metro North train to Stamford. This will cost around $25 bucks total, but it appears that it could take as long as 3 hours total depending on how well the schedules end up meshing.

3. M60 bus to 125th Street, Metro North to Stamford. This is probably the cheapest option (under $20 total), and may be quickish as well, but I don't have a sense of how long the M60 takes to get to 125th or what it's like to ride it with a carryon suitcase and man-purse thing.

4. Taxi to GCT + metro north to stamford for a total of around 50 bucks and a travel time of 90 - 120 minutes.

5. Taxi directly to Stamford, which I'm sure would be the fastest and most convenient, but I assume that if I could even get a driver to agree to take me would end up being cost-prohibitive because it would be off-meter and I'd probably have to pay the driver for his return trip.

Some conditions / limitations:

- I am unemployed and would prefer to limit cost if possible.
- I really need to make it to Stamford by 8PM if at all possible.

Additional datum:

-I spent my teenage years in Connecticut and lived in NYC for 5 years as an adult, so am comfortable in concept with navigating the city and the transit system, but this was some time ago, so I am not familiar with any newer options or any changes that have happened in the last 6 or 7 years.

Anyway, I'm leaning toward either option 1 (the CT Limo / GO Airport solution) or option 3 (the M60 to 125th St. / Metro North to Stamford solution), but here (finally!) are my questions:

1. Given my limitations above, are there any decent options I don't know about / haven't mentioned?

2. Anyone with recent experience with any of these options have any advice / warnings / strong opinions one way or the other?

3. CT Limo vs. GO airport: is one better? Is it likely necessary to book in advance? (I could book in advance, but what if my flight is delayed...)

4. The M60: have you ridden it from LGA? At rush hour? How crowded is it? How slow? Any caveats?

Thanks in advance for wading through all these dreary, overthought, overwritten details.
posted by dersins to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (13 answers total)
I can certainly recommend something you should avoid -- anything that involves automotive transport on I-95. That stretch of highway, from approximately New Haven to New York, has THE ABSOLUTE WORST TRAFFIC YOU WILL EXPERIENCE IN YOUR LIFE, even when it's not rush hour. Trying to do that in rush hour could TRIPLE the length of your trip.

That being the case, I would avoid the CT Limo or the shared van service, because you WILL get stuck in traffic and you WILL be late. TRUST me.

What you COULD do, though: is take a taxi to Grand Central instead, and then get Metro North. It'll be a bit more expensive (the taxi from the airport to Grand Central will be about $35), but it'll be far quicker than the subway from LGA to Grand Central. And a one-way from NYC to Stamford isn't that much on top of that -- especially since you may end up catching the off-peak fares depending on what time you arrive in Grand Central. NYC to Stamford on Metro North is just under an hour.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2011

I've done the M60 bus from LGA, although I don't take it all the way into Manhattan (I usually end up getting off in Astoria and connect to the N train.) As it's the primary public-transit connection between LGA and Manhattan, I'd say that every other passenger has a bag with them. It won't be the most comfortable trip you ever take, but it'll get the job done, and in your situation, that's what I'd do. Figure on 30-40 minutes from LGA to 125th Street.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2011

Seconding deadmessenger, the M60 will take about 30 to 40 minutes to get you to the Metro North stop on 125th. I take it to the end at 106 and Broadway, and that generally take about 45 minutes to an hour. The bus is equipped with luggage racks. It does get crowded, although if you are at the first terminal pickup (I think it's Delta) you should be able to get your bag stowed and find a seat. It's probably the choice I would make too.
posted by kimdog at 10:11 AM on September 13, 2011

I can certainly recommend something you should avoid -- anything that involves automotive transport on I-95.

Yes, this. You will come to an immediate stop the minute you hit Greenwich. And that's true when it's not even rush hour. You could walk to Stamford faster. I don't know which of 2,3, or 4 would be better, but DO NOT do 1 or 5.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:31 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and though you shouldn't do it this trip, I feel compelled to point out that in the future if you take a limo there's Red Dot, too, which will also drop you off at a location you choose. Just for another price comparison.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2011

Hi - I work in Stamford and do this trip somewhat frequently.

I'm going to be contrary here and say I'd do option 1, personally, for the ease of travel - you get from point A to point B without any stops in between, so no need to lug your carry-on around. Yes, you will hit rush hour traffic, but you should still make it to Stamford by 8p with plenty of time to spare - and truly, if you're not driving yourself, sitting in traffic isn't that big of a deal, as presumably you'll have a book or some other entertainment from the flight. I only have experience w/CT Limo and have never had any problems.

Lugging your bag on and off hot and crowded public transport just to save a few bucks and/or traffic time is not worth it to me, but of course YMMV.
posted by widdershins at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2011

If it were me, I'd take a yellow cab to 31st Street and Ditmars in Astoria (10 minutes and $10ish, and you get to get in a shorter "within Queens" cab line) and get on the N train at it's terminal. It's the last stop, trains will be leaving every 5-10 minutes, and because it's the start of the line, you WILL get a seat. Buy a single ride ticket for $2.50. Take that toward Manhattan and transfer at Queensboro to the 7 (easy transfer, directly across the platform), and this will take you to Grand Central. You should be at Grand Central by 6:30, as long as your plane is on time.

Bonus, when you get on the N/Q at Ditmars, sit toward the front of the train (toward where the elevated "house" is at the end of the platform where the train dispatchers are.). If you transfer to the 7 straight across the platform from the front of the train, you'll end up by the escalators in Grand Central and you won't have to climb a bajillion flights of stairs. I usually sit in the second or third car because I'd rather have a seat than stand in the crowded front car where everyone else who wants to be close to the escalator is.

Metro North will be at peak fare (peak is anything that departs from 4pm-8pm), but it's only $12.25. Make sure you buy your ticket at a machine in Grand Central, buying it on board is 50% more expensive. If your train is leaving from one of the downstairs tracks (numbered 100-something), there are ticket machines scattered around downstairs, you can just go straight down there.

Stamford is a hub, so pretty much every train on the New Haven line stops there. Go to mta.info and print out the schedule between GCT and Stamford from, say, 5:30pm-7:30pm. You may not want to get on the next train that's leaving, you want to get on the train that gets there the soonest. Example: the 6:45 gets to Stamford at 7:52, but the 6:55 gets to Stamford at 7:39.

I wouldn't get the train at 125th. It's the same price, and it's rush hour so the train will probably be full and you may not get a seat.

Total cost: $25-30 (depending on the cab), and you won't have to deal with a crowded annoying bus or the hell that is I-95 at rush hour.

I'm from Fairfield County, commuted for several years to NY, now live in Queens. I have given a LOT of thought to getting around cheaply but still relatively pleasantly. Also I can't believe I typed this much about this.)
posted by AlisonM at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yes. Cheapest option will be M60 to 125th Street, New Haven Line to Stamford. If your flight is on time, you could make it to Stamford by 8, though it will be close. I take that bus whenever going to/from the airport to 125th and what everyone has said above is spot-on. Not a particularly jolly ride, but entirely bearable and manageable.

If for some reason you need to take a taxi from the airport, call Dial 7 once you land instead - better service for the same price (and you usually get a $5 off coupon for the next time if there is one).
posted by xiaolongbao at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2011

As another data point - reading your options, my gut says to go with #3. I've taken that bus and it's pretty good and you avoid the madness of midtown at rush hour. Never had a problem with carrying luggage on the buses from/to the airport, but I generally pack pretty light.
posted by valeries at 10:44 AM on September 13, 2011

Oh, I said "get on the N at Ditmars" but you can also take the other train that starts there, the Q. They both stop at Queensboro, where you'll get the 7.
posted by AlisonM at 10:46 AM on September 13, 2011

My family lives in Riverside, CT. I do the drive or CT limo whenever I get home (or the Dad Limo, if he is up for it).

It is usually a 45 minute drive without traffic, even with bad traffic you'd be looking at getting in around 7:30 or so at exactly your destination with something like a limo service, compared to just making it to Stamford train station at 8 (and then getting from there to wherever you need to go).
posted by mrzarquon at 11:39 AM on September 13, 2011

AlisonM has it. The N or Q to Ditmars, transfer to Queensboro, to Grand Central, then Metro North to Stamford.
This is only about 10 bucks more than the M60/Metro North option, but way less traffic and less chance of being late.
posted by lockedroomguy at 3:09 PM on September 13, 2011

Something else I sometimes do: rent a car one way. I get the car for twenty-four hours. Often the Hertz rate for a one-way rental can be < $80, and they also do a per-mile refuel that means no need to buy gas (you don't pay the refuel charge like for a normal rental, but pay per mile instead - it's reasonable). I can choose my route, etc. plus I'm mobile for the first day.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 6:10 PM on September 13, 2011

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