m60bus-plane-nyc-busmap

Want to be transported from LaGuardia Airport to New York City for the grand total of $2.25? Or $1.10 if you’re a Senior? Easy! Jump aboard the M60 Bus.

At first I had hesitated taking that bus. I had read too many downbeat reviews and still had too many questions about it. The M60 is not an airport bus so you can’t just hand over your luggage to be conveniently stowed away in a luggage compartment. It’s a regular city bus. Usually packed with standing passengers, city buses have narrow aisles, which means lots of bumping into other riders and their bulky paraphernalia. Add a passel of traveler’s luggage and no matter how small or compact those suitcases, I couldn’t imagine a scenario that didn’t include irate New Yorkers bellowing about suitcases smacking, tripping, or just plain annoying them.

Next was the question of travel time. For me, the closest M60 bus stop is 125th Street in Harlem (the bus starts at 106th St. and Broadway). Unfamiliar with uptown traffic patterns, I couldn’t really gauge how much time the overall trip would take. Some riders complained the bus had taken far longer then the 40 minutes claimed by the Transit Authority.

But Flying into La Guardia in heavy winds after Christmas, I finally decided to give the M60 a whirl. After I located the bus stop in the usual chaos outside the terminal, my next goal was not to develop frostbite while waiting and shivering in the icy wind. Next to me a young man in a thin jacket with a muffler wrapped around his head, was jumping up and down to keep warm. Ten minutes later the M60 appeared, and instead of pulling into our stop, the bus zoomed straight ahead. Yikes – the driver was brazenly passing us—leaving us to freeze our tails off. Charging into action, the young man jumped into the street and waved his arms to flag the driver down. Brakes were hit hard and we piled aboard with our luggage. I asked the driver where the bus stopped in Manhattan and approximately how many stops we had before hitting 125th Street. Apparently my questions demanded more time to answer than he had at his disposal so, after being impatiently waved on, I quickly confiscated a rare, vacant single seat, and parked my suitcase beside me in the aisle. Numerous other suitcases littered the aisles, some definitely not small. But the bus was only half full and no one seemed to notice or mind.

After a few quick stops at other terminals, we hit the main highway. Great. It would be clear sailing from here into the city. Wrong. In Queens we pulled up at another bus stop. Then another…and so on for maybe 10 more local stops. Then, golden lights twinkling all around us, the bus, solidly packed with standing passengers swaying among the suitcases, crossed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge into Manhattan. But yippee for my wallet – there was no $5.00 toll to pay nor any cabdriver’s tip to be handed over at the end of the line.

After we wheeled into 125th Street the driver announced, “Next stop, Second Avenue.” Good news. Maybe we’d also stop at Third Avenue, then Lexington, where I could grab further transport for my last leg home. And voila. The bus stopped at Lexington and 125th street, the heart of Harlem. It was almost dark now. With few tall buildings to break the icy gusts, I dragged my suitcase to the corner and tried to get my bearings. Clearly I could forget about cabs. There wasn’t a scrap of yellow anywhere in the streets. Subways were out too, even if I could find a station. There was no way I was schlepping my weighty suitcase up and down steep flights of subway stairs, in addition to climbing my own brownstone’s stairs. So a bus it had to be. The corner bus signs were not encouraging. All the buses went to Randalls Island – the opposite direction from home.

Apparently question marks were written all over me, because a man at the bus stop stepped forward. “Where do you want to go?”

“Down town.” I replied. And minutes later, thanks to the helpful stranger, I boarded a Lexington Avenue bus. Fare – zip; it was part of the transfer fare. By this time it was the height of rush hour, but you couldn’t have guessed it from the small number of bus passengers and the thin traffic this far uptown. After zooming forty blocks south, I disembarked, and clamored the final two blocks to my apartment. Richer by over $40.00 that a cab would have cost me, I felt a sense of exuberance. I had done it. I had cracked the insider’s code and taken my first trip on the elusive M60. But while I had come through without mishap, the bus was clearly not for the faint-hearted or those who valued their comfort.

For all others planning a future trip to or from LaGuardia Airport, hop aboard the M60 and save yourself some pretty travel pennies.

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