LaGuardia Airport Redesign Fails To Address Key Concerns

After an $8 billion renovation, critics of the much-maligned airport claim the design is disjointed, while public transit access to the new terminals remains minimal.

June 12, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


In a piece for Bloomberg CityLab, James S. Russell describes the $8 billion renovation of “America’s most reviled airport,” New York’s LaGuardia.

Despite the massive investment in the modernization of the new terminals, the airport is, as Russell writes, “trapped in the husk of its reviled predecessor.” This is because “the ‘new’ LaGuardia’s expansion was constrained on a site that opened to pontooned flying boats and DC-3s in 1939. From the air, it looks like taffy pulled in several directions. Recently constructed buildings and roads had to dodge and weave among the detritus of boneheaded decisions past, including bits of the older terminals that had to remain in service as new ones were constructed.”

According to Russell, “Coherence and passenger-calming clarity in wayfinding have always been held sacrosanct by airport designers. But the new Terminal B — while a vast improvement that has been greeted with praise and was awarded the 2021 Prix Versailles, UNESCO’s annual architecture prize — is among the most idiosyncratic that air travelers are likely to encounter.” However, “Despite its busyness, the Terminal B pleases with its detailed focus on its users, from the new, roomier bathrooms to the unintimidating security checkpoint.” Russell goes on to describe Terminal C, designed by and for Delta to maximize efficiency and ease of experience for travelers.

The refreshed airport comes with another caveat: “Access to the airport is likely to continue to induce havoc, since there’s a lingering lack of roadway and parking capacity.” The airport continues to lack good access to public transit, and “ride-hailing services are accommodated as an afterthought.”

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