Home Queens The H Train lives: Free Rockaway shuttle to debut tomorrow

The H Train lives: Free Rockaway shuttle to debut tomorrow

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA is reviving the H designation for a free Rockaways shuttle service. (Photo via Mike Kocurek)

Once upon a time, the MTA referred to the Rockaway shuttle which operates between Broad Channel and Rockaway Park as the H train. Although the train still carries this designation internally, to the world, that shuttle appears as a gray S on subway maps. As the Rockaways face a lengthy rebuilding process, though, the H train is returning, this time as a free shuttle operating between Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue and Beach 90-Holland station, making all intermediate stops via the Hammels Wye.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this free service this afternoon, and it will begin tomorrow morning at 4 a.m.. It will run every day from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m., providing a transfer to the shuttle buses that run between Mott Avenue and Howard Beach. According to the Governor’s office, the train runs only those Beach 90-Holland because points further west “suffered extensive damage to signal systems and cannot yet accommodate passenger service.”

“The A train tracks from Howard Beach to the Rockaways were almost completely destroyed by the storm, and replacing them is a tremendous undertaking,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While that work continues, this new shuttle service will help improve travel for people in the Rockaways who are still recovering from Sandy’s effects.”

The rolling stock for this new shuttle service arrived via flatbed trucks. Transit loaded 20 R32 cars onto these tracks and placed them on the rails at Rockaway Park-Beach 116th. There are some pretty dramatic photos of the operation available here. Raw video footage comes after the jump.

“Transit has responded with unprecedented creativity to restore subway service to Rockaway customers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “This partial restoration of service is an important step for the Rockaways, but our work won’t be done until the A train is fully restored.” It will still be months before the A train is fully restored.

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31 comments

Boris November 19, 2012 - 5:19 pm

Can someone explain the reason for this rush to restore subway service? Even pre-Sandy population and ridership levels on the Rockaways are lower than those of many other areas of the city with no (even potential) subway service. Large parts of Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens do just fine with buses.

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Bolwerk November 19, 2012 - 5:28 pm

They don’t do fine with buses. Places that depend on buses have low transit use, and refusal to invest in anything better than buses keeps it that way.

I don’t know if Rockaway is exactly ideal for rail service, but I think there probably isn’t much of an alternative to the train and the cheapest course to getting transit back is restoring the train across Broad Channel – as opposed to building, say, a busway across Broad Channel.

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Mike November 19, 2012 - 6:57 pm

I think the larger issue here in regards to buses is in this short post-Sandy period. Although there is an interesting argument to be made about buses vs. subway service on the Rockaway peninsula in the distant future, why must subway service be restored now? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just have shuttle buses travel the length of the peninsula instead of bringing in train cars for this temporary shuttle service?

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John November 19, 2012 - 7:32 pm

Apparently not, or else I imagine they would have done that. They may not have the amount of buses available that this would require.

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mike d. November 19, 2012 - 9:10 pm

we have bus shortage now and it is getting bad.

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Phantom November 19, 2012 - 9:26 pm

Mike d

A citywide bus shortage or one in Rockaway?

mike d. November 19, 2012 - 11:04 pm

yes, it is citywide bus shortage due to Sandy after storm effects. Lots of buses needs to fix up due to suspensions shock during the “bridge shuttle” and free bus service. Its not yet serve yet.

Bolwerk November 19, 2012 - 11:59 pm

I kind of doubt it. A one-man crew (probably two- under NYCTA rules) can haul probably six or seven buses worth of people, and much more effortlessly. For the rush hour crowd, is there any way to quickly load hundreds of people each morning?

Just approaching the capacity, let alone the improved service reliability, of the train would probably take paying a lot of drivers to do overtime driving a lot of buses. I would guess those drivers could probably be used somewhere else …and that’s before considering whether there is some other constraint at play, like whether the streets are even set up to deal with that kind of bus traffic.

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Mike November 20, 2012 - 10:05 am

True. I just was considering the initial cost of transporting and assembling the trains in the first place. I guess the “worth it” factor depends on the length of service until the A is restored.

Bolwerk November 20, 2012 - 10:26 am

It’s not as outrageous as you think. The MTA does it regularly, at least to bring SIRT cars to Brooklyn for heavier maintenance. They no doubt have the skills, infrastructure, and someone whose job it is to do just that.

And, they probably only need to do it once or twice before the bridge is back.

Kai B November 20, 2012 - 1:12 pm

One man interviewed on NY1 this morning also brought up a good point. Passengers are hauling a lot of large bags and boxes as a part of the cleanup and recovery. There is a lot more room in the subway cars for this.

Bolwerk November 20, 2012 - 1:48 pm

Good point, but doesn’t the subway bring you to a bus anyway? I get having the subway, but I’m guessing it’s only helping so much. 🙁

Boris November 20, 2012 - 12:41 pm

Actually, I get it now – it’s under Governor Cuomo’s watchful eye. With him recently taking credit for things going right at the MTA, including a *flood* of governor’s office press releases about mundane things like service changes, he must be pushing for this. Not sure exactly why, maybe he has relatives living there? Or it’s just an easy way to score political points.

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LLQBTT November 20, 2012 - 3:45 pm

Are you suggesting that our Gov is a control freak trying to score political points for his presidential bid? 😉

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Matt November 21, 2012 - 12:52 am

Another issue with buses would be the peninsula’s traffic problems. Nonstop convoys of sanitation trucks, dump trucks, bulldozers, power trucks, National Guard, police and volunteers combined with many traffic lights still dark and traffic on the east-west roads gets tied up quickly. Add a couple dozen buses and not only will it make traffic worse, but the service would be very unreliable.

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Phantom November 19, 2012 - 7:19 pm

This might be meant as a psychological boost to the area, but it won’t help anyone’s commute.

Many in the Rockaway Park area never take the subway anyway.

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Tarik November 19, 2012 - 10:01 pm

Ben,

I just saw a screen shot of Second Ave Sagas on the Rachel Maddow show. It was a shot of this post. 2AS Blowin’ up.

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Kai B November 20, 2012 - 7:17 pm Reply
Asher November 20, 2012 - 12:28 am

Why does the shuttle stop at Beach 90, rather than continue to Beach 116? Is there an issue with the track?

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Benjamin Kabak November 20, 2012 - 12:29 am

The MTA and Governor’s office both say the tracks west aren’t in a condition to accomodate passenger service quite yet.

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Alex C November 20, 2012 - 12:49 am

Plenty of flood damage at Rockaway Park.

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Frank B November 20, 2012 - 1:06 am

I find it very interesting that they slapped the H train designation on this service; they could’ve just as easily labeled it as a shuttle; I mean, there’s no reason they can’t do it; the H bullet has been sitting dormant in the roll-signs for years. But WHY would they do it?

Perhaps they were looking to revive it anyway, and now just happened to be a chance to use it? Perhaps to boost morale that a ‘train’ not a ‘shuttle’?

Just curious; I prefer that it be the H train over the shuttle anyway.

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Kai B November 20, 2012 - 10:27 am

I think it might be worth giving the two main branches of the A-Train different designations. Certainly would make it easier for out-of-towners trying to get to JFK.

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Bolwerk November 20, 2012 - 1:53 pm

Yeah, you’re right. It’s easy for someone who is familiar with service patterns to miss that detail. At least keep A for airport and throw in something else for Ozone Park.

I can understand not extending the C, or at least can understand not making the C the primary service, to Ozone Park because Ozone Park probably does have Manhattan-centric ridership.

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Nathanael November 20, 2012 - 4:23 am

Honestly, it’s a pity this couldn’t be an extension of LIRR Far Rockaway service. Why take a bus between Mott Av and Howard Beach rather than LIRR between Far Rockaway and Jamaica — apart from fiefdoms, lack of fare integration, etc….

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Abba November 20, 2012 - 8:29 am

What would really be nice is if they would make a special deal to Far Rockaway Long Island riders .

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ajedrez November 20, 2012 - 3:54 pm

The problem is that if they make it too cheap, you might have a lot of riders coming from Long Island to avoid the higher LIRR fare.

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Harrison November 20, 2012 - 10:45 pm

First off, at the east end of the line, the subway is a block away from the Long Island Railroad “Far Rockaway” station, which is on the Far Rockaway line, with direct Jamaica service and connections to Penn and Atlantic Terminal. The subway is efficient at bringing people along this circuitous route as it has a consistant speed no matter what the traffic is on the roads.

Second, yes, there is a bus conneciton being run midway along the H line, going across Jamaica bay via road. Not sure how the road is at this time, but having the transit option there is a relief to residents for sure.

Third, to run the subway (which btw is an EL route in the Rockaways) restores morale by bringing a ‘normalacy’ to the area, which does in fact comfort people, regardless of how heavy it is used. I would imagine it is helping move people around. I agree with the comment that a subway has more room for baggage than a bus. By calling it a train, it sounds a little more normal too. Maybe it’s because it’s more familure as the H train (not sure), maybe it’s because operationally it will cover more territory than the shuttle did. It may just be for kicks! It sounds good though, to hear “the train is running again”.

Finally, the subway system has lots of experience using cranes to move their equipment. It isn’t that difficult when you own the cranes (as they do), and for whatever it cost to bring the subway cars down, its transit and morale improving effects are propably worth-it enough to justify this move. Plus if the tracks are working, might they as well use them?

In any sense, I hope that the restored service will assist in the recovery efforts. Good luck Rockaway beach!

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publicadmin031568 November 21, 2012 - 4:44 pm

Somebody show these videos and pictures to the management of NJ Transit. They must need a refresher course in railroad management.
I think the issue over the use of the letter “H” or “S” to designate the shuttle is one of the least problems facing the MTA and the residents of the Rockaways.

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chris November 21, 2012 - 11:11 pm

the reason why they are using the (H) is because the subway cars that are on there have the signs, plus its easier to change them back to (A) or (C), (H) is very close to the (C) signs, just two scrolls and bam, plus (H) Displays ROCKAWAY SHUTTLE so it makes more sense, the Shuttle has Been the (H) all along, its just they called it the S, even though the radio codes and Papers still says (H)

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For the H train and its fans, a Rockaway fundraising :: Second Ave. Sagas December 4, 2012 - 2:12 pm

[…] the MTA announced the temporary H train for the Rockaways, it drew a flurry of attention. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow profiled the trucking […]

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