Home Queens Link: The R to JFK via the Rockaway Beach Branch

Link: The R to JFK via the Rockaway Beach Branch

by Benjamin Kabak

One proposal for the Rockaway Beach Branch Line involves sending the R train to the airport. (Map via Cap’n Transit)

As the effort to convert the Rockaway Beach Branch Line into a park gains state funds and media recognition, transit advocates are starting to raise their voices against the plan. As I’ve written in this space recently, we need to give rail its due as well. At the least, rail should be placed on equal footing with the QueensWay option, and at the most, reactivating a disused right-of-way should take clear precedent if it is technically feasible.

A few fine gentlemen both in need of promotions have gotten the proverbial ball rolling. Capt. Subway and Cap’n Transit have launched a petition urging Gov. Cuomo to reactivate the rail line, and Capt. Subway, writing on Cap’n Transit’s site, offers up his idea. He wants to send the R to Howard Beach via the Rockaway Beach Branch and restore G train service to the Queens Boulevard line.

Here’s a snippet of the argument:

Unfortunately the local tracks, while also theoretically capable of 30 trains per hour, are presently only running at about 20 trains per hour in the peak period. This is necessitated by the terminal at 71-Continental, which can only turn around about 20 trains per hour at the limit, and that not very well. For this reason the 63rd St connection to Queens Boulevard required a “robbing from Peter to pay Paul” switcheroo: the “G” line had to be cut back to Court Square and its slots on Queens Boulevard given over to another, Manhattan oriented service, first to the “V”, and now to the “M”. (For the first few years the “G” line ran to and from Forest Hills nights and weekends, when there was no “V” train service. But this passenger friendly part-time service died to make weekend service changes more doable).

Of course it needn’t be that way. Even in the original MTA plans from the late ‘60s “G” service would have remained intact. The express by-pass alone would have insured this. This is where the old LIRR Rock Line comes into play. By connecting this line to the Queens Boulevard line east (subway north) of 63rd Drive station – the tunnel bell mouths are there specifically for that scenario – the path to another local service terminal would be created, i.e. now the “G”, along with the “M” and “R” could run along the Queens Boulevard local tracks, with one of these service branching off after 63rd Drive and heading off to a new terminal at either Howard Beach or, it would be hoped, JFK, and thus not threatening to overwhelm 71-Continental as a terminal. In this way peak trains per hour on the Queens Boulevard local tracks could be raised from the present day 20 trains per hour up to 27 ½ trains per hour, given the current timetables on those three lines. This would be a significant improvement in service, especially if the “G” were equipped with full length trains.

These are the transit advantages of reactivating the Rockaway Branch as a subway line. Neighborhoods like Woodhaven, Rego Park and Ozone Park get quicker service to Midtown. Greenpoint and Williamsburg can be reconnected to Astoria and Jackson Heights with revived G train service. Local stations on the Queens Boulevard line see seven more trains an hour.

I have very little commentary to add. This proposal is an ideal one for many reasons and would require far less capital investment than building a new line from scratch. At a time when mobility matters and vulnerabilities have taken center stage, reactivating the rail line deserves as much attention, if not more, than the QueensWay initiative. So check out the two Captains’ efforts and give that petition a good skim.

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Berk32 January 23, 2013 - 3:15 pm

This would never happen….

It makes too much sense…

Eric Brasure January 23, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Pretty much.

WilletsPoint-SheaStadium January 23, 2013 - 3:28 pm

Goodness gracious. Just imagine if we had the leadership to dedicate funds to projects like this and the Triboro RX. Intraboro/Outerboro travel would be an entirely different game.

Maybe one day.

Patrick January 23, 2013 - 3:32 pm

IF there is a chance in hell of reactivation via Subway happening. PLEASE chose the M over the R. Two long, slow routes DO NOT need to be running together out in Howard Beach

A train, R train, B15 bus ? AR-15 Rifle

Benjamin Kabak January 23, 2013 - 3:33 pm

Isn’t flipping the R for the M in your scenario basically just subbing in one local train for another?

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 4:11 pm

Not exactly. The M although a local, doesn’t slog the way the R does.

Read my post below for another service plan that involves the F, M & R.

John-2 January 23, 2013 - 4:26 pm

What are the number of trains per hour on the R versus the M? If there’s a difference, I would think you’d want the one with the fewest number of TPHs mated with the G to 71st-Contenental while the other goes to Howard Beach, since you want to make sure the trains don’t back up west of the portal near 63rd Drive, which would then also slow down the Rockaway Branch service.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 5:05 pm

Good idea. Send the E to Howard Beach and the R to Jamaica Centre. The G/M would still end at 71 Avenue, and the F would still end at 179th.

Berk32 January 23, 2013 - 5:10 pm

It has to be a local Queens Blvd train that goes to the rockaways

Someone January 23, 2013 - 6:17 pm

I did not say that the E would take the Rockaway Beach Branch route.

Stu Sutcliffe January 25, 2013 - 10:39 am

And what do you say to the people at Parsons/Archer (the second-biggest bus subway transfer point in the system) who would be getting a local instead of an express?

Someone January 27, 2013 - 5:59 pm

If the R went to 179th instead, and the F to Parsons-Archer, would that be better?

Dillon March 22, 2014 - 11:49 pm

Well the E to Howard Beach would work, but instead have the M train go to 179 St, the F to Jamaica Center, the R should end at 71st and that would really lighten up the load

Patrick January 23, 2013 - 5:07 pm

I think the M has 1 or 2 more TPH than the R but they are both roughly equal to 5-6 TPH

Someone January 23, 2013 - 5:11 pm

The Queens Blvd Express tracks (E/F) have a train frequency of 30tph.

The local tracks, however, are only around 15-16 tph.

Patrick January 23, 2013 - 5:16 pm

If you would have read John-2’s question correctly, he asked what is the difference of TPH between the M & the R. Not the tracks, the routes themselves

Someone January 23, 2013 - 6:15 pm

Um, okay… 7 tph for the R, 9 tph for the M.

Henry January 23, 2013 - 7:36 pm

At the same time, there is no way a Howard Beach-Rego Park line can justify eight-car or ten-car trains every ten minutes, at least not initially.

Patrick January 23, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Ok, uh… the F instead?

Stu Sutcliffe January 25, 2013 - 10:42 am

And what would you be saying to the people at 179th Street (the third-biggest bus-subway transfer point in the system) who would be getting the R instead of the F?

Someone January 27, 2013 - 6:01 pm

That the F would still be faster than the R?

Stu Sutcliffe January 27, 2013 - 7:21 pm

If the R would be the only train operating to 179th Street – the only station serving huge parts of Eastern, Southeastern and Northeastern Queens and Nassau County, while the F runs to the airport and the Rockaways, it would be totally unacceptable.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 3:48 pm

Yeah, I can say the same about the M21 if you’d extend the M down to the Rockaways instead.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 3:45 pm

You know, the M and G also work just fine. What’s wrong with sending the G/M to the Rockaways?

Eric Brasure January 23, 2013 - 4:09 pm

Most people would probably be taking the local to an express stop anyway, so probably nothing. Not sure who’s going to take the local all the way to/from the Rockaways anyway.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:20 pm

In that case, the service shouldn’t run along Queens Boulevard at all. In fact, it should end at Woodhaven Boulevard, with transfers to the G/M/R (and converting the station into an express station).

Berk32 January 23, 2013 - 4:27 pm

That would require a lot more unnecessary work.

Meanwhile – sending a local service off queens blvd would allow for more service along queens blvd itself (since only so many trains can terminate at Forrest Hills)

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:52 pm

Actually, having people transfer at a terminus opens up more travel options and reduces the lengths of train rides.

Besides, no one wants to ride a slowpoke local service from Manhattan or Brooklyn to the far reaches of Queens. Sending an express service along the line would require little work.

Berk32 January 23, 2013 - 5:11 pm

I’ll try again.

Where are you building this terminus?

Someone January 23, 2013 - 6:15 pm

Woodhaven Boulevard. (Build a pocket track between the express tracks west of Woodhaven.)

Matthias January 24, 2013 - 12:05 pm

Perhaps this service could make use of the unused upper level at Roosevelt Av? That was designed to be a terminus for an extension of the Myrtle Av Line.

Someone January 25, 2013 - 7:57 am

That sounds like a better idea; it makes use of existing infrastructure rather than constructing new platforms.

Berk32 January 23, 2013 - 4:28 pm

G isn’t ideal since it tends to use less cars in its sets

Someone January 23, 2013 - 7:27 pm

But then, wouldn’t it actually be cheaper to build a 300-foot-long platform rather than a full-length 600-foot-long platform?

Henry January 23, 2013 - 7:38 pm

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I highly doubt that Rockaway Beach branch ridership would be high enough to justify R train levels of service. M, maybe, but the M is cut back to Myrtle on weekends.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 4:00 pm

The T would work with an accommodation to Queens Blvd from southern Manhattan.

Benjamin Kabak January 23, 2013 - 4:05 pm

The T isn’t going to start running any time soon. I think we should aim for more realism here, no matter how likely reactivating this line is.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 5:38 pm

It doesn’t have to start running any time soon. It can be used later. In the mean time, the R or M or even G are suitable alternatives.

(Nitpicking myself: I should have said something running parallel to the T, south of the Q, since there will be extra capacity there because of the Q taking some slots. The T will still be needed for end-to-end SAS service.)

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:11 pm

That’s already happening. There’s a junction from westbound F to southbound T, and vice versa, west of Roosevelt Island. (You’ll see it 5 minutes 18 seconds after clicking on the link, or just jump to the 5:18 mark on the video.)

Patrick January 23, 2013 - 4:22 pm

I thought they said that is not going to be used for revenue service

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:25 pm

It would not be used for revenue service under current conditions. No one would know until Phase 3 of the SAS is complete, which I see coming in 15-20 years.

John January 23, 2013 - 5:10 pm

15-20 actual years, or 15-20 MTA years?

Someone January 23, 2013 - 5:13 pm

MTA years, of course.

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 4:04 pm

Could the M do the same if it ran on weekends? I ask because I had another idea. Extend the R to 179th Jamaica & have the F skip a few more stops from Kew Gardens to 179th. Trains will continue to stop at Parsons as that station has island platforms. Remember the E ran that rute until 1988 when the Jamaica Center extention opened

capt subway January 23, 2013 - 4:24 pm

Good idea, the “R” 10 179. I believe it ran for a few months shortly after Archer Ave opened. But the passengers at the intermediate local stops: 169, Sutphin, Van Wyck & 75 Ave were enraged at having the all-local “R” replace a one seat express ride (the “E” used to serve those stops until Archer Ave, then the “F” took over, but both went express after 71-Cont) and got it shot down.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:28 pm

Well, if the R ran express and the N local in Manhattan (the R would become local and the N express in Brooklyn), then the R extension to 179th should be considered.

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 6:52 pm

I know, but 179th has spare capassity. If you do what I propose you retain the existing local run on the R & you give other riders a faster trip on the F by eliminating three aditional stops.

If the nimby’s say anything, tell them we’re doing it anyway.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 7:30 pm

For the commuters boarding on the three stops that you eliminated from the F, wouldn’t their commutes be longer now?

(On the other hand, you could run the F express to 179th Street during rush hours and local during other times.)

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 8:28 pm

I thaught about that on my initial post, but realizing that keeping the F express full time would be more consistent & allow for service extentions to either the M or R overnights & weekends.

Does the F have enough ridership to justify express service overnight? After midnight, most express runs like A, D, E & N end & everything runs local. If not, then your segestion works. However if F express is nessessary then adding M or R service overnight will fill frequency gaps.

As for the effected stations that could lose F service, how much longer could a commute be with a cross platform transfer at Kew Gardens or Contenental over what it is currently. 1, 2 minutes at most? It wouldn’t be anything earth shattering.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 8:48 pm

The F currently runs express at all times between 36 Street and Continental Avenue, and local at all times between Continental and 179 Street. I don’t know for sure, but there could be enough ridership during off-peak hours to justify service of the three affected stations during those times.

It does take longer to transfer between trains, however. You are right, local and express trains do usually come within 2-3 minutes of each other, but that’s 2-3 minutes of time wasted. Besides, there usually isn’t enough ridership east of Briarwood-Van Wyck to justify F express service all the way to 179th.

Henry January 25, 2013 - 10:21 pm

If the Culver express gets restored, peak hours you can have Culver Express trains also run the express segment on Hillside.

Most riders get off at 179th, with some getting off at 169th, and Sutphin is basically an afterthought, so express service won’t impact ridership that badly. However, off-peak, waiting for a train at the Hillside Ave stations can be a bit onerous, so it should probably be a peak-only thing.

Someone January 26, 2013 - 1:07 pm

The Culver/Jamaica express and local should have 2 separate bullets (i.e. Culver Express trains run express on the Jamaica Line with the designation, and Culver Local trains run local on the Jamaica Line east of 71 Avenue, with the (F) designation). Imagine if a passenger wanting to take the Culver Local accidentally takes the express because there wasn’t anything distinguishing the different services.

John-2 January 23, 2013 - 4:31 pm

If this were ever done, the other thing that really should be looked at would be the conversion of Woodhaven Blvd. to an express stop. Keeping the situation as it is would mean riders coming in from the Rockaway Branch would join those transferring from the Queens Blvd. local stops and the 7 train at Roosevelt Avenue, which already is crush loaded. Better to get the transfer over with at Woodhaven and also throw an easier-transfer-to-the-express bone to riders at 67th Avenue, who you know are going to be howling about having their R train replaced with G service.

capt subway January 23, 2013 - 4:44 pm

Good idea. Woodhaven Blvd was actually built for possible conversion to an express stop. You can see the way the tunnels widen at either ends of both station platforms.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:57 pm

Um, an express stop beside the local station or under?

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:58 pm

(And I’m asking which type of stop would be more feasible with current service patterns.)

John-2 January 23, 2013 - 5:16 pm

There’s actually bellmouths leading off from the local track before Woodhaven that could be used to run tracks on the outside of the current local platform. If that was done, the current local tracks would be filled in to create about a 25-foot wide island platform (which given the width of Queens Blvd. could be easily handled without running afoul of any of the building lines on the north side of QB).

LLQBTT January 23, 2013 - 4:36 pm

Sending the pokiest line in the system to JFK is not going to win any hearts and minds, plus the route becomes ridiculously long. The E needs to go to JFK, it’s fast, is already associated with JFK via Jamaica Ctr and has a shorter route with better headways. Send the R to Jamaica Ctr.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 5:00 pm

That was actually considered in 1988 when the Jamaica Centre extension was first proposed: the G and Broadway Local would go to Jamaica Ctr. while the E/F would go to 179th. If the R goes to Jamaica Centre, then the E must be extended to Howard Beach so the E doesn’t lose its JFK connection.

al January 24, 2013 - 1:54 am

Jamaica will hate that. Even if R runs express east of 71st Continental, it will be a long trip to Parsons. Building tracks and underpasses to local tracks is also easier/cheaper than to express tracks.

OTOH, having the E run outdoors will make it less appealing to homeless people who make the E their home on winter days.

I rather send the M to JFK as it runs 8 car trains (less equipment demand).

As for G on Queens Blvd, rush hr F or E local service might be more attractive to help alleviate crowding on E and F through East River tunnels.

Stu Sutcliffe January 25, 2013 - 10:47 am

Jamaica Center is the second-biggest bus-subway transfer point in the whole subway system. There are too many riders there. The political consequences would be immense. If the Rockaway Beach branch is ever reopened (with what money?). you’re going to see the R or M go there.

Nicholas B. Maione January 23, 2013 - 4:38 pm

Voiceing on my part. Why do we need the Broadway Line to JFK? It’d make more sense to bring the M over because it will give 6th Ave and Queens Blvd the option to the Rockaway. The G can stay in Court Sq, not much service will be lost from Rego Park to Forest Hills. I like the station proposals but I just can’t see the R out there. It would be murder on someone who has to drive that route.

capt subway January 23, 2013 - 4:52 pm

The whole point of this is to increase TPH on the local tracks, from around the present peak of 19-20 trains to 27-28 trains, as I explained in my post. As it stands today the “G” is a totally 2nd rate line with a totally crappy terminal at Court Sq, a station which was never designed to be a terminal, and which the TA couldn’t have been bothered to make the necessary track rearrangements to turn into a proper terminal, and with a really long walking transfer to the mostly over crowded “E” express or local “M” at 23/Ely.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 4:55 pm

The only reason why the G was cut back was because there was not enough money to keep the extension to Forest Hills (and also due to capacity constraints.) When the QB line gets CBTC from Forest Hills to 50 Street, maybe the extension of a QB local service to the Rockaways can be considered, and maybe the E , G, M, or R can finally be extended to the Rockaways.

Patrick January 23, 2013 - 4:58 pm

I like this option too
BTW, it was murder to drive a late-night A train pre Sandy

Someone January 24, 2013 - 8:06 am

We don’t. The Broadway Line is a suggestion only because there isn’t any direct track connections to the Fulton Street line right now (but riders wanting to go the JFK could still transfer at Jay St-Metrotech).

Mike January 23, 2013 - 4:56 pm

I like the Greenway idea, because it uses the space. It’s better than nothing. The area won’t support a Highline, but it could support a pedestrian highway.

I don’t think the LIRR is a viable option. Service is too expensive and lacks any benefit to the residents living where alongside the old rail line. You’re not going to have support from communities that suddenly have trains barreling down to provide better service to the Rockaways.

Subway service is something that would actually help all communities involved.

Woodhaven Blvd (M Train)
Myrtle Avenue
Jamaica Avenue
101st Street
Howard Beach

Those would be more realistic and better considered stations.

Considering Howard Beach is tracks wide, track capacity exists for a new level and wouldn’t require the train to ever run on the A Tracks (solving a scheduling issue).

It would make sense to build a new level for the Howard Beach Station to terminate the R and extend the Broad Channel Shuttle (when operational again) to Howard Beach. This would open up the Rockaways as a place for JFK hotels and employees. Or do away with formalities and run the R to 116th Street.

Another extremely beneficial but expensive idea would be to create a new Main Street Terminal at 73rd Avenue for the local service from Forest Hills. The trains would have to go underneath Willow Lake, but it would bring Subway Service to an extremely underserved area and give Flushing Residents a huge boost. Actually the two ideas could even go together in expanding service in Queens.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 5:19 pm

Another extremely beneficial but expensive idea would be to create a new Main Street Terminal at 73rd Avenue for the local service from Forest Hills.

And another idea that we cannot afford is a reconstruction of the IND World’s Fair line, which would do exactly the same thing, but serve more people.

Larry Littlefield January 23, 2013 - 6:24 pm

To the extent that there are people left in NYC who would think “oh my God the subway!” Minorities would use it to get to my neighborhood to rob and rape us!” They live in the area that would be served by this improvement.

Which is why the original MTA plan, the promise to link the 63rd Street tunnel to the LIRR freight tracks for a new subway to SE Queens via Jamaica, was defeated. Someone told me it made Geraldine Ferraro’s career.

AlexB January 23, 2013 - 6:54 pm

There are plenty of non-white people in these neighborhoods. The problem is really only the homeowners whose property back up to the line.

Bolwerk January 23, 2013 - 7:15 pm

I keep meaning to post a video of the trolley in Philly for the noise whiners here, but always forget to bring my video camera. At least on the surface, it’s literally quieter than buses or surrounding automobiles.

Jason January 23, 2013 - 7:13 pm

Just took the queens blvd local to try to catch a glimpse of the 63rd st connection and from what I saw, I’m not sure how this is going to work….

Between Woodhaven and 63rd I spotted the stub end tunnel. Heading eastbound, the stub rises from a lower level and merges into the eastbound local track. I didn’t see any way that an eastbound local could get to this connection so as to head down the Rockaway beach line. Anyone else can confirm this because if what I saw was truly the connection, I think there will be alot more work needed to make this work.

I’m going to try and take the local westbound during the commute tommorow and see how that looks (probably merges off the local and dips down to the stub end lower level for the crossover)

Someone January 23, 2013 - 7:25 pm

So, the tunnel merges from the east, and not from the west? There really is going to be a lot of work on this connection, then, if the junction is facing the wrong way to begin with.

Jason January 23, 2013 - 7:30 pm

Thats what it seems like. I was sitting in a reverse facing window seat on the R heading east and was able to look straight down a decently lit ramp that was next to the local track that merged shortly after. I admit thought it was really brief glimpse though so others should check it out to confirm.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 7:33 pm

In that case, another question.

Are you sure that wasn’t the junction for the never-built Horace Harding Boulevard line?

Jason January 23, 2013 - 7:37 pm

Maybe, but it was the only thing I saw between Woodhaven Blvd and 63rd which everyone cites as the general location of the stub tunnels.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 7:56 pm

The ROW splits off just east of 63rd Drive, I think.

This was probably the Horace Harding junction.

Henry January 23, 2013 - 7:58 pm

While the idea of extending the R is nice in theory, let’s step back for a minute and think about what the R currently does.

The R is a very long, and might be the longest all-local line in the city. It stretches from Bay Ridge, to Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown, Midtown, and Queens Blvd. Queens Blvd has a capacity problem when it comes to carrying people during the peak – hence, CBTC. More TPH on the local tracks wouldn’t really solve this problem, because everyone tries to cram onto the E or F anyways.

The R is also a fairly busy line – it’s either eight or ten cars long, and off-peak runs about every ten minutes, and during the rush probably even more frequently. The Q53, which basically parallels the abandoned ROW, gets 13K riders a day. If we say (conservatively) that a car holds 100 people, and there are 8 cars per train, running every 10 minutes from 7AM to 7PM, we come up with a capacity of 67K riders a day. That’s a lot of wasted capacity, and that’s without counting the extra peak trains, and underestimating how much a train car carries (the R160 carries around 250 people per car). The MTA can barely afford to maintain its existing network – how would it be justifiable to run out empty trains to Howard Beach?

Finally, late nights the R is a shuttle in Bay Ridge. Do Rockaway Beach riders lose service then?

The Rockaway Beach line deserves a subway extension, but the R isn’t the right line to do the job. The (G) or Rockaway Shuttle might work better.

SEAN January 23, 2013 - 8:40 pm

You are forgetting that a subway extention generates far more ridership than busses could ever achieve & brings added value far beyond the transit system itself.

Henry January 24, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Well, if it’s done right, you can develop areas around the station DC-Metro style and create new transit hubs.

The thing is though, as it stands, the Rockaway Beach line sucks at serving its neighborhoods in the same way that a Queensway would, for roughly the same reasons. It runs through or is cut off from surrounding neighborhoods by parkland for a significant portion of its length, and is a few blocks shy of Woodhaven Boulevard. It also doesn’t have convenient transfers with the subway lines it crosses, a la the G, so that also limits ridership. Also, if you think the NIMBYs would hate rail going through their backyards, wait till they hear about upzoning potential station locations.

As a compromise, I guess you could have the line follow the ROW from QBL to Yellowstone, then have it gently curve onto an elevated line above Woodhaven, with the line turning into an upper level of the Fulton St. Woodhaven station before merging with the existing tracks, but that would destroy any cost advantage that currently exists.

marv January 23, 2013 - 9:03 pm

The issue in this thread be:

*Capacity issues at 71st/continental allow only 20 trains per hour to be reversed back toward Manhatan preventing the Qns Blvd tracks from being able to run the otherwise obtainable 30 tph.

Solutions given other participants:

*Have some local trains (up to 10 tph) turn off at 65th an proceed down the former Rockaway Park Line either into Kennedy Airport or to the Rockaways
*Have all or some of the local trains continue to 179th St/Hillside where there is ample turn arround capacity
*Have the local trains continue use the 71/continental turnout to go to new routes ie 73rd/Main Street

As i have advocated in the past:
*Convert the LIRR Atlantic Ave branch (Brooklyn-Jamaica) to Subway service into Manhattan.
*Given that Jamaica will have a new express subway line, have the E train divert at 65th (with Woodhaven being converted to an express station) down Rockaway Park line.
*Have half of this E service go into the airport using modified/dual mode vehicles. This service would stop at all “e” stations including and west of 74th/jackson heights, the woodhaven station converted to being an express stop, Atlantic Avenue (serving as a tansfer to the converted Jammaic-Flatbush-downtown subway line) and Acqueduct/park and ride before entering the airport. In the airport, these trains would have their doors open to new platforms to the outside of the loop (instead of the current center platforms providing fareless entry to both Jamaica terminal intra airport service). This will allow for an exiting premium fair to be paid on exiting inside the airport only. (ie $2.50 on enter the subway + $5 for exiting in the airport for a very reasonable $7.50 to JFL!). Those entering would pay the total premium fare(ie $7.50) and would then have regular transfers to the rest of the subway system.
*The other half of the “e” train would make all local stops (as spelled out by others) down to the rockaways. Stations along the way (except for the Acqueduct and Atlantic Ave stations) would gain a reasonable 5-8 trains per hour.
*Given that half of the Queens Blvd local trains will use the Archer Avenue IND line (and possibly the down through south east queens via or paralell to a converted LIRR line) the other other ~10-15 trains per hour could go via a rebuilt world fair IND line up/along the van wyck to the LIE (with a possible stop at jewel avenue). At the LIE, the line should split with air train type elevated trains branching to LaGuadia via a stop at Citifield/the tennis center and a branch heading east along the LIE with stops at:
*Main Street
*Kissena/Queens College,
*Utopia and/or 188th
the line would then turn up the clearview expressway using the under used center lanes or on an airtain type structure with stops at:
*Northern Blvd
*35th Avenue
*26th Avenue
*Willets Pts Blvd.

Obviously the more branches are divided the less frequent service can be provided, but assuming 30 tph:

*15 trains each would go to jamaica and up the van wyck
*7+ tph (better than one every 10 minutes) would serve LaGuadia and the LIE/Clearview branch

done in full, this scenario:

*provides reasonable trains service form both the Rockaways, JFK and central Queens to midtown
*S/E Queens, N/E Queens and LaGuadia gain reasonble service into midtown
*existing rail lines or areas where modern el’s can be built without NIBYism destruction are provided
*cost are kept down as the only tunneling called for is to connect the Rockaway Beach Branck to the Qns Blvs express.
*Much bus operational cost are saved (less buses need to Jamaica and Flushing) as bus passengers throughout queens are diverted onto more efficient(energy and man/woman power) trains earlier into their commutes.
*Congestion in Flushing and Jamaica is eased due to the above allowing these two semi-cities to expend.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 9:28 pm

Actually, a long time ago, a Horace Harding Boulevard line was proposed, but was cancelled because of LIE construction. The proposed stops were:

*Junction Blvd
*108 St
*Main St
*Kissena Blvd
*Parsons Blvd
*164 St
*Utopia Pkwy
*188 St
*Francis Lewis Blvd
*Springfield Blvd
*Marathon Pkwy

The LaGuardia branch should be incorporated into the N/Q lines since those lines are closer, anyway.

Most people are not in favour of having their beloved E express turned into a local. Better to extend it down to Howard Beach-JFK Airport via Fulton St.

The Atlantic Branch can be converted to subway service in 2019 when ESA is complete.

Finally, the IND World’s Fair Line reconstruction is actually a good idea.

aestrivex January 23, 2013 - 9:29 pm

I took your proposal at least slightly seriously until the part about adding a new line to LaGuardia, as though we haven’t heard that before.

aestrivex January 23, 2013 - 9:25 pm

which is the best choice to go to the rockaways — the M,R, or G? Some points.

Since the G runs fewer cars as it is, the platforms could be built to lower capacity, decreasing construction costs of the station by a small margin. In addition, G service could run all night to serve the Queens Blvd local and cover the Rockaways — it would be impractical to run M or R service along their entire routes. In practice, if the station at Woodhaven were converted, it might not make a big difference which local line it feeds into — that difference is felt by the people who ride the Queens Blvd local moreso.

It probably wouldn’t make sense to extend the line to serve the Rockaways — perhaps as a replacement for the Rockaway Park shuttle — but that option might exist as well some point down the line.

Also, not that it matters, but if the M were sent to the Rockaways it would have a ridiculous spiral pattern for a route, starting at Middle Village, going into Manhattan, and then passing with two miles or so of itself as it goes on to Howard Beach.

Someone January 23, 2013 - 9:39 pm

As I have said several times previously, the line would be better off if it was a suburban intra-borough line, with transfers to local/express service at Woodhaven Boulevard.

Ben January 25, 2013 - 4:30 pm

But that defeats the primary purpose of the line, which is to relieve capacity issues at the Forest Hills QBL terminus.

Anyway, I think making the M full-time and combining it with the Rockaway Shuttle would work best, but there could be differences of opinion. The spiral shape is weird but no bar.

Stu Sutcliffe January 25, 2013 - 5:02 pm

The M runs as a sort of a spiral now (or is it more like a 3/4 moon?) and the E used to run from 179th Street to the Rockaways via Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Someone January 27, 2013 - 6:04 pm

Capacity would not be a problem if the R was extended to Parsons-Archer or 179th at least on weekdays, when the M is running.

Getting rid of passenger fumigation at 71st-Continental would work as well.

marv January 27, 2013 - 6:24 pm

Taking away express service from either Parsons Blvd/Jamaica or 179th Hillside is unacceptable as users of these stations already have long commutes which involve buses before ever reaching the train. Many moved to their homes based on them being a XX minutes bus ride to the express train.

The solution is to find alternate express service. Having reasonable in city fares for LIRR service would solve the problem. Would it be possible to have standing only cars attached to LIRR trains? It sounds unfair but many modes of transportation have two classes of service (to say nothing of the express bus crowd vs the subway users.)

If this was done, then sending a local to Jamaica/Parsons with the E/Queens Blvd Express would be doable.

Stu Sutcliffe January 27, 2013 - 7:05 pm

Absolutely right. You cannot provide express service to the airport or the Rockaways by taking it away from areas that have always had express service.

Someone January 28, 2013 - 9:19 pm

Well in that case, the super-express LIRR bypass planned in the 1960’s should be constructed, to allow express services to get to the Rockaways via this abandoned ROW, while still allowing F and E trains to go to 179th Street and Parsons Blvd.

Justin Samuels March 18, 2013 - 7:40 am

Good idea, using the Super Express LIRR bypass. Only where is the money coming from?

Justin Samuels March 18, 2013 - 7:44 am

Then again, bad idea, is there the capacity from the East River tunnels to make this viable? I don’t think so.

marv March 18, 2013 - 9:53 am

two concepts:

East River Tunnel capacity? The 63rd street IND tunnel is used only by the F train. There substantial capacity available. The issue is what to do with the line once it gets to Manhattan.

The simplest is to use the 2nd avenue turn off and extend track either to an east side terminal (given that we are talking only 10-15 trains an hour the terminal could be basic) or swing it west to a terminal at 3rd avenue and 60th Street – tying into the 60th/lex subway station.

We are talking about adding only 10-14 trains per hour, but this gives direct airport service and a one transfer express route from the rockaways to the east side.

A grander scale is to build a full line serving eastern queens and the rockaway. to do this is sugguest:

1) Build/extend the platforms of the airtrain and rockaway beach line to irt loading guage. Then run the airtrain up to the LIE. Every 10 minutes a train would run express from the airport skipping the stations on the
Rockaway Beach Branch and in between every 10 minutes a train would make the several local stops. (total 12 trains/hr – service every 5 minutes from the airport/Rockaway subway transfer/every 10 minutes at local stations.

At the LIE connect westward into an Airtrain type elevated structure that would run from eastern queens to the east river. Tunnel under the east river and connect to the the 4 grand central/times square shuttle tracks.

Stops on the LIE portion of the line west of the JFK/Rockaway Beach branch connection could include: Grand Avenue, and Van Dam or Greenpoint Avenue – locations that are far from other subway stops. Alternating trains would make the stops keeping speeds and capacity up.

The line east of the the connection would have stops at Queens Blvd (transfers to the IND), 108 Street, Main Street, Kissena etc and could run better better than once very 5 minutes.

There is even enough capacity to run a line from LGA to the LIE line with through service to manhattan every 10 minutes, and and alternating service running to just queens blvd or even to a future trio boro rx into brooklyn every 10 minutes as well.

Run all services as premium subways with fares on par with express buses but free of FRA regulation.

Michael K January 23, 2013 - 10:24 pm

Shouldn’t we be trying to route the G to Manhattan already?

And thus providing Greenpoint with Direct service to the city?

I would think ridership would skyrocket….

Henry January 24, 2013 - 5:33 pm

The point of the G is to avoid Manhattan, so that outer-borough riders have a faster trip between Queens and Brooklyn.

(In practice, though, the line’s proximity to Manhattan doesn’t make it very useful for this purpose.)

Lenny January 23, 2013 - 10:26 pm

I would prefer if the E went to the Rockaways via this line because it is the shortest-distanced line of the Queens Blvd lines. It would still retain access to JFK with the Howard Beach station.

Jamaica Center could be serviced by the F (skipping Briarwood and 75th Av at all times) while the locals go to 179th.

Someone January 24, 2013 - 8:10 am

Jamaica Center could be serviced by the F (skipping Briarwood and 75th Av at all times) while the locals go to 179th.

At all times? AT ALL TIMES?!

That’s not going to fly with a lot of F train riders at 75th Avenue and Van Wyck-Briarwood.

If you extend the E to Howard Beach, make sure it’s by the Fulton St line, and not the Rockaway Beach Branch.

SEAN January 24, 2013 - 11:14 am

Reread my post regarding transfer times between local & express trains above. A faster F allows for extentions to either the M or R to 179th Street. This also eliminates some of the bottlenecks at 71st Contenental

Someone January 25, 2013 - 9:48 am

It also slows down M/R train service and requires more trains for the M/R. The F should at least run local east of 71 Avenue during late nights and weekends, when the M is not running along Queens Blvd.

Charley January 24, 2013 - 12:17 am

is the right of way wide enough to support 4 tracks? If so, let’s run the Queens Blvd IND through it AND use it to connect the AirTrain to the LIRR Main Line.

Capacity enhancement on Queens Blvd Line
Greater mobility in Southeastern Queens
One-seat ride from JFK terminals to Penn Station & Grand Central (GCT pending completion of East Side Access)

ajedrez January 24, 2013 - 1:11 am

Ideally, I’d extend the Rockaway Park shuttle over this line, send it along the QBL, and then send it down the SAS (as some have suggested).

In the meantime (no SAS), I think it might be best to either leave it as a Rockaway Park-QBL shuttle, or extend the (G) to Howard Beach (most people will want to transfer to an express to Manhattan anyway).

Someone January 24, 2013 - 8:08 am

Now, if only there was a junction between the Crosstown and Fulton St lines.

Spendmore Wastemore January 24, 2013 - 10:49 am

If technically possible I’d rather see a commuter rail line, with the seats moved/thinned out to allow for luggage.

After hauling yourself though hours of airports and being stuck in one or more aluminum tubes for most of a day the last thing you want is grinding toward home at 19mph overall, dragging luggage over urine-soaked subway platforms. It’s over $20 on every ticket just to use the airport, so $7 for a commuter rail trip isn’t going to cause any grief.

Steven January 24, 2013 - 11:44 am

This would be fantastic! A dream come true for everyone who supports transit! Of course we all realize the govt will probably not even bother to consider this but it’s a real shame. This should happen. We need more transit and this would be much easier than so many other projects and overall just make so much more sense. It would give us a better option for travelling from Brooklyn to Queens (without going through Manhattan) and would improve Queens travel by allowing people to go from one end of Queens to the other via subway and also to connect to other trains and neighbourhoods! Hope somehow we can all convince the govt to realize that this is far more beneficial than a QueensWay.

Bklyn January 25, 2013 - 3:09 pm

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The G is not the solution here. I’m a long-time resident of Greenpoint and G service can either be very good or very bad. At Nassau Avenue there can be terrible crowding. 23/Ely was not built to be a transfer point. The crowds, especially when G trains arrive back to back, can be suffocating. 23/Ely has small platforms – width wise. Sending the G to Queens will render the 23/Ely transfer obsolete. And if you want to sell the rock line, then you have to point out the speed and convenience of having such a line. The E makes it possible to have a one seat link from JFK to Penn Station and the Port Authority. The G does not.

The solution: build a new G terminus at Queens Plaza. There is plenty of room to do so. Warehouses and open space abound there. G train riders then have access to the R as well. Send the E down the proposed Rock line. Send the R to Jamaica Center.

Henry January 25, 2013 - 3:42 pm

The G already did that when it went to Forest Hills, though…

In any case, this has been said repeatedly about the E, but if you extend it down there, you’re giving a giant middle finger to the 62K riders at Jamaica Center, Sutphin-Archer, and Jamaica-Van Wyck. If trains at Sutphin-Archer (one stop down from the terminus) are already standing room only, why would you make their service worse?

The E is, if anything, more of a capacity mismatch than the R. At 200 people a car at 10 cars a train, every 4 minutes during the rush hour periods, you get a capacity of 30K an hour during the peak. The Q52/53 doesn’t even carry that amount during an entire day – if the R was inappropriate for the Rockaway Beach line, then this is just grossly wrong.

Either the G or the Rockaway Shuttle should do this route, at least initially.

Stu Sutcliffe January 25, 2013 - 4:10 pm

Followed by every elected official, community and business group in Southeast and Eastern Queens screaming about the R train going to Parsons/Archer. That’s the second-biggest bus-subway transfer point in the whole transit system, plus there’s a very large commercial area there. The MTA will never be able to pull off a plan that doesn’t keep express service going to Parsons/Archer and 179th Street.

Someone January 27, 2013 - 6:09 pm

The G did terminate at Queens Plaza between 1988, when the 63rd Street line opened, and 1989, when the connection to 23rd Street-Court Square was opened. It can’t terminate there anymore because of the 63rd Street connector, and because of the fact that it crosses the E and M tracks (especially the latter) to terminate.

At any rate (and I will say this again), the new line should be a completely new line altogether. No through running to the E, G, M, R or anything like that.

Stu Sutcliffe January 27, 2013 - 6:24 pm

Exactly my point. Taking express service away from either 179th Street or Parsons/Archer will create a political firestorm in Queens. Anyone who doesn’t understand should go out to those stations and note the volume of riders who come off of the buses at those points. At some point, someone is going to ask if the money is there to revive the Rockaway Beach line, why isn’t there money available to complete the Southeast Queens line.

Someone January 28, 2013 - 9:24 pm

People feared racial change in the neighborhoods that were supposed to be served by the proposed SE Queens line, which was supposed to be constructed on an existing LIRR line. That’s the same reason why the Queens Boulevard super-express bypass was never constructed along the LIRR to 71st Avenue.

jsbertram January 25, 2013 - 6:35 pm

I was just thinking about LIRR re-using this abandoned line to Howard Beach, and it occurred to me that this branch originally had connections to the Atlantic, the Montauk and the Mainline tracks, so if LIRR ran the service, a new ‘train to the plane’ express service could be run from Grand Central Terminal (when ESA opens), Penn Station, and Atlantic Terminal to JFK.

You’d still have to use AirTrain to get to the JFK terminals, but a one-stop express LIRR train between these terminals and Howard Beach would be faster than using a subway route.

Someone January 27, 2013 - 6:12 pm

Even better: build that long-awaited super-express QB line bypass under the LIRR between the White Pot Junction and 21 Street-Queensbridge, then head down the Rockaway beach Branch to provide one-seat express service from Manhattan. Basically, it’s the Train to the Plane, but much faster.

marv January 27, 2013 - 6:38 pm

The super-express QB line bypass is what Queens needs and should be done with one branch using the Rockaway Beach Branch to JFK and a branch built as an “Air Train type elevated line” over the LIE out toward the City Line.

(Woodhaven Blvd/Queens Blvd IND station would be converted to an express station with transfers. An Eastern Queens to Rockaway intraboro run would use the other half of the capacity of each branch and provide connecting transfers at Atlantic Ave, and Queens Blvd, bus transfers to Flushing, a stop and Queens college and more.)

Mike January 28, 2013 - 2:07 pm

I would absolutely like to see the Rockaway Beach branch be restored for subway service. I’m just not so sure the R is the right choice for the service. Neither are the E or F, because both of those services are heavily used and riders from those lines would raise hell if they lose them. The G would not be good either because it runs infrequently and it would require everyone to transfer for Manhattan. I think the M would be the best option.
The M is not a perfect solution (that would be a Queens super express, but good luck getting that built). It’s local and cannot run full-length, 600-foot trains. But it does serves Midtown Manhattan directly, has good transfers and serves major destinations in Manhattan. And while the R serves Times Square and Union Square directly, it takes longer to get there because the R goes west before it goes east. The M runs a straighter route in Manhattan, so it’s faster to Herald Square and not too far from Times or Union. M service can be expanded to serve the Rockaway/Queens Blvd line and 6th Avenue during weekends and late nights.

Someone February 2, 2013 - 10:06 pm

What is the #1 most used bus/subway transfer point in the nyc subway system ?

Henry February 3, 2013 - 11:44 am

Flushing, by a long shot. It’s the tenth-busiest subway station in the city.

Stu Sutcliffe February 3, 2013 - 12:23 pm

Parsons/Archer is second; 179th Street is third. Not as big as Main Street, but there are a lot of transfers made there as well.

Rockaway Beach Branch February 20, 2013 - 4:42 pm

How do we make this happen?

Ron March 23, 2013 - 11:06 pm

press conference with Congressmen Jefferies and Meeks to support the revitalization the Rockaway Beach Rail Line this Sunday, March 24th at 2pm. We will stand in front of the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line at 99th Street and Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park.

We would be delighted if you could attend and show your support!

Ron March 24, 2013 - 9:03 am

Press conference to support Rockaway Beach Rail Line TODAY, Sunday,March 24th at 2pm. 99th Street and Liberty Ave. in Ozone Park. Please join us!

Ron April 15, 2013 - 10:57 am

Propety values of homes along Rockaway Beach Rail Line should increase if the line were to be reactivated!


Ron April 15, 2013 - 1:57 pm

A GREAT article about why the Rockaway Beach Rail Line MUST be reactivated!


Ron April 15, 2013 - 2:02 pm

Please sign these two petitions and help make the reactivation of rail service a reality!



Philip McManus May 21, 2013 - 4:20 am

The MTA has not provided enough buses for commuters. They have ignored our requests for more buses, longer buses, more express buses and 24 hour service for the Q 52 and Q 53. Thirty five thousand Queens commuters have been directly affected by the loss of the A train. Thousands more have to cope with the overcrowding on buses due to this displacement. We need more regular scheduled buses not random, haphazard, and inadequate service.

Hurricane Sandy happened six months ago and Queens commuters from Woodside to Rockaway are waiting longer to get on a late, unreliable, dangerous, and overcrowded bus. This is a disgrace and must be corrected.

I also support the reactivation of the unused Rockaway Beach Line. The Rockaway Beach Line of the old LIRR used to take 35 minutes from Rockaway Park to Pennsylvania Station. This train track is one to six blocks from Woodhaven Boulevard and runs parallel to it.

It makes common sense to reactivate this tremendous community asset to enhance Queens transit. We have 2.2 million people in Queens and our population is growing. We need more trains, buses and track.

The Woodhaven Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Van Wyck Expressway, Belt Parkway and the Long Island Expressway corridors have too much traffic, accidents, construction, disabled vehicles, trucks, buses, Sanitation, Police, Fire vehicles, etc. There are just too many variables to keep buses on time, reliable and not overcrowded without a significant increase in the amount of buses.

We also need to reduce air pollution, gas consumption, vehicle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. We need the best alternatives to relieve the current and future traffic delays and congestion to our transportation system.

RBL is the right public transit option to address this growing problem. This dedicated right of way will avoid and help alleviate the associated traffic problems on the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor. It would also move more people more efficiently throughout Queens to midtown Manhattan.

People would be able to connect to more subways, buses and the LIRR from Queens and may also avoid the overcrowded subways of Manhattan.

Commuters and tourists from across the region would use the RBL to live, work, learn, shop, eat, and play in Queens.

It would improve Queens crosstown transit and bring more people together and reduce travel times The RBL would increase business, employment, economic development, property values, tax revenues and educational opportunities for many Queens communities.

It takes 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours to cross over Queens by public transit with many unnecessary transfers. It takes 55 minutes to cross Manhattan. It’s wrong for Queens residents to travel so much longer. Nobody wants to travel that long. Let’s help unite and improve public transportation for all of Queens and the City. Reopen the RBL.

We need an unbiased legitimate study to determine the real benefits. It has cost south Queens billions of dollars and thousands of lives are being adversely affected by the loss of RBL since 1950.

Please sign two petitions to reactivate the Rockaway Beach Line: RockawayBeachRail.com
and http://www.- change.org/petitions/governor-andrewm cuomo-reactivate-the-lirr-rockawayline in-central-queens

Are you tired of longer travel times, dangerous, overcrowded and unreliable trains and buses? Let’s get organized.

Join our group, Queens Public Transit Committee to help fight for better transportation. Contact Philip McManus Rowing612@aol.com


2013: Second Ave. Sagas’ Year in Transit :: Second Ave. Sagas December 31, 2013 - 10:04 am

[…] January 23: Link the R to JFK via the Rockaway Beach Branch I spent a lot of time both on these pages and on Twitter arguing over the future of the Rockaway […]

Mr.139thStreet January 2, 2014 - 7:45 pm

If we want the R,G, or M to connect to the A line, there’s a highly possible chance 63 Drive-Rego Park might needed to be transformed into a an express stop.

Fanciful designs, without rail, for the Rockaway Beach Branch :: Second Ave. Sagas February 14, 2014 - 12:40 am

[…] integration in the 1950s was money (and Robert Moses). Today, there’s a clear need and a clear plan, but political, and more importantly, economic, support isn’t there. Residents will object; […]


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