Home Queens Another Albany voice for Rockaway Beach reactivation

Another Albany voice for Rockaway Beach reactivation

by Benjamin Kabak

The LIRR’s long-dormant Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way has seen better ideas. (Via Anandi A. Premlall/Friends of QueensWay)

The state-funded feasibility study for the QueensWay — a misguided effort that would turn an underused rail right-of-way into an underused park — is well under way with no comparable effort aimed at studying rail use, and Queens politicians are taking note. Already some local politicians and Congressional reps have voiced concerns over the sole focus of the study, and these politicians have instead urged rail reactivation. Now, another Queens State Senator and Borough President candidate has added his voice to the fray.

As Streetsblog reported yesterday, Tony Avella is the latest to call for rail reactivation. Joining with a group called the Queens Public Transit Committee, Avella has called for a study that includes rail as well. Stephen Miller has more on these efforts:

Rockaway Beach Branch rail service is the group’s priority. “The most efficient way is this train system,” said committee leader Philip McManus of Rockaway Park. “This goes all the way from South Queens all the way into Manhattan, and the Select Bus Service will not do that.” McManus said a study should determine whether LIRR service, which would not requite tunneling, or subway service, which would require a new tunnel beneath Rego Park connecting to Queens Boulevard, is the preferred option. “Whatever works,” he said at this morning’s press conference on Liberty Avenue. “We need a legitimate study, but it has to be first that the public needs to support this. That’s why we’re here.”

U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks support federal funding for a feasibility study, and Avella joins Assembly members Phil Goldfelder and Mike Miller in advocating for rail.

If a feasibility study is conducted and political support lines up behind reactivation, the project would still need to secure funding from the MTA capital program. Avella, who opposed congestion pricing as a council member and mayoral candidate, thinks casinos could be a source of revenue for the project. “Hopefully the public will approve the gambling referendum that’ll be up in November,” he said. “That’s gonna generate billions of dollars.”

“It’s a transportation line,” McManus said, adding that it would be difficult for rail and trail to share it. “We don’t want a park, okay? We want a transportation option.”

The ask right now is a simple one: As the state is paying to study the practicalities of building a park through parts of Queens that likely won’t see much usage, the state should study the practicalities of restoring rail service along the Rockaway Beach Rail Line. Our governor has noted the need to build up infrastructure to better prepare for future storms, and the right of way already exists. Maybe the study determines nothing is feasible; maybe the study finds rail service could be restored. Either way, the study should go on.

As with any capital project, though, this one needs a clear champion. Avella is the fifth politician to either issue an explicit statement on the rail preference or appear with groups advocating for such a solution. If he were to win his Queens Borough President race, he could deliver some discretionary funding for a study, but nothing is stopping one of the other four from finding a grant of money either. The rail efforts won’t move forward without some funding. Now is the time for someone to step forward with it before QueensWay “wins” by virtue of being able to act quickly and coherently.

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alen August 6, 2013 - 10:12 am

if they did reactivate it, they should have a planned Phase 2 to build a new set of tracks along the belt parkway to brighton beach and coney island

Epson45 August 6, 2013 - 10:23 am

I assuming, you have not ridden on Belt Parkway.

alen August 6, 2013 - 10:39 am

i drive it every few weeks on the weekends. they just built some new bridges and exits to make the rockaway beach traffic less than it usually is

plenty of room to build an elevated track with a few stations. they could even expand it to go to the housing projects and the gateway mall before the rockaways

FH Native August 6, 2013 - 11:21 am

“they could even expand it to go to the housing projects…”

The people of Forest Hills and Rego Park bordering the right-of-way would stop that in a minute.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 10:36 am

Did we enter an alternate universe where the outer boroughs have sufficient transit or new ROWs are cheap and plentiful? Do we need to develop some kind of new alloy that can withstand the big, heavy choo-choos that will ply up and down the trackway? WTF is there to study?

A study is borderline frivolous and, depending who does it, is likely to just lead to a stupid conclusion like BRT for North Shore. Reactivate the damn thing, and study the ridership then when there is ridership to study and people will have opinions on where they’d like to go from the Rockaway line.

alen August 6, 2013 - 10:40 am

there are housing developments that are now literally a few feet from the tracks. and little league fields as well

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 11:01 am

An encroachment onto the ROW can be evicted.

Ron August 6, 2013 - 11:20 am

See: Adverse Possession

Benjamin Kabak August 6, 2013 - 11:22 am

The encroachment on the Rockaway ROW is not adverse possession under NY law.

alen August 6, 2013 - 11:28 am

what is the law on allowing construction vehicles on your property? there are lots of places on that track where i can see the crews would need to be on private property. do the owners have to allow them access?

Justin Samuels August 7, 2013 - 7:56 am

If need be, the MTA could buy the property. If they refused to sell, there is eminent domain. The MTA used eminent domain on the 7 train extension to 34th Street (they had the copacobana club evicted) and on Second Avenue (they needed certain spaces for their ancillary buildings).

Ron August 6, 2013 - 11:35 am

Fair enough. I know there are usually exceptions like that in certain laws. I’ll leave that to you lawyer types. I’m just extra moody today.

Benjamin Kabak August 6, 2013 - 10:41 am

Look. I’m with you. Just start running trains as soon as possible, but that’s a non-starter. You can’t just do that without the appropriate studies, and it’ll start with a feasibility assessment and an EIS.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 10:59 am

That can probably all be avoided without federal financing, which could ironically cut costs. If not the city, then the state could simply pass legislation mandating and financing construction.

Ron August 6, 2013 - 11:13 am

I’d love to know what world you live in.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 11:56 am

Do you ever have anything substantive to say, or is your rag really bothering you that much? Going by your comments today, I’d say the safe money is on I’m quite a bit less allergic to reality than you are.

alen August 6, 2013 - 12:36 pm

i followed the line on google maps earth view and it looks large parts of the rail line are used for bus parking lots, built over, etc.

i think that it will be mired in lawsuits for decades before anything is built. and then a lot of local politicians will be pressured to not support it or be voted out

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:12 pm

“Large” parts of the line is an exaggeration. There’s a school bus parking lot where the line meets the Atlantic line, and maybe one or two other parking lots. They won’t have to tear anyone’s house down.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 1:29 pm

It might be mired in lawsuits if it follows the usual planning procedures, but the encroachments are a trivial problem.

SEAN August 6, 2013 - 7:21 pm

How is that a trivial matter? You will need to compensate homeowners along the ROW if you take a piece of their property or buy them out completely.

Nyland8 August 6, 2013 - 7:38 pm

If they are encroaching, you are not taking a piece of their property.

Justin Samuels August 7, 2013 - 7:59 am

All of the lawsuits against the Second Avenue subway have been settled or dismissed. Lawsuits don’t stop development. The MTA would have to buy out certain property at fair market value, and if owners didn’t want to sell, they’d use eminent domain. The MTA used eminent domain for both the 34th Street station on the 7 and the Second Avenue Subway. Columbia University used eminent domain in its expansion in Harlem, and that did not take decades, either.

lawhawk August 7, 2013 - 9:22 am

The Atlantic Yards is an instance where lawsuits did thwart development by years. Lawsuits add to costs, and can add to the time to bring a project to fruition.

The Rockaway Beach line wont have the kind of eminent domain or condemnation proceedings seen in other big transit projects since the right of way is already in MTA hands. Some property owners who are adjacent to the line may try to sue to block, but those suits will go in favor of the MTA.

The study has some utility in figuring out how many people would use, which goes to revenue streams needed to repay any bonding to get the project running. While the LIRR discontinued the line previously over lack of ridership, it appears that the area now has a critical mass of riders seeking an alternative to driving. Combine that with a possible rezoning of the area, and use the tax proceeds from the upzoning to help repay the bonding.

Justin Samuels August 8, 2013 - 8:55 pm

Even the Atlantic Yards development was not delayed by decades, though. Years, but not decades, and now its done. The stadium is there.

Justin Samuels August 7, 2013 - 8:12 am

If you had a mayor who was interested, or a governor who was interested, they could pass a bond measure (they must have an idea of how much it would cost) and simply fund the thing. I agree doing a study in and of itself will likely lead to nowhere and is pointless.

But to do a bond measure, they need to identify a revenue source to pay back the bonds. The state legislature has voted to allow table gambling. Now the public has to vote to allow gambling. Hopefully the public does, and that way they could use the table gambling revenue to pay back the bonds issued to fund Rockaway Beach LIRR reactivation with connection to the Queens Blvd line.

SEAN August 6, 2013 - 7:31 pm

Did we enter an alternate universe where the outer boroughs have sufficient transit or new ROWs are cheap and plentiful?

Oh, I guess you didn’t get the memo?

Justin Samuels August 7, 2013 - 8:15 am

Agreed. Bloomberg didn’t do a study when he wanted to do the 7 line extension. Avila’s idea is to issue bonds and pay the bonds off by using table gambling revenue. Lets hope that table gambling is APPROVED in Nov. by the public referendum. So basically, I agree with you that studies are borderline frivolous. The main thing is the FUNDING source needs to be identified and SECURED.

Nyland8 August 7, 2013 - 8:39 am

You can’t float a bond unless you have some idea how much money you need to raise. You don’t know what it will cost without a study. Ergo, you need the study, to get the bond, to get the revenue, to …

So … the study would not be frivolous.

Bolwerk August 8, 2013 - 9:48 am

Except for a market research component, that’s not even a study. And the market research would be handled economically by the bonds’ underwriter. The part where you see how much reactivation costs is simple budgeting, which hardly requires much study, and that’s what you would base your bond issuance on.

The EIS is what is frivolous. Whatever the environmental impact is would carry over from other studies that have already been done repeatedly over the years. It’s one thing to do something like a SWOT to see advantages and disadvantages of each mode, but anyone with a triple digit IQ can probably figure out the advantages and disadvantages of reactivation with some thought.

Nyland8 August 8, 2013 - 12:34 pm

” … but anyone with a triple digit IQ can probably figure out the advantages and disadvantages of reactivation with some thought.”

And come to entirely different conclusions. Reasonable people actually do differ. Otherwise these decisions would all be easy, and garner little opposition – don’cha think?

But when you say “The part where you see how much reactivation costs is simple budgeting, … “, are you referring to post-construction operating costs, including adding some train sets? Or do you think “simple budgeting” answers all the questions about clearing and reconstructing the ROW, improving, tunneling, connecting, adding stations, etc? Because it would seem to me, offhand, that those costs would lie outside the scope of “simple budgeting”.

Or have I misunderstood your post?

Indeed, the EIS, at this point, should be mostly boiler plate, taking very little time or expense to plow through. Of course that’s never the case … but we can dream, can’t we?

Justin Samuels August 8, 2013 - 8:54 pm

Actually, even with the EIS, generally all public transportation projects go over the initial budget anyway. From previous EIS studies, they would know exactly how to come up with reasonable cost estimates on how to reactivate the Rockaway Beach LIRR and connect it to the Queens Boulevard line. A little more than a decade ago, they did similar studies. The area has changed little, if any.

Bolwerk August 9, 2013 - 9:55 am

No, reasonable people would not think blowing an irreplaceable transit asset on a park is a good idea, and it doesn’t take much much than a pedestrian understanding of finance to see the bus alternative is stupid. People who believe in turning Rockaway into a park are fundamentally unreasonable, and will not be swayed by logic or reason, rendering a study even more pointless.

do you think “simple budgeting” answers all the questions about clearing and reconstructing the ROW, improving, tunneling, connecting, adding stations, etc? Because it would seem to me, offhand, that those costs would lie outside the scope of “simple budgeting”.

It’s “simple” in that the MTA should have the tools and resources to understand what it would take based on its own material/labor costs, procedures, and experience. They shouldn’t need to hire an outside auditing firm to figure it out, and should be able to predict costs with a high degree of accuracy. It’s a graded ROW, so it needn’t be too expensive to place tracks and signals, and probably not stations either if the MTA can suppress its urge to overbuild.

EIS, at this point, should be mostly boiler plate, taking very little time or expense to plow through.

No doubt about that. I really wish they’d just reduce it to a table or two of costs and benefits. It would be more helpful that way anyway.

John-2 August 6, 2013 - 10:45 am

I’m still not quite sure why they can’t study the option of just doing cut-and-cover on the northern section of the Rockaway Branch, especially if it’s part of a proposed link to the IND Queens Boulevard line. Instead of having the line portal south of the LIRR tracks, it would come out somewhere closer to Ozone Park.

After a half-century of neglect, the line and it’s supporting base would have to be rebuilt from scratch anyway, so simply digging out a tunnel along the city-owned right-of-way and burying it at least down to Forest Park would defuse a lot of the NIMBY complaints in the northern (i.e. — rich enough to hire lawyers) sections of the line. Unlike, say, digging under Second Avenue, it’s not as if there are a ton of utility lines beneath the trackbed needing to be relocated (you’d mainly be dealing with the cross-street utility lines), at the same time, leave above-ground space to mollify the QueensWay proponents.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 11:59 am

The point is good transit at a low price. If you’re going to quintuple or whatever the costs to do cut ‘n cover, why not just do it at Woodhaven?

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 12:29 pm

For one, you wouldn’t be disrupting traffic.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 1:31 pm

The traffic disruption would be temporary. Demolition costs might actually be lower on Woodhaven, but the important thing is the ridership might be higher.

John-2 August 6, 2013 - 2:40 pm

Time is money (to dredge up and old phrase) and your legal entanglements are far more likely to involve the northern sections of the branch than the southern ones. If burying the line from Queens Blvd. to Forest Park mitigates several years of court battles, that balances out the cost.

(Plus, it’s not like it’s never been done before — the SIRT trenched their railroad in 1965 in the New Dorp-Grant City area to eliminate the grade crossings due to the increased traffic expected after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened. They didn’t cover the deck, because central Staten Island wasn’t hurting for parkland and people were already used to the SIRT noise, but they did have to do all the work while keeping the line running between St. George and Tottenville. No worries about that problem if you did the same thing to the Rockaway Branch.)

BruceNY August 6, 2013 - 3:44 pm

That’s some interesting history regarding the SIRT. I would imagine that having the trackbed in a trench may actually help to mitigate some of the noise from the trains (which will surely be one of the may issues in the inevitable NIMBY lawsuits).

Stu Sutcliffe August 6, 2013 - 12:24 pm

How do you connect the Rockaway Beach line to the Queens Boulevard line without:

1) Taking service away from riders in Eastern, Southeast and Central Queens? Would any plan like that be able to survive the political firestorm that would result from that?

2) Tearing up a densely populated area of Rego Park?

Connecting it to the LIRR is one thing, especially after the ESA is open, but a Queens Boulevard line connection carries huge problems.

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 12:33 pm

Apparently there’s an existing bellmouth coming out of the 63 Drive station and going south that was provisioned for that connection… Still requires a bit of tunneling under residential properties but at least there’s that.

Stu Sutcliffe August 6, 2013 - 12:47 pm

There are a lot of residential properties there. That’s one of the big problems. The time to have used that bellmouth was at least 70 years ago. The genie is out of the bottle there.

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:01 pm

I am quite familiar with the area since I lived in Rego Park for a while back in the days.

However, if the bellmouths are as extensive has had been said in the past then its a matter of digging under 66 Avenue, going under (1) co-op building at Burns St/Thornton in order to get to the ROW. Not that bad.

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:03 pm

But yes, I guess there might be adjacent properties that will be impacted.

alen August 6, 2013 - 1:03 pm

and if the vibration from the trains starts to damage people’s homes, who pays for that?

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:06 pm

The same group of people who pays for all the vibration from existing subway lines that damage people’s homes?

Its not like subway lines have never run next to people’s homes before.

alen August 6, 2013 - 1:08 pm

the queens blvd trains don’t run directly under my building

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:15 pm

I had a relative who lived at a 6 story building above where the Queens Blvd line turn towards Broadway (just west of the Grand Ave station), and runs under his building (since the line cuts through the block instead of running directly under the streets). I don’t recall feeling vibrations or seeing a lot of damage.

Henry August 6, 2013 - 9:01 pm

The vibration from Kennedy flights is probably worse than the vibration from subway trains. In what universe do you live in where the subway is damaging homes left and right?

Heck, the LIRR used to run there, and if anything, that’s more disruptive than the subway would be. I don’t see buildings on the Main Line crumbling down into the tracks every month. Do you?

Bolwerk August 7, 2013 - 9:08 am

Hurr, noise. Hurr, buildings falling down. Hurr, encroachments. Many of the complaints I’m seeing about this seem like frivolous backbending looking for problems. You’d think nobody ever built a railroad before, and nobody lives near one.

Nyland8 August 6, 2013 - 1:37 pm

?? IS there a “densely populated area of Rego Park” ?? I don’t see anything near the ROW bigger than a duplex.

By NYC standards – by any city standards – that’s not densely populated.

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:51 pm

Many areas of Rego Park are dense. Most of the neighborhood, especially at the few blocks north and south of Queens Blvd, is basically comprised of 10+ story co-op apartment buildings with hundreds of units each. The streets that a new tunnel would have to go through is filled with those kinds of buildings.

Nyland8 August 6, 2013 - 2:05 pm

Point taken – if we presume the need for a new tunnel. The ROW in question is certainly not densely populated.

If the intent is to connect it to existing subway lines, the tunneling portion is quite short and needn’t disrupt much at all – especially if the work being done – tunneling and spoils removal – is all done from the existing ROW. Nor should the inconvenience be very long.

But just off-hand, and as Stu seems to suggest, it would seem like a better candidate for LIRR.

alen August 6, 2013 - 2:07 pm

why not just extend the rockaways line that goes to five towns? it already ends fairly close to the A train. seems easier than reactivating this line

stanley schulman August 6, 2013 - 3:03 pm

Alen,re building a railroad to the five towns – it is unneccasry, they already have an LIRR train route. The idea is not just to build a railroad for the hell of it, it is to connect the A train from Rockaway and Ozone Park to the R train at 63rd Drive. The right of way is almost complete. Any intrusions on it are under lease from the city which owns the right of way. You are a very negative person and it’s hard to tell if you are just a crank or have some agenda of your own.

alen August 7, 2013 - 2:01 pm

i’m all for this train route and it will decrease traffic and car usage, but if you have ever seen it you will see what i’m talking about. lots of homes look to be close enough to the train tracks that the train might actually hit them. some of them were probably illegally extended.

even then you will have a lot of people complain about the train noise since their homes will probably closer than those on the 7 line.

any attempt to reactivate this will result in lots of lawsuits with more merit than the SAS ones. and lots of political pressure to kill the funding.

i remember the high line before they turned it into a park. there was talk of activating it again for subway use and a lot of people said no because they didn’t want the noise under their office or homes

Henry August 7, 2013 - 2:08 pm

If they encroach on the ROW, they were ALL illegally extended. In any case, from Google Maps there is a clear path for a two-track railroad to run though that runs into a single parking lot.

Train noise can be mitigated with noise barriers (the MTA will put up a fence alongside the tracks anyways, for legal reasons, so might as well make it a noise barrier).

Political pressure exists to build the train line as is.

Finally, the problem with the High Line is that it actually runs through buildings, so vibration is a much bigger concern. It also runs much higher than most Els, so building a subway line to connect to it would be impossible.

alen August 7, 2013 - 2:15 pm

they illegally extended but the city hasn’t done anything with this for 70 some years.
same with the high line, if it goes through buildings and it has a ROW then shouldn’t the buildings be built to withstand the vibration? i think it only goes through one building too.

lots of people in this area in chelsea have a lot of money and no one wanted train noise around their precious art studios. otherwise it would have probably been cheaper to use the high line for the 7 train instead of digging a new tunnel.

Henry August 7, 2013 - 3:12 pm

So what if the encroachments have existed for decades? If it’s illegal it’s illegal. It’s not adverse possession – they’ve no legal right to the property.

The High Line went through multiple buildings because it was a freight line that had shipments from factories and warehouses along the route. Factories and warehouses don’t care for vibration. By the time they built the High Line Park, they were all converted for other uses.

In any case, the 7 is too deep to connect to the High Line (which starts at 34th, not 42nd) and you’d need to take out at least a block of buildings to make room for the ascent.

alen August 7, 2013 - 3:19 pm

same here. i don’t live close to it and don’t have a stake, but its the same thing. a railroad was abandoned for decades and people built over it. there are tracks on the west side that end at piers. i’m sure there is still a legal ROW on those that can be exercised.

it would have been cheaper to dig a shorter tunnel for the 7, connect it to the high line and let it run over 10th ave instead of digging to 18th street or wherever they dug to

there is even a lawsuit in brooklyn a few years ago where people found out about a ROW going through their backyards and sued. homes were built over an abandoned railroad where a ROW still existed. LIRR gave it up and chose not to fight, but they were going to argue squatters rights since it had been abandoned for decades.

Benjamin Kabak August 7, 2013 - 3:28 pm

These are apples to oranges comparisons. The high line wasn’t wide enough or strong enough to support modern subway infrastructure. The approaches weren’t at the right places. We’ve gone over this numerous times, and it’s a tiring article.

As to the ROW in Brooklyn, that was disconnected from any track area. It was an isolated block of nothing, and the LIRR chose not to fight because there was nowhere for that ROW to go. That’s simply not the case here.

Henry August 6, 2013 - 9:02 pm

The point is to connect the Rockaways to the rest of Queens.

The line reactivation is easy and mostly consists of shoring up the ROW and building stations. The parking lots and such on the ROW are there illegally, in any case.

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 2:36 pm

The issue with the LIRR option, IMO, is whether it’s worth it. The line was shut down 50 years ago due to low ridership… And the neighborhoods that the line goes through haven’t exactly been drastically changed (ie via rezoning or what not), and probably won’t be anytime soon. And the biggest beneficiaries of this line – the Rockaway people, will still need to transfer at Howard Beach (and maybe again in Manhattan). And we’ve learned that when given the choice New Yorkers seem to prefer taking the subway over the LIRR anyway.

Bolwerk August 6, 2013 - 3:25 pm

Much of the benefit goes to people who aren’t supposed to be considered: people who live along present subway ROWs who might find it useful to be able to get to/from, say, Queens Blvd. from/to the IND Fulton Street Line.

If it’s LIRR, that evaporates. It should not be LIRR.

Stu Sutcliffe August 6, 2013 - 5:05 pm

There are a number of apartment buildings between Austin Street (the street ajoining the LIRR at White Pot Junction) and Queens Boulevard. Plus, the private houses there are right on top of each other. There is no open space.

Alex C August 6, 2013 - 9:01 pm

We’re not looking for open space. There’s one building that’s in the way . Get under that and you’re onto the ROW and home free.

Henry August 6, 2013 - 9:04 pm

I’m not entirely sure where the bellmouth would be, but the junction with the LIRR is clearly visible from Google Earth. There is a wide swath of land that could be used to place a tunnel portal.

lawhawk August 7, 2013 - 8:13 pm

Here’s some actual numbers associated with population density.

Rego Park – 50-74ppl per acre. That’s comparable to Forest Hills, Woodhaven, and Richmond Hill, but less than Corona or Elmhurt.

However, the population density in Rego Park is higher than Kew Gardens and Ozone.

By actual population, Rego Park has 25-34k residents. That compares with 80k+ in Forest Hills. The other neighorhoods potentially served by the extension have between 50-64k each.

John-2 August 6, 2013 - 4:38 pm

If you reroute the M or the R and have a stop at Metropolitan Avenue, the effect on the eastern section of Forest Hills would be limited, since residents on the southeast side of the area, along with those on the Woodhaven corridor, would get a closer stop then they have now.

So it would be a net wash for some, and even a gain for others. Those on the north side of Queens Blvd. and those close to 67th Avenue (or who like a nice local ride to and from 71st-Continental) would lose some service. But sending the M or the R down the Rockaway Branch would have the beneficial effect of eliminating the PM rush conga line into Continental, since only one line would have to be cleared out before reversing direction. Basically, you’d have fewer trains going to 67th and 71st, but in the afternoon, the ones heading there would make the trip faster.

Stu Sutcliffe August 6, 2013 - 5:11 pm

When you connect with the Queens Boulevard line, you are taking service away from stations like Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer, Suthphin Boulevard-JFK, 179th Street and 71st Avenue. Check the ridership numbers there. The MTA would probably want to have more service out there, not less. There’s nothing wrong with reactivating the Rockaway Beach line, but it has to be done in a way that benefits new areas, without negatively impacting the existing parts of the system. And you’re liable to have people in Southeast Queens saying “Hey! What about us?”

John-2 August 6, 2013 - 6:04 pm

E still goes to Parsons-Archer. F still goes to 179th-Hillside even if you divert a local to Howard Beach. And once CBTC is put in, shifting the M or the R to the Rockaway Branch would also open up the potential option of returning the G to Continental in the future.

Even if the number of trains per hour on the G is below that of the M or R (capacity would be anyway, given the current 300-foot trains), the local tracks between Queens Plaza and 63rd Drive can handle a third, low TPH service like the G. And even if a G/M or G/R combo going to Continental offered a few less TPH than what’s currently there, you’d still see benefits from the reduced volume also reducing the back-up in the PM rush waiting to get into 71st Street, because a train there is still fumigating.

(And going back to a January post, the best option if the Rockaway Branch was reactivated would be to also convert Woodhaven Blvd. to an express stop at the same time. That would take some of the transfer pressure off Roosevelt Avenue, since those using Woodhaven, 63rd, 67th or the new Rockaway Branch stops could switch to the E/F there.)

Justin Samuels August 7, 2013 - 8:03 am

Easy. The M or the R locals terminate at Forest Hills, anyway. One of the locals, using the Bellmouths at 63rd Drive, can go to the Rockaways . That won’t take away service from the Jamaica (served by E and F) and you’d still have 3 trains going to Forest Hills, which is managable.

Walter August 6, 2013 - 12:57 pm

Why not run a new letter train on the A track that curves north at the Rockaway Beach track to Rego Park? I foresee tunneling from the LIRR track to Queens Blvd to be a very difficult proposition, one ripe for NIMBY’s to rise out of the trees and assert themselves.

Jeff August 6, 2013 - 1:42 pm

That probably would not satisfy the main group of people pushing for this – the Rockaway residents.

BoerumBum August 6, 2013 - 1:28 pm

Seems like whenever this topic is brought up, the NIMBY-trolls crawl out of the woodwork. “What if trains destroy my way of life and shatter all of my china?” Come on… all they’re going to do is allow you to commute for $2.50, instead of paying a bridge or tunnel toll plus parking.

If you’re afraid a little train is going to mess up the character of your neighborhood, visit Park Slope South. Nice little area, low-density residential, very transit-connected.

Guest #40 August 6, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Is there a map of the tracks/proposed line?

ARR August 6, 2013 - 2:56 pm Reply
BoerumBum August 6, 2013 - 2:59 pm Reply
Larry Littlefield August 6, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Don’t forget CBTC, which will presumably shift the capacity constraint of the system (with the possible exception of the Lex) from tracks to terminals. With another terminal, more trains could run on the QB line.

Nyland8 August 6, 2013 - 7:35 pm

Interesting map.

They’d probably close that 104th St. station on the J,Z – who needs two stops less than 100 yards from each other? And the Rego Park stop is really right next to the 63Rd/Dr – if they expect it to be right at the LIRR tracks, which is where the map puts it.

But at least Metropolitan Ave. does look like a logical station to build along the R. That, and maybe one more stop, would make a quick trip to the airport from 63rd.

Henry August 6, 2013 - 9:09 pm

You don’t even need it to be an airport service – Woodhaven Blvd is one of the most congested corridors in Queens (on a per-mile bus ridership basis).

In fact, ideally service would end at Liberty Av with a connection to the Rockaway Blvd station, since Howard Beach only has two side platforms, and the station was already extensively renovated for the AirTrain.

Nyland8 August 6, 2013 - 10:06 pm

So you think the reactivation of that entire line would be justified for just three stations? I doubt it.

Any study would probably conclude with strong rationalizations for connecting northwest Queens to the Airport.

Henry August 6, 2013 - 10:34 pm

Current weekday ridership levels on the Q11, Q21, Q52, and Q53 total to 26.3K per day. The common section shared between these routes is 4.1 miles, which pencils out to slightly more than 6400 riders per mile, per weekday. This is better ridership-per-mile performance than all of the light rail systems in the United States save one, and that’s the Boston Green Line.

It is also well documented that rail lines boost ridership by significant amounts due to the improvements in travel time, and better general perception of rail services. The Canada Line in Vancouver, which also runs through areas with similar characteristics, saw boardings rise from 18000 riders/day to over 100,000 riders/day. We could ver well see a significant rise in ridership along the Woodhaven corridor.

I also don’t know where this “three stations” thing comes from. Fleet, Metropolitan, Myrtle, Jamaica, Atlantic, and Liberty are all valid places to put stops. (Myrtle I’m a bit iffy about since it’s surrounded by park, but there’s a bus running down that would probably be good to have as a transfer connection.) But it’s certainly not “three stops.”

Nyland8 August 7, 2013 - 7:18 am

Well … Atlantic? That makes 4. Fleet? That doesn’t even have a bus route. Myrtle? Chipmunks.

I can’t speak to the ridership you imagine will be better served by the shorter run … but … WOW! That’s an awful lot of rationalization to still fail to justify NOT going to the airport. As I implied, any feasibility study would include JFK.

Nevertheless, as I’ve said before, I’m in favor of almost any expansion of the system. Not reclaiming that ROW for transit is myopic – and repurposing it as a greenway is a waste. If Queens really wants a landscaped greenway, I don’t think anybody is standing in the way of improving the Conduit corridor. But nobody seems to be clamoring to put a bike path there. I wonder why.

Maybe it’s because nobody is afraid anyone will be running a choo-choo through there anytime soon.

Stu Sutcliffe August 7, 2013 - 1:50 pm

The MTA doesn’t own the property. It reverted back to the city decades ago.

Henry August 7, 2013 - 1:55 pm

The other part of it is that any service using the Rockaway Branch would have to utilize the Queens Blvd local tracks. Since Queens Boulevard riders already have convenient express train access, I doubt anyone wants to do the long shlep from Manhattan via the Queens Blvd local lines just to get to the airport, when they can take a LIRR train from Grand Central/Penn/Atlantic, the A from Inwood, UWS, Downtown Brooklyn and East New York, and the E from Queens and Midtown.

Airports are not very good travel generators for dedicated transit lines, since the only two dependable sources of airport traffic are employees and business travelers. Leisure travelers have the expendable income to splurge on a taxi ride, and with AirTrain fares AND a MTA fare it might even be cheaper per-person.

Nyland8 August 7, 2013 - 4:35 pm

Roughly 35,000 people are employed at Kennedy Airport.

alen August 7, 2013 - 5:13 pm

i see people with big suit cases on the E and LIRR all the time

taking a local to JFK can’t be much longer than E or LIRR to jamaica and then airtrain

Henry August 7, 2013 - 2:04 pm

Fleet serves Rego Park, which is already dense by American standards and is cut off by the Main Line.

Myrtle I would just build for the bus route (and in any case, the upside of there being very little there is that it doesn’t cost as much to build station infrastructure).

Toby August 8, 2013 - 3:48 pm

Thanks for these numbers, Henry. As a rider of those Buses I’ve always wondered what the scale of people using them is–it seems like alot of folks but it’s good to have sense of how many.

Justin Samuels August 7, 2013 - 8:09 am

That certainly would work pretty well. Its just a matter of dedicating the funding.

Toby Sheppard Bloch August 6, 2013 - 8:39 pm

I live nearby and would love to have either a greenway (which would give me better access to subways via bike) or a train service. My *sense* is the area around the line doesn’t really have the density to support train service–by and large my neighbors work in Brooklyn and Queens, winnowing the number this would be a viable commuting mode for.

Alex C August 6, 2013 - 9:04 pm

Southwest Queens could really use the train service, much as the folks in Rego Park would fight it.

Bolwerk August 8, 2013 - 9:51 am

You don’t need high density to support a train service. If density is low, you simply run fewer trains.

But even if you did density misses the point a bit. A lot of the ridership could be through ridership between the IND Fulton Street Line and Queens Blvd.

Toby Sheppard Bloch August 7, 2013 - 2:05 pm

Thusfar Woodhaven and Ozone Park residents have been the most organized and vocal opposition to rail activation, citing fears of noise, safety etc.

But the proximity to the well heeled Rego Park Cresent homes will surely garner additional screaming, about a greenway or a railway.

In some ways, both projects face the same NIMBYism and financial obstacles. I suppose I favor the greenway as it seems more doable, but surely either is better than nothing.

Jeff August 7, 2013 - 2:56 pm

Better than nothing… But still going to be crappy. They build the parkway and then what? Queens parks are among the least maintained parks in the city. It’ll get tons of overgrown vegetation again a few years after its done.

BoerumBum August 7, 2013 - 2:42 pm

Would it make any sense to set up an 8th Avenue loop that runs to 51st street, to Queens Blvd, to 63rd Drive, down this ROW to Liberty, to Euclid, then along the C line to close the loop… or is that just crazy?

Stu Sutcliffe August 7, 2013 - 4:24 pm

As long as the E keeps going to Jamaica Center, no one complains. But where is the track capacity in the 53rd Street or Cranberry tunnels for such a line? CBTC will increase track capacity, but by how much?

Larry Littlefield August 7, 2013 - 7:03 pm

Supposedly to 40 tph, minus switching and terminal issues. On the Manhattan side, the 63rd Street tunnel is half empty, and in 1968 in exchange for turning over toll revenues city residents were promised a connection from there down the — ahem — Second Avenue Subway.

Philip McManus March 13, 2014 - 11:20 am

The Queens Public Transit Committee had a successful Drive By Rally for the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the new Queens Crosstown. We want to increase our public exposure.

The Queens Public Transit Committee believes faster transportation for Queens is the key to our recovery, our unity, our renaissance and our quality of life.

We need to improve our economy, increase access to jobs & better schools through faster transportation which will reduce unemployment, crime and suffering. It’s time to unite Queens with the new Queens Crosstown.

We need your help to win the Queens Rockaway Beach Line.

We went to four significant locations:
Hoffman Drive / Woodhaven Blvd
Metropolitan Avenue / Woodhaven Blvd
Jamaica Avenue / Woodhaven Blvd
Liberty Avenue / Cross Bay Blvd
with posters for the Queens RBL.

Ask your closest family, friends, transit advocates to volunteer for the new Queens Crosstown today.

We had 18 volunteers at our rally.

Thank you and God Bless you.

Please ask your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:




Philip McManus
Queens Public Transit Committee










The Queens Public Transit Committee is promoting the reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) as a mass transit option. This means restoring the former right of way in a manner in which it was intended – a transportation mode that will offer a fast and safe trip into central Queens and Manhattan.

Restoring rail service to the line will reduce travel times, pollution, dangerous streets and overcrowded roadways, buses and trains. Rail service has always resulted in increased economic activity which results in more jobs for everyone. Workers and students will be able to get to their destinations quicker while increasing their quality of life which can translate into more productivity overall. When the LIRR operated trains there, it took a maximum of forty minutes to enter Manhattan compared to at least 2 times that amount right now. This transportation crosstown corridor was lost to us in 1950 and 1962 when it was shortened, then eliminated.

Increased bus service is not the answer as they tend to get stuck in traffic which can result in an unreliable spacing of buses and long wait lines to get on them.

Unite with your fellow commuters and fight to reduce overcrowded, dangerous and unreliable roadways, buses and trains.
Don’t spectate…participate and do something about it.
The Queens Public Transit Committee is organizing for better access to jobs, schools and the entire New York Metropolitan area through the reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, subway or LIRR.

Send your QRBL message to Governor Cuomo an e-mail to: press.office@exec.ny.gov


The Queens RBL is only one to six blocks east, travels north/south and parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard, from Penn Station through Central Queens to South Queens.

For more information, contact Queens Public Transit Committee by visiting this Blog:

Philip McManus, Chairman
Queens Public Transit Committee
Phone: 718-679-5309/ 718-474-0315
E-mail: rowing612@aol.com


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