Fanciful designs, without rail, for the Rockaway Beach Branch

By · Published in 2014

When the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced their AIANY Emerging New York Architects design competition last summer, I knew we were in trouble. AIANY focused around designs for the QueensWay, but instead of encouraging emerging architects to think about any use, including rail, for the right of way, the organization urged designers to think only about an elevated park. And crazy renderings for an elevated park are what we have received.

AIANY released the results earlier this week, and New York seems awfully under-represented in the Emerging New York Architects competition. The big winners came from France, Switzerland and Canada while the student prize winner came out of New Mexico and only one Queens designer received an honorable mention. That’s not to say that outsiders can’t design architecture for New York City, but when we’re thinking about turning over a valuable and irreplaceable right-of-way to a rails-to-trails project, New Yorkers should probably be heard above all others.

While none of the proposal captures my attention quite like the underground swimming pool I discussed last night, they seem to underscore, in their disconnect from the surrounding neighborhood, just how unlikely any conversion of this rail right of way will be. In all likelihood, the Rockaway Beach Branch will remain as it has been for decades — the subject of numerous proposals to reactivate rail, the subject of conversion talks, and the subject of NIMBY opposition to anything happening at all.

Still, let’s marvel at the designs. All were designed at the abandoned Ozone Park station, one of the sites of the QueensWay that doesn’t back up onto residential properties and contains some wide open sight lines. It isn’t the norm for this right of way.

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Here, we have the winner. From Carrie Wibert of Paris, France, the QueensWay steps took home the $5000 prize. This is the grand entry to the QueensWay park. These steps are located between 100th and 99th Streets, and 101st and 103rd Avenues in Ozone Park, Queens, and while not far from the A train, it’s in a spot that could use better rail service rather than a park. But we’ve been over that before.

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The second place finisher is from Nikolay Martynov of Basel, Switzerland. It is called the Queens Billboard and appears to be a roller coaster for people without handrails. Your guess is as good as mine.

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The third place prize went to Song Deng and René Biberstein of Toronto, Canada. Their entry called Make It! Grow It! seemed to capture the essence of what QueensWay organizers want. Underneath the structure is a market and above is a High Line-style park. Again, I’m not sure where all these people, or the yellow cab, would come from, but the general idea here seems to stem from Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come.

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The student prize comes from Jessica Shoemaker of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is underwhelming.

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The honorable mention went to Hyuntek Yoon of Queens. In a Daily News article, Yoon explained that his design allows for a seamless integration from street level to the park. It’s an alluring concept and a pleasant design.

* * *

Over the years, I’ve been highly skeptical of the QueensWay. It’s a long shot to believe that the Rockaway Beach Branch line will be reactivated, but as Joe Raskin’s book revealed, it’s not a new idea. The subway operators have long wishes to incorporate the Rockaway Beach Branch into the subway, and the only thing stopping 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; the MTA doesn’t have plans for funding. Same as it ever was.

If anything comes of the QueensWay, it ultimately won’t look like these renderings. Most proponents want a utilitarian park with a focus on a bike path that can help bypass the dangerous and crowded Woodhaven Boulevard. These plans, instead, bring the High Line sensibilities to an area that isn’t dense or popular enough to support another High Line. AIANY will host some panels on these designs, and I’m curious to hear what the architects and project proponents have to say. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet against movement, rail or otherwise. The city just isn’t ready for it, and that’s a commentary on the state of transit affairs.

Categories : Queens

98 Responses to “Fanciful designs, without rail, for the Rockaway Beach Branch”

  1. CowCrusher says:

    Had I known about this contest, I would of dug up my old Venus colored pencils and took a stab at the 5 Grand!
    As much as I would love to see the Rockaway Branch reactivated, some of these way out concepts do more harm than good. I am not too keen on the High Line project when compared to using it as a transit corridor but on the other hand it is a better use of the infrastructure versus it being completely dismantled.
    If there is to be money found (I too am not holding my breathe) then i would like to see that money spent wisely by taking what NYC has seriously and not fall to the whim of political pipe dreams and clueless transit advocates (those who don’t have working and historical knowledge of rail and bus systems) who are simply in it for show.

  2. john T says:

    The High Line could not have been reused as a modern transit route, it would have required too much removal of valuabl real estate to meet today’s access needs.

    The old Rockaway Right of Way has the room to reintroduce rail service again, but where’s the leadership? Not from the MTA (beaurocrats), politicans (short-termers), or community groups.

    The emphisis needs to be to those who live near potential stations, how much quicker their trip to the city would be, cost savings, etc. Who is making that case???

    • Bolwerk says:

      Actually, a lot of local legislators have been coming out for transit. But Governor Muscle Car has no comment, other than to sprinkle money in the direction of the park. (Someone should have submitted a race track for him.) Haven’t seen anything from de Blasio about this either.

      • SEAN says:

        Haven’t seen anything from de Blasio about this either.

        He is still rapped up in school closing gate.

        • Justin Samuels says:

          De Blasio is attempting to get more money from the feds for mass transit. The current study at Queens College for Rockaway Beach LIRR activation would try to get Hurricane Sandy money to connect the Rockaway Beach LIRR to the Queens Boulevard Line. At this point its going to take federal money to get this project going.

          The city, if it raises additional funds would likely spend them on Phases 2-4 of the Second Avenue Subway.

          • Ryan says:

            The Second Avenue Subway’s Phase 3 (actually, all of its phases) has huge potential to impact the operations of the Queens Boulevard Line, both because nothing in this system exists in a vacuum but because – more pointedly – because of where Phase 3 starts and ends.

            Q headways are going to be a permanent constraint on T headways because of the criminal failure to provision for express tracks on Phase 1, but the Q is only running above 63 St. It stands to reason, then, that there’s always* going to be untapped capacity below 63rd; it’s only a matter of punching through to the 63rd Street Line from the south (a provision which I believe is already in place, in fact) to start running turquoise-bulleted V trains between Houston Street and the Queens Boulevard local tracks. Access to 2 Av is almost certainly a fair trade for the loss of direct access to the Broadway Line (via the R – and I’ve made the point elsewhere in this thread that the R very desperately needs to be restructured and some of the most logical means of restructuring it involve cutting it away from Queens Boulevard), and the only remaining logistical challenge would be what to do with the M in Manhattan.

            If turning the M anywhere on Sixth Avenue is a logistical impossibility (which I very much doubt is the case, but…) and sending it back into the Nassau Street Line is too unpalatable – fortunately, this can work in the other direction as well. Turquoise-bulleted M trains could run up the Chrystie Street Connection; this would either require us to give up all hope of ever disconnecting the M and the V from their unholy service-cut-fueled union OR provision for a way to turn trains at 55 St 56-59 St, and I like the M Second Avenue Local far less than I like the V Second Avenue Local, but it’s still certainly doable.

            Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that what becomes of the Second Avenue Subway has tremendous relevance to the services on Queens Boulevard even if no trains ever run directly between them.

            * Always is a word which here means “until we spend the money on the ever-rising capital cost of adding express tracks after the fact,” or “probably in 2045.”

            • Justin Samuels says:

              Dude, you’re getting way ahead of yourself on this. Currently neither the Rockaway Beach LIRR or the additional phases of the Second Avenue Subway have any dedicated funding. There is no point is going on fantasy subway reroutes or routes for something that is not going to happen any time soon, even if the funds were to come through tomorrow.

              We’ll have to see if Congress is willing to fund Rockaway Beach LIRR conversion into a subway and IF de Blasio can find funding for Phases 2-4.

              If the entire length of the Second Avenue Subway is built, yes, after the T and the Qu split, the downtown portions of the Second Avenue Subway will have less trains on it.

              But the East Side of Manhattan doesn’t have that much in the way of big companies. 6th Avenue is the core business district, so the M will continue to serve 6th Avenue from both Forest Hills and Middle Village.

              the R serves areas like Times Square, 34th Street, Union Square, and the financial district. It’s not budging. Neither are the E and F.

              NYC has always had connections that aren’t in regular revenue use due to the passenger demand. And it has always have tracks that aren’t on full capacity. Past Forest Hills the Queens Boulevard line has only the E and F. The Fulton Street like has only the A and C. Nassau’s connection to Montague isn’t in regular revenue service. The crosstown connection to Queens Boulevard isn’t in regular revenue service. The L train connection to the J and Z isn’t in regular revenue service. The Montague connection to the Brighton line isn’t used. The 2 express tracks north of E180 street and the express tracks on the West End and Sea Beach are not regularly used.

              Much of the system doesn’t operate at capacity. This is beneficial as it actually helps when they have to do emergency reroutes. Also, if the ridership isn’t there for a particular route, why do it?

              • Ryan says:

                It’s not getting way ahead of ourselves to point out that nothing we can design or build in this entire network is going to exist in a vacuum separate from everything else.

                It’s also not getting ahead of ourselves to point out that the Rockaway Beach Branch is far, far, FAR lower on the MTA’s priorities list than the Second Avenue Subway is – whether or not we agree that’s the correct priority order, the facts as they stand suggest that significant portions (if not all of) the Second Avenue Subway are bound to be open before the Rockaway Beach Branch is. And because it’s not getting ahead of ourselves to point that out, it’s also not getting ahead of ourselves to think about and talk about how service might be realigned accordingly.

                The Broadway Line indeed serves all those places you said it does. Of course, the Sixth Avenue Line serves the exact same 34th street station, almost the exact same 42nd street station, and the Second Avenue Line is going to be within three blocks of Union Square and also going to serve the financial district. Trading the R for the V Second Avenue Local is hardly an earth-shattering loss; actually, it’s a gain, as more of Manhattan becomes directly accessible from the Queens Boulevard.

                Combining the M and the V in the way that were was a necessity borne primarily of service cuts. Long-term, both ends of the M want to keep their access to midtown but have very little demand to access each other – the line needs to be broken back up again. That doesn’t hurt capacity, it actually helps it. Whether and where the midtown terminals end up being, I don’t know! There’s a number of options, I’ve only thrown out a few of them because right now we’re in the early, early, early draft stages of planning. In other words, this is absolutely the time to get as many ideas about what to do out there as possible and gather as much information as we can so that we can start whittling down all these ideas (and between us all here, we have a great many ideas) into a clear plan.

                Note that I never said or even suggested that the E should change. I’ve suggested that we should explore changing the F back to running express between 179th and 71st. I think that’s a good idea, others have disagreed, it merits further study.

                The ridership is there for a G extension over the currently non-revenue tracks you mentioned. In fact, one of the major talking points of the Rockaway Beach Subway as advanced here and elsewhere was restoring the G’s service over that currently non-revenue connection because cutting it to begin with was a mistake and an outrage. The ridership is absolutely there for bringing it back to Forest Hills, and I will gladly wager on the ridership being there for it to continue up to 179th (and, as you’ve mentioned, there’s plenty of unused capacity for it out that way.)

                Not every segment of the system needs to be at full utilization at all times. I never even came close to suggesting that. But, there are plenty of places where excess capacity is available and needs to be put to better use.

            • Henry says:

              Running both a local and express service through 63rd St after completion of SAS Phase III will not be possible. In fact, running two services through 63rd St will not be possible. As it is, each pair of tracks can only really accommodate two services efficiently and reliably; having a 63rd St, 2nd Av local will require giving up either a 60th St, Broadway local (not happening) or a 53rd St, 6th Av local (which is fairly heavily utilized nowadays, and which was the entire point of the creation of the V in the first place; any benefit to Ridgewood was secondary.)

              The M is better than both of its previous incarnations, and sees growing ridership, so it should not be discontinued. Discontinuing it would also mean the loss of direct Lexington and 53rd St access for Queens Blvd riders, and given the fact that SAS will be very slow going, we should not deprive them of this inter-system transfer (particularly when we should be maximizing connections between the former IRT, IND, and BMT).

              63rd St and SAS Phases III and IV will never be fully utilized until the missing link in the puzzle is built; the Queens Blvd Bypass. This would allow for an additional set of tracks between Forest Hills and 63rd St, allowing for, among other things, the usage of the Hillside express tracks once again. This has been part of the plan since 1968 and do more to relieve Lexington congestion than anything else, but no one has talked about it.

              • Ryan says:

                Lex and 53rd isn’t an IRT transfer, first of all. That’s Lex and 59th, which isn’t served by the Second Avenue Subway unless 55 St moves up a little and becomes 56-59 St, which actually does better for maximizing IND/BMT/IRT transfer opportunities than either of the other East River crossings in the area.

                The 63rd Street tunnel can reliably support the F and the return of the V train; the only people who actually lose 6 Av local access are Queens Plaza and not even them if you can figure out how to turn M trains there instead of having to do it in Manhattan.

                As for growing M ridership, that doesn’t matter if the reason for growing M ridership is because “it’s a subway to Manhattan” and not because “it’s a Queens Local / 6 Av Local.” I don’t know if that’s actually the case. Again, it’d be nice to have a ridership study.

                • Henry says:

                  The main issue is that Queens Blvd local cannot reliably host three services. A third service would cause terrible ripple effects with delays, as the at-capacity QBL Express and 60th St tunnels already do. The East River tunnels simply have more capacity than can be utilized by whatever is on the Queens side.

                • Henry says:

                  Also, M ridership has risen because it provides access to Midtown Manhattan, something neither a Second Avenue subway or a Nassau Line connection would be able to do very well. 6th Av and 53rd St pass by massive clusters of towers and major destinations including Herald Square, Bryant Park, and Rockefeller Center. Say what you want about 2nd Av, but its anchors are not nearly as compelling.

                  Lex and 53rd has a connection to the 6 at 51st, so not sure about your point about the “IRT transfer”…

                  Also, there are only two tracks on the 63rd St line; turning at 57th St or Queensbridge during rush hour would simply not be possible if you also had a train service running under the river.

                  • Ryan says:

                    59th is an express stop, and 2 out of 3 Lexington Avenue services run express. That was my point. Having access to the 4/5/6 is much better than just having the 6.

                    • Henry says:

                      Something is better than nothing. Just because it’s “just” a local stop doesn’t mean it’s not worth a lot; Lex/53rd, Bway/Lafayette, and Canal St are all heavily uitilized local transfers on the Lexington Av Line.

                      In any case, in the event of SAS completion, only the R would still have a definite connection to 59th St. The entire rationale for providing an OOS transfer at Lex/63rd was because the F lost its direct, in system connection at 53rd St to the East Side; once SAS opens, that rationale gets thrown out the window.

                • Michael says:

                  Quoted Text:

                  “Lex and 53rd isn’t an IRT transfer, first of all.”


                  Then in that case the planners and builders of the CitiCorp Building gave away a great deal of their basement and ground level floor space in the 1980’s to accommodate a transfer between the #6 IRT Local, and the then E and F trains to/from Queens Blvd, and both Sixth and Eighth Avenues.

                  The connections at that station increased the ability to transfer to/from the eastside IRT and IND lines. Prior to this connection to the eastside IRT there was the Yankee Stadium connection in the Bronx, downtown only connection at Bleecker Street-Broadway/Lafayette Streets, and transfer connection at Fulton Street. Making this connection at these two stations, meant that the whole complex became one of the highest used stations in the system.

                  Somehow if the 51st Street and 53rd Street train station connections are somehow not “important” then the MTA spent a great deal of money renovating and enlarging the passageways and elevator connections between those stations in the very recent past.

                  Just saying!


                  • Ryan says:

                    And as a matter of fact, that was a tremendous waste of money because of the nature of the project. If we had the opportunity to go back and change anything about the many things we’ve done wrong in the past, then we should have made damn sure that became an express stop as part of the deal. We didn’t, and now we’ve got to plan around that short-sighted-ness by making sure that there’s a connection between the BMT Broadway and IND Second Avenue at 60th street. Moving the 55 St station up about two blocks ensures that we can build that connection – calling it 56-59 St makes it obvious that there’s going to be a connection, but strictly speaking, you could call that station whatever the hell you wanted to as long as the center of the platforms is underneath 57th and you make absolutely sure that there’s an in-system connection there.

                    Just saying.

                    • Henry says:

                      It’s actually a good thing that 51st St did not become an express stop; from the MTA’s point of view, it ensures better balancing between the loads of local and express trains. It would be absolutely dangerous if every transfer was an express stop, because then express trains would be overloaded and platforms would be crowded with people switching from local to express and vice versa, and people transferring. It’s similar to how an express stop at Woodside and not 74th/Bway is better for the 7 train’s distribution; otherwise, locals would be much emptier compared to expresses.

                      With the IRT’s design constraints (relatively narrow island platforms and shorter interstation stops), you cannot have IND-style “express” where the express makes every stop that the local does because it’s a transfer; that just results in the overcrowding of the express train.

                    • Ryan says:

                      Forcing people onto local trains by making locals the only local transfer probably doesn’t really help the situation all that much, because the same psychological bias towards express runs even when the local is a better choice also leads to irrational actions like riding a local to the nearest express stop and transferring again.

                      So by “[ensuring] better balancing between the loads of local and express trains,” we’ve actually pushed the problem away from 51st – one stop up to 59th, and one stop down to 42nd. At the same time, adding an express stop at 51st would have distributed the crush of irrational express passengers out over three sets of platforms instead of bunching them into two, and having express trains making all three of those stops would have lessened the psychological bias inherent in boarding a train making an “extra” stop.

                      Narrow platforms are a concern. In fact, the IRT/A Division trains are one foot and three inches narrower than the B Division trains, and that’s also a long-term concern. The medium-term solution is to widen platforms and the long-term solution is to normalize all rolling stock to one width or the other. Narrowing all trains to the A Division width means it’s less work to widen platforms, but we’re not getting out of this without station reconfiguration on a massive scale either way.

                      (Platform Screen Doors also need to be a part of the long term station reconfiguration effort, but that’s another topic.)

                    • Michael says:


                      I am going to say this just once.

                      Building the transfer between the 51st Street IRT and 53rd Streets IND was not a waste of money, time or effort. The transfer since the 1980’s is used by millions of riders daily, monthly and yearly. The entire complex is listed as one of the most heavily used stations within the entire subway system. As well as increasing the number of useful connections between the eastside IRT and the IND lines, especially since in the 1920’s and 1930’s the IND lines were planned and built with VERY FEW connections and transfers with the already existing and completed IRT subway lines. Actual real statistical and historical evidence that is casually dismissed by you, because it does not fit your grand scheme of things.

                      I’ve decided not to say more.
                      For now with you, I am done.


                    • Ryan says:

                      Okay, Mike, you can be done with me, but that doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, that massive complex has actually contributed to the express load imbalancing problem (with people irrationally choosing an express train to bypass this stop) and to go through all of that construction effort and not create an express stop was insanely short-sighted.

                      We can agree to disagree about whether or not it was an outright waste, but I cannot agree to back down from my assertions that 53rd is far from optimal, and that connecting to 59th is far more important than connecting to 51st.

                    • Henry says:

                      Ryan, I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but that is simply not true. People trying to get to Queens are trying to get to Queens, and no one “avoids” 51st St just because it’s a local stop. Regular riders who need a train from Manhattan to Queens Blvd have two choices: the local at 59th St, or the express at 51st. This is actually very rational; the expresses are designed primarily to speed people to the Bronx and Brooklyn, while the local functions more as a circulator within Manhattan (that happens to go to Parkchester). Since on the Lexington Av IRT taking a local over an express does not cost you that much more time within Manhattan (considering that you often need to wait for the second or third express to get on), people generally stay on the local train to get where they’re going. This essentially filters the crowd; Bronx and Astoria on the Lex express with some QB local, and Queens Blvd and Jamaica on the Lex local.

                      The implication that people are passing up transferring to the QBL express at 51st St just because they’re lazy and going to 59th St is silly, particularly when you consider that most of the people taking the R are already served by an R stop; no one is taking the R to Queens Plaza or Roosevelt and transferring there, since that means additional waiting for even less seating, and with the time advantage the QBL express has it makes no sense to use the local instead of the express for destinations past Forest Hills. It would be self defeating for someone to take a local Lex to an express Lex, transfer to an R, and then transfer to a QBL express; you’d waste more time walking and transferring than you would save (and this trip would probably take even more time than just using the Lex local to 53rd).

                      If the statement was true (people irrationally avoid the local because EXPRESS!!!111), then 74th St-Broadway would be a dead transfer, instead of the ridiculously overcrowded platforms the 7 sees during the peak. Instead, you see the same filtering at work; people seeking Main St and a bus transfer take the express, while people from Woodside, Jackson Heights, and Corona (and some Flushing riders who need the IND) take the 7 local to QBL.

                    • Ryan says:


                      You’re forgetting that the Queens Boulevard, while extremely important, is still only one part of an entire network. Indeed, the effect of the missing transfer here isn’t particularly felt by Queens riders.

                      Where it’s felt the most is by people in Manhattan looking to go uptown or downtown, the people chiefly responsible for making the Lexington Avenue Line the most overcrowded line in the country – and one of the key reasons for creating the Second Avenue Subway to begin with, by the way.

                      Does everybody make irrational decisions? No! People are unique individuals, and plenty of them will recognize an irrational action and make a rational choice instead. However, plenty more won’t – and enough people aren’t choosing rationally that the MTA needs to, in your words, “[ensure] better balancing between the loads of local and express trains” in order to help alleviate this problem to some extent.

                      But ‘forcing’ transfers between local trains only is very much a hacked, inefficient means of addressing this problem. Having 51 St be an “express” stop would have, without a doubt, been a better choice for addressing the imbalance of passengers between local and express trains that is in part generated by some (not all) people choosing to wait for and board a crowded express train even when the less-crowded local would have gotten them there just as fast and probably about as comfortably. The flawed thinking that “this train stops less times, therefore it will be faster” goes away if both trains stop in the same places. So too does “this train avoids that transfer, so I will bypass a lot of people who would have otherwise gotten on my train” become invalidated when all trains make the transfer stop. And at the same time, having three stations in a row be express distributes those passengers who irrationally choose to transfer from local to express at their earliest opportunity out across three stations instead of having them bunch up at two.

                    • ajedrez says:

                      I’m going to respond here because I can’t respond further down.

                      Your argument seems to be focused more on crowding on the platforms vs. crowding on the trains themselves. You have to consider that back in the day, when both the E & F traveled along 63rd Street, there were times when the 53rd/Lex platform was so overcrowded that they had to temporarily shut it down to prevent more and more people from building up on the platforms. If people were so obsessed with taking the Lex Express, you would’ve seen more people opting to use the 59th/Lex transfer instead, and then transferring at Queens Plaza for the E or F.

                      Even when it’s a cross-platform transfer with frequent service, people try to avoid transferring. So if somebody’s destination was 14th Street, and they needed the E train, it’s easier to sit through the extra 3 stops than to take the express for one stop and transfer to the local. And if somebody’s destination was a local stop south of 14th, then staying on the local avoids a local-express-local transfer on top of the QBL-Lex transfer.

                      It’s the same thing on the 1 train at 59th/CC, or the 7 at 74th Street.

  3. Ryan says:

    There’s a clear need, I’m not disputing that.

    What I am disputing is that there is a clear plan. There are multiple rail transit plans that have been advanced – by capt subway, by commenters here and elsewhere – but I don’t think any of them have necessarily been ‘clear’ as to what has to happen with this branch beyond reactivating it for the use it was intended for.

    It’s eminently obvious that rail needs to return to this corridor. What’s far less obvious is whether that must be a subway, whether the LIRR has any place on any part of the line (and there’s enough space for both in Rego Park, where a connection between the Montauk Branch and the Main Line is most immediately useful), which existing services (if any) are appropriate for this branch (and I have a strenuous objection to the idea that the R is an appropriate service to be running on the Queens Boulevard at all, let alone as a hyper-local service meandering all over the city in this way), service pattern characteristics are still a giant question mark, service pattern adjustments in Manhattan and Brooklyn are still giant question marks.

    This needs to be looked at more seriously on every level. The QueensWay is a garbage proposal advanced by those who want to salt the earth here and limit growth potential; that’s not in dispute.

    But tracing the route as a yellow line on a map, calling it an R reroute, and saying “good enough” is not a clear plan.

    • Ryan says:

      For the record, I believe the answer here lies in working with the LIRR to reactivate the least-encroached-upon stretch of this line as soon as possible, getting our foot in the door for a full subway later on. Peak, reverse peak, and off-peak shuttle service between Jamaica and LIC (which currently sees zero service except for peak hour, peak direction) is one more object advancing the cause of rationalized LIRR fares, and the LIRR itself is useful as a low-capital Queens Boulevard Super-Express train.

      Other things that need to be looked at are rationalizing the relationship between the F and G services (F express in Queens and Brooklyn, G local to Jamaica – 179 St), ancillary Brooklyn-Queens service expansion (which can’t happen when the subway conversation is inevitably, invariably dominated by “trip times to Manhattan”), reversing the service cut that merged the M and V together, and determining whether or not R ridership in Queens is driven by passengers bound for the Broadway Line specifically (and could therefore be served by a resurrected W) or whether the vast majority of traffic only cares about the next local to Manhattan (and therefore isn’t concerned with whether or not R service gets replaced by expanded V service, a sufficiently extended Rockaway Shuttle to the point where it can re-assume the H designation, or any other local service permutation originating from anywhere else in the system).

      There’s a lot of moving parts here that need to inform what kind of service begins operation over the Rockaway Beach Branch.

      • SEAN says:

        For the record, I believe the answer here lies in working with the LIRR to reactivate the least-encroached-upon stretch of this line as soon as possible, getting our foot in the door for a full subway later on. Peak, reverse peak, and off-peak shuttle service between Jamaica and LIC (which currently sees zero service except for peak hour, peak direction) is one more object advancing the cause of rationalized LIRR fares, and the LIRR itself is useful as a low-capital Queens Boulevard Super-Express train.

        Interesting thaught, but how do you get the LIRR to pay atention since they seme to live in there own bubble even though they are part of the MTA.

        Other things that need to be looked at are rationalizing the relationship between the F and G services (F express in Queens and Brooklyn, G local to Jamaica – 179 St), ancillary Brooklyn-Queens service expansion (which can’t happen when the subway conversation is inevitably, invariably dominated by “trip times to Manhattan”), reversing the service cut that merged the M and V together, and determining whether or not R ridership in Queens is driven by passengers bound for the Broadway Line specifically (and could therefore be served by a resurrected W) or whether the vast majority of traffic only cares about the next local to Manhattan (and therefore isn’t concerned with whether or not R service gets replaced by expanded V service, a sufficiently extended Rockaway Shuttle to the point where it can re-assume the H designation, or any other local service permutation originating from anywhere else in the system).

        There’s a lot of moving parts here that need to inform what kind of service begins operation over the Rockaway Beach Branch.

        It’s a lot to take in at once & I cant comment in enough detail to say yay or ney, but the points ar certainly valid especially regarding the G to Jamaica & R if rerouted to the Rockaways.

        • Stu Sutcliffe says:

          As far as Queens Boulevard Line service is concerned, you’ll never see a plan approved that doesn’t have express service to both 179th Street and Archer Avenue. Nothing else will fly, politically.

          • Ryan says:

            Okay, so stop shifting the F train over to the local tracks between 75 Av and Jamaica – 179 St. There’s two full and entirely disused express tracks along Hillside ready to go for the always-express F service pattern; Parsons and 179 St are both served by the express tracks.

            Now extend the G from Court Sq all the way to Jamaica – 179 St running fully local. The end result is that there’s a fully local and fully express option out of 179th bound for the Queens Boulevard Line, that has zero impact on the E which is already sharing capacity with the F and also zero impact on the F that is already sharing capacity with the E west of Forest Hills and the G on the Culver Line.

            Solving the issue of F/G operations in Brooklyn is going to take more intensive capital investment, but running the G fully local to Jamaica is low-impact and a no-brainer once we’ve gotten it back to Forest Hills.

            • Michael says:

              The idea of extending the G-train along the Queens Blvd. line to 179th Street, fully local is simply not going to work.

              Why? It did not work for the R-train when it was extended to 179th Street as the fully local route, with G-trains added at 71st Avenue, in the 1980’s when the Parsons-Archer Avenue segment was first added to the Queens Blvd line. The riders that formerly had direct express service to Manhattan from the local stations between 71st Avenue and 179th Street, escaped from the R-local trains as soon as they could, and complained bitterly about the “slow” R-train local service. And they complained, and they complained – to their local political leadership.

              It was a lovely idea. The E and F trains would run express along the entire line, while the R-trains handled the local stations. Except that those who had direct express service simply did not appreciate losing it. Nor did they appreciate less frequent local service, or having to transfer to the trains that they actually needed.

              Now it is proposed that less frequent, and not going to Manhattan G-train service act as the full-local along the line. Have their been no lessons learned from recent transit history?


              • Ryan says:

                Right, because lower frequencies are an inherent characteristic of the G train and not merely a product of low demand and disinvestment.

                And certainly, reorganizing our capacity use throughout the system such that we are getting the most capacity possible out of it is a secondary priority far behind making sure nobody’s feelings are hurt, lest they go running and crying to the same political “leadership” that creates these issues of disinvestment.

                Never mind that I put that proposal on the table purely as a response to Stu Sutcliffe’s assertion that no Queens Boulevard proposal is politically tenable without express service to 179th. The F and G are capacity constrained by the other services on the Queens Boulevard line west of Forest Hills; both the F and G can run local east of it without unduly impacting each other.

      • afk says:

        LIRR as QB super-express? During peak, what sort of capacity do you have on the mainline? I’m guessing it could be a bit tough to squeeze in many extra trains. There’s another rail line from Jamaica to LIC though. The lower montauk. It’s not electrified, and sees freight traffic, so I’m not sure what you could run on it, but it seems underused. I would think a subway fare and decent frequency could attract ridership running between Jamaica and LIC.

        Although if you do anything with the line and it sees somewhat regular service rebuild the fence around it in forest park so nobody gets run over by a train. Probably a half dozen spots where people (and dogs) cut across it between the forest park drive overpass and the bridle path right next to the Jackie Robinson.

        • Ryan says:

          If we connect the lower Montauk to the Main Line via the Rockaway Beach Branch in Rego Park (here: http://goo.gl/maps/ayBUr), we don’t need to electrify the entire lower Montauk.

          And we can deliver people right into the heart of Forest Park over the tracks that run through it. I don’t know off the top of my head if this has been attempted anywhere else, but in conjunction with fencing off the active line we could design Forest Park LIRR to be knitted into the trail network and allow people to use the station as a pedestrian overpass of the tracks.

          As for capacity on the Main Line during peak, I can’t tell you right now what the capacity is but I can tell you that there’s absolutely more capacity on the Main Line between LIC and Jamaica than what’s actually being used because there’s more track capacity on the Main Line then there is through the East River tunnels.

          • Henry says:

            The biggest issue with using the lower Montauk (besides the fact that you wouldn’t be connecting Queens Blvd and Howard Beach, which is ostensibly the entire point of the project) is that the LIRR does not operate, and to my knowledge does not even own the Lower Montauk anymore. If it was going to be reconverted to passenger rail usage, you’d need to grade separate the crossings and spend large amounts of money fitting out the line with high-level platforms and PTC, all of which are reasons why the LIRR abandoned it in the first place.

            • Ryan says:

              But… you don’t need to reconvert the entire Lower Montauk, and it is in fact far more valuable as a freight route.

              Fortunately, believe it or not, freight and passenger rail are actually capable of happily co-existing – especially over short stretches of track, like the distance between the Rockaway Beach Line and Jamaica station.

              Whether or not that has merit is an entirely different question, one that hasn’t been satisfactorily answered yet.

              • Henry says:

                Well, this is of course assuming that the NY&A is more than happy to allow regular, sustained passenger rail to crowd out its freight operations (as opposed to the alternative in Chicago and Los Angeles, where freight takes priority over commuter rail and everything is a mess).

                No one would utilize a train line going from Howard Beach to Jamaica, which in any case does not have space for terminating platforms in the opposite direction of the peak in the morning. It also doesn’t change the fact that none of the platform structures along the Lower Montauk are high-level, and how none of the line is equipped with federally mandated PTC at all, which is the entire reason the line was dumped in the first place. Grade crossings would still be an issue, and the MTA has been sued multiple times over accidents at these crossings.

                • Ryan says:

                  Number of grade crossings over the relevant stretch of the line: 0.

                  Number of stations on the relevant stretch of the line: 1, possibly 2.

                  Let me make myself perfectly clear. I am not talking about the entire Lower Montauk. It’s far, far, far too valuable as freight.

                  I am only concerned with the stretch of the Lower Montauk between Jamaica and the Rockaway Beach Branch, a stretch of track which is already fully grade separated and will have a much lower (and quite tolerable) impact on freight operations.

                  • Henry says:

                    Then you run into the problem that that is the opposite direction in which people want to go; everyone in the affected areas already has decent access to Jamaica. Jamaica is also not configured at all to handle trains from the west terminating, let alone trains from the west terminating at any meaningful level of frequency.

                    The entire point of any improvement in the Woodhaven corridor, be it SBS or the Rockaway Beach line, is the improvemnent of north-south travel without having to go into Jamaica.

                    • Ryan says:

                      Tracks 4 and 5 go pretty much unused during except during peak hour – it should be more than possible to turn 4~6 TPH there at the midday.

                      And I’m only arguing activating this as an LIRR connection to ensure that we have at least one stake in the ground for a transit purpose on this corridor. It slows down the QueensWay and it’s a low-cost insurance policy.

                      Long term, its usage is as part of a system of City Terminal Zone operations by the LIRR and MNCR (or, hopefully, someday, by the product of their forcible merger) to take advantage of the commuter rail and a series of intra-regional shuttle runs as a premium fare super-express network. This is one of the areas where LIRR and MNCR both need tremendous improvement and it’s also one of the areas where LIRR and MNCR demonstrate a lot of untapped potential.

                      But long term, both LIRR and subway tracks should share space through Rego Park, where there’s more than enough room for both.

      • Henry says:

        The Crosstown was moved off of the Queens Blvd local simply because demand for local services that didn’t enter Manhattan was, and will be, absolute crap (particularly for a line like the G, which is so far west and has so few connections to non-IND lines that it is essentially useless for use as a “crosstown” line). People would just take the G to an express train and wait at an express stop, which is why M service reduced crowding on E and F services after its introduction. Extending the G to 179th St on a line that is the second most crowded trunk line after the Lexington would be a waste of precious capacity (and precious money, which the MTA does not have much of either)

        • Ryan says:

          The IND Crosstown is indeed a bad line – but it’s also the line that we’ve got right now, and it’s apparently not so bad that it wasn’t a huge moral outrage when G service was cut away from Queens Boulevard to make room for the V.

          Do I think that there are far better hypothetical lines that we could draw on maps to create a “better” crosstown trunk line? Absolutely. But none of those are even close to fruition, so as “bad” as the G is – it’s what Brooklyn and Queens have for a crosstown direct right now. Until we experience the Transit Renaissance and untold billions of dollars are invested into the IND Second System massive subway expansion, we’re going to have to live with the G as the option for Brooklyn-Queens direct rides, no matter how much ‘better’ of a crosstown trunk line we might have gotten out of any hypothetical routing.

    • SEAN says:

      It’s eminently obvious that rail needs to return to this corridor. What’s far less obvious is whether that must be a subway, whether the LIRR has any place on any part of the line (and there’s enough space for both in Rego Park, where a connection between the Montauk Branch and the Main Line is most immediately useful), which existing services (if any) are appropriate for this branch (and I have a strenuous objection to the idea that the R is an appropriate service to be running on the Queens Boulevard at all, let alone as a hyper-local service meandering all over the city in this way), service pattern characteristics are still a giant question mark, service pattern adjustments in Manhattan and Brooklyn are still giant question marks.


      I think you just exposed the elephant in the room on this issue. There’s zero doubt this right of way is best suted for transit, however what type of service hasn’t clearly been articulated by those who are in the know & it’s a crying shame.

      The QueensWay is a garbage proposal advanced by those who want to salt the earth here and limit growth potential; that’s not in dispute.

      But tracing the route as a yellow line on a map, calling it an R reroute, and saying “good enough” is not a clear plan.

      We have resigned our selves to “good enough” in almost every faset of public policy over the past thirty years & the results have been desasterous to say the least from education standards to corporate theft & beyond. We just focus here on the transit side of things even though special interests are everyware & are looking for there handout.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Does it matter that much? The only reason I would say it needs to be subway is NYCTA actually could operate it pretty cheaply. LIRR needs lots of reform before they’re acceptable.

      But as routes go, why be anal?

      • Ryan says:

        Details matter, that’s why.

        The LIRR needs lots of reform no matter what happens with the Rockaway Beach Branch, and reform can’t be resisted forever, so dictating our actions here based on organizational culture is short-sighted at best, particularly if the choice is between driving a stake in the ground where there’s the least potential resistance to doing so right now and using that for leverage to stop the nonsense and get the full subway later OR hoping that we can push through the full subway in one go before the QueensWay idiots have too many of their own stakes in the ground here. In other words, it’s a comparatively lower-cost insurance policy and operational malfeasance shouldn’t enter the picture because it probably hopefully won’t be relevant by the time trains start running through Rego Park again.

        As for the R, the R runs fully local at all times AND is one of the longest (if not the longest) routes in the system. The impact of those two facts has been somewhat blurred in the aftermath of Sandy with the line being very much cleaved in two on weekdays, but once the Montague Tubes are back in play it should become clear again as to just how problematic the length and hyper-local operation of this line is as it stands. Forget about the hypothetical extensions in either direction for a minute; as the line is right now it’s an extremely compelling candidate for being broken down into the shifted R Broadway Express and the restored W Broadway Local, and express operation over some or all portions of the line where capacity exists or can be found for it must be a prerequisite to any R service extension. It’s not nearly as much of a problem for the M (that’s not to say it isn’t a problem at all) but the Rockaway Beach Branch (whether it’s just to Howard Beach or whether it’s a full run to Rockaway Park) is still a sizable amount of additional running room to ask any fully-local train to take on.

        I’m going to continue to be anal about this because knowledge is power and the best way to ensure that we have a fighting chance against the NIMBYs here is if we have a clear plan, with the little things like “service patterns” and “ridership projections” defined and easily cited. We’re going to lose if this turns into a belief contest between us screaming “NO THIS WILL WORK JUST TRUST US OK?” at the assorted forces lined up behind the rails-to-trails insanity or fighting any change whatsoever who are in turn screaming “NO NO NO, THIS CAN’T WORK, GIVE IT UP, NO NO NO!”

        Fortunately, we don’t have to turn this into an unwinnable contest of who can believe the hardest. We have the means and the motivation to craft and present a clear plan. Unfortunately, that’s going to require us to be a little anal about things like routing.

        • afk says:

          The A train seems to be the longest at 31 miles, can’t find a figure for length of each line though – anyone have that handy, would like to see.

          • Ryan says:

            A train runs express on the full length of the Eighth Avenue Line’s express tracks at all times except for late nights, and the late night A train run has been described in such wonderful terms as “murder on the driver.”

            Shifting the R to running express at all times except late nights on the Broadway Line and the Fourth Avenue Line goes a long way towards solving its inherent problems, especially since late night R trains are cut down to the Bay Ridge Shuttle, unlike the still-full-run-just-local late night A train.

            • John says:

              There’s an easier answer once the SAS opens up between 63rd and 96th streets — When the Q goes to 96th, revive the W from Whitehall, but flip northern terminals with the R, so it augments the N to Astoria, and any future run to Howard Beach with the W would be shortened by eliminating all of the R’s current segment in Brooklyn (the downside would be the R would be back to its late 60s problem of having no direct yard access near its northern or southern terminals, but the MTA has talked in the past about a mini-yard at Sunnyside that would solve the problem).

              • Ryan says:

                This isn’t that much easier because you’ve still got serious capacity constraints on the BMT Broadway’s local tracks to deal with; and reviving the W as the W Broadway Local without shifting any other services onto the express tracks just expands the problem from 57 St all the way down the line.

                Running the R into the Second Avenue Subway alongside the Q as the R Broadway Express buys us double the frequency on that line until Phase 3 opens, effectively kicking the capacity-distribution problem a decade or so down the road. But even if you don’t run the R up Second Avenue with the Q (or after Phase 3 opens and the T comes online), you can run it through the 63rd Street tunnel alongside the F and onto the Queens Boulevard Local tracks that way, there’s room enough for it. Or do something else – there’s lots of options here.

                The R’s yard problem can probably be solved by the 36-38 St Yard, especially if the D is shifted to local operation and the R assumes control of its express slots there.

                • Henry says:

                  This is, of course, assuming that current Broadway Line local train headways, whether R or W, are inadequate for Rockaway service. I have a hard time believing that ridership would necessitate anything more than every 6 or 8 minutes (which is actually better than Q53 service, considering the amount of people a train holds vs. the amount of people a bus holds).

                  • John-2 says:

                    Exactly. The N/R/W triumvirate ran for over a decade sharing trackage between 57th-7th and the 11th Street cut, and that was with the N having to deal with Q trains turning at 57th. That obstacle will be removed once the Q goes to 96th — you’ll still have downtown N trains having to cross to the express track south of 57th, but Astoria-bound ones won’t have to deal with switching to the local track and with the Q using the express tracks just ahead as a terminal.

                    So then it comes down to whether or not the number of TPHs the W had run to Astoria with the N in the past matches the current TPH for the R, since you don’t want to cut Fourth Avenue service in Brooklyn.

                    As long as you keep minimum service levels on the existing lines coming off Broadway where they are now, an R/W swap would be of minimal consequence, and would give you more Rockaway Branch service than, say, what riders on the Liberty Ave.-Lefferts branch of the A currently have (and even if there is a 1-2 TPH difference in the R vs. the W at rush hour that is in the R train’s favor, 1-2 M trains could be added as a replacement for the Queens local service, an increase which could easily be handled on Sixth Ave. and B’way-Brooklyn).

                    • Ryan says:

                      The N/R/W triumvirate did indeed run all on the same track pair, and each of their headways suffered for it.

                      If we want to set this up so that we have less frequent service on each attendant branch in exchange for having far more branches, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. If CBTC is installed on all of the relevant trunk lines, we have 30 trains per track per hour, which could certainly support three distinct branches of service.

                      Where my concerns come in is the impact that doing that has on the ends of the lines – in Bay Ridge’s case specifically, that’s the difference between an extra five trains per hour in the peak that are only possible if the R runs express on the Broadway Line.

                      Sure, it’s better than what other riders in the system might have right now, but I’d rather look at these things on their own specific merits and in the context of how the system as a whole is impacted, not as a case by case of “is this too much better than what other riders are getting?”

                    • John-2 says:

                      If you run the R express on Broadway, you’re simply pushing the bottleneck to DeKalb, and recreating the track crossover woes the TA caused in 1967 post-Christie, when the B and N would stop there, and then have to cross with the R between DeKalb and Pacific Street.

                      In the new scenario, you would either have the R and N swapping somewhere immediately south of DeKalb, or you’d have the D/N/R sharing trackage through the DeKalb bypass — a worse combo than the N/R/W pairing north of 57th because of the D’s higher TPH — or you’d have to also run the N as a full-time local and R as full-time express in Brooklyn. That would necessitate a track swap north of 59th and saddle Sea Beach riders with all-local service to Manhattan.

                      It took the MTA almost 40 years after their routing errors of 1967 (based on the TA planners’ old-time IND bias that everyone would want the new Sixth Avenue option over BMT’s Broadway stops) to simplify the DeKalb situation, so there were as few track switches as possible for the B/D/N/Q/R (and M when it ran there), and from a constituent/voter standpoint, it would be easier to create a new local service on the Rockaway Branch than take an express service away from Sea Beach riders in South Brooklyn. Add to that if the line between Ozone and Rego parks was restored, it would probably be best if Woodhaven was converted to an express stop anyway, in order to avoid adding riders from the new line transferring to the E/F at Roosevelt along with the Flushing Line passengers. That way, Woodhaven corridor passengers would still be getting off at Woodhaven Blvd., but instead of from the M or R to the Q11, they could do it from the E or the F to the W.

                    • Henry says:

                      Ryan, IND signalling already supports 30 TPH. The main reason why three distinct services do not run on any pairs of track save 60th St is because of the impact such operations would have on reliability; interlining is both a blessing and a curse.

                      Putting Queens Blvd utilization at 30 TPH would make the trunk even more of a vector for delay ripples than it is now. E service would impact all 8th Av service, F service would impact all 6th Av local and Crosstown service, M/V would impact all 6th Av local and Nassau service, R would impact all Broadway local service, and an SAS connection would also throw the SAS into that clusterf***.

                    • Ryan says:

                      Henry, you can’t have it both ways.

                      Modern CBTC signaling doesn’t represent a strict capacity increase, but CBTC is far better at absorbing little delays and minor issues even at full load without it resulting in sending the entire line into a death spiral.

                      So either interlining three lines at 10 TPH each through the Queens Boulevard is indeed doable in the future with far less of a risk of cascading failure under modern signaling – in which case, it’s more than possible to add Second Avenue service without taking any existing service away and it’s also possible to reorganize the Queens Boulevard in such a way that we have E-F-G-R-V or E-F-H-M-W or any other combination of letters representing any combination of existing and hypothetical services that provides the maximum possible destination options into and outside of Manhattan.

                      Alternatively, it isn’t actually possible to maintain close to or full capacity utilization without locking up the trunk line every rush hour and inviting routine failure to maintain scheduling. In that case, we can’t do anything about the Queens Boulevard – but now we’re also having issues with N-R-W sharing local tracks in the Broadway Trunk between Canal St and the 60th Street Tunnel, which is leading to us having to drop headways needlessly because there’s plenty of excess room on the express tracks to shift over the R and make everything run smoother and also reduce the potential points of failure.

                      It’s one, or the other.

                    • Ryan says:


                      The D does indeed have a higher TPH, but that’s solved by shifting the D to local operation between 36th and DeKalb Av. That adds a grand total of four stops to the D’s run but cuts seven off of the R.

                    • Henry says:

                      Ryan, the use of three services on the 60th St is an anomaly that exists purely for political reasons. No one in the early 20th century could’ve possibly predicted all the ridership that goes through the 60th St tunnels now, so only two tunnels were built. (Indeed, a lack of short-sighted river crossing building is a very common theme; see the messes at DeKalb and Cranberry St for similar examples in Brooklyn.) When built, 60th St should’ve been four tracks to Queensboro Plaza, but that’s all water under the bridge now (no pun intended).

                      The only reason we have three services going through 60th St now is because of Astoria’s insistence at having both an express and local service; in a perfect operations world, we’d be able to have Q service terminating at 57th St at all times, with the N operating local at all times north of Canal St (and frequencies boosted to make up for the lack of express service.) Just because a bad situation exists in one place (the area is a serious bottleneck with serious impacts on reliability rippling throughout the system) doesn’t mean we have to extend a bad example to somewhere else, like the QBL. Hopefully, the SAS will allow for the Broadway Express to leave Astoria once and for all, but the odds of Astoria taking that well are nil.

                      To give a more pertinent example of why you can’t shove three frequent metro branches into a single line, take a look at DC. The opening of the Silver Line along the Orange and Blue trunk is causing riders to complain as frequencies get shuffled around in an attempt to stuff a square into a circular hole. WMATA is now looking at separating the Blue from the Orange/Silver because they simply cannot handle having three services on two tracks, and this is a system that can run completely automatically.

                    • John-2 says:

                      Ryan —
                      Running the D local full-time between DeKalb and 36th then irks the West End riders, who are accustomed to just one stop between 36th Street and Grand. And IIRC, the West End actually has more riders overall than the Sea Beach.

                      It’s easier not to give riders express service to begin with than to try and take it away from them after the fact. Not tinkering with the R’s Brooklyn options keeps the N and D riders happy; while if you reactivate the Rockaway Branch and convert Woodhaven to an express station, you’d only be asking riders there to hit one Queens Blvd. local stop (63rd Drive/Rego Park) before branching south, if they want to transfer to the line from the E or the F.

                    • Ryan says:


                      You’re right, it’s unfortunate. And in the world where we have the willpower and capital to pour concrete solutions to all of our little problems like this, the 60th Street Tunnel would have gotten an extra two tracks ten years ago and we would have advanced projects for additional river crossings at 23rd, 31st, 72nd, 86th, and 125th.

                      Unfortunately, we’re probably never going to make it to the transit Promised Land, and “just build more” is never going to be the answer to all of what ails us. Certainly, there will always be issues that can’t be solved any other way. No amount of organizational correction can ever fix the bad positioning of the IND Crosstown, for instance.

                      But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be problems where an organizational fix isn’t obvious, isn’t desirable, and isn’t staring us right in the face. Issues like the three-one split of services on the Broadway Line.

                      Whether or not we revive the W, we’re probably still going to be squeezing three services through the 60th street tunnels. That doesn’t mean we have to also sigh and try to squeeze three lines through the BMT Broadway local tracks when, in fact, four tracks were built for that line and all four of them are in active use.

                      It doesn’t have to be the R. The R is the best choice because it’s the longest of the Broadway services and completely unacceptable as a local-local-local-local service, but shifting the N to express operation works too. So does restoring the W as a Broadway Express.

                    • Ryan says:


                      Taking express service from people is going to be difficult. It’s going to be difficult today, it’s going to be difficult in the future, but there are places in this system where it’s simply going to have to happen. That’s called shared sacrifice. D riders will get over it, just like Astoria riders will have to get over losing Q service eventually.

                      (Or, hell, you know what? Turn the Astoria people against the D people. No matter who “wins,” their ire ends up directed predominantly at the other group and we end up in a better operational position than where we are today.)

                      Passenger experience and comfort is important, don’t get me wrong. But we’ve reached the point where passenger comfort is having serious detrimental impacts on the R, because of its sheer length and because unlike every other line of comparable size, it runs hyper-local and makes every single stop over the entirety of its route. It’s already an untenable situation without the addition of the Rockaway Beach Branch – forcing it to take on that burden as well is the kiss of death. Frankly, the R is already suffocating itself to death in its present form and people have only really forgotten how bad it can get because the R has been cut down to two reasonable branches during the weekdays until the Montague Tubes are back online.

                      Extending the R is untenable, unacceptable, and frankly it’s probably going to be untenable and unacceptable even if it gets sent to Astoria and replaced by the W on Queens Boulevard. The best we can hope for is Astoria’s “claim” to an express run being seen as worth more than the D ridership’s “claim” to an express run resulting in the R being shifted to express operation at all times in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

        • Bolwerk says:

          The problem with the LIRR isn’t just organizational culture. It’s how it’s regulated and how it’s engineered. Big, heavy FRA tanks aren’t exactly ideal for high or medium-frequency transit service.

          And, as I said yesterday, there is no need to route trains using the Rockaway Line to Manhattan. People can transfer and a portion of the ridership will always be expected to transfer. If you want to “win,” the first step should be getting an operating railroad between the Rockaways and Queens Blvd.

          Manhattan can come later, maybe after the MTA and NYCTA have found a way to respond comprehensively to the PTC mandate. Or the long-forgotten superexpress is built.

          • Ryan says:

            There’s no need to route trains using the Rockaway Line to Manhattan… except for the fact that terminating them somewhere on the Queens Boulevard Line carries an unacceptable capacity penalty to the local tracks, and sending them into the Crosstown Line means slashing local frequency to Manhattan.

            Routing them from the Rockaway Line to Forest Hills wouldn’t have had an undue impact on the Queens Boulevard services to Manhattan – but the bellmouths are pointed the wrong way for that, so it’s not an option.

            Manhattan service has to be part of the conversation, or the conversation becomes about far more costly infrastructure to send the trains away from Manhattan and the capacity-maxed sections of the Queens Boulevard.

            As for the big, heavy FRA tanks… leaving aside the fact that those FRA regulations are obsolete as of 2015 and we can now freely invest in lighter faster rail cars, I’m very interested in what your definition of medium-frequency transit service is if the 5+ TPH during the peak that the LIRR manages today doesn’t meet that definition.

            • Bolwerk says:

              I realize Manhattan needs to be part of the conversation, but that all seems like wild overkill to get started. Without Manhattan-bound service, trains don’t need to be full-length. They can probably be Franklin Avenue length. The absolute worst-case accommodation that needs to be made under those conditions is a single-track station at 63rd along the LIRR tracks, and it can be at grade. People can walk the last 300-400 meters to Queens Blvd. under that scenario, while getting very favorable transfers to the A, J, and AirTrain.

              Nothing about that compromises a single future plan for routing to Manhattan, but a very useful local service and proof of concept emerges.

              • Ryan says:

                I’m with you if you can actually get people to buy into stopping just before Queens Boulevard. The entire thing can be a shuttle run without much difficulty.

                Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to get people to buy into “let’s go most of the way to Queens Boulevard and then stop” … and those last 300-400 meters are the difference between having no meaningful capacity utilization impacts and having to find capacity in Queens Boulevard.

                But if people will go with the shuttle idea, it’s certainly among the cheapest options.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  It’s not just the cheapest option. It’s work that would need to be done no matter what. A stop near Queens Blvd is the only major provision I mentioned that would need to be “temporary,” in the sense that it stops being useful when Manhattan provisions are made.

                  And it would be no more a shuttle than the G Train or an SBS line. It would be a pretty long line that could presumably have plenty of stops.

                  • Henry says:

                    From what I understand, the Queens Blvd bellmouths already reach the surface, so it isn’t like the work to actually connect it to the subway is major.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      It’s not, but there may not be capacity on Queens Blvd.. Or maybe there is.

                    • Henry says:

                      It’s not like the M or R are standing-room only entering/leaving Manhattan. The only issue with Queens Blvd local extensions is that you’d need to convert Woodhaven to an express stop; Roosevelt can barely handle its loads as it is, and adding Rockaway Beach riders to the mix would probably be a safety hazard.

                    • afk says:

                      Given the crowds on the E and F, there isn’t exactly room to offload many more people onto the express lines, though some of those future riders may be taking the bus to kew gardens or forest hills now, and so wouldn’t be new express riders.

        • Henry says:

          Despite the fact that it would create some sort of weird, ugly fish hook shape, the M is more than adequate for such an extension, since it has spare capacity (unlike the R, which can get pretty crowded), and is not that long. LIRR would never be able to provide either frequency or reliability (if something happens on the Main Line or East River Tunnels during the rush, the LIRR essentially drops dead).

          • Ryan says:

            That weird, ugly fish hook shape carries its own inherent inefficiencies; and, there’s no reason for it to exist if you can figure out how to turn M trains at Queens Plaza (or somewhere on Sixth Avenue).

            The once and future V train, if shifted to Second Avenue, results in more of Manhattan being directly accessible from Queens Boulevard at no expense to Sixth Avenue, since the F train will still be running and the R or W will still serve half of Sixth Avenue via the Broadway Line.

            This, like the R, is another one of those cases where I’d be fascinated by the study to find out whether people are grabbing the M because it’s the M or whether people looking for Sixth Avenue are grabbing the F and people grabbing the M just care about the next local train to Manhattan.

            • Henry says:

              Before the G/V switch, many people complained about the lack of Sixth Av local service. The R is also actually useful, since the R’s service area does not readily overlap with any other trunk line; you get access to Times Square without a passageway, Herald Square, Union Square, City Hall, and South Ferry. Considering how crappy the IND (and heck, even the SAS’s past incarnations and present one), the connections the R provides are invaluable.

              • Ryan says:

                Walking through a passageway is no bigger of a deal than walking through the rest of a subway station is, the Broadway Line and the Sixth Avenue line are absolutely serving the same service area above 23 St, and the Broadway Line is serving the same service area as the Lexington Line (and the future SAS) below 23rd.

                Sure, the Broadway Line is invaluable. But it isn’t irreplaceable.

                • Henry says:

                  Your insinuation that a passageway is different than staying in a single station complex that is more or less on top of each other is different from all the conclusions other transit agencies have reached. It is well known that people hate transferring; NYC MTA says that people will spend 1.75 min of in-vehicle time to avoid one minute of transfer/waiting time, MBTA uses 2.25 min, and Houston Metro estimates that people will spend at least 3.5-4 extra minutes in a vehicle to avoid 1 minute of transferring. Given that the transfer platforms available to QBL riders at Roosevelt and Queens Plaza are almost always overcrowded (waits for a second or third express train at Roosevelt are not uncommon), it’s safe to assume that the R has a fairly significant riderbase not willing to use the IND’s inconvenient transfers (which the SAS would not help with at all, and would actually probably make worse).

    • Henry says:

      Connection to the Queens Blvd line is very feasible, since bellmouths reaching the surface already exist.

      The LIRR is actually the worst candidate to link this to, since the LIRR Main Line is pretty much at capacity and suffers terrible knockback on delays; an additional line will just make matters much worse and will not improve things for anybody.

      • The LIRR’s Mainline is not necessarily at capacity. In fact, there is still a decent amount of usable capacity. Where the LIRR’s Mainline leads to (i.e. New York Penn) is at capacity, but trains could be added to go to places like Hunterspoint Avenue (or Grand Central, eventually), without all that much trouble.

        • Ryan says:

          My suggestion was LIC, but that’s really the same thing as suggesting Hunterspoint. In either case, any time I look at those stations a part of my dies inside. So much squandered potential! It’s tragic, really.

        • Henry says:

          Still, if something should happen in the East River Tunnels or Mainline (which is happening more and more frequently these days), Rockaway Beach would be affected by the LIRR’s inability to reroute service.

          There’s also the question of, “would Long Island politicians be okay with adding a line completely within city limits?” Judging by the response to Penn Station Access, the answer is probably no.

          • afk says:

            It’s not electrified, but the lower montauk line used to be connected to the rockaway branch. If you had quiet diesels or electrified the line then you could run rockaway trains over it to LIC without touching the mainline. Add a stop at that turn and you’d only miss out on the rego park stop, but get the rest of the line. – I know LIRR doesn’t use the line anymore, but is there reason they couldn’t?

            • Ryan says:

              There’s no reason they couldn’t, but it’s a valuable line for shifting freight traffic off of the Main Line and they’ve technically signed control of it away so getting the entire thing back is potentially problematic (on top of self-defeating, because of the aforementioned built-in capacity surplus on the Main Line). Furthermore, a direct track connection to the Rockaway Beach Branch means that only the short stretch of track between the Rockaway and the yard just west of Jamaica needs to be electrified.

              • Henry says:

                There is absolutely a reason they couldn’t. All platforms that still exist along the Lower Montauk besides at LIC are low-level, the entire line has multiple accident-prone grade crossings which are a liability for MTA, and the feds are requiring that PTC be installed on all lines with passenger service, which is the entire reason LIRR dumped the line in the first place.

                It’d also be problematic in the sense that neighbors who may not have a problem with electrified trains running past their houses would almost definitely have a problem with loud FRA-compatible, horn-blasting trains blasting fumes into their backyards every half hour or so. You’d also then need to provide separate trackage south of Liberty Av, since it is currently illegal for trains and subways to share track, and this will probably remain the case for a while.

  4. Starchitect hopefuls all jockeying to put their stamp on what they expect to be NYC’s next High Line.

    What’s Straphanger’s Campaign stance on the Rockaway Branch?

  5. Otte Chisolm says:

    It’s funny, re-building this line into a subway benefits everyone, but making it into a park benefits no one. Rail would connect the major parks of Queens by about 5 min. and would also make areas more accessible to people not looking for recreation at the time. A park (or whatever they want to put there) would hardly be accessible via mass transit, what a waste.

    • afk says:

      What do you mean it would connect the major parks of Queens? It’s more than a mile walk from 63rd drive to meadow lake, and I believe there are stairs, no ramp there, there is a steep ramp a bit further away though. If you mean to transfer and then walk from 71st it’s a lot more unpleasant than the map suggests. That part of Jewel between Grand Central And Van Wyck is basically a highway, there are crosswalks but no lights by the highway ramps, I wouldn’t count on any cars stopping just because you have the right of way there. At 75th I guess you could walk the POS trail by willow lake, but that’s been a mess for years, and either way won’t be 5 minutes from Forest park. If you count that as connecting the park, then you could say the queensway would be accessible by the A, J, E, F, M and R along with a handful of buses. Not to mention this is nowhere near alley pond park, the second largest park in Queens. Incidentally, there is a nice bike path to take you from Alley Pond through cunningham, kissena and into flushing meadows – Has some annoying streets to cross, but still pretty fun. Sure, with a possible transfer to the A (does rockaway justify two full time subway lines? Might the R or whatever you send down this go to the airport instead?) you could have a long walk to Jamaica Bay wildlife refuge too – is there a closer part of the park you can walk to from the broad channel stop?

      That said, connecting parks, or adding parkland isn’t really what this part of queens needs most. The only excuse for building the queensway is if you build a subway or el to the west along woodhaven – or maybe something at grade to cut some car lanes off Woodhaven.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I figure subway access for Forest Park could really be transformative. But I’m one of those small-D democrats who thinks people should actually be able to access public amenities. :-\

      • Ryan says:

        Rockaway probably doesn’t justify two full time subway lines.

        It does deserve more than half of one full time subway line, which is what it has today with A frequencies being equally divided across the tail end of the Fulton Line to Lefferts Boulevard and the Rockaway Line to Far Rockaway.

        There are a couple of options for rectifying that: Rockaway Beach Branch service is guaranteed to dump another one half’s worth of a full time subway line into the Rockaway Line (because any given Queens Boulevard Line route is seeing, at most, half-service because of the capacity split between the four (or potentially more) lines operating along it.)

        Extending the current Rockaway Park Shuttle up to Rockaway Boulevard is another option, although turning trains there could be extremely problematic and would likely require reconfiguring the station outright, so that’s unlikely. An equally unlikely option is extending it further back to any of the other stations where we could conceivably turn it around (theoretically, there’s enough capacity through the Cranberry Tunnel to support 10 round-trips each A/C/H once CBTC is installed on the Eighth Avenue Line, but…).

        Whatever happens, there’s no fear of having too much service and not enough demand on the Rockaway Line.

        • Henry says:

          If I remember correctly, can’t trains be terminated at Howard Beach? That solves your Rockaway capacity mismatch right there.

          The Rockaways does not require more subway service, since nearly all the stations on the peninsula have ridership in the high-300s or 400s ranks of “most used subway station”. You could, however, make a case for areas north of Howard Beach needing more subway service.

          • Ryan says:

            You can turn trains at Howard Beach. I’m not sure what turning trains at Howard Beach actually buys you that having the trains then just run through to Rockaway Park and gobble up the shuttle doesn’t (or vice versa, having the shuttle extend up to just before Queens Boulevard and terminate in Rego Park until we deal with the Queens Boulevard issue), but it’s doable.

            • Henry says:

              Versus extending a full-length subway line to Rockaway Park, it saves quite a bit of money.

              Once again, what exactly is the Queens Blvd issue? Two bellmouths already reach the surface at Queens Blvd.

              • Ryan says:

                The issue is capacity, and the inability to have it both ways.

                Extending the M is inefficient, extending the R is terminally inefficient, you’ve asserted that extending the G shouldn’t even be in the picture, you’ve asserted that splitting off the V is a bad idea, and we’re having a back and forth elsewhere in this comment chain about whether or not the same inability to interline three services on local tracks here applies to the Broadway trunk (and I maintain that it either applies to both lines or neither of them.)

                So, either there’s a path forward here in which entirely new trains not part of any existing Queens Boulevard services can be added to the Queens Boulevard local tracks; if that’s true, then there’s no problem with extending trains from Rego Park all the way into Manhattan as the V Second Avenue Local or the W Broadway Local or the H Eighth Avenue Express or the K Nassau Street Local or the [your service pattern idea(s) here].

                Or, there’s no path forward here in which any brand new trains can be introduced to the Queens Boulevard, and every single new train running through those bellmouths has to be capacity-neutral and zero out an existing M or R train in exchange. If that’s the case, taking any trains at all is a bad option, diverting any trains is a bad option, and until we have some other path forward, stopping the trains just before the bellmouths ensures that no trains need to be subtracted from the Queens Boulevard to make room.

                • Henry says:

                  I maintain that it does indeed apply to both 60th St and QBL local, and that Astoria should really only be getting a Broadway local service.

                  Why exactly would diverting the M be “inefficient”? People already switch from the Q53 to the M and R, so this would not be a speed decrease; in fact, it would be a speed increase, since trains are much faster than buses. Neither the M nor R are standing-room only leaving Queens or Manhattan. Unlike a local train extension to 179th, which would be an overwhelming negative since most people transfer onto buses for anywhere from another 15-45 minutes, no one is going to be transferring from a 45-minute bus ride to the Rockaway Beach line, so the local stop time penalty isn’t as important. The M is not particularly delay-prone, and it would be silly to suggest that Forest Hills and 67th Av riders need two services instead of one. In fact, putting the M on Rockaway Beach would probably increase capacity west of Rego Park, since the 30 TPH capacity on the QBL local is constrained by the fact that Forest Hills can only turn 24 or 25 TPH.

                  • Ryan says:

                    Does the QBL have the capacity to consistently operate at 30 TPH? The answer to that is either “yes” or “no,” and the answer to that also applies to both 60th Street and the rest of the BMT Broadway Line.

                    Before I respond to your actual point here, I would like you to answer this question: do you agree or disagree that it’s possible to run 30 TPH on any stretch of track that has modern (CBTC) signaling installed and have things work consistently and without major incident at least 90% of the time?

                    • Henry says:

                      I disagree. QBL follows Murphy’s Law fairly frequently. Even now, CBTC has not cut its teeth on anything higher than the 26 TPH that the L can run due to terminal limitations. We also don’t know how CBTC will deal with trains merging into and out of CBTC territory, which is not something that occurs on other train systems with CBTC.

                  • Ryan says:

                    Okay, very well. If you’re disagreeing that consistent operation of 30 TPH is possible even under CBTC, then I’ll frame my response to your points around the assumption that the limit of “useful” capacity (i.e., what we can push through the Queens Boulevard without routinely experiencing issues) is 27 TPH, or exactly 90% of the stated capacity. That gives what I feel is a rather generous amount of schedule slack for a system with modern signaling, and also makes sharing between three services just barely possible (at 9 TPH headways for each, or every 6 minutes and 40 seconds).

                    I’m also going to assert that Forest Hills is more than capable of turning every single train that comes through the Queens Boulevard local tracks if it has to, because there’s an abundance of capacity on the yard leads that likely makes Forest Hills actually one of the easiest places to turn a high volume of trains anywhere in the system. It won’t ever have to do that, but it could.

                    So, with those assertions out of the way, and with your assertion that 30 TPH is indeed more than Queens Boulevard local can actually handle…

                    Diverting the M is inefficient for the same reason that diverting the R is terminally inefficient: sheer length of route-miles traveled from end to end. As I’ve mentioned before, the true effects of this kind of operation have been dulled in our minds with the Montague Tubes out of commission and every other comparable run taking place during the late nights – but you can still see a lesser form of the problems that occur when you start creating these megalithic runs if you take a look at the impact that the late-night A train has on its drivers, if you look at the operation of the modified R service on weekends, and so on. (The other key inefficiency of extending the M is the fact that its irritating shape corresponds to a travel pattern taken by exactly nobody; I can’t even get Google to route me from one M terminal to the other except by using local buses, but the awkward and terrible shape of the M run is an entirely secondary concern.)

                    The R is unquestionably the worst possible line to even consider for extensions, but other lines are not too far behind the R in that particular race to the bottom. Indeed, asking the M to take on the extra ~5 route-miles of travel between 63rd and Howard Beach would just about push it into the same category as the existing full R train run, and just like the full R train, would also suffer from the hyper-local service pattern that compounds the length issue, making length far more of a problem for lines like the potential extended M and the full R as opposed to full or partial express trains like the daytime A, F, or Q trains, where the problems are not nearly as severe thanks to stretches of express operation – but, indeed, as the F shows us, simply running express through Manhattan is not always a cure for what ails us.

                    In the case of the R, the obvious solution is to rejigger capacity utilization to transform the service into the R Broadway Express and operate it along the existing Q run into Astoria. D riders would have to tolerate four new stops in Brooklyn, but that would enable the R to express between 36 and Pacific in Brooklyn and between Canal and 57 in Manhattan, and it would also mean that Broadway trunk line capacity is divided evenly amongst its local and express tracks so that each track pair is supporting two services instead of having one track pair supporting three and the other supporting just the Q. The problem here is that the 60th Street tunnels are still over capacity with three full services, but that’s only the 60th as opposed to the entire Broadway trunk line.

                    The M, unfortunately, is harder to deal with. It never should have been merged with the V to begin with, and the inherent desirability of access to 6 Av is making it tremendously difficult to overcome the unexpected opposition to simply breaking the line in half again, which is by far the best possible solution especially if one or both branches can be routed and turned on the Second Avenue Subway.

                    Acting on the assumption that the organizational solution of shared sacrifice is politically impossible and that we can’t just turn M trains at Queens Plaza and force Queens Boulevard riders to switch to the F for 6 Av service, then a variety of less elegant routing solutions need to be explored.

                    Now, we’ve established that 60th Street has the same capacity limit as the Queens Boulevard local tracks. The stretch of two tracks between 7th Avenue and Queens is short enough (and the circumstances unfortunate enough) that we would probably be able to ‘get away’ with running more trains per hour than that 90% “useful” capacity limit and not have quite as many problems as we currently experience with the 100% capacity utilization of the Queens Boulevard Express. Figuring the full 30 TPH through those tunnels gives us 12 N Broadway Local trains to Astoria and 9 more R Broadway Express, leaving 9 more slots for W Broadway Local trains to Forest Hills.

                    M service, no matter what, will have an unspecified number of trains per hour – somewhere between 10 and 14, dictated based on the other services it shares tracks with (the E across the river, the F in Manhattan, and the J/Z in Brooklyn.) The reasonable thing to do would be to plan on it getting 12 TPH. That puts us at 21 TPH on the local Queens Boulevard tracks.

                    Now, if our useful capacity limit is indeed 27 TPH – we’ve got 6 slots left. That’s just enough to introduce a new service dedicated to both the Rockaway Beach Branch and the Second Avenue Subway; and wouldn’t you know it, the letter V just so happens to be unused at present. So we’ll introduce the V Second Avenue Local between Houston Street in Manhattan and Howard Beach via the 63rd Street Tunnel (under capacity, carrying only the F), the Queens Boulevard Local tracks, and the Rockaway Beach Branch. That takes advantage of a lot of capacity that would have otherwise gone wasted, keeps us within our established 27 TPH tolerance everywhere except for the one place we have no real option other than to run 30 TPH, doesn’t take service from anyone who already has it until such time as we’ve proven the merit of the service and can stand on that as grounds to reduce other services in order to facilitate additional V trains, and… well, G riders are still going to be screwed out of through service and forced to transfer through the mess at Court Square, unless and until we can build enough momentum for turning M trains at Queens Plaza in order to free up slots for restored G service and expanded V service. [sarcasm]But, well, the G is a bad line anyway, so who really cares?[/sarcasm]

      • Otte says:

        I should’ve said a park (Forest Park). In other words, why build a high line that’s going to be pretty difficult to even access, when you can rebuild a rail line that will provide access to a nearby park and make it easier for people to travel within Queens?

        • afk says:

          Why do you say it will be hard to access? Plenty of people live along it – the same people who would ride a train if they rebuilt that instead – and it is a short walk from the A and J trains, 67th and 71st av on QB + LIRR are within walking distance as well. I don’t see this as the next highline, but rather more like the vanderbilt motor parkway. I think it could make a great park, though probably not the kind that gets talked about – but that isn’t what this part of Queens needs most. It needs better transit. It could also do with infrastructure changes to make it easier to walk and bike, but first you need to get some cars off the road by adding transit options.

  6. Michael K says:

    Im prepared for getting flak for saying this, but couldnt a dedicated busway work here, with a similar transfer that exists in Canarsie?

  7. Kevin Walsh says:

    If the city is unwilling to do rail there — which will cost billions and decades – just look to the Motor Parkway in Fresh Meadows and Glen Oaks. A tree-lined bike and jogging path without all the high-concept fuss of the High Line.

  8. Quirk says:

    Wow what just happened here? First let’s wait to see what that study finds out and also wait to see if funds will come for additional phases for the 2nd av. subway. No need for fantasies at this point.

    • Ryan says:

      If funding isn’t coming for additional phases of the Second Avenue Sunday, funding definitely isn’t coming for anything on the Rockaway Beach Branch. Sorry, but it’s that simple. The way the priorities are ordered here guarantees that Second Avenue phases 2 and 3 are both up and running long before rail is operating over this branch. And that’s absolutely appropriate.

      So whatever we do or propose or study for activating this branch may as well assume that Second Avenue is going to be on the table as a routing option.

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