Home Queens Wrestling the rail option away from QueensWay

Wrestling the rail option away from QueensWay

by Benjamin Kabak

A 3.5-mile right-of-way should once again see train service. (Map via The New York Times)

Over the past six years following the ins and outs of transit policy in New York City, I’ve read nearly every article about trains, buses, taxis, roads, bikes and everything in between published in all of this great city’s illustrious daily newspapers. Some do a better job than others of covering the policies behind transportation and the lack of political support for adequately funding transit. Others treat the transit planning process and transit news as a game of “Gotcha” populist journalism where the MTA is the big bad guy and the rest of us are just getting our proverbial pockets picked. In other words, coverage is uneven.

Where coverage is not uneven — and, in fact, is often quite glowing — is when the Next Big Thing arrives. Now that Chelsea’s High Line is so over, the Next Big Thing is in Queens, and it’s the QueensWay. I’ve burned a lot of pixels speaking out against the QueensWay plan lately. It’s the gimmicky idea to turn a 3.5-mile rail right-of-way into a park. I want rails-to-trails initiatives to disappear and would prefer to see a renewed effort to reactive the Rockaway Beach Branch line. In the aftermath of Sandy and with space for transit at such a premium in New York City, giving upon a dedicated, if disused, right of way that could be reactivated is a major mistake.

That’s not, however, how The Times sees it. I’m a big fan of The Gray Lady. Mocking Twitter account aside, I read The Times every day, and I usually find their coverage of most issues to be on target. This article, however, has left me both speechless and full of words. It’s a glowing profile of the QueensWay effort that simply and utterly dismisses the idea of rail as though it were the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. Shall we dive in?

It has been abandoned for five decades, a railway relic that once served Queens passengers on the old Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road. For all those years, no one paid much notice to the ghostly tracks, long overgrown with trees and vines, as they ran silently behind tidy houses in Rego Park, dipped through ravines in Forest Park and hovered above big-box stores in Glendale.

That is, until the High Line expanded the possibilities of a public park.

Now, the three-and-a-half-mile stretch of rusty train track in central Queens is being reconceived as the “QueensWay,” a would-be linear park for walkers and bicyclists in an area desperate for more parkland and, with the potential for art installations, performances and adjacent restaurants, a draw for tourists interested in sampling the famously diverse borough.

That wascally welic of a wailway. Five decades! Fifty years! Completely abandoned. No one — except for those cranks who have long called for its return to service — has paid it any attention. But don’t worry: The High Line will save it. After all, as it is similarly located in a booming area within walking distance to major city tourist attractions as the High Line is in Chelsea, millions of tourists will be sure to flock to a park that isn’t near anything and runs through a ditch for most of its 3.5 miles.

Lisa Foderaro solders on…

“It’s Queens’s turn,” said Will Rogers, president and chief executive officer of the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit group that has joined local residents in promoting the idea. “The High Line led to the redefinition of the neighborhoods in Manhattan, whereas the QueensWay will be defined by the neighborhoods it passes through. Essentially, it will be a cultural trail.”

The involvement of the Trust for Public Land, which has 36 offices nationwide, including in Manhattan, has given the project new momentum, bolstering the efforts of the Friends of the QueensWay, a group with about 2,500 supporters. It did not hurt that the trust hired Adrian Benepe, who recently stepped down as the New York City parks commissioner.

Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a native of Queens, awarded the trust a $467,000 environmental protection grant through the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The grant will help pay for a community planning survey and a feasibility study that will include environmental, engineering and financial assessments of the project, including consideration of the condition of the railway’s trestles, bridges and embankments.

Setting aside my snarky retort for a minute, we come across a major problem I have with the political approach to the QueensWay folk. The government backing is incredible. The Trust for Public Land has led rails-to-trails efforts in places as diverse as Chicago, Toledo and Florida. Furthermore, from Adrian Benepe who has the ear of city leaders to Gov. Cuomo’s decision to award the Trust with nearly $500,000 to study the QueensWay proposal, New York is welcoming this idea with open arms. Where’s the competing grant to study reactivating the rail line though? This feasibility study will explore turning this ROW into a park, but it won’t offer up what should be Plan A: rail.

And then we get to the graphs that had me steaming:

But bringing the park to fruition will not be easy. The modest neighborhoods and light industrial areas through which the abandoned rail line passes cannot provide the tens of millions of dollars that were raised privately by Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit group managing the construction and maintenance of the elevated park on Manhattan’s West Side.

Nor is everyone on the same page about the Queens railway’s destiny; at least one elected official has called for a simultaneous study of reviving the rail line to provide better train service to the increasingly popular Rockaway beaches, damaged as they might be in the short term by Hurricane Sandy. (Mr. Benepe, who is well schooled in community opposition, imagined the potential horror of nearby homeowners at the prospect of the train line’s rumbling to life again.)

The first paragraph is self-explanatory. It can’t replicate the success of the High Line because it’s not the High Line. It connects Ozone Park to Forest Hills, and it’s not, as I mentioned, in an area to which tourists are flocking. It is, however, in an area that could use some faster rail options, but who wants that? Certainly not a bunch of homeowners who knowingly purchased houses that back up on a rail line’s right of way. Just think of that “potential horror” — a parenthetical one at that — of better access to Manhattan and a faster ride to the city’s job centers. What a nightmare.

The best part though is the kicker graph:

Unlike the High Line, the QueensWay would welcome bicycles. While the trestles are relatively narrow, long stretches are wide enough — up to 25 feet — to accommodate walkers and bicyclists. New bike paths could connect the park to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to the north, as well as an existing bikeway in Jamaica Bay to the south. About 250,000 residents live within a mile of the proposed park, and its backers see all kinds of ancillary benefits, from health to traffic. “That’s a lot of carbon footprint,” said Marc Matsil, the trust’s New York state director.

“That’s a lot of carbon footprint.” What the *&!% does that even mean, Marc Matsil? The QueensWay was provide ancillary biking benefits at most as it’s generally, in my opinion, a bit too far from the city to be a part of bike commuters’ routes. It would be for mainly recreational biking and weekend strolling if it’s used as much as its proponents claim it will.

We live in a post-Sandy New York, one in which a state panel recently called for an increased investment in our transportation infrastructure. We have a dormant right of way — a very valuable one in a city that doesn’t have too many underutilized rail corridors or much open space — just sitting there waiting for rail. Before we turn it over to a rails-for-trails group that wants to build a novelty act in the middle of Queens, we have to be sure we can’t reclaim this ROW for rails. Right now, rail is a relic, an inconvenience and something that would run literally through a bunch of NIMBYs’ backyards. It will take a concerted effort to wrest this away from the QueensWay crowd, but that effort should not and would not be in vain.

You may also like


Alex C January 9, 2013 - 12:52 am

Hey I heard you like parks, so we put a park in your park! /Xzibit on running a park trail through Forest Park

The Times yet again being a mouthpiece for the dumb and loud. This stupid QueensWay will get built. Unfortunately, it’s probably only a matter of time at this point. Politicians and the media are jumping on the bandwagon. Anybody who suggests actual productive use for the ROW will at this point be called a rail nerd, an extremist, a fringe ideologue, somebody who doesn’t understand the neighborhood, or “unAmerican.” You can bet the farm on that.

Justin Samuels January 9, 2013 - 7:32 am

Between neighborhood opposition, and the fact the last capital projects have probably used up all the expansion money NY is likely to get for transit anytime soon, you’re right. It will become the Queens Way.

They can just use improved bus service to the Rockaways to increase access to the rest of Queens.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 10:59 am

Jumping Jesus, stop with the bus nonsense. It’s more expensive than using ROW for rail, at least in the long run. As if transit buses are even substitutes for trains anyway.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:25 am

Well, we could use LRT instead.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:46 am

That would be fine, and even logical. The only problem, an acceptable one, is that it means no sharing tracks with the subway.

Justin Samuels January 9, 2013 - 1:03 pm

The MTA is restoring cuts made to bus services in 2010. Its easier by far for them and for other transit bureaus to ad bus service

I know you don’t like buses, so what? The MTA isn’t going to expand train service because of your arguments, whether or not they are valid.

The Rockaway Beach LIRR branch has almost no chance of reactivation, particularly with the state behind QueensWay. That’s just the way that goes.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 1:10 pm

The Queensway isn;t a feasible option either, even if it is state-funded. It passes through the Forest Park, which itself already has high demand. Besides, it connects absolutely nothing.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 1:17 pm

It’s not that I don’t like buses. I don’t like misuse of buses. Doing this wrong literally means some place where buses would make sense isn’t going to get buses. That’s a bad thing to me.

The only hope to stop QueensWay is the city, which actually owns the property. Maybe Bloomberg could be convinced. He’s at least open-minded about improving transit, unlike Cuomo.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 3:23 pm

Cuomo will be front and center at the grand opening of the QueensWay. I’d almost be willing to bet money on this.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 3:26 pm

Maybe, though I’m kind of expecting nothing to happen either way. Leaving the ROW idle makes more sense than QueensWay – that’s how pointless it is.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:40 pm

No, QueensWay makes more sense than doing nothing. A new rail line makes more sense than QueensWay.

By the way, QueensWay sounds like something you’d build in Australia.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 3:54 pm

It doesn’t make sense to blow millions of dollars on a park nobody cares enough to use.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:55 pm

The reason for what I said above was because while there are supporters for QueensWay, no one is backing the prospect of doing nothing.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 4:18 pm

“Do nothing” is usually the default in NYS. We probably have to do nothing to even get them to do nothing.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 4:49 pm

Of course, even if we do *something*, NYCS will probably do nothing.

Henry January 12, 2013 - 7:01 pm

From a connectivity standpoint, the Q53 along Woodhaven makes a lot more sense than the Rockaway Beach Branch. It has a similar problem to the (N) in Brooklyn and the Port Washington Branch in Queens – it’s parallel to major arterials, but manages to miss almost all of the commercial development on these arterials.

Not to mention, with appropriation of road lanes, you could very easily set up a BRT running up from the Rockaways to QBP/Queens Plaza, with the only costs being TVMs and paint (and possibly raised curbs, because camera enforcement on such lanes might be infeasible on the corridors). For a lot more political capital, you could fight to have a 59th St crosstown route, from Columbus Circle to QBP and the Rockaways, because pretty much all the roads along such a route are giant, multi-lane monstrosities that probably need the traffic calming that comes with BRT.

If the Rockaway Beach ROW didn’t already exist, such a BRT would be a much better option because it would be more easily integrated with the transit network and provide connectivity options that don’t already exist. Since it exists, though, I’m all for it, so long as existing services aren’t compromised.

Nyland8 January 9, 2013 - 1:41 am

I guess nobody has pointed out to the Marc Matsil that it is a commuter RAIL Line that saves “a lot of Carbon footprint”.

As you suggest, Benjamin, nobody will be commuting along this greenway.
Nobody will be taking pictures there as they do on the High Line.
Nobody will be holding hands as they stroll along, taking in the vistas that they have on the High Line.
Nobody will be donating millions of dollars to landscape and maintain it as they do on the High Line.

I think it’s long past time that somebody engaged in a little consciousness raising regarding the noise level of modern rail design. Perhaps in this regard, the NYC subway system has been its own worst enemy – because it has never seemed to make a priority of quieting its trains.

Someone should poll the people who live adjacent to the AirTrain – and ask them if they’re bothered by the noise. I suspect most of them would admit that they never even hear it.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 8:03 am

Someone (not me) should also compare the locations of this Queensway and the High Line and see which one is more convenient. The Queensway wouldn’t have many visitors, and would be shut down within a short period of time. The High Line is an altogether different story because it’s in a heavily populated area.

Cool Beanz January 9, 2013 - 2:07 am

I’m with you on this one Ben.

Larry Littlefield January 9, 2013 - 7:50 am

As soon as that right of way is safely designated as a park prohibiting other uses, those adjacent will organize to prevent it being used as such, citing fear of crime. I guarantee it.

Nyland8 January 9, 2013 - 8:53 am

This is exactly what happened in New Jersey when they proposed a linear park along the Hackensack River. The people whose homes bordered the river opposed the greenway and shut it down – claiming that they didn’t want strangers behind their homes, ostensibly because it would result in breaking-and-entering crime. I guess nobody explained to them that the safest thing that could be done to the public land they abutted was to have more human traffic there – not less. And property values would go up for any homes adjacent to a riverfront greenway – for obvious reasons.

Irrational fear is an easily pulled trigger – just like the irrational fear of having nearby subway service. When it comes to subways, everyone in Queens wants the nearest turnstile just around their corner – as long as they are the only person to enter and exit by it.

Larry Littlefield January 9, 2013 - 9:48 am

I follow the coverage of the growth of bicycle infrastructure in NYC. The representatives of these neighborhoods are against it.

Now, let’s say we not only had the Queensway but also had a large bicycle parking garage at the Rego Park subway and LIRR stops, and at the A train in Ozone Park, as in Amsterdam. Along with bicyle infrastructure throughout adjacent neighborhoods to link to the Queensway.

Then people in those areas could ride a bike to safe, weather protected parking at the subway for a quick ride to Downtown (via the A) or Midtown (via the other services). But a lot of that could be done without the Queensway. And the local poliscum are opposed.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:51 am

Technically speaking, there are only two main subway lines in Queens (QB and Flushing). By contrast, Brooklyn has 10 main subway lines (4 Ave, Sea Beach, Culver, Crosstown, West End, Brighton, Jamaica, Eastern Pkwy, Nostrand, and Canarsie). Of course people in Queens are going to want their own subway stations.

Patrick January 9, 2013 - 6:14 pm

So Fulton Street is not a line anymore, OK

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:10 pm

Yeah, and Fulton St. That makes 11.

And Queens has 4 major lines: Rockaway, QB, Flushing, and Astoria.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Not sure I’d count Rockaway as major. The Myrtle stub might be busier.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 8:24 pm

The Rockaway line connects residents from all around the Rockaways (even though the majority of the line was closed post-Sandy). Myrtle Avenue line only has 4 stops in Queens (including the Myrtle-Wyckoff Aves station, which is partially in Brooklyn.)

Patrick January 9, 2013 - 8:39 pm

Most of Myrtle-Wyckoff is in Brooklyn. It’s partially in Queens because the L train straddles the border line for 2 stops, this one and Halsey Street.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 8:48 pm

As a general benefit to Queens riders, though, it’s kind of a pain for Rockaway riders to connect to other places in Queens, especially Flushing. The Rockaway Line mostly feeds people from the Rockaways into Brooklyn.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:02 pm

Which is why the construction of a new subway line along this ROW, connecting to the M/R at 63 Drive, would be optimal for Rockaways riders, rather than having this ROW turned into a park.

AG January 13, 2013 - 9:56 am

Well I sure hope the ROW is not changed.

I don’t think crime will be an issue. If they can start construction of a pathway from Port Morris in the Bronx to Randalls Island… crime isn’t an issue anymore. Even more poignant just last week they started rehabilitation of The High Bridge linking the Bronx and Washington Heights. That was specifically closed in the 1970’s because of crime. This area of Queens is mostly nice areas.

Bottom line though is that it is stupid for them to compare a former freight rail line to a passenger line. The High Line makes sense – and the High Bridge makes sense. Queens – aside from Staten Island is the most car dependent borough in the most dense city in the country. It’s nonsense to think it’s necessary to change it to a park when there are plenty in that area already. It takes millions to build and maintain the High Line… and much of that comes from private money. They are dreaming if they think this applies in this area.
If they want a park – they should take the train on the re-commissioned train line to the various parks that would be accessible because they already exist!

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:55 am

I heard that New York City likes parks, so instead of making more travel options for people living in the site (and possibly creating a new airport subway line), they decided to make this abandoned ROW a park.

It could be used as a rails-with-trails park instead of a park that connects nothing with nothing (the north of the park is a LIRR junction and the south of the park is a junction with the A train.)

The Queensway is a very bad idea overall. I doubt it would benefit anyone in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Jonathan R. January 9, 2013 - 8:31 am

Thank you, Ben, for your consistent advocacy of replacing the rails on this ROW.

On winter days like today, most of my bicycle ride to work takes place before dawn. There’s no way I would choose to ride through a dark, notionally closed park with no stores, no homes, and no passersby on my travels.

Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog New York City January 9, 2013 - 9:00 am

[…] Ben Kabak: Restore the Rockaway Beach Branch Rail Line, Don’t Turn It to a Park […]

BrooklynBus January 9, 2013 - 9:03 am

Ben, you hit the nail on the head with this piece. We are all outraged. It is absolutely ridiculous to study only one option when two are on the table. The benefits and costs of each must be compared. One plan that will be used seasonally by a small amount of the population. (Not everyone bikes or wants to bike) and only during fair weather and the other plan that can be used by all in the rain, snow, and frigid cold and roasting heat of a hot summer August day.

John-2 January 9, 2013 - 9:33 am

The Times in it’s incarceration under Pinch for the past 20 years has been run by and for Manhattan ‘trendies’ — i.e., people who see things through the prism of the borough south of 96th Street, with nary a thought in their heads about the consequences of their crusades on other parts of the city or the overall NYC Metro region.

The Times’ campaign for improved mass transit and rail options in the region? Out the window when it comes to doing something trendy like “High Line II”, even if it never dawns on them they’d be running their wonderful new park though both an already-existing park and through a far lower-density area that might not want people having easy access to their back yards. But those in support of the plan have got the ear of those in the paper’s city room (and quite likely their editorial department), so the next time the paper also print an editorial or opinion piece decrying the difficulty people have getting to or from JFK Airport (or possibly in the future, that big casino at Aqueduct), they’ll only have themselves to blame for killing off the most feasible relief option.

Chris January 9, 2013 - 9:39 am

The problem with arguing against the Queensway’s likely success as a park is that this just recalls its manifest failure as a rail line. The first time someone walks into the park it will have had more users that day than the current rail right of way had in the previous five decades. Sure a park might fail… but rail DID fail and the failure has sat there very visibly.

One can easily see how a creative new use is more attractive than suggesting a second attempt of something that obviously didn’t work before.

John-2 January 9, 2013 - 10:35 am

But when the rail failed you were still in a situation where Robert Moses was in charge of the city’s transportation planning and the accepted wisdom was the brand-spanking new Van Wyck Expressway would provide all the access anyone who ever need to Idlewild Airport and the south-central sections of Queens. Rail transportation was seen as something whose time had, if not passed, at least faded into secondary option status in the minds of people plotting out future development patterns for the Metro NYC area in 1962 and who were plowing multiple limited access highways eastward onto Long Island.

Government stasis and competition for funds makes it hard to start up anything again once the support structure and cash-flow is abandoned, but that doesn’t mean that a line that didn’t work in 1962 — in part because it’s access to the Rockaways had been cut off — would be a failure 51 years later, either as part of the LIRR or as an extension of the M/R trains off Queens Blvd.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 12:42 pm

The rail failed due to demand and demographics at that time in history; and Robert Moses imposing his will on the city. As of now, a quicker ride to JFK from midtown would be useful.

Justin Samuels January 9, 2013 - 1:08 pm

The Air Train could be connected to the LIRR in Jamaica, for a quick one seat ride of JFK.You’d need to get rolling stock that could go back and forth between LIRR and Air Train, but this would still be cheaper than Rockaway Beach LIRR reactivation, and you wouldn’t have to deal with area NIMBY’s as this wouldn’t add any actual new service, it would simply be a merging of two services.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 1:11 pm

You’d also need to get new PSDs for the AirTrain, as well as lengthen the AirTrain platforms.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 8:52 pm

AirTrain is already proprietary technology, and having custom-made trainsets JUST for New York is a terrible idea.
Just look at BART – BART has to pay twice the going cost in the US for a custom railcar, and this doesn’t even come with any of the benefits.
(BART is automated and its broad gauge makes it more earthquake-resistant, while automating the LIRR is never going to happen and it already uses standard gauge.)

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 9:59 pm

AirTrain is Bombardier’s ART (Advanced Rapid Transit) design. What did they modify for AirTrain? As far as I know, it’s the same ART v2 off-the-shelf that some other cities got for their airport shuttles. That being said, the third generation of ART is now available as Bombardier Innovia.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 10:12 pm

AirTrain in its current iteration is not modified, but a LIRR compatible trainset would have to be. I highly doubt that the expense and maintenence of a one-of-a-kind system for New York is worth the benefits of through running (especially when it’s not like the LIRR has that much spare capacity, and when trains pull into Jamaica every five minutes)

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 10:35 pm

I hate to plug Bombardier (especially after their Chinese-built trucks for CTA’s new el cars cracked), but they could probably whip something up based on their off-the-shelf subway car design that was basic enough and not too costly.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:39 pm

The MTA could order Bombardier Innovia train carriages, but they would have to be able to reach high speeds in order to be able to interoperate on the LIRR. The LIRR would also have to be modified to AirTrain standards (or vice versa)

Henry January 12, 2013 - 7:06 pm

I don’t know, I tend to be a pessimist when it comes to these things.

Most companies want to make profits for shareholders, so they will inflate prices bigger than a Macy’s Thanksgiving blimp if given the chance. The MTA really has only one place to buy compatible trains from, so I suspect that Bombardier will be charging a jaw-dropping amount (well, more jaw dropping than the orders that the MTA usually places)

Eric January 10, 2013 - 4:04 am

THAT’s why they made BART broad gauge? I thought it was because they wanted to be deliberately incompatible with other rail systems, guaranteeing victory in their turf war because it is impossible to merge them with other systems.

You know that other earthquake-prone countries like Japan use standard gauge or even narrow gauge?

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:54 am

Japan uses standard gauge (4 ft 8.5 in) because it’s their “broad gauge” for their Shinkansen. Narrow gauge (3 ft 6 in) (their “standard gauge”) is too narrow to handle the high speed of Shinkansen, Though, the reason why narrow gauge (1067 mm) was adopted for early Japanese railways is unclear.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:49 am

I heard it was paranoia about railroad takeovers. Which is itself pretty dumb, because railroads weren’t exactly in a position to take over urban transit in the 1970s – and probably hadn’t been for 50 years.

Alex C January 10, 2013 - 9:11 pm

The US railroads should’ve gone with broad gauge back in the 1800s. Better stability and higher speed potential.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:30 pm

That’s probably the least of our problems. Current standard gauge has been pushed north of 350mph. Certainly some real-world implementations achieve significantly higher average speeds than the Acela.

Alex C January 10, 2013 - 10:59 pm

China, Spain, Germany, France and Japan manage 205 to 2017 miles per hour. Here in the US, 110 mph is “high-speed rail.” It’s embarrassing.

Bolwerk January 11, 2013 - 12:57 am

That’s less about gauge and more about mundane stuff like weight, cant deficiency, maintenance, etc..

Someone January 11, 2013 - 8:05 am

@Alex C: 2017 mph? That seems like quite the ride.

Alex C January 11, 2013 - 4:25 pm

Correction: 217 mph there. Anyways, with proper construction, power delivery and actual high-speed trains, civilized countries have gotten their trains going pretty fast. Our high-speed train in the US goes 150 mph for a short stretch in New England. Fancy.

Henry January 10, 2013 - 9:12 pm

To my knowledge, India uses broad gauge to withstand the heavy winds and monsoon rains. The broader gauge provides more stability, so yes, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason for the broad gauge in BART.

(Part of it was probably also what Bolwerk listed, to make it harder for “undesirable” railroads to be extended to connect with BART. Part of it is also the fact that politicians like the sound of having nice, one-of-a-kind shiny things. The earthquake protection would be the official reason, though.)

Japan uses standard gauge in non-Shinkansen lines sporadically, and the only real reason they have Cape gauge is because they have so much of it already that regauging would be a hassle, and because narrow gauge is an order of magnitude easier and cheaper to get through the mountains of Japan. Japan in general is just an oddball when it comes to rail, so its success is not necessarily easily replicated elsewhere.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 9:59 pm

Yeah, I get that explanation about Japanese narrow-gauge railways. (Some Japanese railways use dual gauge to be able to interoperate with other railway lines.)

What I don’t get is why Russian railroads use broad gauge in Japan (which is an altogether different story.)

Bolwerk, Henry: You were both partially correct in saying that BART uses broad gauge to avoid through-routing it onto the mainline US railway. This also applies to the SEPTA Market-Frankford El and Toronto subway.

AG January 13, 2013 - 2:37 pm

AirTrain does connect to the LIRR… it’s not one seat and one fare… but they do connect.

Someone January 13, 2013 - 9:06 pm

The author (Justin Samuels) meant a one-seat connection from the LIRR/Airtrain to the JFK.

The Air Train could be connected to the LIRR in Jamaica, for a quick one seat ride of JFK.

He did not mean the type of connection where you’d have to pay two fares to get to a destination in the same borough.

AG January 14, 2013 - 6:34 pm

that’s a dream… the only way there will be a one seat ride is if the feds cough up the money they promised (during 9/11 redevelopment) for a tunnel to make a one seat ride from lower manhattan.

Henry January 14, 2013 - 8:31 pm

Also, it would require the creation of one-of-a-kind rolling stock that doesn’t yet exist.

Even if the feds funded a tunnel for the Atlantic Branch to Fulton St, I would much rather turn the new line into a subway (or at least a Lower Manhattan commuter rail hub).

AG January 15, 2013 - 7:12 pm

a new subway line to lower manhattan?? why? there are plenty already. A commuter rail hub might make more sense… but that could only be tied to the airport… the feds had been giving plenty of cities money to make airports accessible by rail. as it relates to that… the U.S. is far behind other developed nations when it comes to that. after midtown manhattan and chicago – lower manattan is the 3rd largest biz district… but to use rail to get to either Newark or JFK (forget LaGuardia) you have to go to Penn Station. There is talk of extending PATH to Newark Airport… so that should help somewhat.

marv January 15, 2013 - 7:30 pm

“but to use rail to get to either Newark or JFK (forget LaGuardia) you have to go to Penn Station”.

The person who wrote this is not aware of two major transportation hubs – Jamaica and Newark.

The E and the J and all LIRR trains except for the Port Washington line go through Jamaica. From there you take the airtrain to JFK.

Even the Howard Beach subway station provides a transfer to the JFK airtrain. Almost any subway line will provide you with a transfer to the “A” train as will the Atlantic Avenue (Brooklyn) LIRR.

Newark is a major North East Corridor stop for Jersey Transit trains and Amtrak trains. Path and the Newark light rail subway terminate there as well. From Newark, it is one stop to the transfer for the Newark Airport monorail.

Thus Penn Station is not required for rail access to either airport.

AG January 17, 2013 - 2:17 am

from lower manhattan who wants to have to sit on the subway with their luggage to get to Jamaica or Howard Beach? I’ve done it…and I’d rather go to Penn and catch the LIRR… the issue was the best and most convenient way to get to the airports… which is what the federal funding was for.

didn’t mean to say newark… but depending on where you are PATH could be as useful as getting NJ Transit. either way – it’s still not a “one seat ride” as was what the federal mandate was. the proposal to extend PATH direct to the airport would be the closest thing for Newark… but that wasn’t the point because the project was to link Lower Manhattan to JFK

marv January 17, 2013 - 8:35 am

“from lower manhattan who wants to have to sit on the subway with their luggage to get to Jamaica or Howard Beach? I’ve done it…and I’d rather go to Penn and catch the LIRR”

If the 5 stops between Euclid and Howard Beach/airtrain stop (where the 8th Ave IND goes from being a 4 track subway to an ancient el) were eliminated, time would be saved and the trip to Kennedy/the Rockaways would be greatly enhanced.

The way to do this is to build a bypass for the express tracks along the wide Conduit Blvd wich runs at a diagonal between these points thus shaving distance and time. Conduit is a very wide highway type road. A bypass could be built on a modern el, street level with overpasses, or depressed.

The bypassed stations except for Aqeduct would continue to be served by local Liberty Avenue service.

Aqueduct would either be served by new service on the Rockaway Beach Branch, by a shuttle to the Howard Beach station or by and extension of the Airtrain along the sufficently wide right of way. If the later was done, full airtrain fair would be charged at Aqueduct and then refund in full for those existing howard beach within 15 minutes of entering the system.

Henry January 15, 2013 - 8:42 pm

With ESA, the LIRR will probably turn the Atlantic Branch into its own train line (too many terminals to coordinate), which could theoretically free up the line for subway service. The next logical thing to do would be to bring it to Fulton or WTC as another train connection (LIRR or NYCT) to Lower Manhattan, and from there it’s not very hard to justify a connection to Phase IV of SAS (when that eventually happens). Such a line provides an express line from Lower Manhattan to Jamaica (which, barring a three-track conversion of the J/Z, won’t exist for quite some time), and provide trunk capacity for outer-borough subway extensions. This is thinking ridiculously far ahead, but the RPA has already suggested such a plan.

The only costs would be infill platforms, platform adjusting, and a new set of tunnels and a platform at Fulton. Assuming the MTA is not stupid enough to suggest yet another gigantic station cavern for what is a two-track line, it should definitely beat most cost effectiveness metrics.

marv January 15, 2013 - 9:16 pm

If the Atlantic Branch is converted to subway use (as i hope that it will be), I would tie it in to the J train to optimize the system as follows:

*Existing J route from Jamaica to East NY – I would halve the current number of trains as this route would cease being a through route into the city but would rather serve the nearby residents only.

*Atlantic Branch west from Jamaica – I would run alternating trains with some continuing to Flatbush and then through a new East River tunnel into down town (tying into either the Broadway BMT, the 8th Avenue local or a 2nd Avenue Subway). The rest of the trains would in East NY connect to the Jamaica el, go over the Willamsburg bridge and then up 6th Avenue.

*The available capacity of the Atlantic Branch west of East NY (due to those trains switching to the J el) would be used by an enhanced airtrain running along Conduit Blvd with a stop at Howard Beach to for Rockaway users to switch to this faster line.

To make this work, the airtrain would have to be converted to IND specs. This means:
*3rd rail constuction
*New signalling
*Extension platforms in JFK or allowing only the front cars to open (which would really save the back cars for the rockaway crowd.)

Needless to say, such a plan not only serves south Queens well, but would divert many users from the near capacity Queens Blvd IND thus providing benefit for northern Queens as well.

“With ESA, the LIRR will probably turn the Atlantic Branch into its own train line (too many terminals to coordinate), which could theoretically free up the line for subway service. The next logical thing to do would be to bring it to Fulton or WTC as another train connection (LIRR or NYCT) to Lower Manhattan, and from there it’s not very hard to justify a connection to Phase IV of SAS (when that eventually happens). Such a line provides an express line from Lower Manhattan to Jamaica (which, barring a three-track conversion of the J/Z, won’t exist for quite some time), and provide trunk capacity for outer-borough subway extensions. This is thinking ridiculously far ahead, but the RPA has already suggested such a plan”

AG January 17, 2013 - 5:28 pm

nah – instead of converting it to subway service – the only need to make City Ticket permanent for city residents. Commuter rails are an important part of the network… lower manhattan has plenty of subway service… but no commuter rail service. PATH is the only outlet. Thankfully their is ferry service too. The fact is there are millions of ppl who don’t live in the city and they need to get in and out too.

no such things as “the only costs”… there will always be something unforseen.

TH January 9, 2013 - 9:43 am

Hey Ben, can you please post or re-post the contact information for the opposition effort. I’d like to help fight this in some way. This right of way needs to be preserved for rail use and ideally the line re-activated.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:45 am

Ben, do you know for sure this is going to become a park?

DGR January 9, 2013 - 10:17 am

The real win would have been about 20 years ago when the Rockaway line was proposed for a Penn Station – JFK express. AFAIR the problem was the locals wanted stops! (rationally) and the federal transportation money did not allow any local stops, just dedicated service to the airport. So we got the kludge Airtrain when we could have had express service, leaving the Rockaway line at Howard Beach and cutting through what is now the Lefferts parking lots to JFK centrl.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:00 am

Sure, it would be prohibitively expensive. But there could be a new tunnel across Queens that carries a new airport super-express subway service which only stops at Manhattan and Howard Beach.

Eric January 10, 2013 - 4:07 am

If you’re willing to dig a new tunnel, there is not much advantage to using an existing ROW. Dig the tunnel elsewhere, and use this existing ROW for regular service!

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:56 am

No, I’m saying to use the ROW up until the junction with the LIRR, *then* build a tunnel westbound to connect to the 63rd Street line.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:05 am

Well, the way the feds can’t plan comprehensively is a whole other can of worms. As if rail transit in NYC is somehow competitive as a mode with a transatlantic flight.

Henry January 14, 2013 - 8:32 pm

IMO even the AirTrain was a bad deal, because SE Queens has no train service but an AirTrain passing over their heads.

petey January 9, 2013 - 10:21 am

rails to trails is an excellent idea in itself. that it would be counterproductive in this case, where some sort of rail would clearly be a better use, doesn’t invalidate the concept.

LLQBTT January 9, 2013 - 3:08 pm

Agreed. There are plenty ROWs around the country, many just north of us in NYS that will never ever be reactivated. Now they are empty so why not convert them to a multi-use trail.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 8:55 pm

The rails to trails *people*, unfortunately, have developed a nasty reputation of preferring trails to useful rail lines, even ones which already have *trains running*. Look at what they’re trying to do to the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Or the Catskill Mountain Railroad.

Or, honestly, even what they’ve done in Ithaca. All of the old rail routes are being converted to trails. This is fine for the route which was already known in 1946 to be a really bad rail route, but makes an excellent trail. However, it’s pretty terrible for at least one of the other routes, which would still be a valuable rail route, but makes a terrible trail. Since this one was abandoned before the “railbanking” law, making it a trail would actually make it harder to recover the right-of-way.

You can find stuff like this *all over the country*, where the single best route for rail restoration is the one the rail-to-trail folks have their eyes on.

Even when the trails are successful it’s rarely the right choice. The Midtown Greenway folks in Minneapolis have created a successful bike path, which is quite popular — and carries a *fraction* of the traffic which light rail would carry. At least the rail advocates managed to get preservation of enough ROW to put rail in next to the trail in that case, and are still pushing for rail service.

petey January 10, 2013 - 11:51 am

yes, there are cases where it would be counterproductive, as someone posted two comments above, and with which you grudgingly agree:
“This is fine for the route which was already known in 1946 to be a really bad rail route”

it’s easy enough to find success stories too, instead of a single example to support this statement:
“Even when the trails are successful it’s rarely the right choice.”
the schuykill trail is very successful (i’ve used it), and the LIRR wading river roadbed would have to be just about wholly rebuilt for rail use.

Someone January 12, 2013 - 5:40 pm

This is fine for the route which was already known in 1946 to be a really bad rail route, but makes an excellent trail.

Uh huh. And there are a quarter million people living in the vicinity of the ROW. Sorry, but it would be better used as a subway line. Calm traffic at Woodhaven Blvd. and you’ve got yourself a bike lane. A “trail to nowhere” isn’t my idea of a trail, anyways.

Alex C January 12, 2013 - 6:31 pm

You’re comparing demographics in 1946 to 2012. The LIRR didn’t need the route because it was redundant to them and because, like the the Montauk Branch stops in Queens, nobody would take the LIRR when the cheaper subway was an option. Now that populations have increased, the area south of Forest Park could use a more direct ride to midtown, and at least two assembly-members from those areas want it to happen.

marv January 12, 2013 - 6:45 pm

Public transportation is more than just getting to Manhattan.

Public transportation trips which involve 2 transfers/3 lines can be tolerable when is it subway/train based, where as the same trip involving multiple buses or having to go into Manhattan to go between intra borough locations or between locations in Brooklyn and Queens are less tolerable.

Having connections between paralell train lines (Qns Blvd IND, the Jamaica Avenue BMT and the IND Fulton “a” line) greatly adds to our transportation network.

Reactivating the line in question allows these connections and puts the likes of Jamaica, Flushing, Citifield/Tennis Center, JFK and LGA airports, Queens Center etc in closer proximity (time wise which is key) to a large part of the city’s population.

Anytime you can can build (reactivate) a train line in a densly populated location (yes compared to the rest of the country Queens is densly populated) without the costs of acquiring the ROW it is a good deal. This is a good deal and NIMBY’s should should enjoy the train ride and not kill this with a less than ideal and easily substiuted (woodhaven blvd) bike path.

Someone January 13, 2013 - 9:09 pm

Not to mention the fact that it would only take a 30 minute subway ride to go from the north to the south of Queens (or vice versa), instead of a 2-hour bus ride.

Rob January 9, 2013 - 10:28 am

I think the Queens way is a bad idea, but making it worse is the idea to turn it into a park as opposed to a bike transportation route. Parks close in bad weather. A transportation route is plowed and kept open.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 10:31 am

This is a really short-sighted piece. There have been studies! Three of them. Three times it was studied for reactivation – two times as part of the JFK Airtrain concept – and it was found infeasible each time — too expensive (in excess of $1billion), ridership too low, lack of track and platform space on the mainline it would connect with, disputes between whether it would be LIRR or subway rolling stock and which lines it would connect with etc.

For a fraction of the cost The QueensWay would connect 5 subway lines, numerous bus lines, 14 public schools and nine shopping streets along a 3.5 mile flat easily ridable stretch. It will be exceedingly easy for people to bike to school, commuter mass transit and shopping along a line with no dangerous traffic and no traffic lights. The value of a bike to make the first/last 1-2 miles of a commute to link you with mass transit options has been studied several times and proven repeatedly as a concept in cities all over the world. And over such distance biking actually provides a faster door-to-door transit time than pretty much any other type of transportation and will provide access to one of Queens’ largest parks to tens of thousands of people who otherwise have an extremely difficult time reaching it. It would also connect with bike lanes and routes providing access to other parts of Queens and Brooklyn, and provide a foundation for further development of such routes as the City’s biking infrastructure continues to expand.

Further, constructed in one of the densest population areas of Queens, it would provide immeasurable quality of life benefits to hundreds of thousands who, despite the bizarre perceptions I read of, do not have easy access to park land in Queens.

I’m not focused on tourism, that is something others have put on it, and frankly is in no way a means of measuring the value or success of this project. this is not being done for the benefit of tourists. It is being done for the benefit of my fellow Queens neighbors. The QueensWay would actually be much less like the Highline and much more like the extremely successful Vanderbilt Motor Parkway bike trail in Eastern Queens. If you care about transportation, then advocate for an SBS on Woodhaven Blvd, a street far too dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians and the reopening of the subterranean Woodhaven Station on the Atlantic Avenue Line. Both of those would provide the people in Central and Southern Queens with better transportation options, at a significantly lower cost, and on a much shorter time frame than trying to reactivate a line that failed.

Benjamin Kabak January 9, 2013 - 10:37 am

It should be noted that the author of this comment is on the QueensWay Steering Committee.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 12:43 pm

Makes sense.

Billy Gray January 9, 2013 - 1:47 pm

Really says something that he couldn’t be bothered to disclose that in his otherwise quite lengthy post. Comes across as mendacious.

And seriously, using a rail right-of-way because you can’t find room for bikes on your streets to travel safely? Incredible. You know what’s a cheap fix? Redesigning your streets for safety and making room for bikes. You can’t get another rail right-of-way, once you blow it, it’s gone. Incredibly short-sighted, especially now, when we need to expand our rails network.


Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Wait? So has everyone else here disclosed all of their affiliations or am I missing something? If you have a substantive coutner to the points I raised, great, lets debate them, but if all you can do is make subtle ad hominem attacks I think it proves my point. I could have posted as anonymous. I am a board member. I am also a 13 year resident of Rego Park where I have raised my two boys. My nephew goes to the MELS school and he and his class mates could use the QueensWay to get there safely. Ask me anything you want to know about me and my position and I wil be happy to answer – only catch is you have to do the same.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:28 pm

There are no attacks on your person, just your rather junky argument that we should make a park trail run through a park just because. You’ve yet to give one factual, honest or logical reason other than that you want a park trail that for some reason is supposed to do something or other. I do have a question though: since Rego Park already has the LIRR (scary railroad noise) and subway (poor people and black people with access to your area, how scary) running close by and you have managed to survive, why so opposed to the Rockaway branch being reactivated? And what do you say to the people who live further down the line who might miss a chance to have a faster ride to work so you can have your faux High Line that nobody will visit because there are somewhere in the area of 58,000 parks in Queens? I mean, I know they’re not as important as you, and all. But seriously, are you aware of modern noise-abatement techniques for railroads? A reactivated railway wouldn’t be the living hell you picture.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:12 pm

Not disagreeing with you. But your 2 boys are going to be hat are going to find QueensWay useful.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:12 pm

*the only ones that are

Evan January 11, 2013 - 7:15 pm

Nobody is attacking your character, and if you look at the comment calmly there is nothing insinuating that. It’s just that without Mr. Kabak’s identification of your position, it would seem that the comment was made by an impartial observer who has “no dog in the fight” when it’s the opposite – you’re a part of a group that is involved directly in the debate, and as such would inherently believe that their point of view is correct by all measures. To not identify oneself as being directly involved in the debate would be detrimental to the honest debate that you say you want.

However, it must be said that the fact that you reacted so strongly to a simple and very relevant identification puts your character and motive into deep question as far as I’m concerned.

Disclosure: I’m a regular citizen and am reading about this issue from all news sources, including this one.

LLQBTT January 10, 2013 - 1:03 pm

No wonder why it sounds like marketing material!

Someone January 9, 2013 - 10:54 am

“If you care about transportation, then advocate for an SBS on Woodhaven Blvd”

It should also be noted that Woodhaven Blvd has actually been studied for SBS but was turned down.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:44 pm

And the ROW was studied 3 times for rail reactivation and turned down. Where does that leave us?

Benjamin Kabak January 9, 2013 - 4:54 pm

In 2012, it leaves us nowhere. It was studied literally decades ago in conjunction with a specific project. With changing needs and changing demographics, I’m requesting another study today with all possibilities on the table.

If you want a “last mile” bike lane, add one to Woodhaven along with a variety of other traffic-calming measures. There’s no need to stick one in a pre-existing rail right-of-way under the guise of something similar to the High Line.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 5:06 pm

Again the Highline lingo isn’t mine this is a very different project. But if the ridership wasn’t there when it was studied before, and the impetus of that “specific project” (creation of the AirTrain) was insufficient back then, then what is the basis of doing it now? You are all yelling at me as if I am some sort of heretic or as one person said an “idiot” and another a “troll,” but none of you have advanced a substantive argument that overcomes the deficiencies that were found the last time the proposal was studied. That is step1. Go do that work.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 5:28 pm

The problem is NYC/MTA studies tend to be full of it. The bare minimum we need is a few stations getting a few thousand (even high hundreds) swipes per day. If we can pull that off, spending a few million dollars to revive Rockaway is worth it. A bonus would be a proper link to the airport.

Meanwhile, a park will never be worth it. There are plenty of parks nearby.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:30 pm

No, but this park (even though it will go through another park) will be *special* because…well it just will. So exciting! It’s a bloody novelty for the people proposing the QueensWay.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:14 pm

This park is better off being a subway line. Actually, in the 1970s this ROW was going to be turned into a subway line anyway because the 63rd Street, Archer Avenue, and Second Avenue lines were also being built at the same time. But the MTA ran out of money, so the ROW couldn’t be converted.

There are plenty of parks around this area anyway. No one wants yet another park.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 7:18 pm

I know, I agree. Should I have put /sarcasm tags on my post?

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:07 pm

Yes, you should have. That would emphasize your point a lot more.

Michael K January 9, 2013 - 11:03 pm

Peter, the scope of the studies done only considered usage as an express subway to JFK or a LIRR connection. The baseline figures were undoubtedly taken from other LIRR stations in Queens, such as Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, St. Albans, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills – all of which have low frequency, expensive and undependable rail service. The other option was an express line to JFK.

If the Far Rockaway A was routed through the Queensway to the QB Express – it would have very high ridership 10k+ daily at each new station – the express bus routes there are always packed but still delayed and the local buses to forest hills subway station are packed as well. The “A” could permanently go to Lefferts as a Terminus.

I am quite sure that the consultants that did the survey – most likely PB, Jacobs or AECOM knew that the numbers were skewed to fail, but the client pays you to write what they want the plan to say.

Planning standards and planning malpractice is only first coming to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (due the land-use decisions on the shore)

Ed Blakely writes on Planetizen:

Surely this form of building and land use violates the planning codes of ethics. Of course, we all know the reason. Planning lacks professional standing like engineering, law or medicine. Maybe Sandy will give planners the backbone to say “enough is enough” and prompt the planning profession to actually look and act like a profession. http://www.planetizen.com/node/59142

That is the tip of iceberg.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 10:55 am

Surely this form of building and land use violates the planning codes of ethics. Of course, we all know the reason. Planning lacks professional standing like engineering, law or medicine. Maybe Sandy will give planners the backbone to say “enough is enough” and prompt the planning profession to actually look and act like a profession. http://www.planetizen.com/node/59142
That is the tip of iceberg.


Surely this form of building and land use violates the planning codes of ethics. Of course, we all know the reason. Planning lacks professional standing like engineering, law or medicine. Maybe Sandy will give planners the backbone to say “enough is enough” and prompt the planning profession to actually look and act like a profession. http://www.planetizen.com/node/59142

That is the tip of iceberg.


Patricia G January 9, 2013 - 11:00 am

I totally agree with what you said. I think NY is pretty set when it comes to Tourist attractions. I don’t believe we need another park that area since we have Forest Park right there. The high line park would be hardly used due the close proximity of Forest Park. Our Subway system has remained the same since the about the 1950’s with the exception of the creation of the Jamaica Center station, and the Queensbridge and Roosevelt Island stations in 1988/89. The MTA is FINALLY working on the 2nd Avenue line. They are always looking to improve our service. They can start with the Queens ROW!

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:15 am

You forgot one thing: the 63rd St extension was a pretty big project. This ROW was actually planned to be reactivated with the opening of the 63rd St line, along with a super-express bypass under the LIRR and a line under Horace Harding Blvd.

Justin Samuels January 9, 2013 - 1:15 pm

The MTA is working on extending the Q line 4 stops, three of which will be under 2nd Avenue. Most of the Second Avenue Subway is not funded, and shows no current sign of being funded.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 9:03 pm

It’s actually very good that Phase III and IV aren’t funded – those phases should be four-tracked to hold trunk services into the Financial District.

The RPA would like to connect the Atlantic Branch to SAS Phases III and IV, and use that line as new trunk capacity to build a Utica Av subway line. If Phases III and IV were four-tracked, the “express” services could feed into 63rd St and go into a LIRR Main Line bypass, and there would be no capacity issues.
(Phases I and II are fine, because if it’s outfitted with CBTC, a line can hold up to 40 tph, which is enough to provide 3 train lines with 5 minute headways during peak hours. This is not conjecture – Paris’s Line 14 uses the same technology and achieves 90 second headways.)

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:14 pm

The express tracks for Phase III could end at Chambers St j/Z station, thereby saving tons of money. Phase IV would be cheaper to build that way- with the current economic crisis, the entire SAS could cost more than $20 billion by the time it’s complete.

With NYC straphangers’ current mentality, the Q line would be lucky to achieve more than 25 tph even with the CBTC on the Second Avenue line.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 10:17 pm

I’m pretty sure straphangers would love more service. The limitation on Q service is probably because it shares trackage with other lines, and not because SAS can’t handle it.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 7:59 am

I know. If the MTA were building a totally isolated line that shares tracks with no other services (like the 7), then we could possibly have 40 tph. But there are certain segments of track in Brooklyn where the Q shares tracks with non-CBTC lines (like the B and N).

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 2:39 am

Except the MTA won’t build express tracks on Second Avenue. All existing plans, which are unfunded, are just local service for the entire length of Manhattan.

So if they can’t even fund a basic two track service, there’s absolutely no chance in getting funding for 4 tracks.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:53 am

Maybe it will be possible as New York rises.

If they were sane, they’d just build the rest cut-and-cover. The billions saved would leave plenty left over for four tracks.

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 12:16 pm

And the MTA is going to do cut and cover through the most expensive neighborhoods in town? Which would be even more disrupting than the process they used on the UES?

Also, there are East West Lines in the way such as the L train and the 7 train that the Second Avenue Subway might have to go under. Particularly the L train, which is not at a deep level at Second Avenue.

Again, they’ve spoken on this, the line will use tunnel boring machines.

Its the problem of comments on this site, they get more into far fantasy than actual discussion of what will happen with transit moving forward. There may not be future phases of the Second Avenue Subway. If there are, it will be two tracks, and they’ve already determined the stations.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 1:02 pm

No, it would not be more disruptive. It would finish it quickly, and spread the disruption around more fairly. Right now one neighborhood gets a giant launchbox hole for years. How is that less disruptive?

If something is already in the way, then you mine or, if justified, bore. Or go over instead of under. Cut and cover subways already had to contend with these problems a century ago. We aren’t talking about anything our great-grandparents didn’t already contend with successfully.

Again, they’ve spoken on this, the line will use tunnel boring machines.

Do you have some disease that makes you terminally try to state the obvious? I know “they’ve spoken on this,” but “their” word isn’t final until construction starts – perhaps at least a decade from now, hopefully when we have some new political blood. Doing something really stupid just because some officials want to do it stupidly is not a good idea.

Its the problem of comments on this site, they get more into far fantasy than actual discussion of what will happen with transit moving forward.

You’re missing the point. A number of us who comment here, disagree with each other as we do, are familiar with best practice that’s employed in other parts of the world. It may not be a fantasy that we can spend 5x as much as the Germans would for an equivalent service, but it’s a raving delusion that we should.

If costs and political process aren’t addressed, there is no “what will happen with transit moving forward.” It doesn’t, at least not meaningfully.

There may not be future phases of the Second Avenue Subway. If there are, it will be two tracks, and they’ve already determined the stations.

Perhaps, and that would be a tragic and pointless error stemming from political intractability and pig ignorance. Don’t fall for the status quo just because Horodniceanu wants it.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:17 pm

The SAS was planned in conjunction with the Archer Ave and 63 St lines.

@Justin Samuels: Actually, much of the infrastructure for phase 2 is already there. So is the existing Lexington Avenue-62 St station.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:22 pm

*Lexington Av-63 St

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:00 pm

Phase II has the tunnels in place as far as 120th St, except for the 106th St station location. The MTA, given money, could issue a contract to build 106th St station and the subway would extend there as soon as the station was built.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 10:22 pm

Didn’t Sheldon Silver derail Phase 2 funding by throwing a hissy fit?

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:20 pm

I think he delayed it, but relented. He wanted it built downtown before it went uptown, which obviously makes little sense.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:06 am

Actually, it makes plenty of sense. That way, the F could go down to Houston St from a junction west of Roosevelt Island, and connect back to the mainline there.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:55 am

And that’s better than the Q extension uptown? The option that will potentially see a modestly high usage?

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:00 pm

And this one wouldn’t have a higher usage because…?

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 4:25 pm

Besides the fact that it was studied and they concluded it makes more sense to start uptown?

The UES is a larger, denser, more residential area, and there is already accommodation for the Q to use the SAS route, thereby allowing direct access to one of the densest job centers in the city? Downtown makes sense to build, in time, but uptown is more important and should be done first.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:10 am

$1 billion for a few miles of track on a ROW we already own? Sorry, but that’s just delusional.

If you care about transportation, then advocate for an SBS on Woodhaven Blvd, a street far too dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians and the reopening of the subterranean Woodhaven Station on the Atlantic Avenue Line.

If you care about transportation, advocate for a less effective but more expensive form of transportation than what we could potentially have?

How about: if you care about dangerous streets, pedestrians, and/or cyclists, advocate for traffic calming.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:20 am

“How about: if you care about dangerous streets, pedestrians, and/or cyclists, advocate for traffic calming.”

How about: if you care about dangerous streets, pedestrians, and/or cyclists, start with upgrading NYC’s streets to modern US traffic standards. Start with countdown clocks and all the other things that NYC’s streets only have a little of, and apply them to every intersection.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:50 am

That would be more expensive and less effective than traffic calming.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 12:30 pm

A lot of other US cities have countdown pedestrian signals. NYC doesn’t.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 12:43 pm

Nothing wrong with it, but it’s not going to have an immense impact on safety. It’s something that should be implemented through natural attrition.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:11 pm

“It’s something that should be implemented through natural attrition.”

What do you mean by that exactly? Just because the signals are new, doesn’t mean they deserve countdown signals any more than existing intersections.

BenW January 9, 2013 - 2:17 pm

You should look up “attrition”, and then you will know what he meant.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:23 pm

It just doesn’t make sense that those signals should be implemented through natural wearing-away. Besides, I know what attrition means already.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 2:36 pm

It’s not natural in the sense that we wait for the weather to destroy them. They probably have some kind of depreciation schedule where they replace everything anyway.

It’s something like 10 years for road signs.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:11 pm

For pedestrian signals, it’s only 7-8 years or something. Most of the NYC pedestrian signals are due for replacement anyway.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 2:30 pm

It means that when we replace signals at the end of their useful life (probably within a decade or two), we can implement such improvements at little or no additional cost over what we have to spend anyway. Otherwise we’re spending more money for something that offers very little extra benefit.

Kai B January 10, 2013 - 10:31 pm

Major intersections have been getting pedestrian countdown clocks over the past two years or so.

Not sure if it makes sense to roll them out to every intersection. Generally I find streets with two lanes or less don’t need them.

AG January 13, 2013 - 2:54 pm

there are pedestrian countdown clocks…. not everywhere… but they are increasing

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:47 pm

It is not delusional and I am being calm. The line needs to be rebuilt. There is extensive erosion all along the way. Some would have to be rebuilt for the QueensWay too, but the requirements will not be nearly as great as it would be for rail reactivation. Add in station construction, new trestles and the $1 billion figure is not absurd. If you are going to tunnel under Rego Park to connect to the Queens Blvd lines then you can add a couple billion more. The Second Avenue Subway cost is already at $17billion.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 5:38 pm

It doesn’t cost a billion dollars to lay three miles of track. It’s not in terrible shape, it’s an intact ROW, it’s not that expensive to regrade embankments, a connection to Queens Blvd is already accommodated, and it’s already city property. It should cost in the low millions per mile, maybe topping out in the $10/$20 million range when you throw in the train sets.

Being against reactivation is a legitimate political position, but claiming it would cost billions is just plain ridiculous. This isn’t the Second Avenue Subway.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:03 pm

Any subgrade right-of-way work — drainage, heavy construction, dealing with erosion — would have to be done to the SAME STANDARDS for a park as for a rail line.

Laying the tracks does not cost very much. Stations cost ~4 million a piece if they need elevators.

This is not a mined tunnel. The Second Avenue Subway is a deep mined tunnel, which is a lot more expensive.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 10:13 pm

Maybe stations could be open air concrete slabs costing in the high six figures. Low-floor LRT would make this even easier and cheaper.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:16 pm

$17 billion for SAS? Where did you make up those numbers? The cost for all 4 phases of the SAS is only projected at ~$20 billion.

You’ll still have to renovate rails and trestles for QueensWay, which by the way requires more than rail reactivation.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 5:12 pm

I advocate for all these things all the time. So when I come before your Community Boards and ask for bike lanes how many of you are going to vote yes? Will you support me when I push for a redesign of Queens Blvd for those very types of changes? Look at a bike map of Central Queens and you will see we live in a virtual desert when it comes to bike infrastructure. The Community Boards in that area habitually vote down such improvements. And will you support a protected bike lane? Anything less than that on Woodhaven Blvd will amount to murder once the first bicyclist is killed. It is a dangerous road for cars let alone bicycles, even with a lane.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 5:41 pm

Community boards should be disintegrated. The reactivation of Rockaway isn’t just the business of the locals in that part of Queens. It’s a decision that should be made by the whole city because it benefits the whole city – and doesn’t really harm anybody, except that it has to be paid for.

Anyway, I don’t object to bike lanes. But they should come from pavement, not from useful rail ROWs.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 10:02 pm

I would vote yes. In fact, my street got one and it’s being enjoyed by the locals. Too many times, though, Community Boards just get filled up with obnoxious loudmouths who oppose everything under the sun and consider everything that’s different in any way an attack on their way of life (see: opposition in Kensington and Bay Ridge on intersection improvements for the sake of opposition). CB’s seem to hurt more than help, as they end up agreeing on idiocy.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 10:56 am

Which is why Woodhaven needs bike lanes, not Rockaway.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:17 am

“Further, constructed in one of the densest population areas of Queens, it would provide immeasurable quality of life benefits to hundreds of thousands who, despite the bizarre perceptions I read of, do not have easy access to park land in Queens.”

One of the densest areas of Queens is also one of the most crime-ridden areas of Queens

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:37 pm

No actually it isn’t. Where do you make this stuff up???

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:26 pm

I made this stuff up? You’ve got to be kidding me. It will become a crime-ridden area when this park opens.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 12:47 pm

Thanks for trolling along. Nothing says quality of life like parkland in a suburban area of Queens. I have walked along the area, and it’s about as dense as the atmosphere on Mars. The QueensWay provides nothing to anybody but a few trendy bafoons who thought they could totally replicate the High Line in a residential, park-filled area of Queens and think trains are loud and yucky and have poor people on them.

BTW, NYC owns the ROW. And there’s already a tunnel from years ago to connect it to the Queens Boulevard line. The infrastructure work is quite literally minimal.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 1:12 pm

“The infrastructure work is quite literally minimal.”

Yeah, except for the $100 million you’d need to automate the QB line to accomodate the new service.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 1:26 pm

1) CBTC installation is happening regardless; moot point.
2) You don’t need CBTC on the QB local for this. I explained this in the comments on another post on this blog. Get rid of passenger fumigation at Forest Hills for trains that will be returning to service and you can squeeze in 30+ tph on the local line.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:12 pm

I read your comments on that post, and I still don’t get what you mean by passenger fumigation.

Larry Littlefield January 9, 2013 - 2:21 pm

Making sure no one is on the train before it leaves the station to relay. The MTA is worried that someone with a lawyer might “panic,” throw themselves off the train to the tracks, and then sue.

The first place that should happen is at City Hall on the #6 line. There they are worried about terrorists under City Hall.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:26 pm

But why would the MTA want to take all that time to get those passengers off the trains? That’s what I don’t get.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 2:31 pm

If the train is leaving service, even if just for a little while, they probably don’t want anyone on it.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:12 pm

But there aren’t yards at the end of every single terminus.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 3:28 pm

Sometimes they lay up at a siding or in a tunnel.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:42 pm

Yeah, but sometimes the trains just reverse direction without entering any sidings, which is actually a common NYCT terminal setup.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:33 pm

Someone, that depends on what kind of terminal. In the case of Forest Hills, train leaves station, goes to yard/relay tracks and comes back on other side. The point is, get rid of customer fumigation at Forest Hills for trains that are staying in service and you don’t need CBTC (which realistically would be there anyways by the time any Rockaway reactivation for service fully completes).

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:15 pm

No, just the segment between 50 Street and 71/Continental Avenues needs CBTC for the Rockaway line to run through service to the QB line.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 1:43 pm

Or make it a transfer service. 95% as good.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:13 pm

And make it like the Beijing subway? Not likely.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 9:07 pm

Now say what you will about the Rockaways, but the ridership nowhere near justifies two trains running eight-cars or ten-cars every ten minutes each. I would extend the Rockaway Shuttle to Rego Park (or Woodhaven, because that’s a bigger station with more transit connectivity) and call it a day.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:01 am

This will make the Rockaway shuttle an entirely suburban line (like the G, and certain lines on the Beijing Subway).

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 10:59 am

Good. It would work, move people, and be cheap. Improvements and integration could be made incrementally after that. But it should be finished quickly and simply, ideally to piss off the park advocates.

Too bad Fearless Leader Cuomo, head of the Red Chinese Democrat Party, can’t barnstorm this railroad back into service for the good of rising NYS.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:49 pm

There is no tunnel. I keep hearing that claim but come up to White Pot junction and you’ll see there is no tunnel. And it is one of the most densely populated areas of Queens. Strolling through Forest Hills is only one small stretch of the line. over 250,000 people live within a 10 minute walk of the line.

Benjamin Kabak January 9, 2013 - 4:52 pm

over 250,000 people live within a 10 minute walk of the line.

If anything, that helps make the argument for rail even stronger.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Actually no. rail is great but has severe limitations since it runs between fixed points. Door-to-door a bike way serves this corridor as well or better as then you can easily get to existing rail and bus routes. That’s on the days you work. On your days off you can go shopping, or the kids baseball game. A flexibility that rail doesn’t provide you as you have to happen to be going to the points served by rail for it to serve you, whereas this bikeway would enable you to go door-to-door to any number of destinations too far to walk to from the train. And again. SBS on Woodhaven can bolster North-South mass transit more economically and more quickly.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 5:47 pm

Yes, it’s true. Rail is the most useless mass transportation mode. Well, except for all the other ones.

Seriously: why don’t things like scalability factor into people’s sense of flexibility? Last I checked, SBS depends on moving people between fixed points and costs much more to operate per passenger-mile. The whole point of SBS is to try to offer railroad-like service patterns.

Calm Woodhaven traffic and put the bike lane there. Don’t sell out NYC’s future.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:23 pm

Last I checked, SBS was supposed to be a replacement for subways that were never built (e.g. M15 SBS replaces the 2 Ave subway.) If the subway line is to be built, then you can get rid of many of the bus lines (including the Q52, Q53, and Q21) and you’ll actually have room to put those bike lanes.

Patrick January 9, 2013 - 7:32 pm

I dont think there was suppose to be a subway line along 34th Street & Fordham Road/Pelham Parkway

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:42 pm

The A line could definitely be extended along Fordham Rd/Pelham Pkwy. The 34 St corridor has no planned subway line, but at the current rate, a subway line (or a replacement) might be necessary.

Any planned SBS routes (Bx41, M60, Q43) already have high demand.

Patrick January 9, 2013 - 7:51 pm

I would try to reroute & extend the 3 before the A, though it would give the A the uniqueness of passing through all 4 connected boroughs without a service change

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 8:09 pm

@Patrick: if I understand correctly, to reroute the 3 would probably require abandoning the current terminal and redeveloping it. It’s currently at grade.

And I’m not even sure where it should go.

Patrick January 9, 2013 - 8:22 pm

@Bolwerk: Along Fordham Rd/Pelham Pkwy, giving The Bronx, to some form, a cross-borough line someone (not this Someone guy) hyped-up about & giving the place another travel option. I’m not sure about where the 3 should terminate (City Island, maybe?)

Henry January 9, 2013 - 9:09 pm

The 3 would have to make some sort of weird contortions to become a viable crosstown service.

To be really honest with you, it probably would’ve been better had they just connected the Third Av line to the 3 and discontinued Lenox service. It’s not like the area is poorly served by subways.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:22 pm

The 3 can’t be extended to the Bronx without having it cost as much (or even more) than the SAS. The current terminal would have to be abandoned, and new tunnels bored under FDR Drive. If anything, a further extension of SAS could continue up FDR Drive and veer right at Fordham Rd, terminating at Pelham Bay Park.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 7:44 pm

No, you can’t get rid of them, though you might be able to reduce bus service. Subways are not substitutes for buses. They complement each other, but they don’t replace each other. Sometimes some light rail is appropriate in the mix too.

This is why I always have such harsh things to say about the BRT crowd. They have this masturbatory fantasy involving subway construction costs with bus shortcomings, including higher operating costs.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:19 pm

“There is no tunnel.”

Ah, but there is. There’s even a provision to go outside. But just like the upper level Archer Avenue line, this tunnel just has no portal.

“And it is one of the most densely populated areas of Queens. ”

Which is why a subway line would be most useful for this area. Sure, it would be the most crowded line in Queens, but at least it serves a purpose for the 250,000 people who really want a direct connection to midtown, but can’t because some people want to build a redundant park.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:06 pm

There you go, Peter. The tunnel exists, you just didn’t know about it.

Yes, tunnels can exist without being visible to you. Perhaps you didn’t know about the existing tunnels for phase II of the Second Avenue Subway either? Bet you didn’t.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 10:04 pm

Those tunnels are sneaky, I tells ya. Especially when they’re built decades ago. They’re still finding stuff under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

BoerumBum January 9, 2013 - 1:38 pm

Peter: How much each year does your organization plan to pay the MTA for lease of the ROW?

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:56 pm

The ROW is owned by the City.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:07 pm

Peter: just how much per year does your organization plan to pay the City for the lease of the ROW?

Severely sub-market rate, I’m guessing?

Eric January 10, 2013 - 4:39 am

Looking at the ROW, it seems it is wide enough for both rail and a bike path. In places, it is wide enough for some additional parkland as well. Why not design the park in a way that provides for bike connectivity AND a rail line?

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:31 am

Because the park would be too close to the rail at some areas, and not many people are comfortable with having trains pass right above them for three and a half miles.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:00 am

Because the park is still useless. It should not be built because it’s a waste of money. Forest Park is right nearby, and the train could take people there to enjoy it.

William M. January 12, 2013 - 4:05 pm

It’s not that useless. I agree that rail with trails option should be looked into. Again most of the ROW is four tracks wide. You can leave 2 tracks for trains and have the other 2 converted to a park. The subway tracks can be enclosed in a glass dome to block noise, and to prevent accidents while allowing people in the train to have an outside view. The only location where there might be some difficulty is the Woodhaven Junction station which is elevated, but otherwise it’s not impossible to build around it. If you convert Woodhaven Junction to an island platform station it can have the park run parallel to it on the side. So the rail with trails option should be looked into.

Someone January 13, 2013 - 9:17 pm

The ROW itself is 4 tracks wide for most of its length. The bridges would still have to be rebuilt, as many bridges are only two tracks wide. But that actually sounds like a great idea, otherwise.

If you convert Woodhaven Junction to an island platform station it can have the park run parallel to it on the side.

Even better, build the park over the station.

The subway tracks can be enclosed in a glass dome to block noise, and to prevent accidents while allowing people in the train to have an outside view.

Uh huh. You know how quickly glass gets vandalised in New York City? Especially in public places? The loud noise itself might break the all-glass structure and… well, you know the rest.

There are ways to get trains to have a minimal amount of noise, even those that run on steel tracks. Step one: get rid of all the cracked rails and get brand-new shiny rails, and weld them on-site. That always works.

Patricia G January 9, 2013 - 10:45 am

I have heard this argument over the years. As a Rockaway resident, I see the Queens ROW everyday. I remember asking myself why don’t the MTA get smart and rejuvenate those tracks and use them. In the 1929 MTA expansion plans, there were plans to have a line between Forest Hills to Ozone park to connect with the Rockaways. The Great Depression derailed that idea. I believe in either the Jackson Heights station or the 71st-Continental station already has a provision for the Rockaway line. Living in a post Sandy environment I think the MTA should take a look at it. It would give us Rockaway residents an alternative to the city rather just sitting there for over an hour. The thing is if the MTA decides to do this, how long would it take for the line to be open? The Smith-9 sts station was scheduled to open in Fall of 2012. We are now in January of 2013 and it still hasn’t open. If the MTA decides to go ahead with revitalizing the Queens ROW they should fix it at the same time as they fix the rails between Broad Channel and Howard Beach.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 10:56 am

“The Smith-9 sts station was scheduled to open in Fall of 2012. We are now in January of 2013 and it still hasn’t open.”

You haven’t heard? The opening was pushed back to the first quarter of 2013. http://bkabak.wpengine.com/201.....ab-project

Patricia G January 9, 2013 - 11:17 am

Yes I am quite aware of that. I use the F and G trains for work. I just find it ridiculous that it keeps being pushed back.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:23 am

There were numerous other delays as well, which included the deterioration of a wall on the viaduct. Basically, if the MTA opened this station now, the station would probably need to be closed again for a longer period of time this time.

Justin Samuels January 9, 2013 - 1:21 pm

The inactive parts of Rockaway Beach LIRR connect to the LIRR mainline. The portions going to the Rockaways, including those shut down by Sandy, use subway rolling stock.

Currently, the MTA doesn’t have rolling stock that goes back and forth between LIRR/Commuter Railroads and subways.

Now, if they decided to connect it to the Queens Boulevard local tracks and run a subway along it, fine. But what’s the cost?

Mind you, the MTA has made no effort to lobby for the reactivation of this, and without the MTA even attempting to get funding for this, how is it supposed to happen? They think ridership would be low.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Now, if they decided to connect it to the Queens Boulevard local tracks and run a subway along it, fine. But what’s the cost?

Tracks, signals, and stations. In a sane world, that could cost few million per mile. In NYC, probably much more.

Mind you, the MTA has made no effort to lobby for the reactivation of this, and without the MTA even attempting to get funding for this, how is it supposed to happen? They think ridership would be low.

Duh. The MTA is anti-transit.

But the MTA shouldn’t making these decisions anyway. This should be a question of public policy.

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 6:13 am

Well, then, you would need mayors and governors who are interested in transit expansion AND on dedicating the FUNDS to do so.

That’s the only way to every see the full length second avenue subway happen, or the Rockaway Beach LIRR reactivation.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 9:11 pm

I believe the rolling stock for this would actually be illegal, as the LIRR is subject to FRA regulations due to its status as a railroad connecting to the national network.

Linking NYCT to the LIRR would be an absolute nightmare, because pretty much no subway stock meets (and should meet) FRA standards for crash-worthiness.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:35 pm

It is illegal, but with some paperwork modifications, the LIRR could be listed as a legitimate subway system.

It should be noted that the LIRR doesn’t need to be listed as a a subway system; the bellmouths from the QB mainline could be expanded and connected to the ROW (or a new tunnel dug under the LIRR bypassing the QB line altogether, connecting to the F at 21 St-Queensbridge.) With a few modifications, the ROW could become a super-express subway line going straight to JFK.

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 2:48 am

Except the 6 Avenue local is pretty much at capacity with the F and M, so connecting to 21st Queensbridge would never happen. Particularly if it doesn’t involve using already built infastructure (it requires a whole new tunnel. The best bet is connecting to the Queens Blvd local, but as noted, the MTA is not interested, the governor is not interested, nor is the mayor interested. Nor the City Council or the State Legislature.

Bloomberg will be out of power soon, the best you guys can do is vote for a pro transit mayor and hope he or she sees this as a vital project.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:02 am

Or it could connect to the Q, which has more capacity.

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 12:11 pm

The Q will go up Second Avenue, so that is not going to happen.

Honestly, why come up with the most bizarre and least likely options, for something which in and of itself is highly unlikely?

Building a new tunnel to connect to the 21st-Queensbridge line, has no chance of happening. It just doesn’t. Its never even been a rumor among those who count in terms of public transportation.

There were concrete discussions among city officials to connect the Rockaway Beach LIRR to the Queens Boulevard line, which has the bellmouths to connect it to the local tracks. This is doable with a lot less construction, and running the M or the R would cause a lot less disruption to existing service.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:03 pm

The Q has fewer tph than the F and M combined.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 12:05 pm

I dunno. Hub Bound 2010 (PDF) seems to imply otherwise. F peaks at around 15 TPH and the M at around 8 TPH, not necessarily at the same time.

A few super-express trains might use the extra capacity well.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:07 pm

“I remember asking myself why don’t the MTA get smart and rejuvenate those tracks and use them.”

MTA starved of funding, contractors skimming money from it, city council skimming money from it, Department of Buildings skimming money,….

kk January 9, 2013 - 10:53 am

The NY Times article failed to mention the two pro-rail politicians by name: Assemblymen Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 12:50 pm

That would hurt their narrative that people along the actual rail line would like better transit. The talking point is: “EVERYBODY (except a few nerd losers) wants this park trail.”

Someone January 9, 2013 - 1:13 pm

And those few nerd losers includes Ben.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 1:14 pm

The phrase “‘few nerd losers'” is in quotes.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 1:24 pm

You misunderstood what I typed. The thing in quotes is the NY Times talking point that we on here disagree with.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 1:19 pm

The New York Times has every bit the right-wing windshield perspective the New York Post does. It’s just more polite about it.

Billy Gray January 9, 2013 - 1:54 pm


Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:27 pm

Google Plus

lawhawk January 9, 2013 - 10:54 am

Carbon footprint? How many more cars can be taken off roads, reduced congestion and traffic jams by reactivating the line to expand rail access to the region’s core and connecting lines? Far more than would ever use it as a bike trail, that’s for sure.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the sexy idea of a rail to trail that runs through light industrial and lacks the tourist numbers/attractions to generate the volume needed to sustain a park effort gets more attention than turning a currently disused rail line back into a transit option for a underserved area.

It’s also a testament to Gov. Cuomo that he’s not pushing transit options here (or with the TZB for that matter). He may have changed his tune slightly after Sandy, but the change of heart isn’t matched by the change in funding priorities – it’s still not there.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:18 am

I mostly agree with you, but I don’t think reactivating the rail line is going to take cars off the road. To do that, we have to admit having so many cars on the roads is stupid and we should limit how much we accommodate them.

For transportation, the upside of using the Rockaway ROW is it satisfies a (very small) part of our need for sustainable, transit-oriented development. It could fail to take a single car off the road and still do good.

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 6:09 am

Reactiviation of the Rockaway Beach LIRR would provide direct train access (one seat ride) from North Queens to South Queens. It would make it easier for people from the Rockaways to take the train to other parts of Queens. Currently, you could take the A to the J, and then the J to the E, but that’s a lot of transfers.

And you wouldn’t have to deal with the horribly crowded Q53 bus, even more crowded since the Jamaica Bay connection is gone. Ditto for the Q113.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 11:13 am

Doesn’t Queens have enough parks? It almost looks like Queens could use FEWER parks.

Maybe it’s time transit advocates started trying to reclaim parks!

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:12 pm

In some of the nastier cases of rail-to-park conversion, it would be extremely valuable to reclaim these “parks” for their highest and best uses.

Good parks are generally not linear, unless they’re on a shoreline. The High Line is a weirdo exception… and I actually expect that people are going to be wishing they had rail back on the High Line in 20 years. But then I think the loss of the St. John’s Park Freight Terminal was a serious one. Relocating the produce market to a *flood zone* in the Bronx was not smart….

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 10:17 pm

I dunno. The High Line would never make a good passenger railroad. That’s an area that can justify a fully below-grade subway anyway.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:03 am

I think the High Line would make a great subway line, what with the gentrification happening in Chelsea and all that.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:04 am

It couldn’t neatly connect to anything except a passenger transfer to the L. It is, however, an excellent park.

For subway service: send the 7 down or the L up. Or both.

Nyland8 January 10, 2013 - 7:00 pm

“Good parks are generally not linear, unless they’re on a shoreline.”

Well … good linear parks are good parks – no matter where run. When they’re comprehensive and well thought-out, they represent incredible quality-of-life advantages to the communities they go through. They can exist in the spaces between places – and the spaces around places.

Imagine a paved greenway that went around the edge of every park, every campus, every industrial park, along the banks of every river and stream, around every government reservation, along any available gas, rail or power line ROW, around every cemetery, the fringe of every golf course, pedestrian lanes on every bridge – and link all of these seemingly unconnected geographic elements with some judicious use of dedicated bike lanes with barriers and … voila! An urban matrix that allows you to travel vast distances where 90%+ of your journey does not involve playing in traffic.

It may not be the shortest distance to push your scooter from point A to point B, but it encourages a healthy lifestyle and promotes green transportation, while reducing the likelihood of unintentional impact with the cars and trucks on the roadways. Human powered vehicles need their own system of dedicated roads, and this is one way to build that infrastructure.

Urban real estate is a precious commodity, and fully utilizing the interstitial spaces – the places between places – to construct linear parks is very much in our future.

AG January 13, 2013 - 3:19 pm

Hunst Point is not as susceptible to flooding as many parts of Manhattan… also it’s an industrial area. Industrial areas are becoming more and more scarce in 21st century cities… having those markets in Manhattan is too expensive for the operators. Moving the Fulton Fish Market up to Hunts Point also made sense.

Henry January 9, 2013 - 9:14 pm

South of Queens Blvd, Queens has a lot of park. North of Queens Blvd, Queens has a lot of park, but it’s a pain in the ass to get to because their fringes contain eight lane highways. (Corona Park takes the cake on this one – it’s bounded by the Van Wyck, the GCP, and the Cross Island.)

I don’t know about you, but I certainly would not risk my life crossing a highway to get to a park, and the entrances are few and far between. Southern Queens doesn’t have as much of a problem with this.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 10:21 pm

Nothing wrong with rail into parks, even. That could be a good use for the Rockaway Line too. With a stop in Forest Park, suddenly that whole area could easily get to a park.

The NIMBYs would complain though, because instead of taking a ROW away from the plebes forever, it would help the plebes sully the parks with their poverty and swarthy skin.

Eric January 10, 2013 - 4:44 am

You can thank Robert Moses for that, of course. If you have a car you can drive to those parks. If you don’t have a car, well, I guess you don’t deserve to use parks.

Bob January 9, 2013 - 11:30 am

The carbon footprint thing doesn’t make ANY sense: undertaking the “QueensWay” will *INCREASE* the carbon footprint of the site. It will cut down trees and add cement, planking, etc. Reopening the rail would take cars off the road (also, parenthetically, it would increase property value in the neighborhoods around it, if not for the properties directly abutting it)

Someone January 9, 2013 - 11:42 am

“Reopening the rail would take cars off the road”

As mentioned above, it wouldn’t take cars off the road; but it would definitely benefit the residents around the corridor. However, having over 1,000,000+ cars on NYC roads during rush hours in the first place is stupid.

Steven January 9, 2013 - 11:54 am

I can’t stand the idea of making this a park when it would best used to be a an extension of the subway system. Queens is extremely underserved by transit and this would allow people to travel within Queens much more easily and also faster trips to Manhattan! I support this as a rail project the same way I support the circumferential Triboro RX project. That project is also a much needed expansion to the subway. It’s imperative to simplify commuting between Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx so people can travel more easily within each borough and get to their destinations faster without having to go into Manhattan. And we definitely need to get the second avenue line done too because a subway line there has been long overdue as well and would relieve Lexington line.

g January 9, 2013 - 1:43 pm

I don’t know where you’d cut in to the subway system since the northern end line stops where it intersects the LIRR main line. I suppose you could tunnel under and make a connection to the Queens Boulevard Line but that would most likely be REALLY expensive.

A phased LIRR reactivation makes the most sense I think. Do as far as the Howard Beach transfer station to the A train /JFK Air Train for Phase 1 and extension to Rockaway Beach as Phase 2.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 2:14 pm

I don’t know where you got the idea for the phased LIRR reactivation, but it’s not going to work, due to the fact that 1) there’s already an existing Rockaways LIRR line and 2) this line was handed over to the NYCS because the LIRR didn’t want it.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 3:28 pm

There’s tunnels running from the 63 Drive IND Queens Boulevard station local tracks (east of station) to Whitepot Junction ending at about where the LIRR main line ROW is. Infrastructure is there to connect the abandoned line to QB line.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:44 pm

And then we can discontinue the A to the Rockaways.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 3:59 pm

Or just label the Lefferts-bound A trains as K trains so people can know right away which way the train goes. Those R46 side displays never work right, if they work at all.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 4:21 pm

The K was used up until the late 80’s to denote trains running local on the 8 Avenue line between 168 St and WTC. This new service to Lefferts Blvd should also be 8 Ave local to eliminate confusion.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:35 pm

Then Lefferts riders would be upset. I say just keep as is and mark Lefferts trains K. It’s actually quite important, as those R46 side displays are a mess. I’ve yet to see an A train with a full 8-car set of properly working side displays. At least A Vs. K lets folks know right away.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:20 pm

How about designating the H to Far Rockaway and A to Lefferts? That makes more sense, and besides, it’s already in use.

Joe January 9, 2013 - 4:09 pm

We’re only talking about maybe 1/4 mile of tunnel required to get from where these unused tracks end (presumably at the south end of QB to under the LIRR Main Line and into the Rockaway ROW. It couldn’t be that expensive. The rest of the line could be at grade. It’d be a fraction of SAS or 7 Extension.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 4:21 pm

“The rest of the line could be at grade.”
You mean on an embankment?

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:54 pm

No there aren’t tunnels. There are Bellmouth connections at the 63rd Drive stations but they don’t extend beyond Queens Blvd. They relate to a 1929 plan that was never built.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:38 pm

At least a handful of folks on SubChat (mostly former employees) have suggested the tunnels go enough as to turn off QB and travel a short distance. That’s enough that all the hard work is done and remaining construction can go on without disrupting QB service.

Eric January 10, 2013 - 4:54 am

You would still have to tunnel under inhabited 6 story apartment buildings. That might not be easy.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:04 am

Or, you could use the existing streets and tunnel under these instead.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:44 pm

Anyways, there are several abandoned bellmouths from the QB line, such as at Jackson Heights and at 63 Drive. Those can be used to extend the subway system instead.

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Bellmouths are shallow. They merely mark where the lines could run but do not tunnel very far off the line. You would still need to tunnel at least a mile or more under a densely populated neighborhood at a huge cost to accomplish this. And despite all the posts on here haranguing about rail, not one of you have provided any data to show that the ridership for such a line exists or that you could run enough trains on the RBB, given the limitations of space on the Queens Blvd lines, to justify the expensive. Rockaways has a train they just don’t like it. Ozone Park/Richmond Hill could be given a train by reopening the existing Woodhaven station on the LIRR’s Atlantic Avenue line at substantially less cost. There are half a dozen projects ahead of this one on MTA’s long term planning documents [this actually doesn’t even appear on the latest additions] and after that State of the State Address you are deeply fooling yourself to believe the State will provide $1+ (++ if you have to tunnel) billion to a line you haven’t justified the existence for.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:42 pm

I’ve posted before about QB capacity. Google exists, use it. You’re cherry picking and then have the audacity to suggest the failed Richmond Hill station that got abandoned because nobody wanted to use the LIRR when they were that close to Manhattan such that the subway simply made more sense. And yes, we do have a suburbanite governor who sees transit as irrelevant. It’s rather sad. This QueensWay novelty project will likely have his full support, while actual useful projects will be ignored.

Michael K January 9, 2013 - 7:26 pm

Peter, lines for funding don’t exist.

Funds are sent to projects with champions.


Michael K January 9, 2013 - 7:32 pm

Yet, we must forget that politicians are the legitimate representatives of the people – and joe schmo new yorker probably doesn’t want to feed the beast (Publicly owned and operated Transportation).

It is simply the result of a business answerable to the people.

However, that my change soon following the results of the USDOT’s Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program (Penta-P.)

I think we are headed for a future with publicly owned and maintained trackage but private carriers providing rail services as a concession.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:16 pm

When politicians turn around and ignore their party platforms, the ones they campaigned on, then they are *not* legitimate representatives of the people.

I’m not saying Cuomo’s done that, since I’m not sure exactly what he stood for when he ran. But I can say I’ve been regretting my vote for him. I would have been better off voting for the prostitute, or the Rent is Too Damn High guy.

And that’s not even over *these* issues, it’s over *fracking*. It needs to be *banned* and he’s been bending over backwards to help the frackers, most of which are fly-by-night land speculators.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 10:23 pm

Which prostitute? (Kidding….)

The fact that the Republikans ran a mental case pretty much meant Cuomo didn’t even have to bother. He just needed to not be Paladino.

Justin Samuels January 10, 2013 - 2:54 am

The private companies sold out to the city (IRT and BMT) or to the state (LIRR and Metro North) because running the system wasn’t profitable.

Fares are too low for private operations, even with the increases we have this year. Private operation would require much higher fares, particularly on NYC transit, which is something that politically cannot fly in NYC.

So the trains will remain in government hands.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:10 am

Not saying this is desirable, but private operators should be able to handle it with (either?) a subsidy and/or retirement of existing debt and/or saner work rules.

Still, privatization is usually feelgood, wishywashy political position. It means handing profits over to the private sector while leaving the public sector holding the bag, which is why authoritarian thinktanks embrace it so much.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 7:38 pm

A rejuvenated Rockaway line is arguably more useful than the TZB, especially given that the TZB is likely to lack rail.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:19 pm

(a) has no structural problems and does not need to be replaced
(b) is in a bad, stupid location for a bridge, driven by ancient anti-MTA politics, and SHOULD not be replaced in its current location
(c) if there is a bridge built in the vicinity of the Tappan Zee, it should carry rail, because there is a *NATIONAL* need for a rail crossing of the Hudson. Another nasty rail-to-trails conversion which took place on the only rail bridge crossing the Hudson south of Albany (now the “Pathway across the Hudson”).

Cuomo just wants to throw pork to his buddies the road contractors. Jackass.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 10:08 pm

(d) Cuomo doesn’t consider rail and other forms of public transport relevant. To him, replacing the highway bridge is perfectly fine, because it would make his life easier. If he and his chauffeur spend less time in traffic, than clearly the bridge does its job. He’s a suburbanite in every fibre of his being. Sad, he seemed to be cool when he ran for gov.

Nyland8 January 10, 2013 - 9:37 am

My two cents …

Regarding a) Uh … no. The Chimpanzee Bridge does have an enormous structural problem – in that it is a set of rusting steel monkey bars across a huge span of brackish water, that costs an absolute fortune to maintain. And those costs continue to rise as it ages.

Ideally, it should be replaced by a post-tensioned, segmental construction, concrete cable-stayed bridge for maintenance costs that would be so low, the replacement bridge would pay for itself in a decade.

b) Whatever the pluses or minuses of its location, moving it elsewhere would now be the equivalent of moving the southern end of the New York State Thruway – in other words, tens-of-billion$. Therefore, the ONLY place for it is in its current location.

c) YES! It should definitely carry rail, and any other design permutation would be myopic to the point of blindness.

Bolwerk January 10, 2013 - 11:25 am

I think with (a), the truth is somewhere in between, probably per my comment here. The maintenance costs are high, but lower than replacement.

Ideally, it should be replaced by a post-tensioned, segmental construction, concrete cable-stayed bridge for maintenance costs that would be so low, the replacement bridge would pay for itself in a decade.

What’s the cost of this? I seem to recall calculating that it would take over a century to pay off the $5 billion bridge with bonds backed by toll receipts ($30M/year?), and that was making the (false?) assumption that the revenues aren’t encumbered.

Nyland8 January 10, 2013 - 5:49 pm

Conservative estimates for routine maintenance on the Chimpanzee over the next decade – 1.3 Billion – more than doubling the previous decade, and those costs continue to accelerate. And that’s just the “routine” stuff.

““An extensive and costly maintenance and capital program has been required to keep the Tappan Zee Bridge’s structural elements in a state of good repair,” according to the report, compiled by the Thruway Authority, the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. “However, the existing Tappan Zee Bridge falls short of current engineering standards.””

“Thruway officials said they have little choice. The Tappan Zee — six years beyond it’s expected life span and WELL OVER THE TRAFFIC LOAD IT WAS MEANT TO HANDLE – will remain a vital link carrying the New York State Thruway across the Hudson River until a replacement is available about 2017.” (emphasis mine)

Not only is it substandard now, the price of retrofitting it to emerging standards adds costs that far exceed its regular annual maintenance bill.

More than a decade ago, I sold tons of material used to put pier fenders on the main span – after new standards evaluated it to be in danger of being compromised by a runaway barge. As far as I know, the other smaller spans are still suspect. The most recent deck replacement project alone is in the $80 million range.

And numbers have gone DOWN on replacement estimates – some already as low as 3.1 Billion. Originally, the Thruway authority wanted a signature bridge – one for the architectural coffee table books – but now I think they’re leaning more towards meat and potatoes.

Anyway … the bridge isn’t getting any younger, it is under-designed for its current use, the traffic across it is not expected to decrease … and rust never sleeps.

Michael K January 10, 2013 - 3:56 pm

My experience working for several civil engineering companies has been that they all build both road and rail just as happily – URS, AECOM, PB, JACOBS, ect…

The road and rail contractors are one and the same.

I think Cuomo’s motivation is that he recognizes that the transit rail system predominantly caters to people that work in Manhattan. That said, the stats show that only 10% of Nassau County residents work in the city and commute by LIRR. He is a suburban man that looks to rockland county’s lack of rail as ideal americana – and hempstead, rego park, or forest hills as filthy places that he always got parking tickets as a teenager.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:32 am

“The TZB is likely to lack rail.”

There are some plans which actually call for a rail line to be built across the TZB.

3ddie January 11, 2013 - 9:09 am

Peter, you are saying that there’s no ridership for a rail but apparently there’s ridership for an exclusive park lane (maybe, just you and your kids).
No one is arguing on the need for more bike lanes in Queens, I think we should have them on QB and Woodhaven; but the ROW is espcially important now with the new casino, JFK, Home Depot, and the large population in southern Queens. Woodhaven Blvd is in desperate need of better transportation.
That stop in Woodhaven would not provide relief on intra-Queens transit.

LLQBTT January 9, 2013 - 3:14 pm

I’ll say it again, Queens has lots of park land. Queens has few subway lines, the fewest of the 4 boroughs. Only SI has fewer rapid transit. So why build another park when there is clearly need and demand for more rail.

There is 1 and only 1 High Line. And perhaps that could have been better served by a rapid transit line (since they are building a 7 extension right next to it and a far west side bus is being planned) . QueensWay or whatever the heck they’ll call it…NIMBYWay or the Highway…can and will no way ever compare and the same economic gains will never be realized.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:16 pm

“Queens has few subway lines, the fewest of the 4 boroughs.”

Not true- the Bronx only has 7 subway lines. Queens has 12.

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 4:33 pm

More like 12 services. There are really only three “trunk” lines that are really dedicated to Queens. Others are stubs and branches (e.g., M stub in Ridgewood, G, A, J/Z), and arguably not even very practical for the borough.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 5:11 pm

Actually, only 2 (QB and Flushing)

Bolwerk January 9, 2013 - 5:48 pm


Someone January 9, 2013 - 7:24 pm

And Astoria (though it doesn’t have the severe overcrowding of the Flushing and QB lines)

LLQBTT January 10, 2013 - 2:45 pm

thank you

AG January 14, 2013 - 6:38 pm

if you look at the population – subway and commuter rail coverage in the Bronx is better than Queens mainly because the Bronx is more dense. Queens is literally 3x the land area of the Bronx.

marv January 14, 2013 - 6:53 pm

Bronx subways go pretty close the Westchester border, Queens subways terminate in the middle of the borrough – 179th Street, Parsons Blvd and Flushing (to say nothing of the N in Astoria and the M in Middle Village) The only exception is the A in Far Rockkaway.

Subways are expensive to build. The hope for Queens is:
*elevated lines over highways such as the LIE and
*converting to subway ussage over un/underused LIRR lines

AG January 15, 2013 - 6:56 pm

or re-activating this line (the hope for Queens).

Peter January 9, 2013 - 4:35 pm

Queens does not have lots of Parks, and certainly doe snot have a lot of accessible parks. And in any event the districts the QueensWay runs through are some of the most underserved districts with respect to green space in the entire city.

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 6:45 pm

True. Forest Park is quite under-served, as are Forest Hills Gardens and Rego Park. Two areas that surely need more greenery and protection from the evils of public transport.

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:22 pm

You are seriously claiming that Forest Park and Rego Park have a lack of parks? Not to mention the cemeteries and the golf course?

Oh — a lack of ACCESSIBLE parks. Right. So you need to be able to *get* to the parks easily. By subway, for example. That’s why you’re preventing consideration of a subway line?

Alex C January 9, 2013 - 10:11 pm

I think the definition of “accessible” used there is ample parking for 5,000-pound luxury SUV’s or with a redundant novelty park trail so Rego Park and Forest Hills Gardens folks can walk or bike to Forest Park in splendid scenery.

AG January 13, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Peter – I just saw a preview of the new show called “Washington Heights”… in one part of the show they wanted to have a BBQ. Guess what they did? they got on the #1 train and took the subway up to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to have there BBQ. Not because they couldn’t have one in their neighborhood… but bc Van Cortlandt is so big. So they made use of a rail line… a rail line that is used by many ppl for many diff purposes…. including visiting parks

Someone January 13, 2013 - 9:38 pm

The north of Queens has a lot of parks. The south of Queens has a lot of parks. And in any event, the Forest Park is within a mile’s drive/walk/bike ride of at least 250,000 people. If you want a park, consider redeveloping the neighborhood around Newtown Creek.

bob September 20, 2016 - 6:55 pm

Maybe Queens should convert some of those graveyards into parks?

Someone January 9, 2013 - 3:22 pm

Obviously Queens hasn’t enough parkland already.

MLS at Citi Field and more in the QNYC Evening Edition for Wednesday January 9, 2013 | Queens NYC January 9, 2013 - 3:46 pm

[…] blog 2nd Avenue Sagas published a post expressing support for turning the abandoned LIRR line not into the QueensWay […]

Michael K January 9, 2013 - 4:29 pm

“Transportation options for residents in southeast Queens and southwestern Nassau are very limited. The communities in this area lack adequate access to JFK Airport, Van Wyck Expressway and Belt Parkway for trips to Manhattan and points north. The community and elected officials have requested a study of the corridor, using the previous Nassau Expressway EIS as a basis for project development. The study is being initiated in recognition of several important factors and needs:

Residential and community growth has created the need for more reliable and efficient access to New York City, the city’s limited access arterial system to points west and north.”

The State DOT has already identified this area as a transportation starved area and is moving forward with expensive plans to alleviate congestion on the Belt Park with a movable median similar to the TZB!!!

Have a look at the project site: https://www.dot.ny.gov/sequeensstudy

Contact Uchenna and tell him no way !

Uchenna Madu
Director of Planning and Project Development
4740 21st Street
LIC, NY 11101
Phone: 718-482-4547
Email: umadu@dot.state.ny.us

Nathanael January 9, 2013 - 9:22 pm

OMFG. Roadwarrior psychosis.

Kevin January 9, 2013 - 8:52 pm

As a resident of Queens, and living right next to the LIRR, Turning the old Rockaway ROW into a rail line would be substantially more beneficial. I always wished I could have a station right in front my door, The noise can take some getting used to but its bearable as the sound mitigation is pretty good along the LIRR here.

The ROW is valuable space that can provide similar benefits to what the Triboro RX would provide. Not to mention easier access to the casino down there.

Queens needs better transit, not another park. If this can funnel more service to the Queens Blvd Line, that would be great, it benefits me, and would ideally benefit the people living along that ROW. If that QueensWay gets built, it would be totally useless for this Queens Resident. The tourist attractions/workplaces are mostly in Manhattan, and anything that can provide me with a better ride to Manhattan would be greatly beneficial. It would even help me get to Brooklyn faster, as I’ve had to commute there in the past as well.

If the guys along the ROW think a park would be a good idea for them, they are being selfish, as the rest of Queens puts up with the same crap we have to deal with now, while they get a nice park for themselves.

Someone January 9, 2013 - 9:30 pm

Tell that to Peter. He’s on the QueensWay Steering Commitee.

AG January 13, 2013 - 3:51 pm

The irony is that since 9/11 the faster job growth has been in the outer boroughs… which is precisely why the outer boroughs need better inter-borough transit. A new phenomenon is also reverse commuting to the suburbs… hence Metro-North implementing plans to increase service in the Bronx.

Conversely – there are many historic structures in the outer boroughs… but they are not always accessible. Conceivably – something like Forest Park would be more accessible to a visitor if there was direct rail access from Manhattan there.

David C January 10, 2013 - 8:22 am

Again, I’m pretty perturbed by the short-sighted nature of the push to turn pretty much intact ROW into a walking/biking park. Unreal.

Are there any organizations out there that are countering the “queensway” folks in support of rail reactivation? I’d be interested in contributing my time and resources.

LLQBTT January 10, 2013 - 1:07 pm

The Bushwick Branch is active once more after how many years? Like 250 or something right? But look at it now. Instead of hundreds of ‘waste transfer’ 18 wheelers hauling back and forth on Metro to and from the BQE, we now have a garbage train that clearly has been much more effective.

Now you wanna talk about a nabe in need of park land? What would have happened if the Bushwick Branch became Bushwick Linear Park or something?

The future is skewed to more rail in the mobility mix, not less.

Dave of Sunnyside January 10, 2013 - 2:23 pm

When you look at this ROW along with the Rego Park Spur, the old Montauk Mainline,the Freight Line though Middle Village and Maspeth, and the Brooklyn Beltway ROW should be the basis of a new transit system similar to the London Overground. Coupled with the abandon ROW on Staten Island and the excess track space on the New Haven and Harlem lines in the Bronx could provide more then 60 miles of needed mass transit.

It is time for the outer boroughs to get a transit upgrade.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 4:22 pm

Yeah, like the Triboro RX. The outer boroughs only have the LIRR/MNR (which is similar to the Overground) but those commuter rail systems aren’t enough.

marv January 10, 2013 - 8:05 pm

I would like to suggest a more intergarated approach
-the LIRR Atlantic Ave to Flatbush terminal line is due to become nothing more than Jamaica – Brooklyn shuttle once ESA opens.

Given this, convert that line to subway service via a new East River tunnel and continue the line east of southeast of Jamaica via one of the LIRR rights of way to Rosedale.

Given this new (express) subway line serving Jamaica, Queens Blvd to Suphtin Blvd/Jamaica station would be served by a Queens Blvd local (instead of the express “e” train) which would then also use the converted LIRR right of way. Jamica now has better service so giving up the express “e” may be polically doable.

This combination of changes would enhance transportation for uch of Queens.

This then free capacity on the Queens Blvd express tracks to run the “e” train down down Rockaway Beach Branch.

Toby Sheppard Bloch January 10, 2013 - 8:50 pm

I’m surprised by the intensity of the opposition to this idea. It does seem to me the moment to reactivate the line was when the Airtrain was being planned, and having missed that boat it’s hard to see a rational for reactivating it. We do need more transit options in the area, and if there was a plausible rail line to discuss, that would be an interesting conversation.

But the money and political will don’t exist. Full stop.

The question, it seems to me, is what to do with this public land in that absence. In my mind, any use is better than letting it sit vacant. I would use it to get to the Woodhaven Blvd subway stop by bike, allowing me to skipped the packed Woodhaven buses.

In any event, I think we would all be better served if folks on both sides of this focused on the benefits of the plan they advocate and garnering support for it, rather than criticizing eachother’s vision and thinking. There are those who would like to see nothing done, and be able to appropriate public land for private use. To the extent pro-rail and pro-trail folks denigrate eachother they are just supporting the status quo.

Benjamin Kabak January 10, 2013 - 11:15 pm

I don’t (always) mean to be so cynical, and I certainly appreciate the idea that smart growth transportation advocates shouldn’t be sniping at each other. But aren’t you essentially telling rail advocates to give up and support a park because an artificial moment has passed? A new rail line doesn’t need to have anything to do with AirTrain, and the park isn’t the ideal bike lane. If you want a bike lane that will take you that last mile, let’s talk about reengineering Woodhaven Boulevard so it’s not such a speedway deathtrap.

In my mind, the status quo is better than turning valuable rail ROW into a greenway, and I know I’m not alone in that thinking.

Toby Sheppard Bloch January 10, 2013 - 11:25 pm

I don’t think I’m giving up on rail–but frankly the ROW is being encroached on, and 10 -15 years down the road reclaiming will be increasingly difficult. I for one certainly consider transit a ‘higher use’ but without any prospect why have the space lay fallow, particularly if it could serve a (if marginal) transportation function. Woodhaven is simply unridable, but bikes can be useful for connecting to the trains around here, so this would be a plus for some folks getting around.

I do think the comment about the lack of surrounding bike infrastructure is on point–but if connected with Flushing Meadows via a bike lane, and some other links, this could become an artery for a more robust network.

marv January 10, 2013 - 11:41 pm

The Hummer crowd has succeeded in pitting bicyclist against mass transit. The Rockaway Beach Branch should be converted to subway use linking the Rockaway and the JFK with Midtown. This will then reduce the capacity needed for buses and express buses and private cars on Crossbay Blvd and Queens Blvd.

Can we not then re-create the Woodhaven/Crossbay Blvd corridor into something similar to Ocean Parkway? (at least one side of ocean parkway).

On Queens Blvd, the left hand parking lane of the service roads should become park/bikeways with continuation through Sunny Side to the Queensboro (koch) Bridge.

Let us remember that the main reason that subway service is opposed on the Rockaway Beach Branch is that people bought homes at discounted prices next to/near a right of way that was stated to become part of the subway system now seek to lock in increased real estate profits to the detriment of the rest of the population.

marv January 10, 2013 - 11:55 pm

It should also be noted that a Woodhaven/Crossbay Blvd bikeway ties directly into the bike lane leading down into the Rockaways along Cross Bay Blvd (with a possible stop at the Jamaica Bay Wild Life Preserve. A Rockaway Beach Branch bikeway would end at Liberty Avenue where the 8th Avenue (A train) takes over the right of way.

Someone January 11, 2013 - 8:12 am

If anything, that makes the support for a Woodhaven Blvd bikeway to Queens Blvd even stronger. Sadly, people don’t want to turn an existing road into a useful bikeway, but would rather waste even more money on a grade-separated ROW which could be used for subway routes, anyways.

Someone January 11, 2013 - 8:10 am

There are better ways to design this ROW than to waste it on a separated bikeway. Calm Woodhaven Blvd traffic and everything would be fine. Otherwise, it would only take a couple of million dollars to connect it to the New York City Subway.

BTW, this ROW does not go to Woodhaven Blvd station. It goes to 63rd Drive, which is a totally different problem altogether.

Henry January 10, 2013 - 9:38 pm

One last comment about the QueensWay:

If Queens had a plan for a comprehensive network of protected bike lanes on major roads, bike-share locations and bike racks, this would make a lot more sense.

As it stands right now, Queens politicians and DOT can’t bring themselves to even take a lane of traffic away from Queens Blvd and provide a link to the QB Bridge path. No one is going to use the QueensWay if they have nowhere to ride to, or nowhere to park their bike. It simply is not worth it.

The lack of any thought to how this would interact with other modes of transportation and other bike lanes suggest that this is not a smart idea, if it is in fact a genuine proposal.

marv January 11, 2013 - 10:35 am

Not using the Rockaway Beach Branch as a bike path (but instead as a subway line to the Rockaways) is not anti-bike but rather could be a a positive for bikers if bikes are allowed on the trains. This would put more people within reasonable distance of such biking/walking destinations as:

* the Rockway Beaches/Jacob Reis Park
* Forest Park
* Flushing Meadow Park

Real and secure bike parking (solid bike racks with remote video survalence) should be provided at all stations to allow this line to further serve the biking population.

The proposed line also puts thousand of people within one transfer of both Jamica (via tranfers at Queens Blvd IND or the BMT J Train) and Flushing (via the #7 at Roosevelt Ave)

The question is how to best serve the most people not just one small segment.

The reality is that many of those advocating a bike path are doing so just to try to kill off any possibility of a train line due to the impact that it would have on their property values. This is not about a bike path but about people who bought properties near an unused but never abandonded train line at discounted prices and now want many others to loose out for their own gain.

Real and secure bike parking (solid bike racks with remote video survalence) should be provided at all stations allow this line

Toby Sheppard Bloch January 11, 2013 - 3:16 pm

I can’t speak to other’s motivations, but I for one would support rail reactivation. To the best of my knowledge, that’s not on the table as an option.

The public is going to loose this ROW to encroachment if it isn’t put to use. To dismiss a park/bike path because rail is preferable is letting the good be the enemy of the perfect. It is not the case that if the Queensway is discarded work will start on reactivation.

And at the risk of being snide, Queensway backers have been speaking to community groups and community boards, writing grants, doing outreach and getting publicity–advocating for their preferred use. And these efforts have been recognized in the form of funding.

On the other hand, the only glimmer of substance behind rail activation in the last 10 years was the Racino/convention center plan, which was pretty widely panned as unworkable.

I encourage rail activation advocates to start organizing and building support. But to dismiss the efforts of other advocates for livable streets and sustainable transportation is counterproductive, and makes this reader wonder if some folks would rather play fantasy rail D&D than have a holistic conversation.

Final thought: Not for nothing, but if the trail haters are right, and the park is built and underutilized, it will serve to protect the ROW and at some point in the future when the money and political will is available, the park use could be abandoned.

marv January 11, 2013 - 3:31 pm

There has been no discussion as to selling off the right of way. It is owned by the city so unlike cases where one must prevent private railroads from liquidating their unused realestate this is not the issue.

To claim that use as a path here “preserves” the right of way is nearly the exact opposite of the truth, as once converted to “park” use, it is harder on many levels to take it away and put it back to train use.

Due to this the right of way is best left as is until the right train plan is economically feasable.

Bikeways/paths should be built on Woodhaven Blvd down to the bikeway to the Rockaways – it works much better and it is without expropriating an unreplacable asset.

Bolwerk January 11, 2013 - 3:48 pm

Marv is right. The best option is convert to NYCTA service. The second best is probably light rail. Third is LIRR. The park bats in at #5, after #4 do nothing and don’t fuck things up. At best, the park will be under-utilized but under protection of the NIMBY mafia.

A subway on Woodhaven is of course preferable, but much more expensive. A protected bikeway on Woodhaven is also preferable to a park bikeway, as far as use is concerned.

Someone January 11, 2013 - 10:49 am

One last comment about the QueensWay.

Not everyone can afford to ride a bike to work each day, but everyone could afford the train.

@marv: Bikes are allowed on trains. Just don’t bring them during rush hour.

Toby Sheppard Bloch January 11, 2013 - 7:02 pm

I’m really surprised by the tone of this conversation–particularly in light of me saying a few times I too favor, and even prioritize, rail reactivation.

As someone who lives nearby, it’s obvious that rail would make an enormous contribution to quality of life and property values. And while the area does need better transit, it lacks the density of other areas of the city (and borough) that also sorely need infrastructure.

I think a park would also have an huge impact on my quality of life, and be a significant recreational and cultural resource. The folks behind the Queensway have already done alot of organizing and outreach, and their vision has resonated with lots of other people. It’s an achievable goal, and a productive use of fallow public land. Why piss all over the idea?

I do understand ROW’s are a valuable resource, but building rail on an grade ROW near housing is going to be tough sledding–and I’m not sure the alignment of this particular ROW is really the right place for rail in any event. If there is a north-south link through Queens (or connecting to Brooklyn) it will need to be underground to get support, so what are we really saving?

Bolwerk January 12, 2013 - 2:00 am

We all know the ROW isn’t ideal for rail. It’s available and dirt cheap, and fills a need for the entire city.

Once it’s a park, that opportunity is what is pissed away.

Toby Sheppard Bloch January 12, 2013 - 8:43 am

This conversation has gotten a little too surreal for me. Building a rail line along a less than ideal ROW given the capital needs of the the rest of the system is just bad transportation policy.

Bolwerk January 12, 2013 - 1:57 pm

No, it’s the exact opposite of bad transportation policy. It fills the need for an eastern Queens Blvd.-Fulton connection, and in the future can accommodate an airport connection, and leaves as many resources as possible available for other (more important) capital projects. That’s not even counting the benefits for locals.

I think the ideal would be something along a more populated corridor (Woodhaven?), but that costs a lot more because it would have to be subsurface (or at least an el). Even at sane developed world costs, subsurface puts the price tag for a few miles in the nine figure range – that’s hundreds of millions of dollars, and given New York’s history it probably would bump into the billions.

Using the current ROW, imperfect as it is, gets the major benefits at a price not much greater than the park.

Justin Samuels January 13, 2013 - 7:55 am

There are some other LIRR and Commuter train ROW which have basically been abandoned, but are still intact.

You’d really need people in City Hall and in Albany who are interested in doing something. The next mayoral election can be crucial in determining whether any of these projects go forward, ditto for the next governor’s race.

Henry January 12, 2013 - 2:07 am

“it will need to be underground to get support”

Not necessarily. You could probably get away with an elevated ROW over Cross Bay, Woodhaven, and the LIE. If a road is wide enough, people won’t care (and it’s not like there are any scenic vistas to ruin in these areas). Modern elevated structures are extremely quiet, so it wouldn’t be very hard to imagine a rebuilt elevated Third Av line or a re-extended Myrtle Av line. (Convincing people that modern els can be quiet is a completely different matter.)

That being said, I don’t think that Queens should have randomly scattered bike paths – Queens seriously needs to consider the merits of a borough-wide bike network, instead of doing things piecemeal (like this QueensWay idea would be). A Queens Blvd bike lane would be a start.

Toby Sheppard Bloch January 12, 2013 - 8:49 am

One might be able to do an elevated line over Woodhaven…given homes are further away…but given Woodhaven parallels the ROW in question, that raises even more questions about the utility of preserving the ROW.

Someone January 13, 2013 - 9:34 pm

Alternatively, there could be a elevated structure in the median of Woodhaven Boulevard.

Someone January 12, 2013 - 5:46 pm

But building rail on an grade ROW near housing is going to be tough sledding.

The M train in Ridgewood, Queens manages to have an at-grade ROW, and it’s also near housing. Besides, this ROW isn’t at-grade, it’s actually elevated for most of its length. As a person who lives very close by to the ROW, and as a person who takes two buses to get to the subway, I think that the rail could use a little rebuilding. The best hing that one could do is rebuild the ROW with a train over the trail (which many people living nearby won’t like, but it would please the QueensWay supporters).

Bolwerk January 12, 2013 - 8:30 pm

The at-grade part of the Myrtle stub isn’t near much housing. The el part is though, obviously.

I believe the bulk of the Rockaway ROW is an embankment.

Someone January 13, 2013 - 9:22 pm

Yep, actually most of the Rockaway ROW is on an embankment.

By the way, the reason why the at-grade part of the Myrtle line isn’t near much housing is because that section of the line also happens to pass near a junction between the LIRR Montauk branch and the LIRR Bay Ridge freight stub (as well as the Fresh Pond Yard.)

Bolwerk January 13, 2013 - 11:09 pm

There is also a mall there, largely occupied by parking spaces.

Joe Shmo January 14, 2013 - 2:49 pm

When I was a kid, my best friend lived on the first house by 63rd Drive next to those tracks. Used to play basketball on the tracks, too.

It boggles the mind why anyone would turn THAT into a park. Its right next to people’s houses. Its too tight for any recreation activities.

Who would want to bike from Rego Park to Ozone Park? It takes 30 minutes just to drive there!

It makes MUCH more sense as a train route. Rego Park has become the mecca of shopping in Queens. The route runs right near the casino. Queens is a major b!t#$ to navigate crosstown without a car. Rockaway people want a faster way getting to midtown.

I already see a ton of users for this line: Northern Queens-ites getting to the casino and airport. Alternative travel to the airport and Midtown. Rockaway people willing to pay double fare for a much faster commute to Midtown. Southern Queens-ites wanting to shop at Queens Mall/Rego Park without buses or cars…

,,,versus the 5 individuals who would bike alongside people’s houses for recreation and drug dealers at night looking for a long stretch of park that can’t be policed very well due to being above ground and miles long…

Joe Shmo January 14, 2013 - 2:57 pm

Not to mention all the congestion alongside Woodside Avenue/Cross Bay Blvd…any takers that think this line would diminish all that pretty quickly?

Joe Shmo January 14, 2013 - 2:59 pm

I mean Woodhaven….getting my names all messed up today…

Someone March 20, 2013 - 10:57 am

Queens Assembly rep calls for Rockaway Beach reactivation :: Second Ave. Sagas January 18, 2013 - 12:40 am

[…] The Times’ best efforts at minimizing the rail option, the Rockaway Beach Branch may yet have a champion in a position of some power. A few weeks after […]

Link: The R to JFK via the Rockaway Beach Branch :: Second Ave. Sagas January 23, 2013 - 3:06 pm

[…] to raise their voices against the plan. As I’ve written in this space recently, we need to give rail its due as well. At the least, rail should be placed on equal footing with the QueensWay option, and at the […]

Andy Sarabia June 21, 2013 - 9:02 pm

I got onto this discussion because I live out on LI East End North Shore where we’re looking into converting an abandoned LIRR ROW into a hike/bike trail and there was a link to this discussion page. Alas I found nothing about our problem here. But I’m fascinated by this discussion. I have friends who live very near to your ROW and I’ve spent some time in the area. It seems to me as an outsider and a bike/hike trail supporter, that in your heavily populated and heavily driven area any additional rail service, in any direction, that improves intra neighborhood travel off of the roads is a good thing. A light rail service could only be a positive. Yes? If combined with a hike/biye trail along the way also would be th best of both worlds. I think modern tech and cooperation between all concerned would solve most concerns.

AG June 22, 2013 - 7:43 pm

In a perfect world… that would be true… but unfortunately it’s rare in this society. That said – the beauty of putting rail back their is that ppl who live on the line could get to Forest Park, Flushing Meadows, and even Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Plenty of trails there… Other ppl use trains to go to other parks.. why not them?

Btw – I love the North Fork… love the boating and the farms out there. Greenport – Orient – Shelter Island – North Haven…some of my favorite places.

Steve B. November 23, 2013 - 2:55 am

As a long-time resident of Queens who has never owned a car here, I think it’s patently absurd to push for the creation of a linear park—a so-called “greenway”—in a borough with quite a lot of park space, and even greenery lining ordinary residential streets; but far too little reliable, rapid public transit. Buses—even the inaptly named Select Bus Service—are a poor substitute for well-planned and maintained rail transport as a primary way to move people across a considerable distance (more than a mile or two). And a linear greenway is a poor substitute for the expansive acreage of woods, bridle paths, and trails that we already have in Forest Park (not to mention the wetlands refuge to the south and Flushing Meadows to the north). Queens is not the Meatpacking District or Chelsea. Even residential and commercial areas have greenery (depending on the neighborhood, but it’s certainly true along the belt stretching from Rego to Ozone, and south). The fact that we also have abundant park space only gives further lie to the argument that we should convert the now-abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way to a foot or bike trail.

I live in central Queens, yet, it takes me upward of an hour to get into Midtown (forget about traveling to the Financial District). An hour to travel less than 10 miles? That’s just ridiculous. But with passenger service restored along the Rockaway Beach ROW, I think that trip could be cut down to a half hour, a significant time savings. And for people south or north of my location who are in a public transportation desert, reviving the line would make travel immeasurably more comfortable and convenient. Admittedly, the financing for revived rail transport would be considerable, but likely quite a bit less in current dollars than it cost the LIRR to establish the elevated route over 100 years ago. A good deal of the heavy lifting was done decades ago. The infrastructure is there, lying fallow, awaiting resurrection to its intended purpose.

As for the naysayers whose properties abut the abandoned ROW, a few responses come to mind. First, my partner and I have a house on property alongside the LIRR’s Main Line. We’ve been here for over five years now and can’t honestly say we’ve been disturbed by passing trains (at least, not any more so than by cars practically drag-racing along the side streets off Woodhaven Boulevard). Second, generations of people bought houses along the ROW when it was still active, raised children, and led productive, comfortable lives. I can’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be the case today. Lastly, with a modicum of research, you would have known that the embankment in back if your house was a dormant railroad ROW that could possibly be reactivated. Therefore, in all fairness to the rest of us, you shouldn’t be heard to complain now that transportation advocates are again agitating to revive passenger rail. If you wanted to avoid the possibility of being subjected to the visual and auditory stimulation provided by public transport, you should have moved to the exurbs (or the woods, for that matter).

Ditch the proposals (pun intended) to create a bike or hiking path and start planning for reinstatement of north-south rapid transit in central Queens. It’s an idea whose time has come (again).

AG November 23, 2013 - 2:25 pm

just make sure you go to the next public hearing and make your voice heard. that’s the only way to get the transit agenda advanced.


Leave a Comment