Home Queens What a feasibility study RFP means for QueensWay

What a feasibility study RFP means for QueensWay

by Benjamin Kabak

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

I started the week off yesterday with a look at Penn Station Access, a Metro-North program that would add six stations in the Bronx and a West Side terminal for riders from points north. It’s a project that has a real chance of being a part of the MTA’s next five-year capital plan set to start in 2015. Another rail plan I’d love to see added to the capital program is a reactivation of the LIRR’s Rockaway Beach Branch line, but we’re a long way from that reality.

Right now, the Rockaway Beach Branch line is the subject of other goings-on in Queens as a group of very well-connected Community Board members are overseeing a push to turn the disused rail right of way into a High Line-style park. I’ve discussed how the High Line, through a confluence of circumstances including geography and tourism, is far more well suited to be a park than QueensWay ever will be, but this is an effort that just won’t go away.

With a $500,000 grant from New York State in hand — and no corresponding grant to study rail reactivation — the Trust for Public Land has issued a Request for Proposals for the QueensWay park. The request, available here as a PDF, essentially spends that grant on a feasibility study with an examination of the engineering required to turn the ROW into a park and the economic impact such a project would have on the neighborhood. It’s not really a new development, but it’s a firm step toward assessment.

Reaction to the news has been all over the place. DNA Info ran a rather pro-QueensWay article, giving only a nod in the final paragraph to those who want to see rail return. Gothamist is treating this RFP process as a clear sign that the park will happen, but that’s exceedingly premature. The results from the RFP will show a very expensive project with limited impact and few easily identifiable funding partners.

Meanwhile, on the ground, the opposition at NoWay QueensWay is irate. Neil Giannelli is laying the groundwork for an economic argument against a trail. Unlike a park, he says, trails do not increase property values. The problem though with Giannelli’s opposition is that he’s also adamantly against rail use as well. He wants to maintain the status quo, and although that’s the utter definition of NIMBYism, in this instance, the status quo doesn’t preclude future rail use or an assessment or rail reactivation. So for now, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

In the end, I’m still left with the same request I’ve issued in the past: If the QueensWay group is getting $500,000 to study a potential park or trail conversion of the rail right-of-way, the pro-transit groups calling for rail reactivation should receive the same grant for their own study. Maybe we’ll find out that rail service is impractical. After all, it’s been over 50 years since the last rail cars ran down this ROW, and any build-out would likely carry around with it a 10-figure price tag. It’s clear, though, that these areas in Queens need better transit access, and the hardest part about building out rail — an identifiable right of way — already exists. We owe to ourselves and future generations of New Yorkers to exhaust all possibilities.

The city has spent too many years eschewing rail for, well, just about anything else. Have we learned from our mistakes or are we doomed to repeat them?

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Alex C March 19, 2013 - 12:39 am

The cost they’ll state for this mess will be a fraction of what the final cost will be. The MTA isn’t the only one to suffer from inflationitis with its costs. The initial “look at how cheap it is!” momentum will probably help push this faux high lineidiocy through.

D.R. Graham March 19, 2013 - 1:15 am

If you want to play the game you have to play it right. If the other team brings in their closer in a tie game then you have to do the same. For the rail team that closer is none other than Resort World Casino. They have to get on board with this in a big way and with dollars to stave off the trail people. But if rail lets trail go to their closer without a response then things are going to get loop sided quickly.

John-2 March 19, 2013 - 2:02 am

While the service would ostensibly be design to serve south-central Queens residents, in the end from a financial standpoint, it comes down to “What would benefit the biggest number of people in Manhattan? because that’s where the money and the political clout is.

Without the Aqueduct casino, the rail plan has no chance of winning, because people in Manhattan will see no usefulness of simply a reactivated LIRR line to Howard Beach or Ozone Park (on the other hand, Manhattanites aren’t likely to be trecking down the Rockaway Branch trail, either. But parks are one of those ‘do gooder’ things people like those running The New York Times love to promote, even if in the end the thing’s of limited use to area residents).

But the problem at the moment is Gov. Cuomo said last week there won’t be any full-service casino in New York City until similar casinos are established upstate. That means until the state commits on the upstate gambling sites, the economic push to build ones in the city is going to be on hold, and it’s questionable if any casino interests are going to want to lay out big lobbying dollars to keep a direct LIRR option to Aqueduct alive if they don’t have a timetable on if or when the downstate casinos can be built.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 8:29 am

I think that Manhattanites don’t just want to go to the casino. They want a faster connection to JFK Airport as well. So even if the casino option fails, the LIRR reactivation still has a chance.

marv March 19, 2013 - 8:37 am

For a one seat ride to JFK just connect the Air Train into the LIRR just west of Jamaica.

The basis for reactivation of the line is for service and/or easy transfer to midtown service by people from the Rockaways, and for those in the areas around the line.

John-2 March 19, 2013 - 8:51 am

Yep — the Jamaica Airtrain connection makes building the Rockaway line with that as a benefit a non-starter, unless the line actually diverted past Aqueduct and went directly to JFK. Given the Port Authority and the airlines’ feeling about that, you’d be more like to get the LIRR’s mythical Flatbush Avenue-to-Lower Manhattan connector built first.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 9:27 am

Actually, I meant that the subway, not the JFK AirTrain, should connect, to Howard Beach-JFK Airport. There’s still transfers involved, but at least one doesn’t need to transfer to the 8th Avenue or Nassau Street services to connect to the JFK Airtrain directly.

llqbtt March 19, 2013 - 9:53 am

They sorta tried that with the JFK Express, but it didn’t work out

Someone March 19, 2013 - 11:13 am

Because back then, the fares were high and ridership was low.

llqbtt March 19, 2013 - 9:54 am

Um, that’s a 2 seat ride: 1. LIRR, E J Z to Jamaica, 2. AirTrain

AG March 21, 2013 - 9:05 am

actually – after sandy washed out rail to the Rockaways – some did start to see the importance of this potential line.

in any event – most ppl don’t really want to live near a casino.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 7:04 am

The QueensWay might be useful for a trail if there were actually two places that the trail were connecting.

The rail line would be useful for a sort of a reincarnated JFK Express train, or a rail line to the planned Aqueduct casino.

Nyland8 March 19, 2013 - 7:13 am

I think it’s an outrage that half-a-million dollars of public money is even being spent on a feasibility study!

All a person has to do is look at the staggering costs per mile – both in money and in volunteer man-hours – required to develop and maintain the High Line as a public space, and ask oneself where those comparable resources will come from for QueensWay, to answer any questions about feasibility. It doesn’t exist.

Sure, you can mow down the flora and pave a bike path over it – as one could do with any rail-to-trail conversion – but that is quite different from what its proponents envision. We don’t need a feasibility study for that. We already have paved rail-trails. We know how to create them, and what they cost per mile to make and maintain.

But QueensWay proponents see a trail meandering within the borders of the ROW, suffuse with inviting features and stunning, maintenance-dependant landscaping – a la the High Line – without ever considering that, unlike the High Line, A) the world will never beat a path to its meager vistas B) there is no adjacent population density to support it C) its neighborhoods will never be rezoned to capitalize on it – and if all of those issues were to be magically reversed, the people who actually live around it wouldn’t welcome it.

If a linear park of grand scale is really something the people of Queens want, then why is it that nothing has ever been done with the Conduit Blvd. corridor ?? It’s just sitting there, not only ripe for exactly that type of park-like development, but it is actually MORE suitable. It is much wider, requires no rail infrastructure to dispose of, and no bridges to rehab and maintain. If Queens wants a QueenWay, let them show it by developing one there first. In fact, Brooklyn gets half of that corridor, too!

Let’s see a brilliantly beautiful bikeway emerge along that strip first. There’s your feasibility study. Spend a half-million dollar$ landscaping that broad tract of land, and see how that flies with local funding and volunteerism.

If you succeed in converting the Conduit Blvd corridor to a High Line-like attraction, then maybe it is feasible.

Jonathan March 21, 2013 - 8:10 am

You could also just spend a weekend looking at the nearby Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a linear park that also traverses low-rise Queens, without decent access to mass transit, and get a pretty good idea of how many people would use the Rockaway Branch ROW as a park, or of the level of support provided by the Parks department.

marv March 21, 2013 - 9:27 am

another perspective on evaluating any choice is to divide the cost of any project over the number of people who will use it over the next “X” number of years including those who get side benefits such as:

*less congestion on the routes that they use
*increased real estate values

and see what portion of the people would be individually willing to pay their share up front (or personally sign on a loan for their share) if theoretically possible.

My point is, is that we all want things if others are going to pay for it, but the real question is what is each of us interested in pay for.

This is key because at the end of the day, we or our children will pay for it, and this (amazingly) is lost in the consideration.

In this perspective, i am not advocating for or against any ideas but rather hope that ideas in this forum (and society in general) will be discussed with this as one of the basis.

JOhn T March 19, 2013 - 7:45 am

Why isn’t the MTA making a case for better transit? This route would serve parts of Queens without subways and provide a North-South Queens link. If they can’t make a case for more transit then what are they doing?

Someone March 19, 2013 - 8:26 am

Um, let’s see…

~Doing nothing.

~Trying to make a case for Triboro RX.

~Trying to see how much damage Sandy caused.

~Trying to get more money via a series of fare hikes that will have the MTA make billions by 2023… and then wasting it immediately thereafter.

Henry March 19, 2013 - 8:51 pm

Probably because the MTA does not have the money to operate a new service, that, in all likelihood, will not make enough money to recoup its costs.

The only feasible subway line to extend down that ROW would be the Rockaway shuttle, because every other line that you could feasibly send down that route would result in a lot of wasted capacity. (And before anyone starts talking about how everyone wants a two-seat ride to JFK, JFK as a destination anchor for the line is overhyped. It’s a line that will have to run along one of the most congested corridors in the system (QBL) and wind its way to the airport. In any case, there IS a two-seat ride to the airport already – it’s called the LIRR and the AirTrain.)

Someone March 20, 2013 - 10:59 am

You currently have to take the A E J Z trains/LIRR to get to the AirTrain, and reactivating the Rockaway ROW would handle traffic from 6 Avenue or Broadway very well.

marv March 19, 2013 - 8:28 am

The problem is that the people who are “pro-park” are for the most part not pro-park but anti-rail. They bought houses discounted due to the them being next to/near a rail line ripe for reactivation and now want to make the real estate win on the back of those for who the transit corridor has been reserved.

Hoosac March 19, 2013 - 10:57 am

Okay, I know this will get a lot of bricks thrown at me, but consider: The Rockaway line has been inactive for 50 years. A lot of the people who used to ride it are dead now. Children who used to ride it are now getting close to retirement age. Why wouldn’t someone who bought a home along the line expect that it would stay dead?

Mind you, I think turning it into a trail is a stupid idea. I think returning it to rail use is the way to go. But you can’t just categorize the people who live along it as stubborn NIMBYs. Their objections are going to have to be dealt with if you ever expect the rail line to be resurrected.

Michael K March 20, 2013 - 1:18 am

You are absolutely right.

I think the municipality will have to offer some sort of property tax “impact” credit for 20 years to the adjacent property owners to get this to fly.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 8:45 am

The City is moving ahead with plans for SBS on Woodhaven Bpulevard. This will rob drivers of a traffic lane which will cause massive traffic congestion for all vehicles except buses. Buses move very well on Woodhaven Blvd and an exclusivevlane will not save them more than three or four minutes from end to end while cars and trucks will lose at least 15 minutes.

The community has not even been notified that an engineering study will begin soon. The comment period is this week. You can read more here:

Further, the MTA website does not even show Woodhaven Blvd as a potential SBS corridor. That fact is only mentioned on the DOT website and is hidden in several documents.

If SBS comes to pass on Woodhaven Blvd, you can forget about any future reactivation of the Rockaway Line. The MTA and DOT will declare it a success regardless of how it performs by selectively choosing data to prove its success. They will declare the north south transportation problem in Queens resolved and that will give a big boost to the Park proposal. That’s why you should get your comments in by Friday calling the WoodhavenBlvd Engineering study premature. The linked article provides an email address to do so.

VLM March 19, 2013 - 9:07 am

I will bet you actual dollars that removing a lane for traffic on Woodhaven simply will not cause massive traffic congestion. As has been proven in every instance, removing a lane doesn’t lead to traffic; it leads to fewer cars. That’s just the truth. You are relying on ancient assumptions that do not hold up to study.

llqbtt March 19, 2013 - 9:50 am

A problem with Woodhaven is that it is 8 travel lanes in some spots and then 6, 5 or 4 in others, and that requires contunual merging that slows things down. So if a SBS lane is simply slapped on the existing design, there will be more traffic/incursions into the terra cotta way. The street needs to redesigned and it is not bike lane appropriate either. There’s too much traffic and a at high rates of speed.

Isn’t the Q53 already a limited anyway? And the S79 is now effectively the same thing, so what’s the dang difference anyway?

Someone March 19, 2013 - 11:21 am

And the Q52 LTD.

The problem is: 1) these lines are owned by MTA Bus, and SBS only runs on NYC Bus (for now), 2) the Q11 and Q21 would still go excruciatingly slow along the bus lane, and 3) other modifications to the street have to be considered as well (such as curb extensions.)

Henry March 19, 2013 - 8:54 pm

The most important thing about SBS is the signal priority – buses will get extended time at lights to pass. You could also say that the prepayment lessens dwell time at bus stops, but given the Q53’s comparatively low ridership when compared to other bus routes in the city, I’m not sure how important that is.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 9:12 pm

Exactly, SBS is just not necessary on Woodhaven. It would cause more problems and hurt more than it would help and the help would be minimal where as the inconvenience it wuld cause would be major.

Henry March 19, 2013 - 9:19 pm

SBS doesn’t necessarily include bus lanes – they’re not prevalent on most sections of the S79 in Staten Island. Anything that is a bus improvement these days is packaged and sold as SBS, which is why I find this knee-jerk opposition to anything labelled “SBS” confusing.

BrooklynBus March 20, 2013 - 8:26 am

Since there is already a limited bus and if the passenger loads are not heavy enough to justify pre-payment, I’m not sure what SBS woud accomplish except for priority signals. Part of the reason Woodhaven moves so well is because of the synchronized signals that work very well for the cars. If you are going to mess that up by giving buses priority, you might screw up the whole flow. I’m basing this on the few days I remember wher the synchronization got screwed up. The flow went from 30-35 mph to a near standstill. I’m not sure it woud be a good idea to fool around with that. Without exclusive lanes, buses would also get screwed up if the traffic flow becomes irregular.

Anyway, the preliminary drawings do show exclusive lanes.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 10:52 am

No one wants SBS on Woodhaven.

All the more reason to put bike lanes, center malls, etc. on the boulevard, and reactivate the Rockaway beach Branch embankment.

BrooklynBus March 21, 2013 - 9:45 am

Anything that reduces the capacity of Woodhaven would be bad. I was just on it last evening during the PM rush. It wasn’t that bad except for the bridge over the LIRR which took about 5 to 7 minutes to traverse and was backed up to Metropolitan Av. Only 3 lanes of traffic which includes a left turn lane to Union Turnpike is on that bridge going south. Do you have any idea what havoc putting in bike lane would cause? If there only were two lanes of traffic, it would be backed up all the way to 63rd Avenue or Queens Blvd and would take a half hour to go those two miles.

marv March 21, 2013 - 10:12 am

Regarding the left turn at on to Union TPK east bound from Woodhaven south bound:

This left turn is a major impediment to traffic and should be eliminated. Consider either:

*having traffic continue south and then make a u-turn mid-block along forest park so that they can make a right turn off northbound would Woodhaven

or having traffic turn right onto union turnpike and then make a u-turn to go east.

The real solution would be a new eastbound only road (1 lane ramp?)running along the north side of the railroad tracks connecting the southbound service road of Woodhaven behind home depot to union tpke. (Such a ramp would also reduce traffic on metropolitan avenue.)

BrooklynBus March 21, 2013 - 10:33 am

I agree that it is an impediment and a bottleneck, but as you stated, it cannot simply be banned without taking other steps. The problem is that the City is not interested into looking into solutions like the ones you mentioned which would alleviate the problem. They are just trying to make life more difficult for anyone who drives.

This is what they have done at that intersection a few years ago. They banned the switching of lanes from the main road to the service road upon leaving the bridge. That greatly reduced traffic flow and increased congestion. I used to do that regularly. I’m just glad I retired before they made that change.

The point though is that there still would be a problem even if the left turn was banned because the inability of changing to the service road forces a merger from three to two lanes which did not happen prior to the ban I just mentioned.

Look at the BQE. There used to be a similar merger southbound from three to two lanes just north of the Battery Tunnel. Previous administrations that were not anti -car had a new ramp built in the 1980s or 90s that eliminated that merger. Previously, you could only go faster than 20mph after 11PM. Since the ramp was put in operation it is only congested from about 4 to 6 PM. All other times you can do 40 mph.

Contrary to what non-drivers believe, people didn’t rush out and buy cars because of this new lane with the previous level of congestion returning. Removing bottlenecks is a very effective strategy which DOT no longer does. They only create them.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 10:09 am

I’ve driven on Woodhaven daily for nine straight years, have you? I can predict what will happen. You on the other hand are talking about textbook theory which I am quite familiar with. Currently, except for the occasional delay, traffic on Woodhaven moves quite fine and that is true also for rush hours. It moves much better than Ocean Parkway which can get very congested. It is the best alternative from Brooklyn to Northern Queens. Much better than the BQE, the Van Wyck or local streets such as Nostrand and Rogers which will no longer be an alternative after B44 SBS.

Removing a lane does lead to fewer cars and trips, like 10%. However the streets where the lanes have been removed have become more congested as have the alternative routes. Just look what happened when they added parking lanes on the Queens Blvd service roads. For several weeks it was just gridlock until drivers figured out alternatives. Once they did those alternatives became slightly more congested and Queens Blvd traffic eased up a bit, but now the service roads are no longer usable as an alternative when the main road gets congested. Now the entire roadway suffers when there is a problem with too many cars on the main road.

Merely quoting a true statistic that overall traffic declines, probably because discretionary trips are reduced, does not tell the entire story. No one is selling their cars to switch to SBS which still will not be an alternative for those drivers whose trips are originating or destined for outside the SBS area.

Tower18 March 19, 2013 - 11:10 am

I would propose that keeping cars from using the service roads as a highway when the center lanes are congested is a WIN for the neighborhood, and for Queens.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 12:57 pm

Wrong. The service roads handle the overflow from the main roads all over. They do so on the LIE and the Van Wyck, for example. Can you imagine what would happen to the Van Wyck without the service roads? It would never move. If there were no service roads, traffic would move to the side residential streets instead which would only make matters even worse for the neighborhoods.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 1:34 pm

Look at Linden Boulevard- it has service roads, but not much reduction in traffic. Actually, not much traffic at all.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 3:18 pm

I don’t understand what you are saying. Please explain.

Tower18 March 19, 2013 - 3:43 pm

Obviously your perspective is colored by the fact that you use Queens Blvd, Woodhaven Blvd, Linden Blvd, and the Van Wyck as automobile routes, and you don’t have to cross them much as a pedestrian. I bet if you polled anyone living in those neighborhoods, they would vote against cars traveling on the service roads at highway speeds. Queens Blvd is well known to be deadly, Linden Blvd is a nightmare for EVERYONE, and the Van Wyck is an unfortunate scar on the neighborhood.

Obviously we need roads criss-crossing our cities, but the goal is not to have highways with no parking lanes protecting thousands of pedestrians from cars whizzing by at 50+ mph.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 5:55 pm

You are distorting the facts and bring up points that are not relative. It is standard practice to have a parking lane on the right side of a service road and a moving lane on the left side. On Queens Blvd they allowed parking on both sides which first of all is dangerous because passengers have to exit on the side with moving traffic.

Crossing the street is a separate issue. You can widen the sidewalks there without affecting traffic making crossing the street for pedestrians much easier. Just because some pedestrians don’t drive and don’t see the need for streets where cars can go 35 mph, doesn’t mean we should listen to them. On the Upper West Side, those selfish NIMBY’s want the speed limit reduced on Columbus and Amsterdam Avenue to 20 mph. Do you have any idea what havoc that would cause to traffic and air pollution?

If you don’t want cars whizzing by at 50 mph, have better enforcement, don’t eliminate lanes so that all traffic moves at 10 to 15 mph all the time. If you do that, your average local trip will take an hour or two. A trip across Brooklyn already takes an hour by car. If traffic moved slower, it would take two hours. Is that what you want?

Also, Queens Blvd intersections could be better designed. There is no reason to have crosswalks anywhere on Queens Blvd at 45 degree angles. Some pedestrians don’t want to walk extra distances to cross at a 90 degree angle, but don’t care if car trips take twice as long because they don’t drive. A little selfish of them, wouldn’t you say?

Henry March 19, 2013 - 9:16 pm

It’s not selfish at all. These are streets that run through and bisect neighborhoods, and they should not be designed so that people can mow through at 10+MPH above the speed limit. They definitely should not be designed to Interstate standards that accommodate 50MPH or 60MPH cars. These streets run though neighborhoods with schools, hospitals, and other services catering to vulnerable segments of the population, and traffic whizzing by at these speeds on a regular basis is a danger to children, the elderly, and other residents. The city and DOT are taking steps to correct this by reducing lane width and increasing space for other road users, so that people will be driving like they’re in a residential area instead of an Interstate in the middle of Oklahoma.

I’d also like to point out that the whole “trips will increase to two hours” thing is bogus. A study on PPW’s traffic showed that traffic over the entire modified stretch was slowed down by 90 seconds – drivers above the speed limit prior to the change would be stopped by traffic lights timed for traffic at 30MPH. It is not unreasonable for city residents to suggest that users of 6000 lb steel masses capable of maiming and killing people follow the legal speed limit in the city.

BrooklynBus March 20, 2013 - 8:57 am

I don’t know where you get the idea that any street in the city is designed for interstate standards. That’s just not true. The only reason the lanes have to be wide is to be able to accommodate trucks and buses. They are not too wide. On Ocean Parkway where the lanes are narrower because tere are no trucks, the left turn lane where the bus has to make a left turn is actually narrower than the bus itself. Is that the width you want to reduce the lane widths of the boulevards by? Narrower lanes will only increase accidents and make them more dangerous. Reducing lane widths on residential streets where cars speed is another story.

When I said trips will increase to two hours, I was talking about a trip from Sheepshead Bay to Greenpoint on local streets. That is a perfectly reasonable estimate. It takes 75 to 90 minutes now.

Also, before the change, lights on PPW were not timed at 30 mph. They were actually timed at 35 to 40 mph. I know because I remember having to speed up in order to make the lights when there were no cars ahead of me. That’s why cars were speeding. DOT was encouraging it. All they had to do to reduce speeding was to change the signal timing to 20 or 25 mph, not take away a lane.

Also what you fail to realize is that the city speed limit of 30 mph is just an average safe speed. It does not mean that it s safe to drive at 30 mph on every streets. On some streets and at some times when there are few cars and visibility is good, you can drive perfectly safely at 40, 45, or even 50 mph. Drivers realize that so they speed. On other streets, it may be safe to only drive at 10 or 15 mph, but the speed limit is still 30 on those streets. Also on some streets it is safe to go five mph faster in the lane that is not closest to the parking lane. The city is not going to spend money and place a different speed limit sign on every street, and certainly not for different lanes. So they come up with an average limit for the whole city, sort of a lowest common denominator.

They certainly won’t tell you on which streets it safe to go faster than 30 mph, and some drivers are too stupid to realize where you should only be doing 10 or 15 mph. So one day a dumb driver goes 30 when he should only be going no more than 20 and someone is killed. The neighbors protest so on those few blocks they put up a lower speed limit sign of 15 or 20 to appease them. If no one is killed, the limit stays at 30.

Henry March 19, 2013 - 8:56 pm

I don’t know what universe you’ve been living in, but when it comes to the LIE, the only highway in the city with a service road along all of its length, if there’s a traffic issue drivers will generally leave at the first exit and then divert to other arterial roads. Traffic in a corridor is not a zero-sum game.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 9:03 pm

That’s because there are several alternatives to the LIE, one of them being the Grand Central.

Most of the highways do not have a good alternative nearby. The service road where it exists (and most highways have a service road at least part way) or parallel local streets are usually the best alternatives, with the service road being the better choice because if there is an accident, you can see it from the service road and get back on afterwards.
That’s why it is important that they be as useful as possible and needlessly be blocked with parked cars.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 11:03 am

The service road is discontinuous between Queens Boulevard/Eliot Avenue and Van Dam Street.

Benjamin Kabak March 19, 2013 - 9:16 am

Are you absolutely positive that SBS on Woodhaven is a given? The funding request for FY2013 currently open for comment is for preliminary engineering/feasibility. It’s not for design and implementation, and Woodhaven isn’t currently one of the corridors in line for whatever Phase of the world’s slowest moving surface transportation project we’re up to.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 10:23 am

Part of the engineering study is to look at alternative designs where to place the exclusive bus lanes for SBS. Of course SBS on Woodhaven is not yet a given. But look at it logically. After the money is spent for design, and say the communities don’t want SBS on Woodhaven, do you think with the scarcity of funds, the City will appropriate additional funds to study another corridor that could be suggested?

Do you think that Queens residents would even oppose SBS on Woodhaven en masse, or will their voices be drowned out by those who have been brainwashed like VLM to believe anything that reduces the number of cars is a plus, and that people will just get out of their cars and take the faster SBS? I think the latter is more probable.

There will be some small protests by those who know better, but the majority will believe SBS will be an improvement through manipulation of data and lies. They will be told look how well SBS works in the Bronx and on the M15. It will work just as well in Queens. Look how great the High Line is. The Queensway will be the same. Rockaway Line reactivation is a waste of money. “Subway on the Surface” is just as good, and people will be believe all that crap and the Woodhaven SBS will be built.

Then when the complaints really start to come in, it will be too late. Eventually the truth will come out because to borrow a phrase, “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. That’s why this Woodhaven Blvd SBS has to be nipped in the bud. Even if it is not built spending funds on designing bus lanes where they just are not needed is still a waste of money and may prevent SBS from being built where it can benefit people.

Benjamin Kabak March 19, 2013 - 10:28 am

I think you’re reading far too much into a tiny allocation request of just over $1 million from FED DOT’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. It’s no sure thing really. That said, I’m curious as to why you think the bus lane there isn’t needed. If anything, Woodhaven is a far better candidate for SBS than a lot of the other routes being proposed, no?

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 10:56 am

It’s not needed because buses on Woodhaven Blvd move fine in mixed traffic. There is little congestion except for rare occasions. I base this conclusion on nine years of experience driving on the full length of the street daily for Sherpshead Bay to Woodside, a trip that usually took 45 minutes and one that will take 60 to 75 minutes with a reduced traffic lane. The only ones who will benefit very slightly are those who currently use te Limited. Is that slight benefit worth the inconvenience to so any others?

Even if there is no exclusive bus lane, this study is looking to widen malls and add bike lanes which would also reduce vehicular capacity. The study really needs to be reduced in scope and just look at a few intersections where a redesign will help pedestrians without harming traffic. Those who drive on Woodhaven will not simply be able to get out of their car and take te SBS.

As far as other SBS candidates, I’m not sure what you have in mind. Nostrand Avenue will not be good, but Woodhaven will be far worse and is the worst candidate I’ve seen. Generally I like the idea of SBS to LaGuardia but have not looked at the streets being proposed to say for sure it is good idea.

You don’t agree that Woodhaven SBS will reduce the chances of Rockaway line reactivation?

Benjamin Kabak March 19, 2013 - 11:09 am

You don’t agree that Woodhaven SBS will reduce the chances of Rockaway line reactivation?

Not necessarily. I don’t think DOT/MTA coordinate internally that well or at all really when it comes to bus/rail conflicts. Look at Manhattan where the first SBS route is essentially on top of the only ongoing subway construction project. Plus, if the Rockaway line is reactivated, it’ll be a decade before trains run along it, and that’s a very big if in the first place.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 11:23 am

Plus, it’s not like the DOT isn’t also considering bike lanes and/or centre malls. If either of these happen, then SBS is not an option anymore.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 9:08 pm

Bet you, DOT intends to do both. Bike lanes and an exclusive bus lane. as well as more malls at points where the street widens. Didn’t they do a bike lane and a bus lane as well on First and Second Avenue?

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 11:23 am

Your comment actually proves my point. Do you think there is a chance in hell that the lower Second Avenue Subway will ever be built now that SBS is in place? That was the entire reason for choosing that corridor, to take the complete SAS off the table for ever.

It will now always just be a dream like the IND Second System is. The exact same thing will happen in Queens. I’m surprised you can’t see that.

Benjamin Kabak March 19, 2013 - 11:41 am

But doesn’t that assume I – or anyone – ever thought Phases 3 and 4 of SAS would follow Phase 1 in the first place? The whole point of breaking the project into these phases was to put something in the ground but come up with plausible reasons why the entire line isn’t being (or won’t be) built at the same time.

Anyway, SBS will never take subway construction off the table. It’s a poor, pathetic substitute for rapid transit, and people know that. Those who control the purse strings may need to be convinced otherwise.

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 12:01 pm

For that matter, I really wish people would stop pretending different modes are at all substitutes for each other. There is a place for every mode out there, and none should be seen as the enemy of the others. An SBS on Woodhaven could, if anything, complement rather than compete with a restored Rockaway. But a bus is never going to be able to do the job of an LRV, much less a subway.

Reasonable people can disagree with what exactly should go where, but the position that any one mode replaces another is bunkum. SBS can’t even handle the surface transit demand on First Avenue, but it probably could on Woodhaven.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 1:04 pm

There is no problem with the Limiteds and Locals currently handling the demand on Woodhaven. The headways aren’t even that frequent. On my trips along Woodhaven I rarely even passed more than three buses. And they aren’t very crowded either.

In order to justify removal of a lane for SBS, you would need ten times the number of buses than operate now.

If you want to increase capacity, the way to do it is by Rockaway line reactivation. There is just no need for SBS on Woodhaven.

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 4:09 pm

If there are other users, you can almost always justify removing a lane or two from an urban boulevard for other users. And nothing about SBS demands frequency. If you’re needing 30 SBS-style buses an hour, not upgrading to LRVs is probably wastin.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 1:36 pm

Of course everyone assumed that Phase 3 and 4 would follow Phase 1. You are just too young to remember.

Second Avenue was to be built in one phase in the 1970s. Then costs started escalating and the MTA wanted to break it into 2 phases to make the project more manageable. The idea was that once Phase 1 was started, money would become available to proceed with Phase 2. That might have worked and Phase 1 might have been actually completed back then if not for Sheldon Silver who stopped the project entirely because his district was part of Phase 2 not Phase 1. Then he further added costs by insisting on the cupholder. That’s what killed the project, his years of stalling and bickering.

He insisted that the MTA go back to the original plan of one phase which they did. The MTA turned out to be correct on that one. There was no money to build all of it at once and the project had to be indefinitely postponed because of the City’s budget crisis which had only become worse in the next few years that Silver was delaying the project, since the idea of breaking the project into two phases was first made.

When the project was revived 30 years later, costs had escalated so much that two phases were no longer enough and four were now needed. The idea was still to build one phase at a time as money became available.

When it became doubtful that money for the latter phases would ever be available, the MTA introduced the idea of SBS and dubbed it “subway on the surface” to brainwash everyone that SBS is just as good as a subway and there are plenty of fools out there who believe that.

With SBS in place, the MTA doesn’t look as bad when the rest of the Second Avenue Subway is eventually scrapped or indefinitely postponed because at least they did something even if it is not as good as a subway. They didn’t want to look like the fools they were regarded as being in the 1970s when they stopped building a subway line after construction was started.

They want to save themselves the embarrassment it caused them back then, which as I said, was before you time. It is the type of knowledge you don’t get by reading old news articles, but by actually living through it. You don’t remember how foolish the press made the MTA look.

People will eventually realize that SBS is a pathetic substitute for rapid transit, but that won’t happen for another 10 or 20 years. Right now they believe it and are going along with SBS as a substitute.

I attended the NYMTC meetings in 2003 when I first the term BRT, and then it was being pitched as a replacement for new subways because we just couldn’t afford them. Then the MTA came up with its stripped down version because real BRT won’t work here and they didn’t want to lose out on the federal funding.

Now they want everyone to believe that real BRT and SBS are the same and both are replacements for new subways. The MTA even stated at those meetings that they are moving ahead with “BRT” as a replacement for subways.

So far I have not heard any loud public outcry that they are not.

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 11:52 am

That’s ridiculous. The difference between how many riders an SBS line can handle and how many will/can take a subway can be measured in orders of magnitude. SBS is not even a substitute for a proper surface line, much less a subway.

Of course, I’m not very convinced by the supreme importance of the SAS. I think it’s a worthy project, but many more worthy projects would connect the boroughs to Manhattan in myriad ways. I almost even hope a future generation can be responsible for the part below 63rd, since maybe our descendants will be more sensible than the idiot boomers in charge now and can get costs under control.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 3:24 pm

I agree with you so I don’t understand what I said that was ridiculous. That people would believe SBS is a substitute for a subway or that the city would say that in the first place, which they did. They touted SBS as “subway on the surface” and even publicly stated it would act as a substitute for the Nostrand Avenue subway which would not be built. Of course they never mentioned capacities which would prove them liars.

What I said was not ridiculous. That anyone would believe that SBS is a substitute for a subway is.

Jonathan March 20, 2013 - 10:13 am

My experience on the Bx12 SBS confirms your assumptions, that subway service would be an order of magnitude better than SBS. Every time I take the Bx12 westbound in the late afternoon from White Plains Rd to Manhattan it is crush loaded, to the point where I can imagine crowding is dissuading further ridership.

If the Bx12 rolling stock was replaced by streetcar-type rolling stock that had flatter floors and wider aisles and maybe was twice as long as the buses used today, then the ride would be a lot more comfortable. That doesn’t even take the smoothness of rail travel into account.

What are we waiting for to install streetcars?

Bolwerk March 20, 2013 - 11:44 am

I don’t think it’s that subways are “better,” I just think they’re different. SBS is great for taking you 10 or 15 blocks on the surface. As a substitute for heavy rail, it’s just a crock. In all fairness, the reverse is true too: a ride that makes sense on SBS may not make sense on the subway.

Unfortunately, so-called “BRT” has replaced monorails as the major transit fad, damn the needs of the riders. And since BRT advocates/planners probably drive anyway….

Someone March 21, 2013 - 9:13 am

Current BRT corridors are the ones in most need, because subways can’t be installed right away.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 1:30 pm

Then why is Phase 1 being completed in the first place? SBS was intended only as a short-turn solution, not a long-term solution, and the continuance of SAS construction proves that.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2013 - 3:33 pm

Phase 1 has to be completed because it was at least 30 percent completed when SBS on First and Second Avenue was announced. Abandoning the project yet another time would make MTA and city officials look like fools.

The lower half does not have to be completed because except for few short tunnel segments begun in the 1970s, construction has not really started. Most people have forgot about those tunnels that were built anyway, so it is much easier to abandon plans for the lower half of the subway than the upper half.

SBS is the entire solution for the lower half of Second Avenue, not a short term solution. Even if money for subway expansion becomes available in the next 30 years, why should it even go to the lower half of Second Avenue? A strong argument can be made with jobs expanding at a faster rate outside of Manhattan and with telecommuting on the rise, that the need in 30 years will be greater for mass transit expansion in Queens than in Manhattan.

Henry March 19, 2013 - 9:01 pm

Because East Side Access is going to kill the Lexington Av Line, and all the SBS in the world wouldn’t change that for a second.

Michael K March 20, 2013 - 1:24 am

Consider that the LIRR EAST will make the lower Second Avenue Subway appear as a “must have” when that extra load hits. NYMTC will not be able to overlook that.

BrooklynBus March 20, 2013 - 8:59 am

You are probably correct. But that doesn’t mean that money will ever be available for it unless we can figure out a way to reduce costs.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 11:07 am

Well, the MTA should have thought of that before coming up with East Side Access. An over $8.4 billion bill- where else could they have come up with that?!

Someone March 19, 2013 - 9:32 am

It’s all part of the Congested Corridors study along Woodhaven.

These are the different improvements planned for Woodhaven Boulevard: SBS lanes; bike lane along Woodhaven; or centre malls not unlike the ones on Allen/Pike Streets in Manhattan.

SBS isn’t a certainty yet. Even if it is, the MTA still has to figure out whether the Q11, Q21, Q52, or Q53 should be the SBS route, or a combination of the four.

Henry March 19, 2013 - 8:59 pm

As a side note, the Q52/Q53 would be the most likely choice, since these are already limited routes, and ridership has been rising on both of them.

Rob March 19, 2013 - 9:27 am

I was stunned at the $100 million price tag for what is essentially a 3.5 mile bike path.

kk March 19, 2013 - 9:29 am

Why not have both a QueensWay and a revived LIRR Rockaway Branch? Build the rail line underground and a park above it. This idea has precedents in Riverside Park and Park Avenue.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 9:41 am

In Riverside Park, the rail line was built half a century after the park. There was no other choice. The tunnel was built by Robert Moses in the 1930s to expand park space for Upper West Side residents. The tunnel did not come before the park. Although, that was a good use of space, at least at the time.

As with Park Avenue, the decision was a result of poor planning. The railroad originally was built as an open cut through Murray Hill, which was covered with grates and grass between 34th and 40th Street in the early 1850s. When Grand Central Depot was opened in the 1870s, the railroad tracks between 56th and 96th Streets were sunk out of sight.

Benjamin Kabak March 19, 2013 - 9:46 am

Your phrasing is a bit off. The rail line was in place for nearly a century before the park came along, and Moses boxed in the rail line to expand park space. The tunnel didn’t come before the park, but rail came before the park.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 11:18 am

I know, NYCRR came before the park.

Correction acknowledged.

Nyland8 March 19, 2013 - 10:08 am

It’s much cheaper and easier to build OVER the ROW than it is to build under it. And construction over the ROW can be done with rail access from the ROW itself, cutting the time by more than half.

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 10:29 am

Maybe a subway in the area would be justified, but why? The whole beauty of a Rockaway reactivation is that it could cost in the sub-$100,000,000 range.

QueensWay, OTOH, just seems to add another unpopular park to a borough that has plenty.

Benjamin Kabak March 19, 2013 - 10:30 am

Let’s take a step back on costs for a second. There’s no way reactivating the Rockaway Beach Branch and tying it into other preexisting transit options cost less than $1 billion and probably more. It includes work to shore up and clear the ROW, work to build out ADA-compliant stations and tunneling work to connect it to the Queens Boulevard line. We’d be lucky if it were as *cheap* as the 7 line extension.

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 11:08 am

That’s silly. The 7ext’s costs are largely the usual ones related to boring a tunnel in Manhattan. With Rockaway, we literally just need to rebuild – no condemnation, little construction “below the rails,” probably no land acquisition at all other than evicting some users from the ROW. IIRC, NJT managed to do this for about $5M to $6M/track-mile on Lackawanna (for 79 mph continuously welded track).

Not saying they won’t find ways to blow costs way out of proportion, but a billion dollars would be a little insane given the work already done. ADA in what is essentially a suburban station that isn’t even built yet probably isn’t that big a deal; something like this (in Leipzig) is probably about what the ADA calls for here and, yes, it might cost a few million to construct.

(Isn’t most of the tunnel work for connecting to QBL done? Though, if not, we’re talking a distance of perhaps several hundred feet.)

Someone March 19, 2013 - 11:17 am

It cost $4 million for the MTA to rebuild a ramp at Willets Point Boulevard on the 7. For one platform. For a platform that is lightly used.

You think they’ll do the same for this ROW?

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 12:46 pm

I don’t know what they’ll do. They like to overbuild because it pleases unions and connected contractors. But the real-world (or maybe even New York) costs of a sane implementation aren’t that high; it’s the added cruft that’s the problem.

Someone March 19, 2013 - 2:30 pm

Then it’s likely that, rather than saving money to build a ramp, the MTA would build a bunch of elevators that reek of piss.

Henry March 19, 2013 - 9:21 pm

The ramp would probably be more expensive, because you have to have at least 12 feet for a 1 ft change in elevation, and ramps can only be as long as 30 ft (ADA regulations).

I’m assuming that most of these stations are 12-15 ft above the station, so you end up coming up with a huge ramp structure with a lot of turnbacks. A elevator is probably cheaper.

Bolwerk March 20, 2013 - 11:46 am

Maybe use cranes. With operators.

Evidently, we have to get to $1B somehow.

BBnet3000 March 19, 2013 - 11:40 am

I guess this is the post to bring back up the idea that this line should be left as is, and Triboro RX should be pushed as the important outer borough transit line of the future.

Even ignoring the long term benefits of connecting Queens to the Bronx, it would connect Queens and Brooklyn at much more important points than this line ever would. Airports just arent that important to drive transit ridership (and JFK already has the A train and Airtrain. If anything, worry about LaGuardia).

Someone March 19, 2013 - 1:32 pm

Maybe an N/Q train extension to LGA, or Select Bus Service. The latter option has significantly more support than the former.

TP March 19, 2013 - 9:35 am

The differences between this proposal and the High Line are its biggest indictments I think. The High Line goes through a densely populated urban neighborhood. QueensWay’s neighborhoods are quiet and suburban by comparison–and the trail would even traverse an existing giant park…. This project can’t and won’t attract the number of users and economic investment and transformation that the High Line has for the West Side of Manhattan. On the other hand, people in these neighborhoods in Queens have among the longest commutes in the country and could greatly benefit from better transportation options.

llqbtt March 19, 2013 - 9:43 am

Who owns the land/ROW? That entity is responsible for it, not some misguided rails to trails group whose only goal is to forever prevent a train from running in their back yard.

Bolwerk March 19, 2013 - 10:30 am

The city, which doesn’t happen to have much if any control over the MTA.


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