New York City’s local races — of which there are plenty this year — tend to bring out the crazier transportation ideas. Over at Streetsblog, local candidates have offered up their views on the MTA ranging from the incomprehensible to the sensible while Sal Albanese has focused his mayoral campaign around a congestion traffic plan that would boost mass transit. My favorite though comes to us from Queens.
Leroy Comrie, a current City Council member, is running for Queens Borough President. He isn’t likely to top Melinda Katz who has the backing of the county leaders, but that shouldn’t stop him from trying. In announcing his candidacy, Comrie unveiled his desire to see new subways for Queens. The plans aren’t exactly well formulated or even on the table, but the idea is an intriguing and fanciful one.
The Daily News had more about the ideas put forth by the chair of the Council’s Land Use Committee:
Councilman Leroy Comrie re-launched his bid for borough president this week by dropping a stunning bombshell: he wants a new subway line in Queens. “The E and the F lines are more congested — we could build another line in that tunnel,” said Comrie (D-St. Albans). “Those are the most congested lines in the city.”
The J and Z lines that connect Brooklyn to Queens also could use an overhaul, he said.
The cost of additional service makes Comrie’s proposal as likely as a Mets World Series victory this year. After all, the long delayed Second Avenue subway, which will run from 63rd to 96th Sts. in Manhattan, will cost $4.5 billion by the time it is finished in 2016.
I’m not quite sure what Comrie intends to do with the Queens Boulevard line. There’s no room to “build another line” in the same tunnel, and any new subway in Queens should enhance service, not duplicate preexisting routes. Still, there are significant parts of Queens that are sorely lacking subway service.
For starters, a rail connection to Laguardia would improve mobility to the airport. In terms of access to and through residential neighborhoods, Middle Village could use better subway service, the areas east of Flushing are cut off from the system, and, of course, the Rockaway Beach Branch line could be reactivated. That last proposal has been in the news of late.
With around 2.25 million people, Queens is the second most populous borough, but its subway routes are limited. The western parts of Queens are well served, but the eastern parts are not. Additionally intra-borough, north-south travel is nigh but impossible. Had either version of the Second System plans (1929 or 1939) seen the light of day, Queens would have a more extensive subway network, but only bits and pieces have come online over the decade. None of the transformational lines have seen the light of day.
Ultimately, Comrie’s ideas won’t go anywhere. His candidacy is barely hanging on by a thread, and he’ll likely drop out well before September’s primary. Plus, the Borough President has very little pull in matters of state or even city politics. Still, I like seeing bold ideas presented to the public. Subway expansion plans happen only when leaders are willing to champion them, and if anyone in Queens truly wants better subway service, the calls for it must start somewhere.