Home Queens Seeking a Rockaway Beach Branch/QueensWay compromise

Seeking a Rockaway Beach Branch/QueensWay compromise

by Benjamin Kabak

Over the last few years, a rift has emerged between the well-funded QueensWay proponents and the well-intentioned advocates calling for a reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Branch. It’s either one or the other with the political muscle in the form of money from the Governor and the voice of formers Parks Commission Adrian Benepe backing the rails-to-trails side while Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder has been the lone politician trying to keep the hopes for rail alive.

As anyone who’s read my thoughts on this topic knows, I’ve been a supporter of the Rockaway Beach Branch reactivation effort but with a twist. I’m not entirely sold on the idea, but I’m much more against turning over a dormant rail right-of-way to parks advocates without a full study assessing the rail option. We need to know the costs, the potential ridership and impact on Queens and the work that would go into restoring rail before we decide that some über-expensive park in a relatively isolated area of Queens is the way to go.

But what if we can have both? And shouldn’t we be as willing to study all uses of the right-of-way as certain factions are to embrace a park? That’s the argument transit historian and former LIRR manager Andrew Sparberg makes in the Daily News this week. He writes:

A rail line could serve thousands of people per hour. A walking and cycling trail won’t serve those kinds of numbers, but it would still give the community the benefits of a new greenway. What might be the best approach is to research the feasibility of both land uses in the same corridor, before it’s too late — why not incorporate rail transit and a recreational trail together?

…The debated piece of land for this right of way, which has been owned by the city since 1952, now resembles a small forest. Some of it lies atop an embankment. Much environmental study and engineering work, including bridge repairs, would be needed if any re-use occurs. Only an extensive engineering survey can reveal what can or cannot be built, but any proposal should study the feasibility of both a new two track subway route and a greenway. In many areas, the right of way appears wide enough for both uses. Innovative construction techniques and designs could permit trains and people safely side by side.

If this line is completed, Queens would gain its first true north-south subway route, giving Rockaway and southwest Queens easy subway access to Forest Hills, Rego Park, Jamaica, Citi Field, and the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium without long roundabout trips through Brooklyn and Manhattan, or long bus rides. Transfers to the J line could be provided at jamaica Ave., where the LIRR once had a station called Brooklyn Manor. Rockaway, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven would have a second, more direct option for travel to and from Midtown Manhattan. Whatever the final outcome, the time to do a real study of reactivating rail transit and providing a recreational trail on the abandoned line, is now.

The QueensWay fight has pitted folks who are usually on the same side of the transit/livable streets/park advocacy debate against each other, but Sparberg wants to bridge that gap. Perhaps we should give him a listen.

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Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 12:12 am

This may be tangential, but that last paragraph seems kind of optimistic. Urbanists in general seem hideously prone to factionalism. Even transit advocates, already a faction, break into sub-factions.

Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:02 pm

People are prone to factionalism. 🙁

Rails-and-trail is usually the best option if it can be done. If there’s room, it should definitively be done.

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 9:30 pm

Sometimes, though at least a lot of other movements manage to achieve a fair degree of internal cohesion. Not so with urbanists.

It’s hard to imagine the gun nuts arguing over what kind of high-powered assault rifle Jesus F. Christ will carry when He leads His armies to reconquer the world. 🙁

Nathanael November 12, 2014 - 10:19 pm

Disturbingly, they do. More significantly, the gun enthusiasts and the explosives enthusiasts do not get along…

lop November 13, 2014 - 8:00 pm

As long as he didn’t use a knife!


But a strange thing happened when Quart’s bill came to the floor: It was attacked, immediately and passionately, by one of the most conservative lawmakers in the state. Al Graf, a Long Island Republican, had voted against New York’s assault-weapons ban only a few months previously. But he was definitely in favor of this particular weapon restriction.

John-2 November 4, 2014 - 12:16 am

Combined with the likely well-funded NIMBY opposition reactivation of the northern end of the line would produce around Forest Hills, it might be worthwhile to study the cost of rehabbing the embankment north of Union Turnpike versus the option to go cut-and cover there, and just digging out a trench, concreting it in, and then decking it over.

Since there would only be utility conflicts on the cross-streets, as opposed to water, sewer and electric lines running down the right-of-way, the utility relocation costs would be limited, and the walking train could be placed on top of the decked-over line. The people in the area most likely to be pushing for their QueensWay get at least part of their QueensWay, and the people to the south who want a faster link to Manhattan get their faster link to Manhattan.

Larry Littlefield November 4, 2014 - 9:02 am

The NIMBY’s don’t want the walkway either. They want the property handed to them as an extension of their private backyards.

Larry Littlefield November 4, 2014 - 9:13 am

I’m not sure about cut and cover, but going underground might make sense. There are only a couple of cross streets, and it would be easier to get to Queens Boulevard from way down below.

John-2 November 4, 2014 - 2:22 pm

I was thinking of something akin to the open cut they did with the SIRT through New Dorp 50 years ago, only with a covered trail on top of it — as the line gets closer to Queens Blvd. it could drop down further.

(As for the NIMBYs, they’ll be there no matter what, but they’d have a tougher time getting much sympathy if they were against both a walkway and allowing SW Queens residents more direct access to Manhattan via reactivation of a line that was there well before they were ever born. That doesn’t mean they can’t still do a Yorkshire Towers on the MTA or the city’s Parks Department, but it makes it less likely they’d have any chance of winning.)

vanshnookenraggen November 4, 2014 - 3:09 pm

This is probably the best compromise. It’s been done time and time again. At some point you have to stop listening to the NIMBYs when you have something that works for the most amount of people.

BRT on Woodhaven is a good start but there needs to be true rail rapid transit here.

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2014 - 3:19 pm

There are reasons why the LIRR thought it was a good idea in 1900 and abandoned it in 1961. Running trains local on Queens Blvd would not be particularly rapid. Running them on the LIRR to Penn Station wouldn’t be particularly useful, except for people who want to go to Penn Station. There’s lots of places in Manhattan that people want to go that are not called Penn Station.

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 9:36 pm

Do you have an orgasm every time you post a non-sequitur about Penn Station?

Ryan November 4, 2014 - 9:48 pm

His mission in life is to prove how smart and correct he is, and by extension, how stupid anyone taking a position that isn’t his is. Things like “facts” or “other people’s statements” don’t matter.

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2014 - 10:00 pm

tell us some facts. Last time looked if the LIRR wants to send trains to Manhattan they have to go to Penn Station. Someday they’ll be able to send them to Grand Central. How effective is that for people who don’t want to go to Penn Station or Grand Central? Why don’t people who have the choice between the subway and the LIRR use the LIRR now? Or the people who have the choice between Metro North and the subway? How fast would a train running local under Queens Blvd get to Union Square versus taking the A train from the stop a few blocks from you house or the Rockaway Beach station 40 blocks from your house? How many people live closer to a station on the Rockaway Beach Branch versus a station on the A or the J?

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 10:30 pm

How drunk are you? When did you stop beating your wife?

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2014 - 10:53 pm

nice facts. My husband would be very upset to find I have a wife.

Ryan November 4, 2014 - 10:30 pm

I agree.

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 10:12 pm


He used to make insightful or at least coherent comments, and wasn’t such a caustic chauvinist. Now half his posts read like the delusional ramblings of an anti-vaxxer.

John-2 November 5, 2014 - 12:57 am

Woodhaven Blvd. express stop conversion fixes that problem, and would make the Rockaway Branch the same as people who take the 4/5 to 125th and change for the 6, or those who take the D or the N to 36th or 59th streets and switch to the R.

Riders who were in a major hurry would just switch to/from the express at Woodhaven, where the bellmouths already are in place for the conversion to and express stop, just as the bellmouths are there for the local line to split off east of 63rd to access the Rockaway line.

BruceNY November 5, 2014 - 2:45 pm

So I’m not sure exactly what you are suggesting here. Running trains on Queens Blvd. isn’t fast enough for you, but running trains to Penn Station isn’t convenient enough for you. So are you saying that you would choose to hand over the ROW to the Queensway advocates instead? Lots of people take trains into Penn Station every day, but I don’t think very many of them actually stay in Penn Station. They simply transfer to the subway or walk where they need to go.

Reactivation, whether as a LIRR or subway extension would provide a useful, more direct link to JFK (vs. the A which is better for Downtown, and Downtown Brooklyn), potentially permit more trains to run on the Queens Blvd. Line since fewer trains would be terminating at 71st/Continental (maybe enough to reinstate G service), in addition to bringing transit to an area now currently lacking it.

lop November 5, 2014 - 4:23 pm

Would an M local be faster to JFK transferring to the airtrain at howard beach than the E transferring to the airtrain at Jamaica?

The E goes from Lexington and 53rd to Jamaica Center in 29 minutes.

The M takes 32 minutes to get to Forest Hills. It would leave QB maybe three minutes before then, and then travel 5 miles to Howard beach. That will take 10 minutes? So 39 minutes to get to the airtrain.


Says it’s about ten minutes on airtrain either way. Is that right? Sutphin is farther away but doesn’t have the bad curves that you have from howard beach.

Are QB local tracks being fully used? Is there much demand for more local trains?

bigbellymon4 November 6, 2014 - 8:39 pm

QB local tracks are being “fully” used. The local can handle 30 tph, but only operate at 22 1/2 tph because of the only terminal for the local tracks is Forest Hills. They planned on bringing local trains to 179th Street to increase capacity but then the F would be express and the NIMBY’s didn’t like that. Sending local trains down the ROW would increase the capacity of the local tracks to about 27-28 tph because trains could terminate at 71st and Howard Beach.

lop November 6, 2014 - 10:43 pm


This says they can only run 20, they are, but the trains have plenty of room for more people.

bigbellymon4 November 9, 2014 - 6:34 pm

Sorry for the error. they operate at 20 tph, but can be increased with the reactivation of the Rockaway beach Line to 27 1/2 tph.


Henry November 8, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Ridership on the Woodhaven corridor is about 30,000 riders a day on existing buses. Given that Woodhaven traffic is extremely unpredictable and that trains would almost certainly have higher average speeds than buses (plus with a rail connection removing a transfer), we could expect significantly higher ridership along Woodhaven itself, and reduced commute times for a large portion of the city. JFK access alone is a crap reason to build the line, but enhanced subway access to the Rockaways and better north-south connections in Queens are certainly worth it.

lop November 9, 2014 - 4:55 am

19% of Rockaway boarders of q52/3 get off at queens center mall where some transfer to the M. There might not be a huge number of people who will make one fewer transfer.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 11:48 am

The same report also mentions that end-to-end trip time can vary between 55 minutes and 85 minutes long. With that current unreliability, the fact that 19% of Rockaway ridership gets off at QCM is actually rather impressive. Increasing reliability and trip speed would almost certainly increase the amount of riders on a rail connection.

Peter November 5, 2014 - 2:27 pm

Yes, a hundred times this. Leave the bridges over Fleet, Yellowstone, and Metropolitan for the walking/bike trail, bury the train tracks north of Union Turnpike. It’s such a sensible compromise, it’ll never happen 🙂

(Also, subway stops at Metropolitan and Fleet, please. That’s a farther distance than the local stops on Queens Boulevard…)

Alon Levy November 4, 2014 - 7:15 am

I don’t care about the pitting of people against each other so much as about the way Queensway got people to form strong opinions on a tertiary rail branch.

Meanwhile, the actually important potential rail corridors – future SAS phases, Utica, Triboro – are getting scant attention. Commuter rail modernization occasionally gets lip service. I guess it’s sexier to copy the High Line into a context where it’s grossly inappropriate, or to build an awkward branch to sort of near JFK, than to figure out what the hell is going on with the SAS phase 2 cost estimate.

Hell, it’s more interesting to talk about gondolas. At least they can potentially relieve an actual transit service need.

sonicboy678 November 4, 2014 - 9:21 am

So, you’re basically complaining about other things we’re aware of not receiving more attention at the moment and dismissing this as unimportant, despite the utter disconnect in Queens from almost anywhere else, only being beaten out by Staten Island in that regard. You even bring up a topic that has been discussed little more than one time just to try to add fuel to your complaint. Though I don’t dismiss the importance of those other corridors you mention, it is highly inappropriate of you to act like this.

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 4:57 pm

Future SAS phases and Utica seem more important, though also much harder to develop. I have trouble seeing why Triborough RX is more important (not to say it’s less important) than Rockaway, but then it’s also probably harder (from an engineering standpoint anyway) to achieve Triborough RX than Rockaway.

lop November 4, 2014 - 7:15 pm

Triboro had projected ridership of more than 150k per day. You think the Rockaway spur would approach that?

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 9:17 pm

No, but Triborough RX is considerably longer and passes through some virtually derelict areas. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be at least similar on a per-km basis, maybe even advantageous for Rockaway in that regard. Not sure I like the idea of comparing them on the basis of “importance” as measured by ridership considering they serve pretty different goals.

SAS and Utica just fill what I would consider to be extremely compelling needs needs. It’s quite seriously a bit retarded that we don’t have these projects complete in 2014, and Alon is absolutely right that at least Utica isn’t even being considered.

lop November 4, 2014 - 9:27 pm

How do you measure importance?

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 9:38 pm

For the most part, I don’t. If something fits a rational need, I don’t usually object. You can probably come up with dozens of projects in NYC that match Rockaway in terms of relative potential usage, utility, potential for attracting investment, or whatever other metric.

AFAIC, the only compelling point about Rockaway is (1) few projects capable of attracting fairly high use would be as cheap and (2) I think it’s prudent to at least reserve a good rapid transit ROW to the airport.

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2014 - 10:04 pm

How many stations are there going to be between Rego Park and Liberty Ave?

Henry November 8, 2014 - 3:20 pm

While you would need a scoping study to actually measure this, there would probably only be four stops, five if you count an additional set of platforms at Rockaway Blvd on the A.

Potential station locations would be Yellowstone/Metropolitan, Myrtle, Jamaica, and Atlantic. You could probably fit in another station between Yellowstone and Queens Blvd, but that’s not strictly necessary since the area around there is fairly low-density anyways. Myrtle is a better connection than Union if only because of the layout of the bus network, and Jamaica and Atlantic are fairly important thoroughfares in their own right.

lop November 5, 2014 - 1:21 am

Well if you don’t measure importance that would explain why you have trouble seeing how one line might be more important than another.

Bolwerk November 5, 2014 - 8:57 am

I can normally see why others would. But why in this case?

Henry November 9, 2014 - 11:50 am

To be honest, New York would be much better off engaging in creating some sort of long-term blueprint to be built out as funds became available, similar to what the City Council ended up legislating for the future of SBS and bike lanes. But that doesn’t look like it’s happening, since all parties in the political process both recognize that it’s really expensive but refuse to do anything about it.

adirondacker12800 November 9, 2014 - 12:48 pm

There’s plans going back to when the Dual Contracts were announced. Foamers get all frothy when they find the plans the Hudson and Manhattan had for connecting to the IRT and going to Grand Central. There’s the second system. The Queens superexpress. Conversion of the LIRR to subway service out to the eastern border of Queens.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 12:56 pm

Those plans are all decades old and in need of serious updating; what may have been true in 1929, 1939, or 1968 may not be true now, and we need to have an honest discussion in this city of what today’s priorities are and which communities are actually willing to receive subway service and make the sacrifices needed. Much of the Second System and the 1968 plan, like the Bushwick six-track trunk or double decking the Pelham Line, don’t make sense in today’s world, and we need new plans that reflect today’s priorities accordingly.

adirondacker12800 November 9, 2014 - 1:07 pm

And sending three different LIRR lines to Far Rockaway looked like a really good idea in 1900. Not very good in 1955 and less in 1962 when the second line to Far Rockaway was abandoned altogether. Plans made now won’t look very good in the future just like plans made in the past don’t look very good today.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 1:20 pm

Who would be sending LIRR trains to the Rockaways through the RBB? That’s not really a possibility, given the fact that subway service currently uses those tracks and we can’t have both at the same time.

Cost-benefit is relatively high for a city project; the IND built in provisions for such a line and for a Woodhaven conversion to an express stop. The ROW exists, so no acquisition is required, and this makes it super cheap considering it takes us over $1.5B to sink a kilometer of subway tunnel into the ground. Woodhaven Blvd itself also has high bus ridership, with a good portion of it from end-to-end, and that’s even considering the buses are extremely unreliable. There’s more than enough demand, and a subway will be faster, more reliable, and require less transferring (or less painful transferring) than a bus, so it’s good value for money considering everything else on the table is ridiculously expensive.

adirondacker12800 November 9, 2014 - 1:48 pm

The LIRR used go to Far Rockaway that way. They thought it was a good idea in 1900. It may have been. It was no longer a good idea in 1955. What makes you think something we think is a good idea in 2014 is going to be a good idea in 2070?
Building a subway on a disused ROW doesn’t get people who are using the bus to destinations along Woodhaven Blvd to those destinations. Or people using the bus to get to the subway to get to Brooklyn or downtown Manhattan.
What makes you think it’s a good idea in 2014 but wasn’t a good idea in 1955 or 1962 when the the last remnants of the line were abandoned?

Henry November 9, 2014 - 2:25 pm

The population of Queens has significantly increased since the RBB was closed and sold off, which happened because subway and rail ridership started falling in the ’50s and ’60s when the automobile became popular, the subway was left to rot, and people started moving to the suburbs.

Today, the city’s population is increasing, the subway is functioning, and subway ridership has reached highs not seen since the ’50s, even though we have less track than we did during that time. Queens itself has seen population rise by 700,000 since the 1950s, and is only going to grow more. In addition, the bus ridership on the Woodhaven Blvd corridor has risen by 2 million riders a year, even though overall bus ridership in the city has fallen. There is clearly more demand for public transit in the corridor.

It would be faster for most people to walk to the train and go transfer to the A at Rockaway Blvd or take the train for a one-seat ride or cross-platform transfer to the EFMR, than to walk to the bus and make a one-level transfer using a Metrocard transfer swipe. At the speed the R is scheduled for on the QBL local, it would take 14 minutes to go from Queens Blvd to Rockaway Blvd. A car trip takes 13 minutes without traffic, and a bus is scheduled for 25 minutes during peak hour. That’s a major time improvement, particularly given how unreliable bus travel times are on Woodhaven Blvd, and will almost certainly induce more ridership from both the surrounding neighborhoods and the buses intersecting the route.

No one attempts to project into 2070 because that’s just plain foolish (and you could ask if it’s worth building any transportation project on that basis, since we don’t know if people in 2070 are going to use cars, or trains, or will need to commute to work, or if there is even going to be a city in 2070 given the fact that we are still due for a Category 3 hurricane.)

However, subway lines don’t tend to become useless unless they weren’t built with ridership considerations in mind or the city surrounding them is burned to the ground or abandoned. The only two subway lines that really fit this category are the Nassau Line, which was built for the BMT for operational reasons more than ridership reasons, and the Crosstown Line, which was built with very few actual crosstown connections. Even then, Crosstown Line ridership has risen significantly.

adirondacker12800 November 9, 2014 - 4:34 pm

Yes the population of Queens has increased since the LIRR gave up for lack of interest. From 1.8 million in 1960 to 2.2 million in 2010. They all didn’t move to Atlantic Ave and Woodhaven Blvd.
And the neighborhoods around the line haven’t changed much since the LIRR gave up for lack of interest.

Alon Levy November 5, 2014 - 3:39 pm

Triboro passes through or very close to Yankee Stadium, the Hub, Astoria, Sunnyside, Elmhurst, Middle Village, and Brooklyn College. In Brooklyn, it parallels two of the fie busiest bus routes in the borough, which provide circumferential service along streets that are not so good for surface transit (and thus would have a higher rapid transit bias).

Bolwerk November 5, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Network rebalancing that Triborough offers seems much more interesting to me than any one destination it serves. Brooklyn College is the only really compelling transit destination you mentioned (Yankee Stadium only on game days, however often those are).

Alon Levy November 5, 2014 - 5:41 pm

Yankee Stadium is the busiest Bronx subway stop.

adirondacker12800 November 5, 2014 - 10:10 pm

It’s the only place in the Bronx where the IND and the IRT share a station. There’s a lot of government offices on 161st St. People who work in them use it and people who have business to conduct with them use it.

Quirk November 6, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Can people stop calling it “IRT” and “BMT” or whatever. We get it that those private companies built them but saying Pelham Line pr QBL line would suffice. Its something most transit people like to use which is like .000001% of people living in New York…

Its okay if Ben uses it though (:

Bolwerk November 6, 2014 - 1:18 pm

IRT vs BMT/IND is still a pretty useful distinction and it’s easier to say “IRT” than “numbered lines.” So why stop using it?

(There was never BMT service in The Bronx.)

johndmuller November 6, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Yankee Stadium is all very well (and one could add Metro North to its qualifications too), but it is not really that close to the Triboro Rx, especially w/r potential transfer connections from the Rx proposals I’ve seen.

I don’t really find the Bronx part of the TriRx all that compelling. The Brooklyn-Queens stuff seems good (and I might add looping the M up to Queens Blvd as a similarly good project), but “Biboro” doesn’t have the cachet. I feel that putting the Subway on the Hell Gate Bridge would be quite a bit like the Queensway proposal – putting the block on future increases to (heavier) rail(road) use of the only heavy rail connection between Long Island and the mainland [going thru NYP isn’t really an option].

Alon Levy November 7, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Michael Frumin’s Triboro proposal terminates at Yankee Stadium, using St. Mary’s Tunnel and a short greenfield tunnel to get from Melrose to Yankee Stadium. This is important: Bronx-Queens transit service is horrendous, and Triboro as proposed is capable of connecting important secondary neighborhoods of Queens with some of the primary nodes of the Bronx.

As for heavy rail, there already is heavy rail going through Penn Station. If what you mean is “freight rail,” then meh. The New York Connecting Railroad has 2 freight trains per day, if I understand this right. If those two daily freights are so important (and they aren’t), they can set up an electric district and run through Penn Station in the off hours or something.

adirondacker12800 November 7, 2014 - 3:45 pm

They tried sending freight through Penn Station during World War I. They haven’t since.


There would be through traffic to New England from the ports west of the Hudson.

Henry November 8, 2014 - 3:25 pm

@Alon: the main problem is that the Bronx section doesn’t serve most Bronx-Queens transit particularly well; the connection is a bit far west considering where the big centers in Queens are. Converting the Q44 to light rail and extending it west to Fordham Plaza would probably do more for Bronx-Queens travel than the RX project would. The connection makes more sense for Brooklyn-Queens travel, since there aren’t many good north-south corridors for transit or cars anyways; Woodhaven is the closest corridor on the east, and the G/BQE are the closest in the west.

Alon Levy November 5, 2014 - 3:46 pm

There are city politicians who debate the Queensway. There is none who is saying anything about a subway under Utica or Nostrand. The last time a politician said anything about Triboro was when Quinn denigrated the rail plan and proposed a harebrained bus scheme.

Bolwerk November 5, 2014 - 5:05 pm

The debate is largely a reaction to the park proposal. I bet almost nobody even knew about Rockaway before those guys came out with that plan.

Justin Samuels November 4, 2014 - 12:33 pm

Phase 2 is included in the capital budget for the next 5 years for the MTA. They also talk about doing the engineering studies for phases 3-4 in the next 5 years as well.

I don’t think the Utica Avenue line can or should happen. Much of it is between the J, M, Z and A, C lines. The A and C are not operating to full capacity, so at this point no need for a Utica Avenue line.

Caelestor November 4, 2014 - 3:26 pm

I think the 4 could be extended south to an area underserved by mass transit

Ryan November 4, 2014 - 10:27 pm

This would be nice if the Lexington Avenue Lines had anywhere to put additional passengers – it doesn’t, which is why Second Avenue is the single most critical subway expansion project anywhere.

The IND Fulton Line can support another 20 trains per hour in each direction everywhere east of Hoyt-Schermerhorn. The IND Eighth Avenue Line can support another 10 trains per hour in each direction below 59 St.

Switch trains at Jay St, you can take advantage of the under-capacity Rutgers St Tunnel, which means all you have to do is figure out how to squeeze an extra few trains through Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Broadway-Lafayette, and figure out how you’re going to switch trains from the Sixth Avenue Local to the Eighth Avenue Express at or around 4 St.

Two of those are going to be a lot easier than the last one, but connecting Utica to the Fulton Line is probably the better play unless you plan on tabling Utica until 2AS is completely finished.

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2014 - 10:41 pm

switching trains between tracks eats capacity.

lop November 4, 2014 - 10:47 pm

2345 are full coming from uptown but have room coming from Brooklyn.

Alon Levy November 5, 2014 - 3:49 pm

What Lop said. The Uptown side of the 2/3/4/5 is overcrowded. The Brooklyn side is actually undercrowded, since it has high peak service levels to match Lexington and Broadway/7th Avenue and not nearly enough ridership to fill all these trains.

Ryan November 6, 2014 - 8:50 am

Okay, so where’s the point that “Brooklyn side” ends and “Uptown side” begins? And more importantly, regardless of where that line is, what are you going to do about the percentage of Utica ridership that is in fact trying to get Uptown?

I’m not disputing that there’s excess room on the Eastern Parkway Line, but unless 80% of all new passengers coming in from Utica are detraining before the capacity crisis and the other 20% are redirected passengers who were riding the bus to the 4 heading uptown to begin with, it doesn’t matter that there’s worlds of room before, say, 14 St if and when most of your new passengers are trying to go north of Grand Central.

Meanwhile, we’ve got an alternative line that runs 0.8 miles north of the Eastern Parkway Line. Not only is that line under capacity with regards with to the ridership already using it, but its actual track capacity is under 50% utilization. It’s tied to the B division and not the A division, which means you’ve expanded your potential routing options from “one over-capacity line, one line that’s nowhere near Utica, and the IRT Seventh Avenue” to “everything else, including IND Second Avenue.” Plus, unlike Lexington Avenue and Seventh Avenue, neither of which have room for extra trains, you merely need to figure out how to get trains from the far under-capacity Fulton St Line to the under-capacity Eighth Avenue Line through any means other than the near-capacity Cranberry St Tunnels that feed into the already-problematic Canal St and – instead of simply shuffling around existing service, or extending lines that probably have no business being extended at this point, you could actually get another dozen trains per hour into Manhattan.

Rutgers St is under capacity if you can make room on the IND Sixth Avenue and reliably switch trains at Washington Square. Same deal under Montague St if you can figure out how to punch a connection through using that. Hell, if you’re feeling particularly saucy and like spending money, you could even create a brand-new crossing utilizing the Brooklyn Bridge.

You want to extend the 4, you have to solve Lexington Avenue in order to add zero new peak service. You want to branch off of the A/C, you just have to solve a river crossing that’s already been solved half a dozen times in order to add a dozen new peak-service trains per hour.

bigbellymon4 November 6, 2014 - 9:09 pm

Ok, Rutgers St is under capacity. But switching trains from one line to another to only bring it back onto the line later on is just unnecessary. Also, you can’t put trains on at Jay St and switch them back at West 4th without interfering with M service that switches on at Broadway-Lafayette. SAS Phase 4 should be brought into Brooklyn, stop at Court St(Transit Museum) and Hoyt-Schermerhorn St and run local to Euclid while the Cranberry Tube trains operate the express on Fulton ONLY. And at Canal, instead of combining local and express into Cranberry, operate the trains through Cranberry tube in Manhattan along 8th Avenue express ONLY. Instead of constantly switching onto other lines to increase capacity, “isolate” the lines and operate them in such a way that you can increase the capacity on those specific lines without decreasing it on other lines.

Ryan November 6, 2014 - 11:12 pm

Okay, great, so Utica Av is completely impossible without the entirety of 2 Av online. Glad we’ve established that.

Meanwhile, in the real world where Phase 4 isn’t getting built for another 100 years and isn’t going to look a damn thing like what it does today by the time it is built, you still need some way to get trains from Utica to Manhattan with the minimal amount of disruption to existing services, or you need to decide where your priorities are outside of Manhattan.

Maybe the calculus says Utica is more important than Myrtle Av and the M gets rolled back to Nassau St to make room for the V Eighth Avenue Express / Utica Avenue Local. Or maybe it turns out that a Cortlandt Street Connection is relatively straightforward, and so is a Livingston Street Connection (particularly if you decide that you don’t hate museums and sever the Court Street Transit Museum lead tracks in favor of connecting the Hoyt-Schermerhorn platforms to the Montague Street Tunnel and now you’re terminating E trains at South Ferry and running C trains through via the Montague Street Tunnel and that’s opened up enough space under Cranberry St for all of your aforementioned V 8 Av Express / Utica Av service while also solving your Canal St switching issue.

Here’s the best part: none of that’s mutually exclusive with the principle of segregating services, and in fact, when the robots slice through the ceremonial ribbon on the last segment of Second Avenue built by human slave labor in the year 2124, it’ll be easy enough to shift the V from 8 Av to 2 Av because the provision to Brooklyn hooks into the very same Fulton Line. But until that day, maybe we should try to use the phantom capacity inherent in the system a little bit better? And, in fact, maybe we should recognize all of this through-running for what it truly is: an inherent part of the system, and an advantage as such?

Quirk November 7, 2014 - 6:35 pm

pretty sure nyc will be underwater by then…

Ryan November 8, 2014 - 5:03 pm

Sure, but thanks to future technology, we’ll be able to inhabit it anyway. That’s the great thing about humanity – our first reaction to natural disasters destroying our things is to rebuild in the exact same place instead of move.

A little water never hurt anybody!

Justin Samuels November 8, 2014 - 11:11 pm

Utica Avenue would serve mainly poor parts of Brooklyn. There’s no way the city would build or fund the Utica Avenue line before they finish the full length of the Second Avenue Subway. The Second Avenue Subway alleviates crowding on the East Side of Manhattan and phase one construction has spurred real estate development in Yorkville and Spanish Harlem. Phase 3-4 would spur additional developments in places like the LES and Chinatown.

It’s all about the money in terms of what areas get public transportation first. If Rockaway Beach LIRR is restored to service as a Subway line, it would be to take people to the most profitable casino in the country (Resorts World) and because the real estate interests developing Rockaway Beaches (the closest long stretch of beach to Manhattan) have become more powerful.

Ryan November 9, 2014 - 4:56 pm

As it turns out, when you run subway service to anywhere that doesn’t have it already, development and change tends to follow it. So, as you say, real estate interests have a lot to do with what gets built and when it gets built.

The difference is that Brooklyn as a whole is getting richer, and Utica is an obvious place to add new service, which in turn makes it an obvious place to upzone and upscale development. What – or who – is there today doesn’t really matter all that much.

So no, I don’t buy the declaration that Utica won’t ever be built until all the “rich” projects like 2AS get built first – and, in fact, if you want the cynical take on this, it’s a whole lot easier to wipe out a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn than it would be to displace the wealthy, connected individuals in the LES today in favor of new development.

And, of course, there’s still the unfortunate fact that the current Phase 4 is utter garbage, disregarding existing provisions and wasting a lot of money in order to build a brand new tunnel that replicates long-abandoned infrastructure already in the ground – it frankly never should get built, and what does get built likely won’t be for 100 years because there’s simply higher priorities elsewhere – starting from the moment you get to one or both of Houston or Grand St station.

bigbellymon4 November 9, 2014 - 6:41 pm

one question: how would you turn trains off of Fulton Street onto Utica when the turn would be pretty much be a 90-degree angle? the 5 does this in the Bronx because it has space. it is too risky because of the school nearby and the Utica line was built to go to Willamsburg, not Downtown Brooklyn(unless you transfer).

Ryan November 9, 2014 - 7:31 pm

I actually consider the school to be a fairly big advantage of using the Fulton Line, since it’s just one (fairly large) building and the fields around it that you need to negotiate. The high school sports can get moved temporarily (or suspended because they frankly are not important) and you can reinforce the building as you dig out of its basement.

Risk is inherent in everything. No matter where you dig for a subway, it’s risky for somebody – schools are important, but I don’t see the need to be particularly concerned that it’s there. We’re not going in there to take down the building or displace its students, and in the exceedingly unfortunate scenario that something does happen to it, we can repair in place.

I know there’s a shell there built for a subway passing from Stuyvesant Av to Utica Av – I’m not sure how much of that could be repurposed for a line turning off of Fulton there. Probably none of it, unless you adopt the fishhook-style move that the 5 makes in the Bronx, which would mean you’re digging under less of the school but more of the neighboring park. Pick your poison.

Alon Levy November 7, 2014 - 3:17 pm

What Adirondacker said. In the morning peak, the southbound trains are overcrowded, south to either Union Square or Brooklyn Bridge, I forget which. The northbound trains are not overcrowded, because there’s much less demand for commute travel to the Manhattan core from Brooklyn than from Uptown and the Bronx.

And if there’s money for a new Brooklyn-Lower Manhattan tunnel, the only useful tunnel to build is a commuter rail tunnel extending the LIRR Atlantic Branch to Fulton Street.

adirondacker12800 November 7, 2014 - 3:50 pm

PATH is so overcrowded that the Port Authority wants to spend a billion or so that they can run ten car trains on the Newark-World Trade Center route. And since they are spending a billion or so to get to the new storage yards out at the airport build a PATH station at the airport train station.

Continue the tunnel to Jersey City and send some of the NJTransit trains downtown instead of to Penn Station just like sending LIRR trains downtown keeps them out of Penn Station.

Ryan November 8, 2014 - 5:24 pm

Per the NYMTC, and per Henry who linked me to that information farther down, the Lexington Avenue Express trains might not be “overcrowded” but it’s not like there’s empty trains running in the direction of the Bronx all morning long. Just because the loads aren’t quite as singularly bad doesn’t mean there’s a whole lot of room for a whole lot of new riders to be flushed into the 4 from Utica.

And, again, even if there was – there’s room for 0 new trains on the Lexington Avenue Lines but room for at least 10 new trains on your choice of Broadway or Eighth Avenue Lines, and around 20 under Fulton Street.

The entire point of this exercise is getting the tunnels and bridges that are already there up to full operating capacity. Unlike the Hudson River, which desperately needs another six or so crossings between New York City and New Jersey, the East River has no such need for additional crossings. (In fact, I would say that the East River has just about the right number of crossings right now.) But we could certainly be getting more out of the crossings which are already there – particularly the Montague Street and Rutgers Street tunnels, but also perhaps the Brooklyn Bridge, which can handle subway traffic and could possibly handle LIRR/NJT traffic, invalidating the need to build any new East River crossings. Assuming it can’t, though, you’re right in that the only new East River crossing that should be built is the LIRR-NJT tunnel between Atlantic Terminal and Paulus Hook.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Let’s pretend that switching at Jay St or West 4 on a regular basis is something that we can reliably do during peak-hour travel (and it isn’t, because we do that during GOs on the weekend, and even with reduced frequencies that becomes a s***show). Where would you terminate more trains from Fulton in the north?
The M isn’t going to be rolled back; not only is it much more successful than either the V or the old M, but the neighborhoods along the line are growing, weekend service is slowly creeping west into Manhattan (and will probably be extended through Forest Hills once Queens CBTC is finished). It’s a fairly useful relief line for the L, which is overcrowded at all hours these days.

Queens Blvd is full. Concourse is also full. 168th isn’t full, but the approaches to it will be adversely impacted by the switching required to get there. On the other hand, SAS Phase IV is designed for a Brooklyn connection, and also has a fair amount of space. (SAS is probably going to be on track for 2030 completion, because even at inflated costs it performs relatively well in cost-per-rider compared to other national transit projects.) It might also actually be cheaper to do Phase IV than to eminent domain a section of SoHo to build flying junctions from SAS to either the Nassau Line or Rutgers while keeping trains running through those tunnels during construction.

Ryan November 9, 2014 - 5:48 pm

The Eighth Avenue Express tracks aren’t full. Once you solve getting trains back onto the Eighth Avenue Line (and there’s a number of ways to do that), you’re golden – send all express trains to 207 St whether they originated from the A terminals or Utica Av.

Subway lines change all the time, and frankly, the M’s current alignment is going to have to change sooner or later. It’s really two different lines stapled awkwardly together because both halves want local access to Midtown and this was at the time the most expedient way to make that happen.

Middle Village has absolutely zero need to be connected to Queens Boulevard via Midtown, which is why there are (some serious, others not) proposals here and elsewhere to actually extend the damn thing so that it crosses over itself. That’s inefficient, that’s bad, and that’s a clear sign that the line needs to be broken up.

So Middle Village (M) passengers want to get to Midtown. They don’t care if that’s 6 Av, Broadway, 8 Av, or 2 Av, they don’t care where their train is going after Midtown, they just want Midtown. Right now, they can’t get to Midtown if you roll back M service to Nassau St instead – which is why I prefaced the statement by saying “maybe the calculus says Utica Av is more valuable than Myrtle Av.”

Meanwhile, Queens Boulevard local (V) passengers also want Midtown, and don’t care if that’s 8 Av, 6 Av, 2 Av, or Broadway. They don’t care that they can ride their train in most of a giant circle all the way around to get back to pretty much where they started – if they want Middle Village, they’ll take the bus. In fact, because Queens Boulevard already hosts two different 6 Av services, switching one of them to be a 2 Av service actually expands options for Queens Boulevard riders.

There’s ways to get trains into 2 Av that aren’t going to involve blowing up half of SoHo. We just have to make sure that the actual plan includes those connections, and right now, it doesn’t.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 9:08 pm

What exactly is wrong with a line that crosses over itself? There are plenty of cities with circular lines or lines shaped like sixes or loops or what have you.

If you honestly believe that having a line snake through the Fulton Line, through the Jay St switch, through the West 4 switch to the Queens Blvd local tracks, and to the 8 Av express on the closest northbound switch at 42nd St without any sort of delays or negative impacts on existing service, I have a bridge to sell you. See: Rogers/Nostrand Junction on the Brooklyn IRT.

Ryan November 10, 2014 - 8:03 am

Many people smarter than I have already written a whole lot on why loops (and circles, and six-shapes, and lines that double back on themselves) are wretched, inefficient shapes that produce shitty transit. Jarrett Walker’s book is actually pretty good and goes into more detail on this than could fit into a comment thread.

The cliff notes version is that a double-back service like an M extended over Queens Boulevard offers additional operational complexity (here in the form of its length and the services it needs to interact with, actual circles gain operational complexity in the form of having no real end point) to form a convoluted, annoying route that nobody ever will want to travel so that both halves of what should be two separate lines can reach the same point somewhere about halfway from its respective ends. It’s great if you are someone who hates people and enjoys suffering (or if you assume both that tourists are literal hellspawn who deserve every bad thing that happens to them AND that mostly tourists would actually interact with the M, in which case the tortured routing it currently has becomes an asset instead of a drawback…), and if you have some way to split the line in half, you’re left with what is inherently going to be a better service – whether that’s because there’s less distance traveled and so less resources are needed for the same level of service (and less wear on the equipment), because you’ve introduced the potential for an actual useful end-to-end trip (instead of having an end-to-end trip that no sane person would ever make because it turns out that no sane person willingly travels in circles), or because you’ve massively simplified your operations through the introduction of an actual endpoint (this isn’t relevant to the M, though.)

You’re correct in that the Jay/West 4 routing is probably the worst of the various options for getting trains from Fulton to 8 Av, and its only real benefit is requiring zero construction (which in turn means that in a perfect universe we are left with more utilization of what already happens to be there) – but you’re right in that it’s ultimately the worst way to get trains from one to the other and I was probably wrong to suggest it to begin with. But it’s bad for many of the same reasons that the M circa 2014 is bad, and life gets much simpler on the operations side if you cut the Queens Boulevard half off as the V 2 Av Local (which you can do by using the half of the 2 Av capacity south of 63 that is tied up by the Q north of 63) and send the Myrtle Avenue half of the M up the 6 Av local tracks to 145 St, with the B running to Bedford Park at all times (and the D using the IND Concourse local tracks at all times) in order to make room for turning M trains. (If only we’d built out the express tracks for 2 Av, we could’ve sent M trains up alongside the Q.)

Henry November 10, 2014 - 9:12 am

The M is neither the longest line, nor the most operationally difficult (the M only interacts with three services on its entire length if we ignore the Z, and doesn’t really hold up trains or get held up at signals; on the other hand, the R is a very long all-local line that gets delayed by basically every train it ever touches save the M.). And criticizing the M for not having end-to-end trips is kind of silly; even in our current subway system, not many people make end to end trips due to the sheer amount of time that would take. Cross-borough commuting has become more common, but it’s a stretch to say there are significant amounts of people riding from the depths of Brooklyn to the depths of Queens or the Bronx, and vice versa.

In fact, closing the M loop and extending it towards Queens Blvd makes perfect sense, since the bus line that does actually close the loop is one of the most frequently scheduled, busy bus lines in Queens, and is also the borough’s slowest bus route.

A train is a train is a train. Closing the M loop would provide a useful connection that does not currently exist and would speed up commutes, and it’s not like we’re creating an endless circle that would create a scheduling error. No one is actually supposed to use this loop as a loop.

adirondacker12800 November 6, 2014 - 9:21 am

the “bronx” side is southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon? And the “brooklyn” side is northbound in the morning and southbound in the afternoon?

Henry November 8, 2014 - 3:30 pm

If I remember correctly, the MTC reports actually list the Brooklyn 4/5 as over guideline capacity.

I’m of the belief that you could do Utica by extending SAS south of Hanover Sq into the Fulton local via the current Transit Museum, and send service down Utica that way. I don’t know how much it would cost to reconfigure Utica Av on the Fulton line though, since it was designed for a Utica Line utilizing South 4th St.

Ryan November 8, 2014 - 6:40 pm

I think the transit museum is fine where it is, and pressing the station it is built within back into service just because it’s there doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense. Those tracks are under Schermerhorn, a street which very much ends one block west of Court St, and now you’re trying to blow through who knows what underneath six and a half blocks worth of buildings before hitting the BQE, and then you’ve got to figure out whether you’re trying to hook into the Montague St Tunnel and then peel off under Water St, or trying to go under it into a brand-new tunnel to get back to Hanover Square.

It makes far more sense to me to repurpose the outer platform tracks and have trains turning to an alignment underneath Boerum Place, from which you could either hook into the Montague St Tunnel before the R Court St station, or proceed over the Brooklyn Bridge. Either way, you only have to deal with one block of buildings instead of six and change, the street crossings are much more straightforward, and your only remaining issue is a Cortlandt Street Connection (if using Montague) or hooking back into one of the B division trunk lines (if using the Brooklyn Bridge.)

Then again, I don’t think any part of Phase 4 even begins to make sense and it’s for that reason more than any other that I expect it won’t be built for 100 years. In fact, if they do the right thing and revert to the existing IND Second Avenue provisions which convert Grand St to a cross-platform interchange station between 2 and 6 Av services, you’re two switches away from invalidating the entire rest of Phase 4 altogether. But I digress.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 12:14 pm

Using the Brooklyn Bridge for a connection has so many problems that it’s not even a remote possibility.

Switching at Grand St wouldn’t really solve the crux of the problems that Phase IV is trying to solve, which is namely the lack of good subway service to the extremely dense Water St corridor, and the lack of north-south service to Downtown Manhattan east of the Lex. You’d also end up funneling trains through DeKalb, which is already a bottleneck for running more service to existing lines in Brooklyn.

Montague is similarly unworkable; you’d need to build a flying junction in Downtown Brooklyn to reach the Fulton Line, which is probably harder than tunneling deeper and deeper under six blocks of buildings, and building a connection in Manhattan basically requires a Nassau connection that would demolish a section of SoHo during construction given modern building standards and curve radii. (Similar takings are required to build Phase II when SAS makes the turn from 2nd to 125th.) A connection to Water St from Montague is actually just flat out impossible; not only do you have to contend with the junction between the Broadway and Nassau Lines entering the tunnel already, but Whitehall St station extends to and past Water St; you’d have to build a flying junction in the water to reach Water St via the Montague tunnel.

Ryan November 10, 2014 - 7:10 am

Problems like what, exactly? That’s a serious question. I’m interested in figuring out just what makes the idea of using the Brooklyn Bridge for any existing transit completely unworkable.

The lack of north-south service east of Lexington is absolutely solved by Phase 3. The lack of direct north-south service between Houston Street and the Financial District doesn’t really bother me enough to sign on for a largely redundant tunnel going pretty much nowhere – but if it would help you be more at ease, the tail tracks feeding in to the half of the Nassau St line that’s been abandoned (which, coincidentally, solves your 2 Av Montague problem too) are still there and require next to nothing in terms of takings while still offering very reasonable curve radii. Split the line at Grand Street with the cross-platform interchange and send half the tracks into Nassau St and the other half over the Manhattan Bridge. You’ve got plenty of room if you start diving just after the switches at Grand Street. I don’t particularly care which service uses which trunk line at that point but there’s still no need for another subway tunnel in the Financial District and especially no need for a fifth subway tunnel across the East River into Downtown Brooklyn. There’s already enough service across that narrow stretch of the river and about a dozen river crossings which should rate as higher priorities than that – including the LIRR crossing in that same general vicinity.

The plan to curve Phase 2 to terminate underneath Lexington (because…?) is similarly garbage. The line should go to 125-2 Av and terminate there, with no provision to ever turn west. You want to string up a 125 St Subway, build a different line – all 2 Av services should proceed directly over the river and into the Bronx. There is absolutely no need to turn trains there, now or ever, and doing so basically means you’ve already given up half of the service capacity you had left for Bronx-bound 2 Av trains after having given up half of what you could have had because express tracks are icky or something.

Henry November 10, 2014 - 8:50 am

Well, “garbage” is entirely based on how you define the SAS. 125/Park and the Water St alignment are being built primarily to 1. Redirect away passengers from the 4/5/6 and 2. to serve destinations not currently served on the East Side. 125/Park allows passengers at 125 to get onto the T instead of the 4/5/6, and since dwell times at this station are a major reason why the Lex cannot run a full 30 TPH, this is no bad thing. Likewise, the Water St alignment exists mostly to draw riders from Grand St and to serve the skyscrapers that were allowed there after the original 1970s upzoning for the district, itself allowed after the ’70s SAS was planned to go down Water St.

The 1970s alternative to 125/Park was to terminate at 125/2nd, since tunneling under the Harlem River up to either the Hub or 3rd Av/138 St would be too expensive to do along with Phase II, even if it were the most optimal solution. This is not very practical to do, since the station would not be in a very developable location due to it being located at the foot of the Triboro onramps, and would also locate the terminal in a high-risk flood zone, which turned out great for the 1 train during Sandy. Plus, in practice it would probably work out about as well as 21st-Queensbridge did as a terminal prior to the Queens Blvd connector, which had extremely low ridership despite being a few blocks away from a much busier, overcrowded station. (21st-Queensbridge was actually near two transfer stations that were equally busy, but still failed to have particularly great passenger numbers.)

The SAS FEIS determined that the southernmost feasible way to connect to the Nassau Line would be at Delancey St, which is by far the widest east-west street downtown, but would avoid hitting Grand St. This to me is a mistake, since it would be easily the busiest transfer the SAS would have upon completion, would expand access in a burgeoning neighborhood, and would also be one of only four really convenient transfers available on the SAS due to how far most east-west lines have their stations from the East River.

If you do end up building to Grand St though, you don’t really have a way to get back to the Nassau Line. There are only three east-west options that you can take due to Downtown’s irregular streets. Canal is ruled out due to the Canal St station complex being in the way and an existing set of tunnels already being there. Worth is geologically, technically, and politically difficult, since Center St has a less than 90 degree angle intersection with Worth St, and you’d be tunneling through the courts and the federal buildings, which were built on top of the geologically unstable Collect Pond and former Five Points slum. Park Row puts the Brooklyn Bridge approaches at risk when they were already declared structurally deficient, and dumps you directly into the maze of tunnels that is Fulton St. If you’ve gotten that far south without tying into the Nassau St line, then you might as well not bother trying.

Which brings me to the topic of the Brooklyn Bridge: during its heyday it was six times stronger than it needed to be, but that was when it carried carriages and wooden el and trolley cars. Today’s subway cars and automobiles are significantly heavier, and there’s no place to put them on the main deck of the bridge unless you remove car lanes. Since that’s just not going to happen, you’d have to place them on the top of the structurally deficient bridge, which gives you a top-heavy Manhattan Bridge layout. The Manhattan Bridge had to be shut down for many years due to all the warping and swaying this layout caused, so that’s also not particularly good. Finally, when the trains were running across the bridge, they were els. Today, the approach to the bridges would be an issue, since there’s not really a place incorporated into the bridge design where you could have trains transition between surface and subway, unlike the Manhattan Bridge and the western end of the Williamsburg.

Henry November 10, 2014 - 8:57 am

Also, routing through Nassau St would, for a long time, hobble the SAS capacity to whatever scraps are left out of DeKalb with the B/Q/D/N/R. If Phase IV is going to take over 100 years in your head, what makes you think that building through Nassau St into the Fulton Line wouldn’t take 200 years? There would still be significant work to do under a Nassau St option, since the stations are not currently configured to efficiently handle large amounts of passengers save maybe Chambers St & Fulton St, and the platforms at nearly all the stations are not ADA accessible as required by law, so you’d still have a Phase IV that required a lot of work. (Canal St is even more of a maze than Fulton St was, and would need a Fulton St style rehabilitation, at least without the ostentatious shopping mall.)

Ryan November 4, 2014 - 10:03 pm

Your definition of “between” is suspect considering that both of those lines run east-west through Brooklyn and Utica Av is a north-south corridor.

That having been said, a real easy way of bringing the IND Fulton Line a lot closer to full operating capacity is by dumping a whole set of new trains into it from an Utica Avenue subway.

BruceNY November 5, 2014 - 2:50 pm

If it followed the originally planned route in the IND Second System plan, wouldn’t Utica go through Williamsburg, which has boomed in the last two decades and has maxed out the L train? Couldn’t it add a station under Houston St. in the Lower East Side? Wouldn’t it provide a more direct route to Midtown for people living in the vicinity of Utica Ave. vs. the pokey C train and sporadic A train?

lop November 5, 2014 - 3:37 pm

How is the L maxed out? They can run more trains at peak than they do today if they bought more trainsets, although isn’t crowding worse off peak? And even when they do max out the line’s current capacity they can increase it further with relatively small projects – extending tail tracks from the Manhattan terminal.

bigbellymon4 November 6, 2014 - 9:45 pm

Excuse me, sir, the L runs 26 tph, one less tph than Lexington Express. That means a train about every 2 minutes. Now, with CBTC on the L, they can run 30 tph but because of the terminals, that is what gives you 26 tph. Also, ridership has grown so fast that the MTA added R160’s to handle the added ridership.



lop November 6, 2014 - 10:39 pm


Says they only run 20, could run 26 tph with upgrades to traction system.

Henry November 8, 2014 - 3:31 pm

They can run 26, but they currently don’t due to the lack of required power system upgrades (which are included in the next Capital Program)

bigbellymon4 November 6, 2014 - 9:11 pm

This is a good idea but how would you send these new trains into Manhattan and where would you terminate them?

lop November 4, 2014 - 7:34 pm

Maybe someone needs to put together a website with fancy pictures of a triboro park reachable by every subway line.

Christopher November 4, 2014 - 7:35 am

This is what I’ve been saying from the beginning. There’s an entire “rails AND trails” movement. There are several projects in the pipeline, including a train line north of San Francisco that are well underway that combine both. In DC, parts of the MBT trail are adjacent to the right of way of the Metro and Amtrak tracks. Although it does activate what was once a parallel and separate train line so it’s not exactly the same.

Larry Greenfield November 4, 2014 - 10:16 am

The city can only benefit from considering the joint-use project. At least I see no downside. If we can allow PATH to build the limited-use AirTrain I don’t see why we can’t consider the Sparberg proposal to let the MTA do its transit job.

Eric November 4, 2014 - 11:28 am

“Innovative construction techniques and designs could permit trains and people safely side by side.”

Innovative techniques like fences?

Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:05 pm

Yes. They invented fences somewhere overseas (maybe Europe or Asia or Africa). We should consider using these newfangled several-thousand-year-old things here in the US, but, you know, “not invented here” mentality…. 🙂

I have a preemptive idea. I’m sure there’s *some* spot on the route where it’s too narrow for both rails and a trail. In such spots, a pedestrian bridge climbing to a high viewpoint over the railway line would be popular — and new pedestrian bridges are a lot easier than rail or road bridges, because they carry so much less weight.

BrooklynBus November 4, 2014 - 11:29 am

Ben, your concerns are all well founded. We need to know the cost differential between rebuilding the Rockaway Beach line, Queensway, and a combined cost. Hopefully, the last option will not be overly expensive.

If the City is willing to spend over $200 million (which DOT admits is a very rough estimate) for BRT on Woodhaven (probably double that) how much more would it cost for rail or even BRT on the RBL? That wouldn’t have the devastating impact on Woodhaven that BRT would have.

Cars would not be able to use the bus lanes for right turn, in effect reducing thru traffic auto and truck capacity from four lanes to two.

Also, exclusive lanes on the weekends are definitely not needed. There are many more people in cars than in buses, and the buses currently move at top speeds anyway on weekends because traffic is free flowing. Why would be want to slow down car traffic to 10 or 15 mph from the current 35 mph?

lop November 4, 2014 - 7:31 pm

No, DOT is willing to spend 200 million dollars to fix the most dangerous road in the borough. Incorporating a transitway into the redesign is a relatively minor expense.

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 9:45 pm

Sane capital cost estimates are probably the low tens of millions of dollars for the BRT and maybe a bit more than $100M for the Rockaway reactivation.

And I rather doubt there are “many” more people in cars than in buses on that corridor. Clogged traffic lanes don’t exactly have great throughput.

sonicboy678 November 5, 2014 - 6:33 am

Too often, it doesn’t have great throughput. I’ve seen the Q53 have issues simply because of the sheer number of drivers either crossing or utilizing Woodhaven Boulevard.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 12:20 pm

Current bus lanes on all SBS routes are not 24/7. They’re not even 24/5. Nothing currently suggests that this would be any different.

The Woodhaven SBS proposal only shows lanes on the wide sections of Woodhaven and Cross Bay; DOT in the past has not extended bus lanes, bike lanes, or other non-motorized separation through bottlenecks, so why would they start doing that now? In fact, all the BRT concepts that have been presented so far call for maintaining at least six lanes of through traffic on all sections of the route.

I just wish that replacing the LIRR bridge over Woodhaven were on the table for the BRT construction; the bridge provides an unnecessary bottleneck, and reconstructing it to span all of Woodhaven appropriately would allow us to have both bus lanes and car lanes under the bridge without causing severe traffic problems.

Rob November 4, 2014 - 2:23 pm

“Rockaway, Howard Beach… would have a second, more direct option for travel” – I would just note that they are by and large the lowest ridership stations on the system.

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2014 - 2:40 pm

So it makes sense to send even more trains out there!

Rob November 5, 2014 - 2:44 pm

that’s what I’m saying.

Bolwerk November 5, 2014 - 3:12 pm

What you’re pointing out is actually a big, big benefit. Queens Blvd doesn’t have enough terminal capacity, and the Rockaways have two underutilized terminals.

Probably half the A Trains already go to Liberty Ave.

Larry Littlefield November 4, 2014 - 2:54 pm

They are a long way from Midtown. That’s part of the problem.

The connection to the QB line would also remove one of the capacity constraints — terminal capacity — along the line as it now exists.

sonicboy678 November 4, 2014 - 8:44 pm

Great, but you missed the point.

D in Bushwick November 4, 2014 - 3:35 pm

The Queensway area is not Chelsea and it will likely be nearly empty much of the week and what about security and nighttime?
For a city projected to gain another million inhabitants, giving away a ready made subway expansion corridor is nothing but foolish and shortsighted.

Tim November 4, 2014 - 3:52 pm

This is an extremely valid point. The UK, for years, has safeguarded potential new corridors, to was the construction of thing like the Victoria line, Jubilee line, and Crossrail 1. Helps with the ED costs down the road.

eo November 4, 2014 - 4:42 pm

Yes, but our politicians care about who gives them the most money now and plan to decamp for greener pastures later, so do not expect such long term planning from them.

SEAN November 4, 2014 - 5:00 pm

For a city projected to gain another million inhabitants, giving away a ready made subway expansion corridor is nothing but foolish and shortsighted.

The problem is – we have become accustomed to the quick fix & not excepting of real reform. BTW, I’m not just talking about transit policy. The quick fix mentality has permeated everything from politics to corporate culture to consumer trends.

Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:06 pm

NY (the US really) needs a “safeguarding” procedure such as the UK has for valuable transportation routes.

lop November 4, 2014 - 9:29 pm
Ryan November 4, 2014 - 10:06 pm

Has a single mile of “railbanked” right-of-way in this country ever actually been reactivated for rail?

This is a serious question. I’m struggling to think of a single case where rail has been successfully de-trailed in this country.

lop November 4, 2014 - 10:38 pm


I think railbanking is mostly used to get around the pesky technicality that lines built as easements on private property cannot be abandoned and turned into a trail unless the property owners agree. Better to not technically abandon it so the easement remains.

Eric November 4, 2014 - 4:50 pm

Great point. Unlike a regular park, if you are jogging along a linear park at a non-peak hour and someone attacks you, there will be nobody to witness or protect you. Linear parks are inherently unsafe except in places like central Manhattan where they will be busy at all hours. Southern Queens is not such a place.

Trilby November 4, 2014 - 5:46 pm

You are absolutely right. And when people get hurt in there, how will emergency personnel get to them and get them out? The High Line is closed at night. Will this debacle be closed at night? By whom, pray tell? The Queensway proponents want what they want but the so-called “NIMBYS” would have to live with it. It would be impossible to police, impossible to collect garbage, a nightmare waiting to happen. Nobody cares about that but the “NIMBYs” of course– another name for the people who will have to live up close to the mess made by others.

Bolwerk November 4, 2014 - 6:05 pm

Who cares? When did we become such a nanny surveillance state? Part of living in a free society is accepting the risk that bad things can happen to you. People like and enjoy secluded, peaceful places for perfectly legitimate reasons; that’s fine, but it’s incumbent on those who go camping in bear country or jogging in secluded urban parks to accept some elevated danger, however slight.

lop November 4, 2014 - 7:25 pm

There are other linear parks in the city.

Along the belt parkway North and east of coney island. Along the cross island in northern queens. Along the former Vanderbilt motor parkway in eastern queens. Along the Hutchinson, Bronx river and pehlam parkways in the Bronx. Just north of the city you have the south county trailway.boardwalks on SI and the Rockaways.

No to mention it’s no different from getting attacked on a quiet street, or in an industrial area, or an empty subway platform where nobody is around to help you. There are reasons to oppose Queensway, but safety of park users is a red herring.

Eric November 5, 2014 - 5:13 pm

Most if not all of the examples you mention are adjacent to busy roadways. That means that many eyes are on the park at any time. In contrast, on Queensway in the middle of a block, there would be nobody to see you.

People do get attacked in quiet streets, empty subway platforms, and industrial areas. For that reason, people tend to spend the minimum possible amount of time in those areas, particularly the last two. A park relies on voluntary visitors, and my feeling is that once there are a couple muggings or a single rape in the park, most users will abandon it and it will become even more dangerous.

lop November 5, 2014 - 6:18 pm

The highway offers minimal protection. Drivers going 50 mph+ don’t pay attention to the people on the paths, in some places visibility is quite limited. Nobody will see someone get stabbed at night until a jogger finds them the next day.

Users will only abandon the queensway from a little before dusk until a little after dawn. And when they go close to those times they’ll try and bring someone with them. Just like the trails in nearby forest park where there have been a string of rapes and muggings the last couple years. Those trails are probably harder to patrol than the Queensway would be anyway.

Alon Levy November 5, 2014 - 3:52 pm

I don’t understand – how are linear parks different from parks with linear trails on them, like Riverside Park and other Upper Manhattan parks?

Eric November 5, 2014 - 5:07 pm

1) In a normal park, if one feels threatened they can escape in any direction, usually to a quite nearby populated area. In a linear park, two individuals can completely block a person’s escape.

2) Because the park extends in two rather than one dimensions, there are usually more eyes on any particular place in the park.

3) The parks you list are in nicer and denser neighborhoods than South Queens, so there is less chance of being isolated and (presumably) fewer criminals circulating.

Alon Levy November 5, 2014 - 5:46 pm

I don’t know South Queens well – is it a more dangerous neighborhood than Central and West Harlem? Because St. Nicholas Park is completely safe during the daytime, and Morningside Park is safe into later and later hours of the evening (in 2006, the Columbia grad student lore was that people should avoid it after 10 but it was okay beforehand). Those two parks are also fairly linear in that you can only walk on designated trails because of the elevation change.

Peter November 5, 2014 - 5:54 pm

Forest Hills and Rego Park (in *Central* Queens, where much of the proposed linear park will go) is nobody’s idea of a dangerous neighborhood.

Bolwerk November 5, 2014 - 6:22 pm

That is a negligible difference in safety at best. You can be a victim in any place with low foot traffic, or even some with high foot traffic.

I think the Rockaway Linear Park is silly because of the lack of use it would see, but lack of use is all the reason anyone needs to think it’s silly. We don’t need to make up paranoid crime-risk scenarios.

Eric November 6, 2014 - 4:29 am

No, safety by itself would not be sufficient reason to cancel the project. But in a project that is bad for other reasons, this is one more contributing factor.

Bolwerk November 6, 2014 - 10:18 am

I don’t understand the park people, frankly. Forest Park is so big and so ludicrously underutilized. With care and decent transit, it could be a Prospect Park for Queens. But they’d rather build another project that won’t be used instead of investing in one that isn’t used but maybe could be.

Eric November 8, 2014 - 5:57 pm

Manhattan envy?

lop November 8, 2014 - 9:21 pm

For those south of Jamaica or north of metropolitan forest park isn’t a neighborhood park, the Queensway would be. Adding a train that isn’t free and offpeak runs what, every ten or fifteen minutes? Isn’t going to make forest park a neighborhood park for those people. A bikeway would do more to make it one. Prospect and central have large foundations and community involvement. Forest park doesn’t have that. Adding a subway won’t do much on its own – just look at fmcp.

Fixing up forest park would be great, but a better wayto match the neighborhood park appeal of Queensway would be a series of plazas. Maybe just by each stop, maybe another one or two on top of that. If you want to offer a bikeway where the ROW isn’t wide enough (most of it) dead end some streets for cars but make them through streets for bikes, give cross streets stop or yield signs where possible. Denying the appeal of Queensway won’t help transit supporters win over Queensway fans. Coopting the appeal by offering street level improvements that while not as good as Queensway would be could be seen as ‘good enough’, and really take a bite out of Queensway support.

Bolwerk November 9, 2014 - 11:37 am

I wasn’t “denying the appeal of Queensway,” though now that you mention it I don’t see much either. Passionate QueensWay fans are ideologues who won’t be won over either way and know exactly what they’re doing. The way to beat them is to appeal to the virtually unassailable fact that a railroad reactivation is better for the entire city.

I just find park advocates’ priorities odd and not entirely rational. They’re holdover views from Moses-era liberal reformers; they want parks (and highways and parking?) because such things are Good. Rather than growing the city that makes parks desirable to begin with – that’s what made the SkyLine was successful – they want to grow the parks and skip the urban part. Meanwhile, I would guess most parks in NYC are in meh shape at best. Why not find ways to fix that, if you care about parks?

Alex C November 5, 2014 - 8:52 pm

Andy Cuomo and the Republicans now have complete control of the state government. You can forget about anything rail related being funded over the next 4 years. QueensWay is what we’ll get.

Bolwerk November 5, 2014 - 9:06 pm

NYS Democrats are probably more hostile to rail anyway. That’s a lateral move at worst.

BoerumBum November 7, 2014 - 10:55 am

“NYS Democrats are probably more hostile to rail anyway.”

Yeah, look at Staten Island. The Republicans there LOVE public transit!

Bolwerk November 7, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Even SI pols are probablyl more hostile to buses than to rail.

I think mostly Republikan senators just don’t care. They dominate LI and outside the Metro area. They’re interested in stealing what they can from NYC, not what we do with the crumbs they leave us.

bigbellymon4 November 9, 2014 - 6:49 pm

“NYS Democrats are probably more hostile to rail anyway.”

Many of the people on Staten Island want/need better transportation options, but when they get the improvements, the politicians are mad when they don’t get what they want for the people that they “represent.”

Henry November 9, 2014 - 7:00 pm

At the same time, keep in mind that pretty much all the transit projects now in progress were started under Giuliani/Bloomberg and Pataki.

adirondacker12800 November 9, 2014 - 7:36 pm

The Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access were started under Rockefeller. Who would be denounced as Communist by today’s Republican party.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 8:15 pm

Those projects were both killed before any sort of significant progress, and there are significant differences between the projects as envisioned in 1968, and the ones that ended up being started in the 2000s. (SAS now curves east to Lexington and terminates at Hanover in the south instead of Whitehall St, and East Side Access isn’t going to blow up a block of 48th St for a new station building.)

If you want to go back far enough, SAS was started by the Walker administration, but that’s irrelevant to today and now.

adirondacker12800 November 9, 2014 - 9:04 pm

Building a tunnel under the East River over to Seventh Avenue is insignificant. And all the traffic I sat in on Second Avenue in the 70s? They wanted to build a deep cavern in the general vicinity of 48th. And another one in the general vicinity of Broad Street.

Henry November 9, 2014 - 9:19 pm

The only part of that tunnel relevant to ESA was the segment under the East River, and connecting to that required about $8B and counting down the drain to build a new terminal, connect the tunnel to the terminal, and connect the tunnel underneath Harold Interlocking.

When SAS opens in 2016, the Phase II tunnels will still not be usable, and we don’t even know how much Phase II costs yet despite there being $1.5B in the Capital Program allocated for it; most of the cost of Phase I was stations anyways, and no tunnels or stations exist north of 116th St. No station caverns were built, and the segments of tunnel south of 63rd just aren’t going to be used, so yes, nothing very significant was completed.

Bklyn November 10, 2014 - 11:28 am

Seems to me that the reactivation would spur business growth along the corridor and relieve some of the traffic congestion along Woodhaven Blvd.

If I am not mistaken, people with somewhat limited incomes tend to live around mass transit. I think we’ve seen that plentiful mass transit has spurred growth in LIC, Astoria, Bushwick, East New York, Greenpoint, Williamsburgh, etc. Yes, I know…with the exception of Bushwick and East New York, all are close to the City.

We’ve all seen property values in all those neighborhoods go through the roof. Can this happen along the Rock corridor? I don’t know, but, I bet it’s more likely to happen than not.


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