Home Queens The problems with The Times’ flawed QueensWay support

The problems with The Times’ flawed QueensWay support

by Benjamin Kabak
Flashy renderings of the Queensway have captured the attention of The Times. (Via Friends of the Queensway, WXYand DLANDStudio)

Flashy renderings of the Queensway have captured the attention of The Times. (Via Friends of the Queensway, WXYand DLANDStudio)

When I first wrote about the plans to turn the LIRR’s old Rockaway Beach Branch back in 2011, I never imagined it would become a major rift issues for otherwise-civil transit advocates. Of course, considering how I framed that first post — as a referendum on the finality of a rail trail vs. rail reactivation — I should have seen this coming. Now groups that usually fight for better transit, pedestrian and biking infrastructure are going at each other over a $120 million plan to build a High Line equivalent deep in the heart of Queens. All I want is some intellectual honesty.

As I mentioned in early November, I don’t know if the rail line is the right answer, and I don’t know if a park is the right answer. I find it hard to believe, based on geography, demographics and overall transit needs, that a park would trump rail all things being equal, but while we’ve gotten a park study funded by the pro-parks side, the pro-rail study was more of a school project sponsored, nobly so, by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. The numbers out of that study proclaimed 500,000 daily riders — almost too exorbitant to be believed — and no independent engineering group has been commissioned to give equal assessment to either option. That’s what I want.

Meanwhile, The Times is not only content with how the story has played out; they’ve decided to throw their editorial weight behind the QueensWay. In a piece published Saturday, rivaling Cuomo and Christie in their attempts at burying the lede, the Gray Lady wrote one of the worst argued editorials I’ve read in some time. The whole thing is a maddening read, but let’s take a look at the worst offenders:

The question is not whether a new park in Queens is a good idea. It’s a spectacular one. The question is whether it is a better idea than a less-flashy alternative — reviving the rail line so people in Queens, particularly in the Rockaways, can get to work without creeping along congested boulevards in cars and buses, or taking the hour-plus ride to Midtown on the A train…

Of the two tantalizing possibilities — rail or trail — trail now has the upper hand. A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it, the Trust for Public Land. It found that the QueensWay would be a boon to the borough, transforming a humdrum stretch of residential-commercial-industrial-whatever with the sylvan graciousness that the High Line brought to the West Side of Manhattan, but on a far bigger scale. It would open a walk-and-bike gateway to another big park, Forest Park, that is now dangerously hemmed in by roadways.

The study tallied other benefits: fewer traffic fatalities, better flood control, cleaner air, fitter New Yorkers and new commercial and cultural amenities. As new parks go, it would be relatively cheap — about $120 million.

The rail idea has no counterpart study, but it has its advocates, like Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, whose district includes the Rockaways. They say it’s foolish to give up an existing right of way in a part of the borough so starved for mass transit. They have a point, but they may be understating the difficulty of reviving those rails for trains. Of the QueensWay’s 47 acres, seven are parkland. If the city, which owns the land, was to return it to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for transit, it would have to find replacement parkland somewhere else. Then there is the question of when the M.T.A. would get to this capital project, which would be one of many on its overflowing, underfunded to-do list.

The likeliest answer is never. The M.T.A.’s capital plan is only half-funded; the agency is strapped by debt and is hard-pressed to protect the infrastructure it has.

First, there is the use of the adjective “less-flashy” as a way to describe rail. Immediately, The Times has relegated something they admit will improve commutes for thousands as less flashy than a park that won’t even be open 24 hours a day. If avoiding “creeping along congested boulevards” is considered less flashy that some fancy renderings, count me in.

Next comes my favorite line in any Times editorial: “A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it.” Read that again and soak in its absurdity. The basis for The Times’ pro-park argument is a biased study that shockingly affirmed the views of the biased group that paid half a million New York taxpayer dollars for it. If anything, that should be a reason to doubt the pro-QueensWay rhetoric, not line up in support of it.

Next the price tag: Somehow, a $120 million new park is cheap. The most expensive linear park in New York City cost $150 million and was funded in large part through private donations. No one has even bothered to discuss how the QueensWay project would get off the ground with the support of the same group of wealthy patrons who, for better or worse, rammed the High Line through Chelsea. No matter what, $120 million for an area rife with parks it can’t adequately maintain today is not cheap, and the idea of using value capture that helped fund the Hudson River or Brooklyn Bridge Parks is as controversial to the neighborhood NIMBYs as rail reactivation is.

Finally, we arrive at the criticism of the MTA. When will the MTA get to it, The Times asks. Why aren’t they interested, say QueensWay proponents. Of course, in recent history, the city doesn’t wait for the MTA to do something; rather, interested parties deliver the dollars, and the MTA gets to work. Chuck Schumer got money for 2nd Ave., and Mayor Bloomberg funded the 7 line. The 9/11 recovery fund built the Fulton St. Transit Center, and George Pataki delivered dollars for East Side Access. Imagine if the QueensWay proponents had lined up political and economic support for rail reactivation instead of the park. It would be a much more likely outcome.

Ultimately, The Times betrays itself in its conclusion when it notes “the rare chance to plug a spectacular park into a densely built streetscape that really needs it.” A densely built streetscape needs transit not a park “plugged” through it. All I want is a fair study by an independent group that gives equal air time to the park and the rail. That seems too much to ask once The Times gets seduced by that flashy park.

Ed. Note: I’ve updated this post with a rendering from The Queensway’s presentation. The use of an ENYA design was misleading and distracting from the content of this post.

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Chet December 29, 2014 - 11:32 pm

I find it rather odd that the Times is not allowing, last I looked, reader comments on this editorial of theirs.

It is without a doubt, one of the most short-sighted and plain stupid opinions I’ve ever seen in the paper in over 40 years of reading the Times.

Rob December 30, 2014 - 4:05 pm

I’ve seen innumerable stupid opinions published by the Old Hag and thus prefer to get my news and opinions elsewhere. They are hardly the brightest bulbs around, or at all honest, despite their reputation. [the Halo Effect at work?]

Some of us even remember their support for the Lower Manhattan Expwy. Or was it the Cross Midtown, or both?

Benjmin December 31, 2014 - 11:44 am

How about their support of Cuomo for governor, even though they condemned him for pulling the rug out from under the Moreland commission, and now for giving up on the Port Authority reform? What does this say about the Times’s judgment?

Nathanael January 1, 2015 - 5:57 am

I did my research and discovered that on the most important question of the early 20th century — whether to allow extremely toxic tetraethyl lead in gasoline — the New York Times consistently sided with the lead peddlers.

The competing newspaper, the New York World, edited by Joseph Pulitzer, exposed the truth. The NYT was unwilling to go along even after the dangers of tetraethyl lead were exposed; NYT was a corporate-backed paper and it was going to shill for big corporations.

In that regard, I don’t think anything has changed at the NYT in 80 years. 🙁

Alex C December 30, 2014 - 12:33 am

It’s sad to see, but the battle is lost. With the state government now supporting this idiocy, New York has lost the Rockaway Beach ROW forever.

Nathanael December 30, 2014 - 1:07 am

Cuomo won’t be governor forever. *Nobody* trusts him.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 8:57 am

I don’t know about that. We have the same power to obstruct and delay as they do.

RBB has always been less about building a subway line today than preserving the ROW for a hopefully wiser generation.

Jay December 30, 2014 - 1:04 am

The line was deactivated for a reason initially. Lack of ridership. The Rocakways not only posess the A express train and The shuttle like to Rockaway beach, but the LIRR is also accessible from Rockaway which will get you into Penn in an hour. What is the reason for having another tea sit line running toward rego park in which rides will just transfer for another local train (R and M) which at the 63rd drive station you are about 40 minutes away from
Midtown anyway. Deactivating this rail is not feasible. Utilize the A, J, and Z train already accessible to this area. The city is already on the verge of suspending the G line which has a solid ridership. It is delusional to think these rails have any chance. Take a look at the abandoned MTA transfer stations along the tracks. Their condition will give you some good indication of how much the MTA and city cared for the maintenance and preservation of this stretch. A park will reactivate this stretch for public recreation and use.

Patrick O'Hara December 30, 2014 - 1:23 am

Since when has the city been “on the verge of suspending the G line”? Last time I checked, there were no plans to discontinue service on the G. Do you have a source for that?

BruceNY December 30, 2014 - 8:32 am

Exactly–why then is the MTA performing massive post-Sandy repairs on the G train tunnels? And who said that to reactivate this line means no direct connection (“transfer to another local train. . .) to either the QB subway or LIRR main line?

Jay December 30, 2014 - 10:14 am

MTA capital plan a few years ago showed a pl;an for these rails. They would terminate at the Rego Park-63rd Drive station where the R and M local service to Manhattan is. The pro rail people main arguemnt is travel times to Manhattan, this line will not improve any travel times to the city from waht the present infrastructure is (J,Z,A, and LIRR). Reason I say this will not happen.

My source for the G train suspension is the MTA website, during the ptrevious fare hikes G suspension was on the table in order to avoid the increase of fares. They recived alot of backlash with that proposal and took it off the table.

Benjamin Kabak December 30, 2014 - 10:24 am

The plan wouldn’t have them terminate at Rego Park but rather join the Queens Boulevard line.

As to the G train claims, the MTA never proposed suspending the G train to avoid fare increases. The 2010 service change involved officially acknowledging that the train never went to Forest Hills anyway and subsequently included a four-stop extension on the southern end.

Jay December 30, 2014 - 10:34 am

That sounds nice buts its not true (regarding merging the the Queens blvd line), the terminating platform is already constructed and used presently for MTA mechanics and mainteance staff, there is actually a sign in the rego park station which indicates to rockaway for the inital plan from a while ago to tranfer to this rockaway beach line. But it was scrapped.

Regarding debating transit travel times, thats what transportation engineers do for feasibilty studies when determining the relevance for a transportation line proposal. So looking the other way at that comment is truly futile and ignorant.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 11:07 am

You don’t need to be an engineer to see there are hundreds of thousands of people along the corridor, many of them miles away from the Queens Blvd. subway services, who would be able to get a one-seat ride to Midtown Manhattan from Rockaway reactivation.

The premise that not enough people would use it for it to be worth spending money on just might be debatable. The premise that trip times between points along the line and Manhattan would improve drastically really is not debatable.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 12:11 pm

It takes 30 minutes to get from Forest Hills to Times Square on the R. 43 minutes to get from Rockaway Blvd to Times Square on the A. It’s not going to instantly get from Rego Park to Rockaway Blvd. Meh.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 1:39 pm

“Meh”? Don’t you mean “hurr”?

Traversing 4.8 miles of ROW in 15 minutes requires ridiculously low average speed of a bit more than 19 mph. Add that to your 30 minutes, and the furthest reach of the currently undeveloped branch would make the trip 45 minutes. Probably roughly in line with the bus schedule, but without traffic variance or transfers.

Given that anyone north of Rockaway Blvd would have a faster trip under such a scenario, and ~19mph is a ridiculously slow speed for a modern rapid transit line, that scenario is incredibly generous to Jay’s claims. That a lot of people would have access to a faster commute with RBB is about as certain as these discussions get. Seriously.

lop December 30, 2014 - 1:54 pm

From forest hills to roosevelt ave the F averages a bit less than 26 mph. The M averages a bit less than 16.5 mph.

Jay December 30, 2014 - 1:03 pm

It is debatable you are just choosing to ignore it. MTA is not going to back this development. It will either become a park or continue to rot and be a neighborhood eye sore.

Nathanael January 1, 2015 - 6:14 am

Correction: *if* it becomes a park it will continue to rot and be a neighborhood eyesore.

Patrick O'Hara December 30, 2014 - 3:28 pm

I’d still like a link to a page that says “abandoning G train service.”

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 10:28 am

You can be against the project, but at least try to evaluate it objectively. That claim about trip times not improving with a Rockaway reactivation is so prima facie bogus it’s almost flabbergasting that anyone would bother to make it. The simple fact is it has potential to improve accessibility to each of those lines for hundreds of thousands of people. The alternative is bus service, which can’t possibly move people as quickly.

It also has potential to speed up a lot of trips within Queens, between Brooklyn and Queens, and maybe even along the Woodhaven corridor. Denying that is plain pointless and futile.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 9:04 am

What I find so amazing about these kindof analyses is how they seem to presume a park will see much use. This is not a park-starved part of Queens. The parks in that part of Queens are already hardly busy, and I can’t help but think at least part of the reason for that is they’re inaccessible in a way Prospect Park and Central Park are not. If someone sincerely wants to do parks a favor in Queens, spend $120 million cleaning up Forest Park. Hell, spend $120 million reactivating RBB with a station in Forest Park and give an existing, underutilized park an audience.

Jeff December 30, 2014 - 10:02 am

I don’t know, these renderings are pretty impressive:


al December 30, 2014 - 10:37 am

Considering park access, it would be far better for NYC DOT to spend $1.2 million to redo Forest Park pedestrian and cyclist access.

As for the 7 acres, deck over part of the ROW near Forest Park for parkland replacement. It can be integrated with sound absorbing walls.

As for ridership, we are missing a bigger possibility. Combine part of the Penn Access plan with what I call JFK Access. Run trains down the New Haven Line, across the Hells Gate Line to LIC, and then reverse it onto the Lower Montauk to the Rock Park Line. From there, it runs down to Aqueduct, and then on a spur to JFK at Federal Circle AirTrain Station. If necessary, do crew swap at Hunters Point with timed meets of inbound and outbound trains. Similarly, Hudson Line trains could run into NY Penn then continue to Jamaica (then Far Rockaway or Long Beach) or Rock Park Line.

Through runs on LIRR, MNCR, and NJT would connect parts of the region north, east, and west of NYC better. The people north of NYC flying out of JFK could ride the rails instead of cramming on the New England Thruway and Van Wyck Expwy. It would open up EWR to Long Island and JFK to North Jersey. That would lead to more choices and competition.

Nathanael January 1, 2015 - 6:13 am

Yeah! A Forest Park subway station would be a pretty big attractor to the otherwise isolated Forest Park.

Stations should be at:
— Rockaway Blvd/Liberty Ave / 99th / 100th (transfer station)
— Atlantic Avenue
— Jamaica Avenue (transfer station)
— Forest Park / Myrtle Avenue
— Metropolitan Avenue
— Fleet Street (Rego Park)
(join Queens Boulevard line)

Benjamin Kabak December 30, 2014 - 9:55 am

The line was deactivated for a reason initially. Lack of ridership.

Sixty years ago. At a totally different time in the city’s history. Basing today’s decisions on what happened 60 years ago is at best irresponsible.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 10:21 am

It’s the “a ride’s a ride” fallacy. We witnessed another example of it yesterday with the delusion that buses replacing late-night PATH will work just as well, attract just as many riders, and save oh-so-much money.

What it usually betrays is a lack of familiarity with or indifference to transit, and sadly it’s really common with many urbanists.

Parksupporter January 5, 2015 - 11:26 am

The Rockaways couldn’t keep a subsidized ferry going. The population is shrinking as water levels increase. Additionally, there is NO TRACK capacity to add to the main lines. This has been studied ad nauseum and it was clearly demonstrated that it would significantly slow down all the other lines.

Additionally, are people in the Rockaways prepared to pay over $200/month for this so called access?

Bolwerk January 5, 2015 - 12:52 pm

Literally every sentence of that paragraph is nonsensical. Ferries are not substitutes for rail access, and even if they were ferries are significantly more costly per-ride. And why would you only consider the Rockaways and not the more dense neighborhoods between the Fulton/Rockaway junction and Queens Blvd.?

Reasonable people can disagree with RBB reactivation for any number of reasons, but the FUD RBB opponents spread is frothing irrationality. “I don’t like the idea of more transit” is a better reason than making up absurdly falsifiable claims.

Moshe January 5, 2015 - 12:57 pm

More misinformation (lies) being spread by Queensway supporters

First of all, AGAIN, the RBL could be reactivated initially as a subway shuttle. People could get off in Rego Park and walk down to the Queens Blvd. subway lines or transfer to the LIRR at a new Rego Park station. In either event, RBL passengers would be using trains passing through and there’d be ZERO track space issues.

Also, they’d only be paying $2.50 if they used the subway option entirely.

If the RBL is reactivated as LIRR, there would be additional track space once East Side Access is completed.

lop January 5, 2015 - 8:14 pm

The preliminary service plan for the LIRR and MNR after ESA and PSA are completed leave room for zero additional trains to either Manhattan terminal during the 8-9am peak hour.

Moshe January 6, 2015 - 9:27 am

Again, the RBL could be a shuttle and passengers would use existing trains (subway or railroad) that are passing through.

Also, the RBL could terminate in Long Island City via the Montauk Line.

Bolwerk January 6, 2015 - 10:32 am

A light rail service is silly unless it’s planned as part of a larger light rail network. Still, if you’re going to do light rail, you may as well do it on Woodhaven in place of BRT. It’s closer to where users actually are.

And a shuttle takes away much of the appeal of a one-seat trip. Provisions are there to avoid needing a shuttle. If RBB is done, it should be heavy rail subway through service. Yes, study it and examine the other alternatives, and then dismiss them.

lop January 6, 2015 - 3:31 pm

I don’t think the mainline would have a capacity problem, just the manhattan terminals. LIC/hunterspoint are reachable from the mainline, no reason to spend the money electrifying lower Montauk or navigating around freight trains there.

Jay December 30, 2014 - 10:29 am

You make a strong point, NYC has changed drastically in 60 years. But one of those big changes occuring over the last 5 years is the greater presence of public space/parks. Reason why this project is getting as much steam as it is.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 11:45 am

The neighborhoods it would serve haven’t changed much since service was abandoned. The demographics have changed but the houses built in 1910 are still in the same place. And the ones built in 1930 etc.

BenS December 30, 2014 - 12:32 pm

Houses don’t ride trains.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 12:58 pm

The people who live in them do.

Patrick O'Hara December 30, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Surely you can’t expect us to believe that all of the houses in that section of Queens are the same people who lived in those houses 114 years ago? There are different people living there now and they have different needs in terms of transportation.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 6:06 pm

When the original owners died someone else moved in. When they died someone else. So on, until today where the people living in 100 year old house would use trains. Either the ones that have been running on the El since the Jamaica line came through or the ones that are running on the Fulton Street line or the bright shiny new one that is farther away from them to either. Nah they’d probably use the one that is closer because the few minutes saved on trip to Times Square is eaten up by walking all the way over to the new train.

AG December 30, 2014 - 7:27 pm

You do realize the difference in population in Queens now versus 1960 right? It’s up by about 600k… There were also less cars..

lop December 30, 2014 - 7:43 pm

How many of them live near the RBB?

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 10:50 pm

Not in Woodhaven

BruceNY December 31, 2014 - 3:39 pm

New transit access tends to spark new development: UWS when the original IRT was built, Jackson Heights with the Flushing line, etc.
Property values near Second Avenue on the UES have already been increasing dramatically in anticipation of the subway opening. With the population of the city continuing to grow at a faster pace than new housing construction, adding new accessibility to an area could create a whole new opportunity to build new housing–and with a chunk of that dedicated to moderate income people.

AG December 31, 2014 - 4:28 pm

You sound like you make plenty of sense… I can remember black and white photos of disused farmland when the #7 was built to Queens. You would think other people would get it by now.

lop December 31, 2014 - 6:21 pm

What’s the zoning like?

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 6:44 pm

Woodhaven was developed decades before people went out to Queens to take pictures of the farmland with an elevated being built over. They were it building because the places in Brooklyn with El service were fully developed.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 6:42 pm

They aren’t tearing down ten story 1960’s white bricks on 97th street, that were built in anticipation of the subway coming to build 15 story buildings either. Prices go up the population doesn’t change much. Unless you are displacing a family with two kids with a hipster and his cat. It’s cheaper to buy the lot in Bushwick that has been vacant for 40 years and build a four unit condo than it is to buy a house in Woodhaven, for a lot more money and build a four unit condo.

Alon Levy January 1, 2015 - 12:56 am

Come on now. 10 -> 15 is much dicier than 1 -> 4.

adirondacker12800 January 1, 2015 - 3:54 am

A two story house with the same floor area of a one story house uses less material and is easier to heat. Especially if shares the wall on one side or both side walls with the house next door. How easy it is to heat is very interesting if you have to shovel coal to do that.

Eric December 30, 2014 - 3:58 am

The Times’ view on rail boils down to: MTA is run incompetently/corruptly and can’t keep a budget for its existing projects and can’t be trusted with funding for new ones. So however much you want rail, get used to the reality that it won’t be built.

I think most of us can accept that view as unfortunately likely to be correct.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 10:30 am

A newspaper would probably do some investigative reporting on the causes of the problem. You’d think.

Eric December 30, 2014 - 1:16 pm

NYT isn’t big on investigative reporting these days.

Walt Gekko December 31, 2014 - 12:37 am

And the NYT does not have the credibility it once did.

Walt Gekko December 30, 2014 - 5:41 am

The New York Times Endorsement is important, but let us remember the Times has ALSO LOST a LOT of credibility for various reasons in recent years, It may still be the Paper of Record and it’s still grammatically correct, but it also is not looked at like it once was.

Most of the Times readers (but certainly FAR from all of them) are most likely over 60 and last went to college before 1980. That’s significant here because many of those people still remember the New York City Subways like they were at their absolute worst in the 1970’s and early ’80s, when they were graffiti-strewn, crime-ridden and when years of deferred maintenance caught up big-time with the MTA. Many younger readers only buy the Times when there is a historical reason to do so as younger generations stopped buying the Times when it’s price was jacked up considerably (now $2.00 daily and $6.00 on Sundays) when compared to the other papers in New York. A large portion of the Times readership also lives outside New York and the Times makes a lot of their money on other platforms now.

The New York Daily News on the other hand DOES endorse the rebuild (as noted in a November 17th article) to rail. More importantly, the NYDN is read by FAR MORE people than the Times and has gained considerable credibility, especially in the last several years. The NYDN also is NOT behind a paywall the way the Times is and has a lot of readers outside New York who stay informed via the New York Daily News site (even if it is a pain to load on an older computer) as the NYDN is unbiased, especially when compared to the New York Post and even the Times nowadays.

If the NYDN endorsed QueensWay, I would be MUCH more concerned.

Benjamin Kabak December 30, 2014 - 9:57 am

I’m similarly enthusiastic about the News’ November endorsement, but The Times’ circulation is four times that of the News. For better or worse, its editorial board is regarded as a barometer of political support (vs. the News’ populist support). No matter how we slice or dice it, this editorial isn’t a good development for those looking for a fair and reasonable assessment of the RBBL ROW.

Walt Gekko December 30, 2014 - 5:26 pm

I know very few people, if any who read the Times. Yes, the Times still has influence, but their credibility has taken a serious beating in recent years. Most I know only buy the Times when there is a historical headline, but outside of that, they won’t do it on principle. Also, much of the Times’s circulation comes from their national editions sold outside of New York as I understand it.

Most of the people who read the Times are over 60 years old as I understand it and as mentioned in many cases still think of the subways as the grafitti-strewn, crime-riddled system we had in the late 1970’s and early ’80s and NOT the system we have today. Where I am is a perfect example, where we used to have 4-5 people reading the Times on a given day and now it’s just ONE person. The Times readers are NOT the ones ad buyers care about and the Times is widely considered today to be out-of-touch.

Also, and more importantly, the NYDN DOES NOT hide behind a paywall whereas the Times DOES and that is significant. Add to that the internet trading ideas around and the days of the Times having the influence it once did are over, especially as the NYDN has MUCH GREATER credibility than it once did.

lop December 30, 2014 - 6:30 pm

Why do you think nytimes readers are so old?


Skews pretty young according to Pew.


Click on audience, they say their median age for web readers is 42.

Nytimes and WSJ have paywalls, but they are both very easy to get around fwiw.

Walt Gekko December 30, 2014 - 9:55 pm

It’s the way the Times writes, for instance, using “N.F.L.” and NOT “NFL” like everyone else. Even if grammatically correct, the only people who consider it so are those older and/or in academia for the most part. It’s something I’ve seen written as a pet peeve of many younger and considered one of many reasons the Times is out-of-touch and looked at as a paper read by mostly older people. I know many younger who stopped reading the Times years ago because of stuff like this.

Spendmor Wastemor December 30, 2014 - 11:20 am

Sit back and reflect, not on the NYT’s artfully practiced words but on their intended effects. If that publication has any credibility left with you, then I have some excellent underwater property to sell you.

Walt Gekko December 31, 2014 - 12:29 am


The Times has a serious credibility problem today that it didn’t have years ago. Their credibility has taken a huge hit in the last 6-7 years and the elitists fail to realize this.

johndmuller January 2, 2015 - 7:45 pm

Strange, I thought that only elitists were allowed to use the word “Credible”, and that non elitists (and particularly anti-elitists) were limited to the “Innnnn…credible” form.

Where are Buckley and Safire when you need them.

Bolwerk January 2, 2015 - 9:05 pm

Not sure exactly, but here’s a map to help you find them.

adirondacker12800 January 2, 2015 - 11:17 pm

I’m sure they would have known George Will is an Amtrak customer. I betcha both of them used trains now and then. ( Donald Trump uses trains now and then. The subway but trains. ) I wanna know how fast they were spinning when good ol’ George wrote a column about how trains will all turn us into Communists.

paulb December 30, 2014 - 7:34 am

It’s so difficult getting support for public transportation in NYC. (Just a frustrated observation.) And if there’s any additional parks money for Queens going around, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park could use a lot of love, having been neglected its entire existence. And we could use footpaths/bikeways, which serve recreation and transportation, on existing bridges that don’t have them. I’m looking at you Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Verrazano, and improving the footpaths on the Bronx/upper Manhattan bridges.

Larry Littlefield December 30, 2014 - 7:39 am

If it goes that way, I don’t want to hear complaints from Queens politicians about the lack of subway service, ever.

Four times times there have been proposals to add rail service in Queens. Each time Queens NIMBY’s fought it and the pols went their way.

1) New rail line along the Montauk Branch to the 63rd Street tunnel.

2) N extension to Astoria.

3) E extension along one of the two LIRR branches to Southeast Queens.

4) Rockaway reactivation.

Uncle Moishy December 30, 2014 - 10:08 am

According to the Times, Forest Park is “now dangerously hemmed in by roadways.” What does that mean? What urban park doesn’t have roads along its perimeter? Do they expect Queensway to become the access mode of choice to Forest Park? Bah.

Meanwhile, I’d like to advocate converting the Rockaway Beach ROW to a dedicated busway for a BRT route. It will be much less expensive to build than a full rail line, with a lower ridership threshold for economic viability. Other benefits: simpler, less NIMBY-prone, options at the Rego Park end; and it won’t usurp lanes from auto traffic on Woodhaven Blvd, which NYCDOT’s current SBS proposal for Woodhaven/Cross Bay will do. That fight hasn’t been fought yet, and I’m guessing that NYCDOT won’t fare any better there than they did on 34 St in Manhattan.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 10:55 am

Central Park is dangerously hemmed in by roadways.

None of that BRT argument makes sense. The ROW wouldn’t be cheaper to construct, since it’s already graded and basically rail-ready. Diesel buses would be louder than electric trains, so I don’t see why NIMBYs would prefer buses. I don’t even know what economic viability means there.

And usurping lanes from Woodhaven sounds like a good thing. It might piss off some hamfisted carheads, but it does make surface transit more accessible and faster. If you want BRT, you may as well do it where it will be cheap to construct and accessible.

Uncle Moishy December 30, 2014 - 1:13 pm

The ROW would be far cheaper to construct for BRT. Rail requires track, power supply (big bucks), signals (very big bucks), stations with high platforms 600 feet long. Bus requires paving (the $ equivalent of track, probably less), simple traffic lights if any, and a ground-level concrete pad of a station that’s maybe 100 feet long. It’s not really close.

By economic viability I meant that the higher initial capital outlay, coupled with the significant fixed cost of subway operations (ROW maintenance, station operations) translates into a higher ridership level that subway service needs to achieve to justify its existence. At the end of the day, this is still a crosstown route.

I’m with you about usurping lanes on Woodhaven Blvd for SBS, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Hamfisted carheads have a good track record in Queens (see Larry Littlefield’s comment for examples). Is it just a coincidence that Queens is the last borough to get an SBS route?

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 1:35 pm

BRT on the RBL is certainly one option that should be included in any study.

As far as Queens being te last borough to get SBS, they originally were supposed to be one of the first but were “punished” by their rejection of SBS along Merrick Boulevard proposed early one. The way the MTA thought was. So if you don’t want it where we want to put it, now you will have to wait a long time before we want to place one anywhere in Queens. It was a typical example of the MTA’s attitude of no compromises when dealing with community groups, our way or no way.

Benjamin Kabak December 30, 2014 - 1:37 pm

Are you sure that wasn’t DOT instead of the MTA? DOT’s been driving SBS roll-out conversations; the MTA just runs the routes they’re told to run in this instance. The planning process has been spearheaded by the city.

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 2:45 pm

Yes, DOT seems to be running most of the show, well at least on Woodhaven Blvd, but I have not known DOT to be vindictive. And I also believe them to be fairer than the MTA. For example, they included my negative SBS Woodhaven comments in their summaries of the meetings.

I believe the MTA woud have just omitted them, like they managed to lose the hour of video comments which included my three minutes on the 2010 service cutbacks. When I told them they were missing an hour, they responding that they will include it if they get around to it. They never got around to it. I think my comments were too embarrassing for them to include since I had legitimate criticisms with their methodology like measuring walking distances as the crow flies and proposing unrealistic alternatives that no one would use.

As far as the B44 SBS, it seemed that it was the MTA that was the lead on that project, perhaps because it involved a change to the route. I’m not sure which agency took the lead when Merrick Blvd was discussed, but I beleve I read somewhere that it was the MTA that was most pissed when that one couldn’t be pulled off.

Also I know how obstinate the MTA was in how they treated communities in past bus studies. When a change was suggested, the MTA woud not even agree to evaluate it, they woud just respond that you have two choices, accept the change we propose or leave things as they are. I have seen that attitude over and over again with the MTA. At least DOT is asking the communities which of the three design alternatives they prefer for Woodhaven. They MTA has never given communities a choice of bus route changes.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 2:07 pm

Actually, rail just requires…rails. You can make rail every bit as spartan as a bus service without the added costs of widening the ROW to accomodate two bus lanes. The ROW is already constructed for rail, and largely just needs to be refurbished rather than utterly replaced. A subway requires more work, that’s true, and this is a route that should be a subway for a lot of reasons.

Woodhaven is arguably the only corridor in NYC where BRT makes a lot of sense. But the cost advantages of BRT all disappear if the BRT is not on Woodhaven, which is bus-ready the way RBB is rail-ready.

Adrian Benepe December 30, 2014 - 10:47 am

I share the author’s interest in good mass transit. He I correct to call for a study of what it would really take and cost to reactivate rail service on the former RBB ROW, now owned by the City of New York. A proper study would cost millions and would have to address whether the MTA ends A train subway service to Rockaway so it can use the existing bridge over Jamaica Bay or builds a new bridge. It would also have to address where the billions of dollars not currently in the budget of the already underfunded MTA capital budget would come from. The author is also simply wrong on the facts on public funding for parks. There have been a number of park projects recently funded with public dollars well in excess of the $120 million estimate for the QueensWay. For example, of the $240 million total cost of the High Line, $160 million was public, mostly City. Hudson River Park has received $400 million in City and State funding and Brooklyn Bridge Park $300 million so far. The new parks adjacent to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx cost $160 million in City funds and Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island $130 million so far. East River Waterfront Park was $160 million and the new Ocean Breeze track facility on Staten Island has cost over $80 million. Well over $100 million has been spent on Highbridge Park in Manhattan. So in fact there have been projects that cost as much as or much more than the estimated cost of the QueensWay in every borough but Queens. Isn’t it time to build a world-class park and greenway for the people of Queens? Don’t they deserve what the other four boroughs have already gotten from the City? Shouldn’t the park-starved residents of Ozone Park and South Ozone Park get the open space they so desperately need. The people and elected officials of central Queens all support the QueensWay. The Times editorial is spot on. For a reasonable price tag we can turn an abandoned, decrepit public nuisance into a beautiful new public asset. That’s a far better outcome than letting it languish for a railroad that will never get built.

al December 30, 2014 - 3:39 pm

There is the problem of the extreme difficulty in procuring new rail ROW in NYC. Once its gone, it is very expensive – in political capital, time and money – to replace. An analysis must factor in that cost.

The Rockaway Park ROW leads to JFK. The Hells Gate Line, West Side Line and Empire Connection already exist to connect the Metro North New Haven and Hudson Lines to the LIRR at LIC and NY Penn. from there a train can get to the Rockaway Park ROW. It has the potential to create a one seat ride to JFK to and from points north of NYC. The great opportunity to better link the region together could be lost if this property becomes a park.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 6:07 pm

It leads to the people mover that goes to the airport. And those pesky pesky A trains are already using it.

Eric December 31, 2014 - 4:37 am

The Rockaway ROW would serve JFK no better than the existing LIRR to Jamaica does. Either way you would have to transfer to a people mover at the end. So if you think there is demand for direct JFK service, have it run to Jamaica. That line already exists, and as a bonus does much more to serve Long Island commuters. If you want to tear out the people mover in order to get a one-seat ride to wherever, you can tear out the Jamaica branch just as easily as the Howard Beach branch.

al December 31, 2014 - 1:07 pm

1) Howard Beach is way closer to JFK’s terminals than Jamaica. Its 60% the distance to Federal Circle and is at the edge of JFK.
2) It would combine the demand from Rockaways with Airport travel with travel to and from points north of NYC. It boosts the rationale for both Penn Access and Rock Park reactivation.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 5:31 pm

and the LIRR gets you from Penn Station to Jamaica a lot faster than the E gets you there. Or the M to Howard Beach. You want to run moderately frequent service on the M you can’t run moderately frequent service on the LIRR on the same tracks. If you have to build a four track ROW to accommodate that it’s going to be a lot more expensive.

Eric January 1, 2015 - 5:48 am

1) The tracks to Howard Beach are curvier, so the track length is only about half a mile shorter, and there’s also an extra intermediate stop. So it takes about the same travel time.

2) Jamaica/Long Island has way more demand than the Rockaways.

I’m not against a service from near-JFK to Connecticut. I think the best way would be to destroy a few industrial buildings in Woodside to build a wye. But this works equally with Rockaway and Jamaica, and as explained above, I think Jamaica is better.

If the Rockaway branch is reactivated, it needs to be based on local demand.

Eric January 1, 2015 - 5:54 am

As crazy as it sounds, the fastest way from Connecticut to downtown Brooklyn might end up being a train to Jamaica and a transfer to the LIRR to Barclays…

adirondacker12800 January 1, 2015 - 9:35 pm

When the Lexington Ave subway is closed. It takes around 20 minutes to get from Jamaica to Penn Station. It’s gonna take around 20 minutes to get from Grand Central to Jamaica. It takes around 20 minutes to get from Jamaica to Atlantic.

The 4 and the 5 train get from Grand Central to Atlantic Ave in around 20. Getting from a Metro North Platform to an LIRR platform is going to take more time than getting to the 4 or the 5.

20 minutes from Grand Central to Jamaica and 20 from Jamaica to Atlantic is 40 minutes and two trains. The 4 or the 5 get you there in 20 without changing trains.

Ed Wendell December 30, 2014 - 5:50 pm

You had a “QueensWay” – this is the shape you left it in —

Conditions on Forest Park Drive

Busted and crumbling sidewalks, missing sidewalks, missing railings, roads that haven’t been paved in years, and a gigantic sinkhole that sat for years directly across the street from a popular children’s attraction.

For the past several years, morning joggers have been carrying flashlights because the lights were out – even the fact that women were jogging in pitch black conditions during a rape epidemic did not create enough of a sense of urgency to get the lights fixed.

Money should be allocated to fixing and properly maintaining the existing park before spending any money on expanding it.

Click Here For More on the Conditions in Forest Park

AnonPhenom December 30, 2014 - 10:40 pm

Because taking a, literally, ‘walk in the park’ is the same as connecting (at least) 3 neighborhoods together via a safe, pleasant and inexpensive pedestrian walkway.

Swing and a miss. Next.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 11:57 pm

so we should spend a few hundred million so the Parks Department has even more property to neglect?

AnonPhenom December 31, 2014 - 1:54 pm

Good Argument Einstein!
Let’s stop making sidewalks in all of Queens also until we repair all the ones already in use here!

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 5:38 pm

One of the passtimes of New Yorkers is suing the city because they didn’t maintain it. The city ain’t doing such a great job with the sidewalks either.

Ed Wendell December 31, 2014 - 7:49 am

The roadway through Forest Park connects more than 3 neighborhoods right now – and the city has failed to maintain it properly. There is no basis to form an expectation that the proposed expansion will be any better maintained. Any claim that it will be is a greater fantasy than those goofy renderings.

AnonPhenom December 31, 2014 - 1:50 pm

You’re a silly man. Learn the difference between a straight line (around which these neighborhoods developed) and an aimless nature trail. The west section of the park has the band shell, golf course, carousel, etc… The east section only has a bridal path, and because we might get a walkway you can’t help but whine “where’s mine!”

AnonPhenom December 31, 2014 - 2:01 pm

bridal path = bridle path. I hate ‘auto-correct’.

Ed Wendell January 1, 2015 - 9:51 am

The sidewalks on both the east and west sections of the park are a hot mess. Busted, broken, badly patched, sinkholes and poorly lit. The isn’t a matter of who “gets” what – it’s about the city’s inability to properly maintain an existing park.

AnonPhenom December 30, 2014 - 10:46 pm

“Money should be allocated to fixing and properly maintaining the existing park before..”
#If I Were King Of The Forest (Park) #

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 11:18 am


Your only incorrect statement is the part about the 500,000 daily projected riders from the Queens College study. The study itself, never stated that. It was a conclusion drawn by Assemblyman Goldfeder that was widely quoted by the media including myself. The study actually only gave a figure of potential ridership of 357,000 trips which was also unrealistic because that assumed every auto trip could or may use the RBL.. The actual initial figure may be only 200,000, but that would grow over time as the RBL would promote development.

The study also underestimated the usage of Woodhaven Boulevard as it only considered trips with either an origin or destination near the RBL. Woodhaven is also used as an intermediate part of a trip by those with neither an origin or destination near the RBL.

I too just ask for a fair study in this piece that I co-wrote.


adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 12:42 pm

There aren’t 200,000 people in the neighborhoods it would go through.
Look at the ridership numbers for the stations on the A and the J/Z. Which it would cannibalize. Woodhaven Blvd on the J/Z had 4,576, Rockaway Blvd on the A had 8,662. The busiest stop in Queens, Flushing Main St. had 60,184. All of Queens had 782,322. Five or six stops aren’t going to generate 500,000 daily riders. Or 100,000. It would have to induce an astounding amount of demand to generate 40,000 riders a day, including the ones it cannibalizes from other stops.


BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 1:07 pm

I don’t see how you come up with only 40,000 riders a day when according to the study 327,000 daily trips are generated from zones within a half mile of the RBL corridor. If one third of those trips were made by mass transit and trudy used the RBL, you already have 100,000 trips. That may or may not be realistic depending on the destinations of those trips. That is why we need a real study without jumping to any conclusions. Wasn’t the number around 30,000 when service on the line was discontinued around 1962 after the southern part was already severed? Today transit ridership is higher and if the fare was low enough, there would be many more than that number today. And you also have to consider increased ridership resulting from future development along the line.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 1:48 pm

I think it was several hundred people a day when the service ended for good. Why do you need 40,000 riders/day? (Taking that to mean 40,000 new riders attracted to the system.) RBB is a case of a big capital expense with a small operating expense. Why? Most of the trains are already running. You need to run a few more to keep up with the current schedule.

If there is a ridership of 100,000 people/day, it’s a no-brainer. If it’s 30,000 or so, it’s probably justified. If there is a real risk with RBB, it’s the risk that it would be too successful and cause additional crowding.

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 2:28 pm

Don’t confuse BRT with SBS on Woodhaven. They are not the same. DOT is now proposing SBS at a cost of about $20,000 to implement. They do not have the funding required for BRT (somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000) to implement on Woodhaven. Don’t know what it would cost on the RBL.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 4:02 pm

I have no idea what those costs mean, but SBS is BRT by most meanings of the word. ITDP tries to own the term, though few other stakeholders in the subject seem to accept their stringent definitions.

I think I saw $10M for a low-ball two-lane dedicated busway on Woodhaven. I had a long/pointless argument on Streetsblog with that anti-rail guy you always fight with here about how best to do it, but I don’t think it makes a lot of difference what lanes are taken as long as they’re dedicated to surface transit.

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 7:43 pm

If they were the same Trottenberg would not have stated in front of the City Council on 11/3/14 that DOT would prefer BRT over SBS if they had the $200 million to spend and are trying to get. She also indicated that would be a low ball estimate. The commonly used figure for SBS is $20 million. Now I do not claim to know all the differences between the two, but they have to be significant for a price difference of at least ten times.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 11:31 pm

Trottenberg is probably falling for ITDP propaganda then. ITDP has strict guidelines for what it will call BRT. When you see people on the blogosphere refer to “real BRT,” that’s probably what they mean.

Andrew January 1, 2015 - 3:26 pm

Select Bus Service is New York City’s “brand name” for BRT.

BrooklynBus January 1, 2015 - 4:22 pm

That’s because it is not real BRT. If it were, it would not need a new name. Also, at the DOT presentations, DOT did not use the two names synonymously. They suggested tat BRT was an additional alternative to SBS.

Andrew January 1, 2015 - 4:37 pm

BRT systems often include branding. Albany has BusPlus, Cleveland has HealthLine, LA has Metro Rapid, SLC has MAX, Halifax has MetroLink, Mexico City has Metrobús, Curitiba has Rede Integrada de Transporte, Bogota has the famous Transmilenio, and many, many more.

Do you conclude that none of these is real BRT?

Alon Levy January 1, 2015 - 5:21 pm

Did you really list Metro Rapid (not even the Orange Line!), BusPlus, and HealthLine in the same sentence as Transmilenio, Metrobús, and Rede Integrada de Transporte?

Andrew January 1, 2015 - 9:52 pm

Yes, I deliberately listed a wide variety of BRT systems/lines. BRT systems, of all sorts, are often branded – it’s not something peculiar to New York.

(My apologies if I listed the “wrong” system in LA.)

BrooklynBus January 3, 2015 - 12:50 pm

Your question is irrelevant. The important thing is that we don’t have real BRT here and the reason is that we do not have streets with adequate room for real BRT unless you use abandoned ROWs.

lop January 3, 2015 - 4:38 pm

Not wide enough? Only in your world where parking and general traffic lanes are sacrosanct.

Bolwerk January 3, 2015 - 8:38 pm

Effective BRT only takes a lane per direction. There are certainly shortcomings with SBS, but they’ve hardly prevented it from vastly improving bus service.

The “real BRT” people are incoherent enough to maybe not know what they want. Some seem to think center-running solves everything, but it often seems to be the wish to sate a roadhog-like fantasy about grade separating busways. ITDP has BRT specifications, but so far as I know no government agency actually officially recognizes them as necessary.

BrooklynBus January 3, 2015 - 9:40 pm

I have less of a problem with removing parking than I do with removing general traffic lanes. The reason I have a problem with the latter is because no analysis is being done regarding what effects the removal of general traffic lanes cause prior to impementation. It’s lets do it and then we will see what happens. That is not sound planning when we supposedly have computer models that can predict the effects beforehand.

As far as real effective BRT taking only one lane per direction, if that is the case why has the MTA elected SBS in every single case thus far? As far as “vastly improving bus service”, where are the numbers that show that? I have not seen a single statistic that shows how many minutes bus passengers are saving as a result of SBS when making their trips. What I have seen are statistics that show the M15, which has SBS, to be the least reliable bus route in Manhattan.

There is no doubt that SBS benefits some. What we don’t know is the extent of the numbers of people who are helped or the numbers of people who were able to make trips quicker when they had limited service instead.

lop January 3, 2015 - 10:31 pm

What sort of statistics are you after?


“The Bx41 SBS operates 19 to 23% faster than the Bx41 Limited service it replaced.”

“Those who favored the Bx41 SBS cited faster rides and shorter waits. Among those interviewed on the Bx41 SBS, 97% are “satisfied” or “very satisfied”; among Bx41 Local bus riders, this figure is 90%.”


“NYCT’s Operations Planning Division conducted time and delay travel studies before and after SBS implementation. Overall travel times showed a significant decrease across the corridor on the Bx12SBS as compared to the Bx12 Limited, with an average travel time savings of approximately 19%.”

“Overall, customer satisfaction with Select Bus Service is still very high with 97% of SBS customers either satisfied or very satisfied with the service.”


15-18% improvement in travel time,

9% increase in corridor ridership,

21% reduction in injuries in sections where full treatments were used,

Maintenance of traffic speeds and volume.

76-276% increase in cycling,


• 13-19% improvement in bus speeds on the S79;
• Ridership increase of 10.8% of the S79 and increase of 6.6% on the combined S59/78/79, at a time when there was a 1.2% increase on other Staten Island routes;
• No substantial impact on traffic flow;”

Bolwerk January 4, 2015 - 8:28 am

SBS is the MTA’s term for BRT service. If NYC ever gets anything demanded by the “real BRT” people, it will probably be called SBS too. But I think it’s rather obvious the Bogota-style bus boulevards mostly aren’t a fit here. There just isn’t space.

Straphangers complained about the M15, but it was the local they objected to. Even if you blame SBS for that supposed unreliability, ridership is up so much on the M15 routes that you’d think people are voting with their feet or something.

BrooklynBus January 4, 2015 - 11:21 am

You really cannot divorce the local from the SBS when studying the success or failure of SBS. If riders are reluctantly taking the SBS because locals service was severely deteriorated, you have to ask yourself the question if they are saving any time at all because of the extra walking they are forced to do. The situation is not unique to the M15. B44 riders have the same complaint.

As far as Bogota’s wide boulevards not fitting here as being obvious. It certainly was not obvious to the people at Pratt, who put a picture of Bogota prominently in their report implying that is that is what we can have here. I also question how successful it is in Bogota, when I see ten lanes of auto traffic standing still and only the bus lanes moving.

Bolwerk January 4, 2015 - 11:46 am

There would appear to be legitimate design problems with the B44 that don’t exist with the M15, among them absurd stopping distances. That is a B44 problem and not an SBS/BRT problem. Me? I’d probably just dump the M15 local. 8-10 block stopping distances are reasonable.

I don’t really understand many NYC BRT advocates myself. Why would you be a BRT advocate and not a transit advocate anyway? Many seem interested in propagating the mode at all costs, and others just seem to downplay the advantages of alternatives or assume that alternatives are competitive instead of complementary.

Either way, ITDP and Pratt don’t own the term.

Alon Levy January 4, 2015 - 12:07 pm

If riders were reluctantly taking SBS, overall ridership would be down and not up.

BrooklynBus January 4, 2015 - 5:16 pm

To lop:

The statistics I am after are are ongoing statistics showing how much time those who are riding the buses are saving in making their trip. A bus travel time savings only tells a small part of the story. Even if a bus travels 20% faster from end to end, that means little to someone who now has to walk further to and from the bus due to eliminated stops, sees three SBS buses arriving at once as is frequently the case on the B44, takes the local because the SBS is delayed or vice versa, takes the SBS because the local is delayed and the time saved by using the SBS is lost by walking further to their destination.

What we have from the MTA are exceedingly small samples of several hundred riders taken at one specific point in time, and those results are extrapolated to be accurate for every day for the following three years.

With all the complaints I have heard about SBS, I really doubt the accuracy of a 97% satisfaction rate.

As far as an increase in corridor ridership, since running times were reduced, that resulted in a shortening of scheduled headways. When headways are decreased on any route even if it is not SBS, ridership goes up.

To Alon Levy:

The MTA does not provide separate ridership statistics for the SBS and the local. So if riders are reluctantly using the SBS because of a denegration to local service which is the case on some SBS routes such as the M15 and B44, there would be no way you could tell. We need separate ridership statistics.

BrooklynBus January 4, 2015 - 6:04 pm

To Bolwerk,

I assume by absurd stopping distances on the B44 SBS, you are talking about the bus stop spacing. Actually with the addition of the Avenue L stop, the only absurd spacing is the lack of an Avenue R stop. I would also see to it that any SBS bus stops at all bus transfer points. The B44 SBS des not transfer to the B54 which causes unnecessary walks which the MTA is not concerned about.

As far as eliminating locals, you must remember that many specifically chose buses over train where they have a choice is precisely because of the closer stop spacing because they have difficulty walking far.

adirondacker12800 January 4, 2015 - 7:10 pm

You are assuming ridership is evenly spread around. The SBS stops are where lot of people get on and off. If I’m on an SBS to get between two SBS stops it needs to travel as fast as the local between my points. On both ends. I used to be able to walk to a local bus stop two blocks away or an express stop five blocks away. That stopped at the same places downtown. If it was running and I thought I could catch it I’d walk five blocks because walking 5 blocks was faster than walking two blocks and taking a local. People who use the SBS to get from an end to the middle get a faster ride. So do people who use it end to end. People in the middle with origins and destinations in the middle don’t want to walk farther to an SBS stop. The local is just as fast. If you are at 125th Street and you want to go to Brooklyn do you take the B or the C all the way becuase you have to change trains?

BrooklynBus January 4, 2015 - 7:47 pm

I am not assuming anything. Yes, SBS stops are one that are more heavily used. Whatever your chances are that one of your stops will be one that is more heavily used, your chances are fewer that both your entry and exit stops will both be SBS stops. That applies to a small number of bus users, so your walk at least on one end is increased.

What you forget is that most bus riders do not want to walk five blocks To get to an SBS stop because many already walked five blocks just to reachte local stop. Expecting people to walk a half mile to and from a bus stop is unrealistic. They will only do that when the wait for the local is extraordinarily long.

I don’t understand your subway example, but expecting someone to take a local and change for an SBS, in many cases would cost an extra fare if another vehicle is required so the two are not exactly comarable.

Bolwerk January 4, 2015 - 9:13 pm

The time to walk to an M15 SBS stop is a few minutes for most people within a reasonable catchment area under any circumstance. The time savings on the vehicle is, more or less, the change in speed between two discrete bus stops. Reduced service variance and shorter boarding times are other factors.

You can always find someone who is inconvenienced, but an improvement in service just has a high “duh” factor here.

Alon Levy January 5, 2015 - 2:03 am

So if riders are reluctantly using the SBS because of a denegration to local service which is the case on some SBS routes such as the M15 and B44, there would be no way you could tell.

Sorry, but no. If there were a degeneration of service, overall ridership on the combined local and SBS route would go down, due to reduced frequency on the superior local route. But what we see is the opposite: ridership is up, at least on the Bx12 and M15 (I don’t know which is the case on the B44). So maybe passengers don’t find the local so superior.

BrooklynBus January 5, 2015 - 11:25 am

The last year where ridership statistics are available are for 2013 which shows M15 ridership declined by 4.1% which highlights the fact that you can’t base all your conclusions on a single one day passenger survey of 100 or so passengers three years ago, when annual ridership is 17 million.

Also, who said anything about the locals being superior? I said many would be local passengers are forced to use the SBS because of unreliability and reduced service on the local. The SBS isn’t reliable either. People have reported waiting 45 minutes for one.

SBS is not the solution to every problem as many seem to think.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 4:16 pm

The people who get on the bus to go to the doctor 15 blocks away don’t want to go to Midtown. The ones who take the J to their job on Wall Street don’t either or the ones who take the A to their job in downtown Brooklyn. Pick the five or six busiest existing stations in the area and see what you get.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 4:29 pm

If I had a shot every time you pooped out a dumb non-sequitur about people not going to Midtown, my piss would be strong enough to make a mule drunk.

RBB doeosn’t take away the bus. Trains are not the enemy of buses. If anything, a good rapid transit service only makes a bus more useful.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 6:21 pm

The ones going to Midtown are a single digit percentage of the total trips in the neighborhood. If the busiest subway station in Queens gets 70,000 fares a day there ain’t gonna be 500,000 fares at 5 new stations. If the whole system in Queens has 800,000 fares there ain’t gonna be 100,000 at five new stations. It’s might be close to what the five busiest existing stations in the neighborhood get.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 11:51 pm

500,000 is probably an exaggeration, but I would guess what they’re saying is a lot of trips that have origins and destinations in various parts of the city can use the line. Most users might not be swiping on at a station that doesn’t already exist. They might not all be new to the subway.

Still, if Midtown-bound users are a single digit percentage of transit users in that neighborhood, it’s probably at least partly a reflection of how terrible local buses are for bringing people to Midtown.

lop December 31, 2014 - 12:16 am

If Rockaway park to midtown becomes a 55-60 minute trip instead of a 65-70 minute trip will that really change so much? Single digit percentage was not in reference to total transit trips, instead to total trips from rockaways, or within a half mile of existing (along the A) or abandoned RBB, discounting any trip less than one mile, any trip that stays in that same region, and any trip that doesn’t have its other end within one mile of the LIRR or subway (or to SI I think). Even with a reactivated RBB you won’t get that region to midtown anywhere near 10% of trips. You’re counting in that number a decent number of people in FH/rego park who are already taking a QB subway and would continue to do so btw.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 12:52 am

You can probably expect a similar proportion of Midtown-bound trips from new stations as you see from other subway stations with similar demographic profiles.

If that’s really not 10% of subway trips, fine, but it doesn’t make his incessant teeth-gnashing about how, no, some people really aren’t going to Midtown, any less silly and pointless.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 3:43 am

…So if we add 5, 6 or 7 new subway station along the abandoned ROW we are going to see ridership that is similar to the other stations nearby?

63rd Drive/Rego Park gets 16,334 on an average weekday. It’s a bit more densely populated on the north side of Rego Park where that is than on the south side where a new station would be. Middle Village and Metropolitan, on the Brooklyn end of the M? 4,092. Woodhaven Blvd on the M/R? 22,276.

Can we agree that it’s not going to make much difference to people in Brooklyn or east of the Van Wyck?

75st on the J which is right on the border between Brooklyn and Queens has 3,759. next one going east is
86th, 3,792. Then
Woodhaven Blvd, 4,576. Then
104th, which is closer to where the abandoned ROW is, 2,575.
111th, 2,605.
121st, 2,222. Then Sutphin which is east of the Van Wyck.

average is 3,255 for stations on the J.

80st on the A gets 4,291.
88th, 2,719.
Rockaway Blvd. 8,662
104th, 1,736
111th/Lefferts 7,476
Aqueduct/Conduit 1,951
Howard Beach 4,972
an average of 4,544

you don’t want to put the stations south of there into the averages.

Yer gonna get 4,000 riders per new station. Someplace between 20,000 and 30,000 depending on how many stations and how frequently it runs.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 4:05 am

I wasn’t really commenting on the number of people, just the proportion of them who would be going to Midtown. But, okay, I’m bored at work, so I’ll bite….

Off the bat, I’d expect an uptick in use because Midtown orientation is probably more attractive than downtown orientation of the the J/A. And Midtown East orientation is more attractive than the west side orientation of the A. Population densities there are fairly average-to-above average for Queens, so that isn’t really a concern.

Five stations spaced the better part of a mile apart would each have a bigger catchment than stations on existing subways spaced closer together.

Between residential utilization, inbound commuters (Woodhaven is at least a minor commercial job area), bus transfers, and people passing through, I don’t see why it would be hard to snag 30k new users.

But if you really want a better answer, you probably need to do survey.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 8:49 pm

Um huh. Taking a 8th ave train that drops you at 8th and 50th how much different is that than taking the Broadway train that drops you at 50th and 7th? Unless you can walk to Rockaway Blvd not much different. Even if you work at 100 E. 50th. Changing to the E in Jackson Heights isn’t all that much different from changing to the C at at Times Square. Especially if you have to take the A to get to Rockaway Blvd to change to the M. It would make some trips a bit faster which would induce some ridership. Most of the riders would be cannibalized from existing stops.
The M starting running up Broadway in 2010. The ridership info, on the MTA chart goes back to 2008.
In 2008 it was 3,640
IN 2013 it was 4,053.

How much of that is because it now goes to Midtown and how much of it is because ridership has been increasing in general? I’m not in the mood to go compare other stops along the M.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 11:16 pm

The A is probably an hour from the RBB intersection to 50th, maybe with a transfer at 42nd. By your own guesstimate, the maximum time from the same point via RBB to that area is probably 45 minutes or so.

Other people on the segment aren’t even close to a subway that takes them near that point. If you live near the J Train, you either need to bus to QB, Fulton, or take the J to Essex and catch the F. There are points along RBB that are probably a mile or two from any subway.

What exactly is the point here? That RBB reactivation would see no new ridership, just reshuffling existing riders? (Not sure what you mean about the M. The M runs along 6th Avenue. The R runs along Broadway. Either is a candidate for RBB service, I guess.)

lop December 31, 2014 - 11:36 pm

The furthest the RBB is from a subway is between union and metro, a bit more than one mile from Woodhaven on Jamaica or 71st on QB.

adirondacker12800 January 1, 2015 - 2:07 am

For people who walk to that station now. If I don’t live at that station when I get there on the A or J I have to climb stairs and wait for a train. That’s going to eat at least 5 minutes. They aren’t going to be running trains every three minutes. The demand doesn’t warrant it and it has to share capacity, west of Rego Park, with trains going to Forest Hills and Brooklyn. You have to budget ten minutes for the transfer. People perceive transfers as much longer than they really are. They’d just warm a seat on the A.
No you can’t time the transfers because that screws around with the D – to the Bronx. And timing the transfer with the J. Hold the M for 45 seconds so people can transfer you just screwed the R and the Q and probably the G. And the timed transfer you had to promise people who transfer at Broadway Junction.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 10:00 am

I don’t really know what either of you two are masturbating about. The distance to an existing station on a line going to a completely different of destinations probably means something, but just pointing out there is a line nearby doesn’t say anything negative. The presence of existing lines can just as much feed new services as they can poach potential ridership from it. The sanest conclusion you can draw about intersecting services is they’re supplementary at worst, complementary at best.

And imagining a discrete user with a crappy walk or transfer is equally useless. Subway frequency is high enough that people can live with a transfer penalty, and do by design. Manhattan trunk headways are mostly no more than a few minutes during the day.

lop January 1, 2015 - 7:49 pm

I’m not masturbating about anything Bolwerk. You said “There are points along RBB that are probably a mile or two from any subway.” I responded to that. One mile yes, but not two miles.

lop December 30, 2014 - 1:58 pm

The study never made an estimate of usage of woodhaven blvd, how could it underestimate it?

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 2:49 pm

It measured trips in the Woodhaven corridor. Since there currently is no rail line there and no parallel alternative through streets, the Woodhaven corridor is currently synomous with Woodhaven/Cross Bay Blvd, although I am not sure if Cross Bay was even included. Probably not.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 5:54 pm

Um um the ROW south of Rockaway Blvd is where the A train runs now. it would have to cross the J/Z to get there. No doubt there are hundreds of thousands of trips in the neighborhood. A train to Midtown doesn’t meet the needs of people who work on Wall Street. Or the people who take the bus 15 blocks to the dentist on Jamaica Ave. The ones work near Grand Central can take the A train to Times Square and change to the shuttle or they can take the M train to Times Square and change to the shuttle. The ones who eat lunch in Bryant Park because it’s so close to work could take the Flushing line. Nah they’d probably walk from Times Sqaure.
Take the 5 or 6 busiest subway stations in the area and that’s what you will get from 5 or 6 new subway stations. Some of the riders will be poached from existing stations.

lop December 30, 2014 - 7:14 pm

Look at table 8. It gives you almost 320k trips. All the people living in rego park at the northern end near the RBB who take the EFMR somewhere along the QB line or to Midtown? They’re counted. All the people near Jamaica that take the J to Brooklyn? They’re counted. Take the A to lower manhattan? They’re counted. Take the bus down metro to ridgewood? They’re counted. Take the Q52 from the Rockaways to the end of the line, more than a half mile from the RBB? Not counted. Start near the RBB but end up in a TAZ with a centroid more than a mile from a subway or LIRR stop? Not counted. The numbers they put up are interesting, but it’s hard to put together an estimate for ridership at stations along the abandoned stretch, never mind ridership for a rerouted M train south of Liberty, and are worthless for estimating how many people drive along Woodhaven. I’m sure DOT (either NYC or NYS) publishes traffic counts, if you wanted woodhaven blvd estimates you should have just used those instead.

They don’t explain well how they get to 357k. They describe it as Southern Queens+rockaways to nearish to EMFRG7NQ in Queens, midtown or downtown, or nearish to LIRR mainline or PW branch. But then they point you to figure 20 where ~180k trips are nearish to subways in Brooklyn+M in ridgewood.

I’m pretty sure figure 20 is wrong, all the zones look to be the numbers from table 8 with the zones off by one, with the graph starting with zone 0 but the labelling starting at zone 1. But that doesn’t give you 357k trips along woodhaven, nor 357k trips where the RBB could be an alternative.

But even if they’re 357 excludes Brooklyn trips, it counts trips on the A or JZ to lower manhattan. Still not a Woodhaven corridor trip. And seems to exclude some trips more than a mile from the AJZ but near the abandoned RBB.

If you want they used data that’s publicly available, I don’t think you could do a worse job repackaging NYMTC trip data than they did.

BrooklynBus December 30, 2014 - 8:03 pm

I was in touch with Queens College and they confirmed both Figures 20 and 21 are indeed incorrect with the columns shifted by one as you suspected. They e-mailed me the correct tables, but there still seems to be a discrepancy between the totals between the figures and the table.

The omitted Woodhaven trips I talked about were those beginning or ending in Brooklyn, using the Woodhaven corridor with the other end of the trip being more than a half mile from the RBL.

Andrew January 1, 2015 - 3:23 pm

Your only incorrect statement is the part about the 500,000 daily projected riders from the Queens College study. The study itself, never stated that. It was a conclusion drawn by Assemblyman Goldfeder that was widely quoted by the media including myself.

No, the (thoroughly implausible) claim is right there on page 5: “Current travel patterns between the Rockaways, southern Queens, and areas adjacent to the RBB to other transit-accessible areas in northern/western Queens, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan suggest that more than half a million trips every day could utilize a reactivated RBB to meet their travel needs.”

The study actually only gave a figure of potential ridership of 357,000 trips which was also unrealistic because that assumed every auto trip could or may use the RBL.. The actual initial figure may be only 200,000, but that would grow over time as the RBL would promote development.

The study didn’t include any actual ridership projections. It couldn’t, because ridership depends significantly on the exact service plan, the frequency, the running time, the fare, etc. – none of which have been determined. The study doesn’t even settle on a particular mode – subway or LIRR or something else. It’s a generic study of a reactivation of some sort of the line; it can’t possibly come up with a ridership projection.

Not only will the initial figure not be anywhere near 200,000, the figure after 5 or 10 or 20 or 50 years will not be anywhere near 200,000. (The entire LIRR network has an average daily ridership of 290,524!)

(But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that I’m wrong, and that this line attracts enormous ridership. Many, perhaps most, of the riders will be bound for Manhattan. And – assuming a subway routing via the Queens Boulevard local – many of those bound for Manhattan will transfer to the express at Roosevelt Avenue, the first available opportunity. And the Queens Boulevard express is already at 95% of capacity. So maybe this isn’t quite the best place to pump 200,000 new riders after all.)

Ron January 1, 2015 - 4:05 pm

The MTA is interested in reactivating up until Atlantic Ave. because they mentioned exploring the idea in their current 20 year capital plan

Again, the entire line could be built in phases and/or financed through public/private partnership

As for the congested Queens Blvd. lines, RBB could have THE OPTION of walking down 63rd drive to the subway (in the absence of a tunnel connection between RBB and Queens Blvd.) OR they could POSSIBLY transfer to the LIRR at a new Rego Park station OR whatever mode of transit the RBL turns out to be, PERHAPS it could along the old RBL ROW along the LIRR’s main line to a new stop near Woodside.

Again, can we at least get a STUDY that EXPLORES these ideas before we SURRENDER the ENTIRE ROW to a small group of NIMBYS?

Alon Levy January 1, 2015 - 5:23 pm

Building an 8-km above-ground line on existing, largely intact ROW requires multiple phases and a PPP now?

Ron January 1, 2015 - 6:42 pm


I’m not saying that it MUST be reactivated in phases or that an infusion of private money NEEDS to occur.

However, according to the NY Times and some people commenting on this blog, the MTA may never have money again to expand in the outer boroughs.

Therefore, I just want to leave all options open.

lop January 1, 2015 - 7:56 pm

The MTA has been taking on debt to fund ongoing maintenance, not just SAS and ESA. They have ten billion out of thirty two for the next five year plan, the rest is paid for with debt if the state and city don’t increase their contributions. PPPs don’t magically make the agency solvent.

Where in the twenty year capital needs or any other MTA document has running RBB north from Liberty to atlantic and stopping there ever been mentioned?

Ron January 1, 2015 - 8:05 pm

The MTA mentioned connecting the RBB to Woodhaven In their document.

I know that they’re referring to Atlantic Ave. because between Rockaway Blvd.and Atlantic Ave. the ROW is elevated, it’s more of an industrial area, and there are fewer NIMBY issues (Yes, I’m aware of the body shops below the ROW in that section.

The MTA also was interested in reactivating south of Atlantic Ave. as part of their idea of a Wall Street to JFK link a few years ago.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 8:30 pm

IIRC, it was mentioned as something maybe worth looking into in their 20-year capital plan document. Though, knowing them, they’d probably want to bustitute it.

lop January 1, 2015 - 8:40 pm



“…the abandoned RockawayBeach Branch (linking Howard Beach and Ozone Park with Woodhaven) as transverse routes linking radial subway lines.”

You’re taking that statement to mean that the MTA wants to run a train just until atlantic?

For a wall street connection of course they only looked at running until atlantic, because they would be turning the train onto atlantic!

AnonPhenom December 30, 2014 - 1:37 pm

“spend $120 million reactivating RBB”

2 miles and 3 stations of the second Ave line came in “on budget” at just under 5 BILLION.

For 120 million you can set up and run your Lionel train set from Christmas along the RBB.

Patrick O'Hara December 30, 2014 - 3:56 pm

Because reactivating a right of way above ground and formerly used for passenger rail is the same thing as boring miles of new tunnels and station caverns deep under the streets of Manhattan?

Got it.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 4:04 pm

The NY Times says so. Must be true!

AnonPhenom December 30, 2014 - 10:12 pm

For a line that has been left unused and in disrepair for 60 years?
I live in Forest Hills and have walked those tracks many times. Total write-off.
Clearing away the detirus alone will cost 10 of millions.

lop December 30, 2014 - 10:26 pm


L8, Penn to lirr mainline to RBB to airtrain at howard beach was priced at 443m 1999 ~630mil in 2014 $. This includes a one track segment to connect to the airtrain and a connection from RBB to LIRR mainline that wouldn’t be needed for a subway, but excludes the costs of connecting to the QB local tracks and stations along the RBB. It did include four bridge rehabs and a new one to replace the trestle over the montauk line that collapsed. It’s too bad that the S1-S5 alternatives were eliminated early and no cost estimate was put together.

You’re right, it would be a shock if you could reroute the M or R to Rockaway park or anywhere south of Liberty for $120M. 1-2 billion is probably a fair estimate though.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 1:03 am

I can see nobody can fool you. You’re right, subterranean tunneling through schist is exactly the same thing as clearing trees away.

And tens of millions of dollars? Totally the exact same amount as $5 billion.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 4:30 am

If it had to be bored through schist and needed deep cavern stations it would be a lot more expensive and still only attract 20,000 riders.

5 stations at 25 million a pop is 125 million right there. 7 stations and it’s 175 million. Which leaves you with 325 million to rehab the ROW, lay new track etc. The bridges are 100 years old and haven’t been maintained for 50 years. It’s might be cheaper to replace them than rehab them so we get another 25 years out of them. 10 million a pop? I count 7. Keep the math simple and call it 75 million leaving you with 250 million.
NJTransit is laying track and installing signals on the Cutoff, a similar kind of abandoned ROW but it hasn’t been abandoned for as long, for 7 million a track mile. 56 million. It was never electrified so the PCBs in the transformer never leaked onto the track. Or left behind decaying third rail. Or rail, Conrail salvaged that. Lets keep it simple and the MTA is very very frugal with all of that and keeps it down to 50 million. 200 million left. Whoops, no electricity. They are very very very frugal 60 million. They are frugal with the rest of it and manage to keep it down to 300 million, leaving 200 million. There is that fiddly bit between the LIRR Main Line and Queens Blvd. How much does 4 blocks of tunnel under the more densely populated parts of Rego Park cost? 50 million? 100 million? Before you can do any of this there has to be a new Major Investment Study done. And the lawsuits challenging it defended. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement. And defending the lawsuits before a Final EIS can be issued. And the lawsuits. What the contingency budget gonna be? You are hovering around half a billion.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 11:37 am

Here, I’ll try to back-of-the-envelope some of your numbers….

$500 million sounds like an acceptable build estimate to me. That’s more than a first world country would typically need to spend, but it’s not out of line with anyone’s expectations of New York, where it’s acceptable to spend $4 billion on a single station and $120 million on a park no one will use!

This is really crude, but say that’s $32.4M/year in new capital expense payouts (basically the cost of paying down bi-annually a $500M loan at 5% for 30 years).* At $7,700,000 of operating costs per route-mile (average for the system), annual op. ex and cap. ex ought to be about around $70,000,000.

Let’s say average daily use over the year attributable to RBB is 15,000 users making two round trips. That seems lower than your expectations. At current fares, that’s $27,375,000 in annual fare revenue.

Using the above: segment farebox operating ratio is about 74% and segment farebox recovery is about 39%.

Here are some numbers to compare to:

Subway farebox op.: 73%
Subway farebox recovery: 42%
NYCTA bus farebox op.: 35%
NYCTA bus farebox recovery: 28%
(all from 2012)

Using your numbers, or even less generous numbers, RBB reactivation costs as a subway route seem pretty in line with the rest of the system. The lower farebox recovery ratio reflects high costs of paying down capital expenses over the first few decades of the segment’s life. Certainly BRT advocates who complain about high rail capital costs tolerate much worse cost recovery ratios.

* this number could be higher if more equipment is needed

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 4:55 pm

It gets 45,000 fares a day. Lots of the cost is for the porcupine, the connections to Fulton Center and the Winter Garden, the mall and building it under two reflecting ponds. It wouldn’t have cost that much if it was a permanent version of the temporary station. 3 billion? Is the temporary station considered part of the costs? IIRC there were two, one before they decided on reflecting ponds and another to accommodate them. That may have been more broadly “accommodate other construction”. A billion for the porcupine etc? Or 2 billion? Including the marble on the walls which didn’t cost much more than tile. 3 billion for 45,000 riders is only twice per passenger as a half billion for 15,000. Two billion for 60,000 is the same price as half a billion for 15,000…. ridership is going to go up again when they finish all the office buildings over it….

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 5:23 pm

It’s certainly well north of $3 billion at this point (if we can believe The New York Times). IIRC, the temporary station cost under $300M.

They’re not the same. It’s a bit hard to compare operating costs, since there is no new trackage to compare. But using the same interest rates for $3 billion and 45,000 daily riders, the RBB project would have high enough farebox revenue to cover 169% of its capital costs and the porcupine would only recover 85%.

It’s a horrible farebox recovery comparison, in any case, given the ridership is probably there in the first place with or without the porcupine. RBB actually induces new ridership. Hopefully the porcupine will at least have better cost recovery than above from retail rentals.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 5:39 pm

(Assumed both fares were $2.50 and each user swiped in twice a day, and counted that as attributable to the respective project. Probably not a perfect method, but it’s something.)

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 7:53 pm

The people who use the subway to get to the glittering office buildings above woulda wanted a mall under them even if there wasn’t a PATH station wedged in down there.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 8:03 pm

Well, that would suggest farebox recovery is only being made worse by the new station, not better.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 9:04 pm

Admittedly they probably wouldn’t have gone with putting a porcupine sculpture over the entrance to the mall if it was just mall under the pools. The mall woulda still been there. Just like there will be retail up at Hudson Yards. The mall at Hudson Yards isn’t on the MTA’s books.

lop December 31, 2014 - 6:41 pm

You’re attributing all revenue to the abandoned stretch, but excluding all operating costs of the overwhelming majority of RBB station boarders who will use other parts of the bus/subway system on the same fare. Extend the G to howard beach so you don’t have to cut service to forest hills? That’s a lot more route miles to pay for. 500mil is a low estimate, this is NYC. Two to four times that is a better guess. Is 5% typical for MTA debt? Given how few boardings there are at some nearby stations 60k weekday riders using the RBB might be a high estimate, with weekends even lower.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 8:18 pm

Sort of. I was trying to include a ballpark of rides generated by the stretch (hence the low boarding numbers), but not rides that might already take place that might switch to RBB because of changed habits. The logic is that new rides don’t appreciably increase costs on the rest of the system. At least, this is true until more vehicles are necessary because of crowding – but if that’s a concern, why are people so worried about the segment not supporting itself?

5% was a deliberately high rate for benefit of the doubt’s sake. Current total interest costs are listed here. 5% is an okay ballpark for the borrower’s perspective, but the way I priced it is a gross oversimplification of the process.

$500M is over $100M/mile, and over $100M/mile is already 5x the cost of greenfield bi-directional rail with land acquisition (maybe even electrified) in much of the world. Yes, stations could cost a little or a lot and make for a huge wildcard in cost consideration – but high costs for stations are not technically necessary. I can believe higher costs are possible, but they at least require some explanation. There are even good reasons for it, like maybe the need for more storage space somewhere.

lop December 31, 2014 - 8:55 pm

You’re projecting 60k trips new to the system over the RBB? And you consider that a low estimate?

Are you asking to cut local service to 67th and 71st? Or do you add in the costs of extending the G? You always point out the potential for airport ridership, but aren’t including the cost of the additional 3 miles roundtrip to get to howard beach from liberty? What happens when 1/3 of that trains that pass Elmhurst, Grand av, Woodhaven, Rego park aren’t going to Manhattan? And either all the RBB trains or half the locals to 67 and 71st. A lot of people who would stay on a local will take the first train that comes then transfer at roosevelt. You already have crowding there, you can’t ignore that impact, and should include some of the costs of rectifying – making woodhaven an express stop – in any plan to run trains along RBB. Additional crowding on the EF from people transferring from a RBB service don’t make the RBB service a success, because it doesn’t take many new riders to cause problems.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 10:14 pm

60,000 getting off PATH at the World Trade Center.

lop December 31, 2014 - 10:25 pm

From Bolwerk a couple comments up:

“Let’s say average daily use over the year attributable to RBB is 15,000 users making two round trips. That seems lower than your expectations.”

That’s 60k trips for RBB.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 10:58 pm

I wasn’t projecting anything for my own sake. Adirondack said 20k people might use it, but he didn’t specify whether that meant new swipe-ins to the system or new round trip users from points on RBB. I simply dropped the number to 15k new round trips for argument’s sake and filled in the blanks with existing system averages. Current riders who opt to use RBB are nice, but in our Godless, amoral model universe we want to see what new revenue the segment will generate, not necessarily who uses the segment. 100k users who already use the subway could switch to the segment, but since they are already captured users, they don’t bring in new revenue.

If you like those assumptions, you can tweak farebox recovery to any number you want and see the result with the equation


where n is the number of daily roundtrips.

If you want to try other scenarios, an Excel one-liner to fuck with other inputs could be:


The numerator is annual revenue. 15000 is average daily round trips, doubles for swipes, 365 for days in the year, and 2.5 for the fare (average fare is actually a bit lower, but I’m too lazy to Google it). 7688050 is the average operating cost per subway route-mile, and multiply that by 4.8 gets you the first number in the denominator for RBB segment operating cost. Increase $500M to whatever headline capital expense you want, and charge interest on it how you see fit. I used 2012 expenses and revenues, but 2.50 as an average fare.

Its certainly not perfect, but as long as TPH throughput doesn’t need to be increased, it probably works pretty well. Side-effects like needing new capacity can be accounted for with additional operating expenses or annually discounted capital expenses in the denominator.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 11:00 pm

Oh, “two round trips” was a typo. I meant “two swipes per round trip.” The math should be right though.

lop December 31, 2014 - 11:38 pm

Average revenue is 1.96 per linked trip. And you’re either advocating cutting service to FH, or are ignoring the costs of getting a train to the RBB in the first place. You talk about the huge traffic generator the airport stop is, but ignore the cost of getting the train to the airport. Extending the G to howard beach (or to FH and the M to the howard beach) is 21 route miles, not 4.8.

adirondacker12800 January 1, 2015 - 2:30 am

Everybody else is counting entrances. You are gonna get different numbers if you count exits too. If you are counting exits along the new line every other station gets to count them too and all of their numbers double. Since most people who are going someplace come back sooner or later, counting exits isn’t particularly useful.

adirondacker12800 January 1, 2015 - 2:39 am

Entrances. 20k-30k at the new stations for all riders. Whether they are new ones or old ones who used to use a station on the A or the J.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 8:55 am

Again, I made the (imperfect) assumption that average costs on the rest of the system carry over to the new segment and used that to calculate farebox ratios. This is overall pretty generous to an anti-RBB position, given it linearly increases operating costs of the system by route-mile instead of by the more accurate marginal cost of operating the segment, which could be much lower. Obviously it glosses over some other issues that may or may not be expensive to mitigate – though mitigating the objections you raise about lost Forest Hills service probably don’t do much much than raise operating costs closer to the average costs, which is what I’m using anyway.

There are a billion little imperfections in the equation. If one particularly bothers you, plug it into Excel or Google Docs and monkey with the inputs to your heart’s content.

That other stuff: we were discussing segment reactivation, not more remote projects like new extensions from the segment or the racino or anything else. The segment itself would probably generate some trips to Howard Beach, assuming through service to the Rockaways. The segment creates 4.8 miles of what NTD calls fixed guideway route miles. With the downward adjustment of the average fare, farebox recovery drops to 31% and operating cost recovery to 58%.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 9:20 pm

Building the PATH station itself at Newark Airport is going to be relatively cheap. They might as well, they run out of storage space when they when they start running 10 car trains and have to build the extension to get to the nearest spot that isn’t downtown Newark or sensitive wetland… Sometimes storage space can be expensive.

AnonPhenom December 31, 2014 - 2:14 pm

Reading and comprehension is your friend.
I did not put any price tag on a the proposed railline. I pointed out how far 120 million would get you. Not far. A rail-line costs orders of magnitude more that a pedestrian walkway. That was my point. And when total subway ridership in Queens in less than 800,000 anually, you had better be able to prove a (mostly redundant) rail-line would be worth the investment.

AnonPhenom December 31, 2014 - 2:28 pm

800,000 is daily ridership.

AG December 31, 2014 - 4:25 pm

“Prove it”?
ah – so improving transit connections in Queens won’t increase ridership??? This is NYC right?

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 4:58 pm

Yes, putting a price tag on something probably requires more thought precision than you’re showing yourself capable of. Instead you opted for a vague comparison to a vastly different project with a vastly different scope and dropped the scary B-word. If there was any seriousness in your point about “how far 120 million would get you,” it just shows you’re ignorant of what transit actually costs to build.

And people who make as many sloppy, unsubstantiated claims as you have shouldn’t be asking others to prove anything.

Ruben R. December 30, 2014 - 2:20 pm

MY PROBLEM WITH 2ND AVE SAGAS & Benjamin Kabak in this article is…

how misleading it is for you to use a rendering from a AIANY ENYA Competition and insinuate that it is a project rendering from Friends of the Queensway & TPL…according to you “renderings were flashy enough to seduce The Times editorial board at least. (Credit: Nikolay Martynov/AIANY Emerging New York Architects). This is confusing & disrespectful to use when we have Architects & designers who worked hard on their work, for the QueensWay folks or the AIANY ENYA competition which I was a part of. If my work was being used to mislead folks, I would be upset as an Architectural designer. At least you added a credit now which was the least you could do. Now if only you could actually use a real rendering on the project to avoid confusion.

I don’t think any one can argue the need for transportation alternatives or options in Central to Southern Queens and I say that as a Woodhaven resident BUT we also can not be naive and ignore the many open MTA projects with expected completion timelines through 2030, the underfunded MTA capital budget and the current plan MTA has in place to address this transportation issue by implementing BRT on Woodhaven Blvd. We also forget of the many people that will be displaced if rail is reactivated. Not only do we begin with alienating 7 acres of parkland in Forest Park (which could take many steps and many years) but also where do we find 7 acres of park land to replace it? We risk displacing little league fields in Forest Hills and Glendale which have been locally loved community spaces. We risk displacing folks who may not want a train running behind their backyard due to noise or possible damage to the foundation of these homes due to the vibrations.

For folks that prefer nothing, well the space is currently owned by the City and it is not being maintained. Homeowners are left to have to take care of overgrown trees or foliage. If we leave this abandoned for another couple decades, it will become more dangerous (as some abutting homeowners have had to find out from falling debris). Do we really want to risk this space rotting away and becoming a bigger eyesore? The park becomes the safe option that would provide easier accessibility into Forest Park for Queens residents that lack a park/recreational space within walking distance. The park option addresses the current conditions by cleaning and maintaining the space. And as we strive for park equity, less pedestrian deaths on streets/roads & expanded bike lane system in our borough of Queens, the QueensWay begins to bring that idea to fruition. A possible future where you could ride a bike or jog or walk from Jamaica Bay wildlife to QueensWay to Flushing Meadows Park. Queens is a great place to live in and its time we make it our own by creating linked network of Queens parks that will serve as the destination to take our families.

Benjamin Kabak December 30, 2014 - 3:02 pm

Since it’s clearly distracting from the real point, I’ve replaced the ENYA rendering with one generated by Friends of the Queensway, WXY and DLANDStudio. The rest of your argument is a NIMBY anti-rail rant that falls into the same trap as The Times editorial did. You ignored the points I raise and the need for a real, impartial study.

Grounded December 30, 2014 - 3:19 pm

Ruben, just to clarify, since “displaced” is a heavy term. Homeowners who choose to move because a train line that predates all but a few residents’ tenure in their homes are not being displaced. Their homes aren’t being condemned and they are not being served eviction notices.

Regarding buildings foundations, again, a train ran past them for decades with no problem to their structural integrity. Why would it be otherwise now?

You criticize the MTA for delayed, underfunded projects. Have you looked at the parks budgets recently? Many parks can’t even afford enough trash bags for routine maintenance. Fort Greene Park just got their Visitor Center restroom repaired after several years of being forced to use what became a semi-permanent port-a-john. Yes, new 100+ million dollar parks have been built, and they have come with wealthy donors, both corporate and private, in the form of conservancies. Last I checked, east-central Queens was not a magnate for the uber wealthy or successful corporations whose donations would most likely be required to maintain it.

And safer streets? You know what the number one cause of traffic deaths are? Cars. You know what allows people to get out of their cars? Rail. If you think an elevated pathway will make it easier for people to access Forest Park, look at other pedestrian cross-overs. People take the shortest path, and the shortest path will still be to go straight across the street, and that’s how it will remain. Elevated park or not.

Finally, if debris and other deterioration is such a problem, the City should step in to maintain a safe environment. However, you can maintain the safety and integrity of the infrastructure without spending $100 million.

Joey K December 30, 2014 - 3:37 pm

Maybe I’m not understanding the argument, but is there a viable transit option on the table? Is there any real rail proposal to compare this to? I’m not defending the park, sounds like a huge waste of money, but it seems like transit is a red herring.

The real debate should be simply, is this a good use of taxpayer money? Not whether we should build a park because of a hypothetical conflict with an imaginary rail line that one day may exist to serve a relatively small amount of people. $120 million for a rail park in Woodhaven seems like a silly enough investment on its own.

Patrick O'Hara December 30, 2014 - 3:54 pm

As a reminder, the MTA has reactivated an abandoned rail right of way for passenger service fairly recently… Before the MTA took over operations of Metro-North Railroad Penn Central cut service north of Dover Plains on the Harlem Line and returned the tracks north of there to Chatham back to nature, just as the LIRR did with the Rockaway Beach Branch. The MTA restored service to Tenmile River and Wassaic in the summer of 2000.

The project involved reactivating about five miles of Right of Way that had been abandoned for 25 years and constructing two stations (Tenmile River and Wassaic). If I recall correctly, the price tag was something in the neighborhood of $12 million and the project didn’t take decades.

The Rockaway Beach Branch is slightly larger in scale and in a different setting, but the nuts and bolts of the reactivation is the same… the right of way is still in tact, so I wouldn’t expect the Rockaway Beach Branch reactivation to cost billions and take decades, if the MTA were to go for it.

Doug McPherson December 30, 2014 - 4:33 pm

I am a veteran rider of the Harlem Line (i used to take it regularly to the Wassaic stop to go to school) and I think it’s extension has been fantastic for that area of upstate new york as well as nearby Litchfield Cnty, CT.

That said, comparing a $12 million extension of a stretch of straight, one-track, rural ROW with decent amounts of buffer to our current situation in Queens is a little weird. The MTA–and this is something Ben K should also note–has studied the costs of RBB reactivation down to howard beach before and the estimate of costs ran north of $675 million in today’s dollars. And that was just to go down as far as Howard. Finding someway to extend an LIRR one seat ride to the Rockaways is what really gets us adding zeros to the cost estimates.

if you’re curious, you can read MTA’s 2001 study: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/.....e-Seat.pdf

if you’re not that curious, I’ll sum up the chief issues:
-there are serious concerns about existing MTA main line capacity (and those concerns haven’t gone away)
-there’s a cost for bridge rehabilitation (and in the case of the montauk line grade elimination, bridge replacement)
-there’d be treatment of soil necessary along the entire right of way, not to mention removal of current encroachments (e.g. little league fields in forest hills)
-and this is on top of negative impact the study anticipates on adjacent properties and forest park.

again, i love the harlem line, but this isn’t comparable. not even close.

lop December 30, 2014 - 7:39 pm

L8, Penn to lirr mainline to RBB to airtrain at howard beach was priced at 443m 1999 ~630mil in 2014 $. This includes a one track segment to connect to the airtrain and a connection from RBB to LIRR mainline that wouldn’t be needed for a subway, but excludes the costs of connecting to the QB local tracks and stations along the RBB. It’s too bad that the S1-S5 alternatives were eliminated early and no cost estimate was put together.

Adrian Benepe December 30, 2014 - 5:03 pm

Actually, while the former rail line still exists as an overgrown strip, it is no longer an official Right of Way owned by the LIRR or the MTA; the LIRR long ago ceded the land to the city of New York, where it is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Citywide Administrative services, except the 7 acres in Forest Park that are Parks Department property. The LIRR/MTA would have to re-acquire the land from NYC to reactivate the rail line, including getting parkland alienation legislation approved by the NY State legislature and the NY City Council, and providing 7 acres of new park land to replace the parcel that is removed.

Manny S December 30, 2014 - 9:31 pm

How can the Trust for Public Land make any statement on the ownership of the property when no land survey has conducted by them. None of the $500,000 of public money was used for a title search, a metes and bound, or land survey.

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 10:49 pm

The people who did the title search for the transfers made sure the tax records were correct. The tax maps and the description of the property is freely available. and who is paying the taxes or is not paying them because it’s city owned.

Manny s December 31, 2014 - 1:26 am

Tax records do not show parkland or tax exempt land. The transfer from the Railroad Development Corporation to the city is not recorded on the tax rolls. The transfer was from the state to the city. The MTA does not own land.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 4:38 am

when I click the places it should be in Forest Park it says that it’s park. The parts where it’s still forested ROW are owned by the DCAS.

Manny s December 31, 2014 - 6:18 am

The website you are using is not an official document and is in error. Even the City Register does not verify the truth of the deeds on ACRIS.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 1:35 pm

it’s good enough for comments on blogs. Good enough for preliminary study funded by a third party that is budgeted for $500,000. Having title searches done and surveyors sent out would cost a lot of money at this point. Which would be money pissed away if the preliminary study the MTA or the city does decides “it’s not worth it”. It would keep foamers quiet when they complain that there haven’t been title searches or surveys done.

Travis December 30, 2014 - 5:44 pm

I just read your article and wanted to point out a couple of important consequences pertaining to rail reactivation in addition (or to underscore) those pointed out by Adrian, Doug and Ruben:

(1) The suggestion that rail reactivation has not been studied is untrue. In fact, it has been studied multiple times since the RBB closed in 1962 by the Port Authority and the MTA. For example, http://www.rockawave.com/news/.....n0217.html. Each time — citing high costs, environmental concerns, low-ridership and impacts to the regional rail system — the studies have concluded reactivation of the RBB as not feasible.

(2) The price of reactivation — if you look at previous estimates — is really in the, at least, $4-6 billion dollar range.

(3) While there is no question that improved transportation to the Rockaways is a good thing, it is not true that reactivating the RBB would address this issue. Reactivation — at least as I understand the proposal from the reactivation advocates — would mean swapping out the A train (which currently uses the old RBB tracks) for LIRR which costs more to the commuter. You cannot run LIRR and subway on the same track and building a new rail bridge over Jamaica Bay would add billions to the price tag and would be entangled in decades of environmental review because of the protections of Jamaica Bay.

(4) Finally, the “ROW” is not by any means intact. I think people advocating for rail mistakenly — perhaps because they have not been out there — think it could just be switched on. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination — correct. The abandoned portion of the RBB is now parkland, the parking lot of a residential building, a little league and runs within a few feet of a number of schools and homes.

Benjamin Kabak December 30, 2014 - 6:21 pm

It’s not really clear where you get that $4-$6 billion figure from if estimates a decade ago for a different plan came in under $1 billion. It seems likely this work could come in at around $1-$1.5 billion even with the challenges you mention and that I’ve discussed in the past regarding the state of the ROW.

Walt Gekko December 30, 2014 - 10:37 pm

In my view, a lot of these people who want Queensway are very selfish and only concerned about themselves. There also are those who don’t want ANYTHING AT ALL done because they are concerned if EITHER proposal (Queensway OR Transit) happens, they will lose property that is illegally encroaching on the ROW.

The people who want Queensway to me want it because they are afraid if the line is converted to subway usage, they will see people who are not “their kind” suddenly arrive like was seen in some areas during the 1950’s and early ’60s. They (or their parents) also likely still think of the subway as how it was during the 1970’s and early ’80s when it was at its absolute worst: Graffiti-strewn, crime-ridden and so forth. They don’t or don’t want to realize that the subway of 2015 is a MUCH different place than that of 1980. While the subways still have their issues, it’s nothing like it was 35 years ago and people have to realize that.

A lot of this is also conditioning that comes from the days of Robert Moses, who abused his power to the point where today NOTHING often gets done without a massive fight because people are conditioned to fight anything worth doing solely because of how Moses trampled on people back in the day. Obviously, people back then were influenced a lot differently than today, but what Moses did is still being felt today in many ways, and not all of them good.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 9:49 am

I think you’re overstating their motivations. By and large, it’s just a big art project to them. It doesn’t matter that it’s really remote, and the neighborhood has none of the characteristics that made the High Line a good idea.

Most of the park advocates are tone-deaf, not malicious.

Carl December 31, 2014 - 10:56 am

I have a copy of one such study from 1999 that was finalized in January 2001. The cost of reactivation was 875 million in 1999 dollars but this included a second trestle across Jamaica Bay for both LIRR and subway service out to the Rockaway Peninsula where LIRR would serve one end and subway would serve the other end plus many other related engineering issues associated with that. If this was eliminated from that study and a LIRR transfer between the subway and the LIRR were placed at Aqueduct or Howard Beach the cost of reactivation would have been at least half of that amount. This second trestle was used to inflate the cost and econimics of reactivation. Simply put separate LIRR rail up to Aqueduct is acheivable and or possibly even Howard Beach and the cost would be 40 to 60 percent less than previous studies and passengers in the Rockaways would still have the same reliable “A service & switch at Aqueduct for LIRR under that option or even a light rail option. The Aqueduct Ractrack Station would be used as a LIRR or Light rail terminal and a platform would be built connecting the Aqueduct Racetrack Station to the Aqueduct-North Conduit station for easy transfer. A coss over track would be built so northbound “A” trains would now bypass the aqueduct North Conduit Station. A Metro Card entrance/exit turnstile would be placed on the connecting platform between the Aqueduct Racetrack Station and the Aqueduct North Conduit station plus a overpass could also be built on the north end of the aqueduct North Conduit station for sothbound “A passengers to also transfer to the LIRR or light rail system at aqueduct Racetrack station plus faster access to the Resorts/Genting Aqueduct Racino as well.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 3:27 pm

400 million in 2006 dollars is 484 in 2014 dollars. Hmm. Guesstimating a half a billion, which people say is ridiculous, isn’t all that far off, is it? Hmm.

Rina December 30, 2014 - 6:07 pm

Hi Ruben to criticize Benjamin that there shouldn’t be further reviews on potential for train or light rail options with an independent engineering group is flawed even though you consider yourself an architectural student. A good question to ask your neighbors is do they know what the Queensway proposal is and how it impacts them? How can you say to home owners and renters that they want this park when their concerns are always invalidated by the Queenway supporters? If anything anyone who owns a house,rents or has small business will be displaced by the rising costs of property values/taxes & rents from a constructed park in their backyard just like in Chelsea along the Highline. If you speak with anyone along Jamaica Avenue they will say Forest Park needs repairs. It is true that Southern Queens has little park space,but who are the Friends of the Queensway to speak for these residents especially when the workshops that they held didn’t allow residents to raise their concerns? Let the Queensway take the “Northern passage” and let the residents of Woodhaven and Ozone Park decide on the usage of the tracks from Jamaica Avenue to Liberty Avenue whether they want trails,rails or a combined trails and rails option. Even though the Queens College study has been misquoted and interpreted by both sides of the debate they gave an overview of all reports and better demographic breakdowns of resident populations in each census track along the route:

Manny S December 30, 2014 - 6:11 pm

The statement that seven acres of parkland are part of the right of way mentioned in the NY Times editorial and quoted from the Trust for Public Land cannot be substantiated by any means other a map from the Queens Topographical Bureau. When the jug handle turn for the Woodhaven Boulevard service road crossing at Forest Park Lane was built by NYCDOT over less than an acre of Forest Park, an after the fact justification was invented that part of the Rockaway Branch right of way that was already city property was now parks department property. There no legal transfer, no change in land use, no taking of land. The seven acre of parkland argument has no weight.
Also, there is no New York State Statue that restricts the municipal use of parkland.

Ron December 30, 2014 - 8:17 pm

Travis is again spreading typical Queensway MISINFORMATION!

Rail advocates are in no way demanding that the right of way be reactivated as LIRR. It can be part of the subway, light rail, or even a BUS!

Even if it were to be reactivated as LIRR, we would only be looking to restore the ROW to Ozone Park and NOT build a trestle over Jamaica Bay or, in NO WAY interfere with A train service!

Yes, the tracks need a lot of work, but the point is that there’s a right of way on which to build! Otherwise the Queensway couldn’t be constructed either.

I love how Travis and other Queensway advocates pull rail construction figures out of thin air. At least Travis isn’t touting his $10 Billion in 1975 NONSENSE!

Whatever the amount would be, it would be much more cost effective than the 2nd Ave. Subway, East Side Access, or many other megaprojects, because, again, there’s a right of way on which to build. A straightforward reactivation would not require any underground/under river tunnel boring!

As to Adrian’s point about parkland. Only about 2% of Forest Park would be alienated for rail, leaving 500 acres in Forest Park!

And, by the way, what right does this Forest Hills Queensway initiative have to take the entire right-of-way to Ozone Park?!

I’ll end by stating that rail advocates have offered to compromise along the ROW, but we are only met with a combination of silence and ridicule by the Queensway

adirondacker12800 December 30, 2014 - 9:50 pm

spend a half a billion and get 20,000 riders or spend 5 billion and get 200,000 riders are equally cost effective.

Walt Gekko December 30, 2014 - 10:47 pm

And again, a very SELFISH view:

First of all, the line would be a lot more than just the people who are there now. The cost has been looked at to be MUCH lower than the $4-6 BILLION number thrown around. This would be clearing out an EXISTING ROW and restoring it to rail usage, and most likely a new subway line connected to the Queens Boulevard Line.

A MAJOR benefit and where a considerable amount of ridership from such a line would be that of those using it from Midtown (most likely from the 6th Avenue Line) to the Howard Beach-JFK Airport station as well as many airport workers. Then there are those in Ozone Park and The Rockaways who would have a much faster ride into Manhattan as well as a second subway option. You would likely see Ozone Park and The Rockaways built up considerably solely because of such a rail line being available, not to mention those along the current ROW having convenient rail service, which is worth putting up with the noise from a rail line.

If the people who support Queensway would stop being SELFISH, they would see the benefits of such. It’s those who either remember the New York City Subways like they were in the 1970’s and early ’80s and don’t realize how much things have changed since then and those (in my view irrationally) fearful of having people who are not “their kind” come into the area and/or have been conditioned to behave this way because of what Robert Moses did for many years through the 1960’s that is the problem here and people don’t want to admit that in my view.

lop December 30, 2014 - 11:57 pm

What is selfish about stating that scaling down costs from phase one of 2nd avenue as well as ridership by a factor of ten leads to the same effectiveness measured as cost per rider?

LIRR from Penn (and in all likelihood GC too before the RBB could realistically be rebuilt) to JFK via airtrain will be faster that than a rerouted M. The E will probably be faster from 53rd lex or western queens. You get some places, but if you are basing this line mostly on airport riders it’s probably not worth it.

Does zoning allow for much more density in ozone park or the rockaways? If not why not rezone around existing stations instead?

Just because someone doesn’t see a new subway down the RBB as a worthy expense given other regional transportation needs doesn’t mean they are racist.

Walt Gekko December 31, 2014 - 12:57 am

In this case, it is a VERY worthy expense:

The problem is, many people don’t want rail going through for PURELY SELFISH reasons. They would rather the majority suffer because of what they want, something I’m seeing in today’s Millennials in ways never seen done by earlier generations.

In the case of those supporting Queensway, many of them to me are irrationally fearful of people not of “their kind” suddenly showing up like what happened in many areas 50-60 years ago when that is not actually likely to happen. Some have irrational fears because of things that may have happened to them or family members, especially back in the ’70s and ’80s when crime was rampant, fueled in large part by a drug culture that does not exist to the extent it did 30-50 years ago. That to me has fueled this along with the conditioning caused by what Robert Moses did before that for many years that tore up so many parts of the city back in the day.

lop December 31, 2014 - 1:06 am

So this is the fault of millennials who are selfish in a way past generations never were and old geezers still scarred by the violence of the 70s and 80s?

I’ll add to my last comment: Just because someone doesn’t see a new subway down the RBB as a worthy expense given other regional transportation needs doesn’t mean they are racist or a selfish millennial.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 3:11 am

Not sure about Walt’s characterization, but there is a rather bizarre double standard about cost-effectiveness when a subway project comes up in a peripheral part of NYC. Unless ridership will be preposterously low, RBB farebox recovery isn’t likely to be worse than the 7 extension. I don’t know about SAS, but ESA is probably even worse. Many people don’t blink about proposals to build in long-term high operating costs with ITDP-style bus service, but for some reason capital expenses spread out over decades are really offensive. The park plan? Even if the train costs 4x as much, at least its users help pay for it.

I know there is the Dan Doctoroff ideology of “well, if we spend on transit, it should attract rich people to improve the tax base.” I don’t agree with that, but at least it’s an honest and coherent reason, say, to be for the 7 extension and against RBB.

lop December 31, 2014 - 3:26 am

Haha what are you talking about?

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 3:45 am

It seems pretty clear. Is there a particular sentence I need to dumb down for you?

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 2:21 am

In dollars it’s equal. Half a billion to put subway service on the Rockaway Branch for 20,000 riders, which I think would be astounding, is 25,000 dollars per rider. 5 billion for 200,000 riders on the Second Avenue subway is 25,000 a rider.
The “kind” they are worried about showing up is yuppies and hipsters. First Williamsburg. then Bed-Stuy and Woodhaven is just a matter of time.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 3:34 am

What that $25k/rider estimate really means is somewhere in the low thousands of dollars per daily rider annually over several decades. Its not scary.

Bolwerk December 30, 2014 - 11:54 pm

That’s not true at all. It depends on your goals. It also depends on revenue. It also depends on other ancillary benefits.

An interesting feature of RBB besides ridership is it might provide more capacity on Queens Blvd. If more trains can be terminated on that segment than currently can be terminated in Forest Hills, existing Queens Blvd local users can get a better ride.

lop December 30, 2014 - 11:58 pm

QB locals have plenty of room on existing trains.

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 1:07 am

You’re right. Let’s stop thinking about the future. And other people who don’t already have trains? Fuck ’em.

lop December 31, 2014 - 1:18 am


you’d have to see pretty extensive growth for that to be an issue. So spend money on RBB because it might be an issue for QB locals in decades instead of spending scarce dollars dealing with other capacity constraints today. good plan for people like you who live nearby, everybody else? As you might say, fuck ’em

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 2:07 am

Who said it was a reason to build RBB? Not I. I said it was an interesting feature that impacts the project’s cost-effectiveness. QB segment ridership doesn’t even need to tick up for it to be a potentially useful feature either.

Woodhaven Blvd. is as good an example as any of a corridor with capacity constraints. But even if that were not so, I don’t know why anyone would poo planning a few decades or even a century out. And, no, you don’t need to “live nearby” to benefit. The whole city benefits from a more extensive subway.

lop December 31, 2014 - 2:25 am

Then let’s enjoy the queensway for the century it’ll take to build all of the better projects

Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 3:16 am

What do you consider a better project? Pouring concrete into the Lexington Avenue subway tunnel?

lop December 31, 2014 - 3:26 am


Bolwerk December 31, 2014 - 3:37 am

Surely out of “all the better projects,” you can think of one.

johndmuller January 4, 2015 - 4:25 am

Bolwerk says:
…The whole city benefits from a more extensive subway.


Yes, it’s about the network (as well as all that other stuff of course); every little bit makes the whole better. Right now there is a gap in the system that can quite readily be addressed by this project at a feasible cost. Not only does it provide a means for people going to or from the newly served areas to avoid driving, it also provides an improved routing for some other people.

While the Queensway is not in itself a terrible idea, the risk (and possibly the actual motivation of some of its supporters) is that the rail-trail would then become an insurmountable obstacle to future rail reinstatement.

In order for mass transit to really work, you have to be able to get *everywhere* in a reasonably convenient way. Each little bit helps.

AG January 4, 2015 - 10:53 am

Yes – and another report just out – again proves the importance of good transit (as relating to economic activity/mobility).


Other studies that compared different cities… Even though NYC is super expensive – it has greater economic mobility of the poor than most cities that are “booming” in the south. Why? Transit…

adirondacker12800 January 4, 2015 - 6:56 pm

Well if I’m poor in the South and can find a job that moves me into the lower middle class. They can afford to move where the lower middle class live which is more expensive. Everybody drives up here because someone with a job can afford a car. Someone who is poor in New York, finds a job stays poor. They don’t move. They don’t buy a car either.

Moshe January 4, 2015 - 7:49 pm

The two people on this blog who keep making anti-RBL comments are either NIMBYS or paid Queensway consultants.

Which one is it?

Any true transit advocate would argue that restoring rail is a far superior project to this park nonsense.

AG January 4, 2015 - 8:08 pm

except what you’re saying is not true.


Bolwerk January 4, 2015 - 10:06 pm

Having a crappy job doesn’t move you into the lower middle class in the south anymore than it does in the north. It just means you have a crappy job and will burn your paycheck paying for food, bills, rent, and taxes. And maybe car dependence to go with it.

It’s true that finding a really shitty job might be easier in the south though. But it’s also true that surviving while destitute in a large city is generally easier.

Alon Levy January 5, 2015 - 2:11 am

Other studies that compared different cities… Even though NYC is super expensive – it has greater economic mobility of the poor than most cities that are “booming” in the south. Why? Transit…

Eh. On the level of entire countries, there doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between income mobility and transit usage. (The highest income mobility in the world is in Scandinavia, Canada, and Australia). In the US, California is also quite income-mobile, even though its rapid transit system consists of one trunk line in San Francisco and a few sad lines in LA.

More likely, the issue is that the Deep South still has vestiges of its old caste system, and the parts of the South that don’t, like Texas and Atlanta, aren’t enough to pull the region up enough.

The two people on this blog who keep making anti-RBL comments are either NIMBYS or paid Queensway consultants.

Hi. No Build supporter here. The park is stupid, but so is RBL, for reasons like “low ridership” and “it splits frequencies to more important destinations like Forest Hills.” I’ve never gotten paid by any of the park aficionados nor by any of the local NIMBYs.

Moshe January 5, 2015 - 7:46 am

This BS has to stop.

Ridership would increase if the RBL provided a faster, more reliable, and more comfortable commute than is currently available. A faster commute to Manhattan, bringing people closer to “the capital,” would entice many people to move to central and southern Queens. Also, read the Queens College study, there are already TENS of THOUSANDS potential new riders!

Three words: TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT! It’s how NYC and many areas were built.

If part of the subway system, the RBL could initially be a shuttle. People could have the option to walk to the Queens Blvd. lines or transfer at a new LIRR Rego Park station.

As LIRR, the RBL had a dedicated ROW on both the north and south side on the LIRR’s main line.

In either case, it reduces any nonsensical concerns about “splitting service to important destinations like Forest Hills.”

By the way, why is Forest Hills considered to be an “important destination?” It’s due to the fact that they have GREAT transportation options/fast commute to Manhattan. They have the subway, railroad, and express buses!

Why should many areas of NYC be denied the same right?

AG January 6, 2015 - 9:53 am

Well the US is not very good compared to other advanced countries when it comes to upward mobility (contrary to popular thought). Those cites were US measured studies.

Actually in LA – upward mobility is not that good… It’s better in the Bay Area though – as both San Fran and San Jose are at the top… Mainly due to the tech economy… Public transport also plays a role. Of course it’s not the only factor – but it matters.

Also – not sure why you think Atlanta would “pull up” the rest of the south. Of the 50 cities studied it ranked 49th.

Bolwerk January 5, 2015 - 9:30 am

When people complain about low ridership, I don’t see them defining a threshold for what they consider tolerable ridership. The supporters all exaggerate the ridership, and the objectors all exaggerate the capital costs. Some of the objectors also seem to see RBB as a threat to a BRT pet project on Woodhaven.

I have trouble seeing why moving local trains from Forest Hills would be detrimental. Cutting them in half still leaves Forest Hills with Fulton Line C Train frequency, and it’s not impossible to run a third local service to make up some of the difference.

adirondacker12800 January 5, 2015 - 10:56 am

When the trestle burned down in 1950, when fewer people had cars and traffic was much better, ridership was so low the LIRR abandoned it. The houses that were out there are the same houses that were out there in 1950. Everybody said the part south of the trestle would have such fabulous ridership the city should rebuild the trestle and run that end as subway. After 50 years it has so little ridership that there’s a shuttle train from one branch to Broad Channel where they change to the train from the other branch. The reactivated RBL would have far fewer stations. It’d have low ridership.

Moshe January 5, 2015 - 11:35 am

The LIRR was a private company in 1950. It along with other private rail companies were suffering financial difficulties due to the rise of the automobile.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was having difficulty as well. Should Penn Station have been demolished?

Long Beach struggled for many years and it is doing very well now

The reactivation of the RBL would revitalize the Rockaways, Ozone Park, and Woodhaven.

Adirondack12800, there are bike lanes all over NYC. Go ride your bike elsewhere.

Bolwerk January 5, 2015 - 12:45 pm

adirondacker12800: telling us a completely different service in a different decade didn’t work is not much better than useless.

Here is the challenge: define a service pattern, and predict how many riders it would attract or explain how it does the job better than existing service. Then you can consider the implementation cost. Either way, defend your assertion.

adirondacker12800 January 5, 2015 - 6:46 pm

What’s changed in the suburbs around it that were 40 years old or older when the branch was abandoned for lack of interest in the same houses? Have they gone and torn them down and built tall apartment buildings? Do people own less cars? No they are more or less the same suburbs and people own more cars.

104st on the J/Z has an average daily ridership of 2,575. They can get to Midtown much easier than they can before service was shifted back to Midtown and out along Queens Blvd. It’s few blocks east of the ROW is. Same neighborhood it was in 2008 before they had service to Midtown? In 2008 it was 2,509.

How about the A at 104st. 1,736 average daily riders. What’s radically different in that neighborhood since they closed the branch? What’s radically different at the places we’d building new stations from that one?

We should build a tunnel from the LIRR up to Queens Blvd and cut frequency for everybody east of there, for 10,000 average daily riders? How many would be cannibalizing other stations in the neighborhoods?

Moshe January 5, 2015 - 7:38 pm

At this point, transit advocates are only looking to reactivate the ROW as part of the subway system, LIRR, light rail, or a bus.

RBL riders could get off in Rego Park and walk to the Queens Blvd. subway lines or transfer to the LIRR at a new Rego Park station.

We are NOT looking tunnel to Queens Blvd. or build an LIRR trestle over Jamaica Bay.

10, 000 people on the train would CRUSH the 3 people who would be using the Queensway this week.

Bolwerk January 5, 2015 - 8:11 pm

None of that answers my question: what do you consider a tolerably high average ridership for building? Why that number, and why do you suppose it’s not achievable?

adirondacker12800 January 5, 2015 - 10:40 pm

How are they supposed to get from the new LIRR station nobody will use to Queens Blvd to get on the subway? The the disused tunnel the LIRR branch might be able to get a trolley car to the north side of the LIRR tracks but that’s not where the subway is. There’s four blocks of houses, diagonally, between there, and the subway on Queens Blvd.
A trolley car because building a shuttle station under Queens Blvd wouldn’t be cheap. Or the four block tunnel to get to it. For 10,000 riders a day if ridership is astounding.

Moshe January 6, 2015 - 5:21 am

Better than spending $120 million on a park that NO ONE will use when the weather isn’t great and will be in worse condition than Forest Park

Alon Levy January 6, 2015 - 5:14 am

Ridership would increase if the RBL provided a faster, more reliable, and more comfortable commute than is currently available. A faster commute to Manhattan, bringing people closer to “the capital,” would entice many people to move to central and southern Queens. Also, read the Queens College study, there are already TENS of THOUSANDS potential new riders!

Three words: TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT! It’s how NYC and many areas were built.

Of course ridership would increase, but by a trivial amount. I know there’s a study that claims there’s a large number of potential riders; I think high numbers don’t pass a sanity check. That area isn’t very dense, and the most developed parts of it aren’t where the stations would be.

TOD is always a ready excuse for building weak lines. Why would anyone build TOD there and not on QB or really anywhere that already has fast, high-frequency subway lines? It’s the 2010s, not the 1910s, when Queens was doubling in population every decade.

Moshe January 6, 2015 - 5:25 am

What weak lines are you referring to?

Ridership and density could significantly increase. Why couldn’t it?

Alon Levy January 6, 2015 - 7:46 am

Practically every weak line. The 7 extension is a local example. “It brings development,” Bloomberg said even as he had to give companies tax breaks to get them to build anything on top of Hudson Yards. For non-local examples, there are some horrifyingly low-ridership streetcars, some built and some just proposed, in various US cities.

Why would density increase? There are neighborhoods with better transit access that aren’t seeing a wave of new development. Often it’s about zoning, but then, why not just upzone next to existing subway stations?

Bolwerk January 6, 2015 - 10:26 am

10,000 daily riders sounds ridiculously low considering parallel bus services see 4x as much ridership.

But I’m still wondering what others think is an acceptable number of daily users. That goes for everyone still lingering in this thread, not just adirondacker.

BrooklynBus January 6, 2015 - 11:14 am

I think 50,000 to 100,000 to start with would make it work and isn’t unreasonable to expect. If my arithmetic s correct, that woud mean a six car train every ten minutes with 50 passengers per car in each direction for ten or twelve hours a day. What does SIRT carry per day?

Additionally if there were free and ample park and ride at Acqueuct, many more would leave their cars at home. But if you charge $8 a ride, no one woud use it. There are many variables to consider.

lop January 6, 2015 - 11:37 am

Which parallel buses get 40k riders per day?

Bolwerk January 6, 2015 - 12:52 pm

Really conservative estimate: counting nearby parallel local routes including Q37 I get ~36k

Really liberal answer: over 60k counting distant Q10.

Counting Woodhaven + Q10 and Q41: 67,385. Might poke up into 70k range if you include expresses.

My preferred ballpark, if you care: 41936, ignores expresses and includes Q37, plus attributes 1/4 of Q10 ridership to RBB catchment.

Either way, decide for yourself….

More or less RBB parallel on Woodhaven:
Q11 4,900
Q21 2,785
Q52 5,768
Q53 15,377 (if you want to stop here, this is already 28830)
QM15 1335
QM16 376
QM17 443
To the east in order of distance:

QM12 469
Q37 7,148
Q10 23,831 (~1 mile away)
QM18 209
Close to Woodhaven, but branches away eastward (toward Jamaica, probably an A/J/E feeder for various neighborhoods):

Q41 7,362

The Q23 and Q29 also have significant parallel segments, but feed the airport and the 7.

Here is an Excel sum() for you if you want to dick with it (excludes Q10 and QM18):


lop January 6, 2015 - 11:00 pm

How many of those riders do you think would find the train at least as useful as their current bus?

Bolwerk January 7, 2015 - 1:01 pm

Put my answer in a new thread.

Steve A December 30, 2014 - 10:48 pm

If anyone doubts the necessity of rail reactivation, drive southbound along Woodhaven and Cross Bay Blvds. any day from 3PM until 8PM. See the amount of traffic and congestion, and how long it takes you to travel half a mile. The writers from the raggy New York Times don’t have to deal with that. We do. Maybe then they’ll understand how much more a rail line is needed than a park.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 12:25 am

Are they driving across the bay so they can park the car at the subway station in Howard Beach or are they going someplace changing the designation sign on the train doesn’t serve either?

Walt Gekko December 31, 2014 - 1:10 am

And you would know that better:

The problems are those who don’t want ANYTHING DONE AT ALL because they are fearful of losing property that is illegally encroaching the ROW and the Queensway people whom to me are irrationally fearful of people who are not of “their kind” suddenly invading the area like many areas were 50-60 years ago.

The first case (property) is self-explanatory.

The second one is in my opinion that they want Queensway because too many of them are irrationally fearful as noted because of things that may have happened to them or loved ones in the 1970’s and ’80s and that they also remember in many cases how bad the subways were then when years of deferred maintenance caught up with the MTA big-time, something the MTA is still dealing with the aftereffects of 30+ years later in many cases. These fears, coupled with a mentality that came out of the abusive tactics of Robert Moses are why in my opinion people don’t want a rebuilt line “forced” on them when in reality it would benefit far more people.

BrooklynBus December 31, 2014 - 11:49 am

And don’t forget how much worse that traffic will be with one of the lanes dedicated for buses only. Those who are driving will not be switching to the SBS if they still would have to make more than one or two transfers which is probably the reason they are driving now.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 5:00 pm

The places that they are driving to aren’t exclusively between Queens Blvd and Jamaica Bay. The people driving down Woodhaven Blvd., to get to the Belt Parkway to get to their kid’s house in Massapequa aren’t going to use mass transit. Or to drop someone off at LaGuardia. Or going to work there. Or going to the Bronx. Or Sheepshead Bay. Or…

BrooklynBus January 1, 2015 - 12:27 pm

You are correct. But that was not what I was addressing. I was agreeing with Steve A who was speaking about the current traffic congestion along Woodhaven. But even without most drivers switching to the RBL, more would switch to the RBL than they would with SBS because of the greater reliability with rail and shorter travel times. Most current SBS routes have serious reliability problems, most notably the M15, rated as the most unreliable route in Manhattan, and the B44 which commonly runs two or three SBS buses in a row. There is no reason to believe that Woodaven SBS would be that much more reliable.

All this proves is we need a real study that compares costs and benefits of all options, and not rush into SBS on Woodhaven before that. We can’t afford to waste any more money even if it is federal funds.

Tom S December 31, 2014 - 6:00 am

One issue that might make a difference. Woodhaven once had a similar demographic profile to the areas along the RBB north of Forest Park. It is now about 55% Hispanic.

Part of this, I think, has to do with the deactivation of the RBB. It used to take under 30 minutes to get to Penn Station before service was cut. The J train to, say, Grand Central was at least an hour, changing at Chambers St. Effectively, Woodhaven became a place that people commuting to Midtown, who had a high value of their time (I.e. People who could afford to live anywhere) would not want to live in. This leaves people who do NOT work in Midtown to the neighborhood, and those people earn less.

Years ago, the statistic was that 30% of the people in Queens work at one of the two airports. Note that most of the access to the airports via rail is east-west oriented, not north-south. Reactivating the RBB as a subway would help rectify that and take a few cars off the roads; think of how much money reconstructing the Van Wyck could have been saved if there was not so much traffic going down it. Best of all is reactivating it as an LIRR branch with ESA so Woodhaven and Ozone Park have the same access to midtown that Forest Hills does. You could tax the increased property values in both places to pay for a good chunk of it.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 1:18 pm

It’s probably 30% of the people in Queens who don’t work in Manhattan. If 50% of the people in Queens work in Manhattan, it’s 30% of 50% which means it’s 15% of the working people in Queens. Lots of people in Queens are too young, too old or too sick to work. I’m not in the mood to go look at the American Community Survey. Some of them work at LaGuardia. Reactivating the RBB means the ones who live near the Queens Blvd line west of Rego Park get to change trains in Howard Beach, at best, instead of changing at Jamaica. Airport are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I’m working 8 PM to 5 AM – those UPS, FedEx etc. overnight packages that were picked up at 4PM have to get on planes tonight or I’m scheduled to fly passengers to Chicago on the 10PM or unload the bags from the plane that arrived from Denver at 1AM – I’m probably gonna drive to LaGuardia where I will do that. Probably to either if I live in Queens Village. Probably to either anytime of the day. When the car is in the shop and I take mass transit, I’m still going to use the bus or the LIRR to get to Jamaica. Meh.

lop December 31, 2014 - 6:51 pm

Census puts 500k private sector jobs in Queens. PA says JFK has 37k jobs, LGA has 11k.


In 2004 the report says the airports were 5% of jobs in queens.

Tom S January 1, 2015 - 10:59 am

This was an early 80s estimate. Jobs were jobs that were either directly at the airport, or would not exist without it. It’s good to see that Queens has gotten away from over reliance on airports, which probably has a lot to do with the working class getting driven out of the city.

adirondacker, I think a lot of RBB thinking about the airport is from people who haven’t adapted to the people mover from Jamaica. I’ve never taken it, and I avoid JFK because I dread having to plan to arrive so far in advance to avoid traffic on the Van Wyck coming down from Westchester. The shocking thing is that there was this one-seat ride into Manhattan on a grade-separated railroad when Idylwild was already operating in 1961 that the city only saw as a way to build a subway to the sea. We could have had rail to what’s now JFK terminals, no people moved, and a one-seat ride to Penn for 50 years.

The ROW on RBB from just north of Liberty is 4 tracks, and so could accommodate LIRR and the A train, down as far as Howard Beach. But it would not be worth doing for air travel unless you broke up the port authority and built the rail line into the terminals, like Frankfurt. I see that now.

Ron December 31, 2014 - 8:32 am

If the Rockaway Beach Branch were reactivated as either subway, LIRR, or liht rail and it provided a faster commute than what’s available now, ridership would EXPLODE! Read the Queens College study. There are TENS of THOUSANDS who could potentially switch from other modes of transit!

I’m not saying that other transit projects around NYC are not worthy of transit $. Build the RBB in phases. Begin with the relatively short distance between Rockaway Blvd. and Atlantic Ave. Are we saying that the MTA couldn’t complete a couple of phases in 20 or 30 years? To say that the MTA will NEVER have the $ is UNACCEPTABLE and UNTRUE. But, yes, the MTA is in serious need of reform.

In the meantime, yes, paint and shore up the trestles to prevent further decay, (It’s a public safety issue) but don’t build the Queensway.

But park “advocates” have to stop hiding behind the $ issue. IMHO, the RBB is much more of a NIMBY issue than a $ one.

Travis mentioned how the ROW comes close to homes and schools. Has anyone seen the LIRR in Bayside on 39th Ave. between Francis Lewis and the Clearview? Trains run RIGHT BEHIND homes and there’s a TINY fence. Of course, NYC also has many elevated subways that are close to apartments. Have you been to Flushing, Bayside in the LGA flight path or JFK in southern Queens? Do rail opponents ever drive on the Van Wyck or Woodhaven Blvd? Of course, they do! Everyone in NYC deals with noise, pollution, and congestion

People who live along the ROW knew when they bought their homes that this line could be reactivated as some point. All they had to do was google “Rockaway Beach Branch” or visit the library to understand that train restoration proposals have been circulated several times over the years. Even longtime rail opponent City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz admitted in an OP-ED that reactivation has been discussed since the line was taken out of service in 1962.

Again, rail advocates are always open to any possibility such as decking over the ROW, enclosing a tunnel around it, or building a new elevation above (The park would run above or below the train) Yes, these options could take longer or be more costly to build. But it would be a WIN-WIN for everyone!

They should at least be EXPLORED!

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 3:20 pm

It would be rather pricey to put a tunnel under the new park. They knew that the line might be reactivated when they bought it. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to use every means possible to exchange the lovely trees at the back of their backyard for trains.

Ron December 31, 2014 - 8:59 am

People also mentioned the race issue.

I believe that race was a major factor in NOT converting the entire ROW to NYC Transit and instead connecting it to the A and have it take the much longer route through Brooklyn.

Today, I feel that race is still a factor as a video on Youtube attests. People are seen diacussing the Rockaway Beach Branch fairly recently and one of them states, “I don’t want people from Far Rockaway in my neighborhood!”

He’s not referring to hipsters.

Walt Gekko December 31, 2014 - 6:20 pm

That’s what I was talking about Ron!

Many people still have irrational fears of stuff like that happening like it did in the 1950’s and ’60s and as also said in some cases either are scarred themselves or have loved ones who were scarred by things that happened in the NYC Subways in the 1970’s and ’80s when crime was ramapant and still think of the subways, as the graffiti-strewn, crime-ridden system of that time (and if not them, their children and/or grandchildren do).

Many still think it’s 1980 in that regard and not 35 years later. The drug culture of the mid-1960’s through the early ’90s is a shell of what it once was, but many still think of the subways as being from that era and NOT the modern system it is today.

AG January 1, 2015 - 3:05 pm

Exactly… The 50’s and 60’s lost riders because cars were new for the middle and working class… People thought trains and cities would become defunct because of the newfound “freedom” in owning cars. You also had WW2 vest moving to the burbs… Now driving cars isn’t as appealing. Of course the 70’s to the 90’s were about crime and poor service… Now is a very different time.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 3:21 pm

The people from Far Rockaway that he’s afraid of won’t be using the subway to get there. They’ll steal a car.

Spendmor Wastemor December 31, 2014 - 4:28 pm

Typical reality-denying NYT cant.

Just the first obvious bit: the bike path pictured is one way.

With the inevitable ditzies wobbling along the middle and exercise cyclists passing them, there will be problem with even one way traffic on the pictured bike path. The structure is not wide enough for plantings plus walkways plus two separated bike lanes. Opposing directions must be separated, as a head-on cyclist collision or handlebar snag is otherwise inevitable.

Ron December 31, 2014 - 6:02 pm

Even if Adirondack12800’s COMPLETELY ERRONEOUS 25K ridership figure were accurate, it’s still THOUSANDS more than would use the Queensway on a daily basis!

How many people would be using the Queensway in cold weather like today’s? Not many

Rail would run 24/7/365

Rail would benefit TENS of THOUSANDS more. There is no contest.

Rail will increase property values in ROW NEIGHBORHOODS like Woodhaven and Ozone Park if there is a faster/more direct connection

The Queensway is a great way by NIMBYS to block rail reactivation but it is HORRENDOUS for the borough and region!

Walt Gekko December 31, 2014 - 6:24 pm

The NIMBYs blocking rail is to me PURELY SELFISH and comes out of irrational fears of people who still think of the subways as those of 35+ years ago and NOT like they are today and are fearful of people who are not “their kind” coming in like they did to many areas in the 1950’s and ’60s.

Many of these people to me either themselves or have relatives that have scars of the crime-ridden days of the late 1960’s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s fueled by a drug culture that is a shell of what it once was. Sadly, there are people that still think of the subways from that era and not what the trains would be in 2020 or later when the line would actually see trains.

adirondacker12800 December 31, 2014 - 8:55 pm

I was being charitable when I used average ridership figures. People who use the bus to get to Lefferts Blvd or Rockaway Blvd to get catch A, to their job downtown, won’t be gripped by the urge to take the M through Midtown to get there. Or the LIRR. Or the ones who take the bus to Woodhaven on the J to go downtown. Anyway in the full blown fantasies the LIRR runs express until gets to the airport.

AG January 1, 2015 - 3:02 pm

Yup – I think you summed it up quite well. Philly and Chicago are both building projects like “Queensway” right now (well actually the Philly one is in the planning stage).. Both are saying “oh it’s going to be just like the High Line in NY”… In reality neither (granted the Philly one gets funded) will get anywhere near the usage of the HighLine… Not sure why they didn’t try to turn both into re-usable rail since I don’t know enough about their transport networks – but the Queensway would be a joke as a park.

Alon Levy January 1, 2015 - 1:15 am

The numbers out of that study proclaimed 500,000 daily riders — almost too exorbitant to be believed — and no independent engineering group has been commissioned to give equal assessment to either option.

First, as mentioned above, this comes from counting trips on the Woodhaven corridor. One subway trip does not replace one car trip; it replaces several, because instead of driving to 4 different errands and to work, transit users take transit to work and walk to their errands.

More importantly: do a basic sanity check. Do subway lines in areas with the development pattern of Woodhaven generate this sort of traffic? On average, the subway gets 14,650 weekday trips per route-km; this is skewed up by very dense parts of Manhattan (the ridership projection for SAS Phase 1 is 67,000, and that for the full SAS is 39,000), so in Queens it should be lower. The ROW is 8 km, so if it has the same average performance as the rest of the system, which it won’t, we’re talking about 117,000 weekday riders.

Another sanity check: according to Mike Frumin, Triboro RX should get 152,000 weekday riders; the line is 36 km long, for 4,200 trips per route-km. This is circumferential rather than radial, but some of the areas it serves are much denser than Woodhaven, including the South Bronx, Brooklyn College, and Astoria. At 4,200 trips per route-km, projected weekday ridership for Queensway is 34,000.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 1:26 pm

Is this the right way to measure route-miles?

Rockaway below Fulton: 7.6 mile to Rockaway Beach + 3.11 on the other side of the wye
Rest of the A in Queens: 1.98
J in Queens: 3.76
M: 1.48
G: 4261 feet
7: 7.95 miles
E/M from River to 36th Street: 1.62
F: to QB junction: 5153 feet
N/Q from river to “junction” at Queensboro Plaza: 3500 feet
R from Broad Junction to QB junction: 2284 feet
Astoria lines to Queensboro Plaza junction: 2.36 miles
QB services from 36th to end of F Train in Jamaica Estates: 9.24 miles
E segment to Archer Ave. junction: 3262 feet
Northern Blvd express segment for QB: 1.0 mile
Total: 39 route-miles in Queens, looks like this in Excel: =7.6+3.11+1.98+1.48+7.95+1.62+2.36+9.24+1+(4261+5153+3500+2284+3262)/5280

Basically, treats parallel services are “combined” services for the segments where they run parallel. For instance, E and J share the Archer Avenue segment, so only apply it to one of those two services. I left out the L, even though it straddles Queens too. Myrtle-Wyckoff I think straddles the border.

In 2013 Queens had 245,692,630 annual boardings, or about 6,167,570 annual boardings per route-mile. Not sure how to translate that into revenue though (you have to deflate for things like transfers from buses). My best guess is to take reported subway revenue divided by linked trips, which comes to $1.07 revenue per swipe onto the subway.

If the average number of passengers per route-mile in Queens above holds for RBB, that’s 29,604,336 swipe-ons annually. If the subway revenue per swipe-on holds, that’s $31,591,808.37 in annual segment revenue.

From there you could apply some kind of farebox recovery metric. Using one similar to the one I used above:


comes to ~46% farebox recovery.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 1:47 pm

Some outlying high-traffic stations probably really skew the average, like Flushing and Jamaica. The above comes to 16,897 daily boardings in Queens per route-mile, which is about 10,500/km. So maybe this would be a better analysis:

Median annual boarding per station in Queens is 1,969,034.5. Multiply that by the existing number of stations (78) and divide by that route-mile estimate above and you can predict 3,855,404 annual boardings per route-mile. Multiply that by 4.8 miles for the RBB segment, and RBB generates 18,505,939 swipe-ons.

Multiply that by $1.07/swipe-on and revenue is annually $19,748,326. Knocks the farebox recovery ratio down to 29% using the above metric.

Alon Levy January 1, 2015 - 4:20 pm

Okay, so it’s 13,100 boardings per km (not 10,500 because of weekday vs. day considerations). Higher than I expected, probably because Queens has a shortage of lines to go with its shortage of subway users. But I don’t think that a route between Rego Park and Ozone Park can get the same amount of traffic per route-km as a route between LIC and Flushing or Astoria or Jamaica.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 6:22 pm

I got 12203 per-km using their weekday statistics here. Probably “normal” weekday ridership can vary enough due to things like school closings, bank holidays, civil service holidays, etc.. Annual normalizes things enough to make a revenue generalization useful.

I don’t even know if I measured route-miles right, but keep in mind that average includes both extremes. The Rockaways have really low ridership, including a long segment with no stations and several stations with the lowest ridership on the system.

lop January 1, 2015 - 8:21 pm

Where have you been getting 4.8 miles from? Liberty to QB and 66 along the ROW is only 3.5 miles.

Why treat parallel services on different tracks as the same?

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 8:41 pm

I don’t know why, but AIUI that’s what’s done conventionally, so I did it.

Hmm, you’re right about distance. Might be guilty of taking Wikipedia at face value. 🙁 On the bright side: cheaper op. ex. and cap. ex, amirite?

Nathanael January 1, 2015 - 5:50 am

The rendering shows 22 people in about 1000 ft. length of the park.

They will never, ever have that many people in a park in this location on a typical day. This isn’t Manhattan.

Basic sanity checks: how many people use the greenspace already available in Queens? There’s the enormous Forest Park, and the mass of cemeteries connecting that to Highland Park, and *six* cemeteries northwest of that, and Juniper Valley Park, and Flushing Meadows/Corona Park, and yet *more* cemeteries. Nearly all underused.

lop January 1, 2015 - 8:26 pm

Cemeteries aren’t parks. Don’t count them as green space.

Nathanael January 2, 2015 - 2:03 am

They’re used as green space and as parks in other cities. :shrug:

lop January 2, 2015 - 2:23 am

If a bunch of poorly dressed minority teenagers walk through quietly every day to avoid a busy road do they have to worry about the police stopping them one day? What about a group of joggers or dog walkers? Can I have a picnic there?

What exactly is permitted in the cemeteries you want to count as parks?

Plenty of actual parks are well used on nice days in queens. Queensway wouldn’t serve as many people as a subway, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an asset for the community.

Bolwerk January 2, 2015 - 8:58 am

Probably not so true in the English-speaking world anymore, but cemeteries traditionally are seen as park-like atmospheres, and still are in many cultures.

Actually, at least the M Train probably goes all the way to Metropolitan precisely because it gave “middle class” turn-of-the-20th-century families, headed by patriarchs with handlebar mustachios, access to cemeteries to frolic in.

Or maybe Nathanael is saying park advocates should steal cemetery space from the dead instead of robbing the living of decent transit.

lop January 3, 2015 - 1:15 am


Some cemeteries function as green space in this country. But not in NYC. When I can bike through the existing paths in mount hope, under the Jackie Robinson, through Cypress hill to avoid cypress hills st that might change. Or when I can cut through maple grove to get to the briarwood subway. Or walk with my dog on leash in a neighborhood otherwise deprived of green space.

Bolwerk January 3, 2015 - 9:53 pm

Not surprising, given most of the cemeteries in NYC seem to be located near places with sizable parks anyway.

adirondacker12800 January 3, 2015 - 11:55 pm

I’m not going to go look up dates cemeteries were founded versus the parks near them. IIRC they put All Faiths at the end of the horsecar line which was converted to the end of trolley line and then the El which is now “subway” arrived. It used to be called Lutheran before the Germans all moved to other suburbs.

adirondacker12800 January 3, 2015 - 3:28 am

So bucolic that they went and turned Ridgewood into a suburb.

adirondacker12800 January 2, 2015 - 3:57 pm

I don’t think anyone is arguing that a park is better than an abandoned unmaintained railroad ROW either. Except maybe the people who have been squatting on it since 1962.

R.V. January 1, 2015 - 2:36 pm

The reality is that the MTA is not interested in expanding subway lines anytime in the near future. The lack of initiation on the part of our transit entity is a bit depressing and short sighted but all too commonplace with them.

In the end this will either be a park or not a park, but unlikely to be any kind of rail.

Bolwerk January 1, 2015 - 6:38 pm

Just curious: where does this “MTA don’t care” meme come from? Too many people parrot it using almost the exact same phrasing. It sounds like a Fox News talking point.

BrooklynBus January 4, 2015 - 11:12 am

The MTA Planning Department publicly stated that in 2006 when NYMTC was making long range proposals for the next 30 years for subway expansion and using existing ROWs,. IIRC, their exact words were we are not interested in extending any subway lines or building any more rail lines before a full Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access are fully completed and operating. That was before Bloomberg even conceived the Number 7 extension.

Bolwerk January 4, 2015 - 11:51 am

Well, that provides context, and makes more sense. The funny part is the MTA probably doesn’t care either way. If it’s told to do something by statute, or is provided money to do something by the city (as Bloomberg proved possible), it does it.

But somewhere that meme is being repeated, and I was just wondering where. You know droolers who think in talking points aren’t reading long reports or delving into transit politics going back a decade. Someone is feeding them phrases to parrot.

BrooklynBus January 4, 2015 - 6:16 pm

Regarding your first paragraph, that’s why I think it so dumb to dismiss the RBL simply on the grounds that the MTA is not interested. Also, if it is a stand alone route, who coudn’t the city build it and operate it independently if funding were available and the MTA refused to operate it which I don’t even believe they would do. Just look at all the things the MTA did do that it initially refused to do.

Alon Levy January 5, 2015 - 2:16 am

Yes, the city could build it. But why should it? It’s not going to generate that much ridership, and it’s going to lead to overserving Howard Beach (and points south if trains can’t turn at Howard Beach and have to continue to the Rockaways). It might actually lead to reduction in ridership, because the line branches from Rego Park, which means the trains traveling on it would come at the expense of frequency to Forest Hills and points east on the QB Line.

AG January 6, 2015 - 9:54 am

From reading most of your comments it seems that the only transit project you think is worth the money is the SAS. If not – please correct me.

Bolwerk January 6, 2015 - 10:53 am

I think he said something to the effect that cost recovery on SAS is good even if capital costs are insane. (I think Alon supports Triborough RX.)

Not to say he’s wrong about the “could” reduce ridership point because of frequency, but I don’t really see it. Even 8TPH is is a train every 7.5 minutes.

AG January 6, 2015 - 11:04 am

No – not just this one… Every story I’ve seen him comment on – he seems to say there is never enough ridership except SAS. Capital costs are ridiculous – but that doesn’t mean projects shouldn’t happen… It means costs should be brought down.

Bolwerk January 6, 2015 - 11:39 am

I don’t want to speak for him, but AIUI his usual refrain is is costs per rider are too high except for SAS. I agree with that, but I sort of take grin and bear it position to new construction too (like you, I guess).

At-grade projects are cheaper though. I don’t know why he expects ridership would be better on Triborough than RBB, or what he considers to be acceptable ridership for a new at-grade project (may depend on cost), but absolutely nobody seems to want to define those things when they comment.

BrooklynBus January 1, 2015 - 9:12 pm

If we always waited for the MTA to act without applying any outside pressure, we might still have trains with fans. The MTA long insisted that unlike the rails, subway stations are spaced too close together to hold in the cold air. Even after the BMT/IND was successfully air conditioned, the MTA still maintained that IRT cars were too small to accommodate A/C units.

They also opposed articulated and low floor buses for many years saying they couldn’t maintain different types of buses and that the streets were too bumpy for low floor buses. Elevators at subway stations and buses that could accommodate wheelchairs only came about because of the Americans for Disabilities Act. Bottom line– the MTA not being interested is not a good reason.

marv January 1, 2015 - 7:27 pm

regarding the need for parks – in addition to nearby Forest Park (an underused gem), flushing meadows which is over used but has the segment between Jewel Ave and the train yard which is reserved for the birds – I kid you not, the former Fountain Avenue dumps south of the Belt Pkwy on the Bklyn Queens border is being turned into a new large park.

Having the ability to travel from northern queens to southern queens without going into Manhattan is needed.

Philip McManus January 5, 2015 - 1:57 pm

Dear Friends of the Queens RBL,

Please contact us at Queens Public Transit Committee to join our fight for the restoration of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line.

Philip McManus
Queens Public Transit Committee

Bolwerk January 7, 2015 - 12:59 pm

No idea. Look at it this way: there are ~70k north-south bus riders heading toward QB within a one-mile radius of RBB. Some percentage of them mean to take QB, more likely don’t. To meet adirondacker’s projection of 10k, all you need to do is poach about a third of those trips heading north. It’s probably easy to get all the riders within the immediate RBB catchment who are already heading to QB subways anyway.

The hard part is figuring out what ridership would exist on top of that. The high bus ridership and relatively low existing subway ridership strongly suggests the existing subway services aren’t oriented the way people want to go. But I don’t really buy that the subway and bus services are competitors either. A train is preferable to a bus to Manhattan, but a bus is preferable for moving groceries 10 blocks. If nobody makes the former kind of trip, maybe a subway isn’t very useful.

And it’s not like there would be no interaction. RBB would feed buses, and be fed by buses. Maybe it would increase bus use?

lop January 7, 2015 - 9:31 pm

70k isn’t tremendous, even for queens. The Jamaica-Flushing buses on 164, kissena/parsons and main get 90k trips per day, and are less than a mile apart for most of the corridor.

~36% of Q52/Q53 boardings+alightings are on QB, broadway or roosevelt, and not all of those are getting on a subway. I don’t know that half of Q10 or Q37 riders want a QB subway either. If they build the line I wonder if an elevated walkway to the nearest stops on liberty and Jamaica could be constructed. Those two combined have ~27% of q52/q53 boardings+alightings, and it would be a more pleasant transfer.

Q10 has a lot of airport passengers to/from the subway in kew gardens. If they wanted to pay for airtrain they’d stay on the E to Jamaica and get it there.

For many Q10/Q37 to an express stop where you can definitely get on the train, though can’t get a seat during much of the day might not be worse than a long walk (especially for the Q10) to a slow local train where you can try to change at roosevelt to an express though the crowding is pretty bad.

If Q11/21 riders won’t walk to a limited stop it’s probably because they have limited mobility and can’t walk far, or aren’t travelling far enough for it to matter. Few would walk further to a train with stops spread far apart.

Bolwerk January 8, 2015 - 3:12 pm

If most of the ridership is clustered around rush hours, 70k is likely far more than you want on one branch line subway service. The Myrtle stub can be packed at 40k riders/day during the outbound rush service interval, and that is counting the Myrtle-Wyckoff station, which may be mostly attributable to the L.

Regardless, I don’t think bus services make very convincing models for a subway service under any circumstances. The riders who switch because they definitely want the subway are probably the only certain gains from buses. There could be others, but they’re probably harder to estimate.

Philip McManus March 18, 2015 - 3:21 am

Dear Friends,

Are you guys actually doing something to get the Queens Rockaway Beach Line? We need volunteers who will rally, meet and fight for the Queens RBL, the new Queens Crosstown. Please contact us and help us win.

Philip McManus

Queens Public Transit Committee
Faster transportation will create more social, economic, recreational, and environmental opportunities.

Rockaway Beach Rail Line
Queens Public Transit
Rockaway Beach Branch

Rockaway Beach Line

Rockaway Branch Line blog
Rockaway Branch Line Mission Statement
Queens Public Transit

Please support the following petitions:
Ferry – Weekend Service
Queens Rockaway Beach Line
Q 52 Bus
Station Agents
Metro North Station in Queens

Philip McManus December 26, 2015 - 3:37 pm

Thank you for those who have joined our cause to reopen the QueensRail. We are a growing group who needs your help.

Philip McManus

QueensPublic Transit Committee

Queens Public Transit Committee
Faster and safer transportation will create more social, economic, recreational, and environmental opportunities.

Rockaway Beach Rail Line
Queens Public Transit
Rockaway Beach Branch

Rockaway Beach Line

Rockaway Branch Line blog
Rockaway Branch Line Mission Statement
Queens Public Transit


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