Home Queens Assembly budget includes dollars for Rockaway Beach Branch study

Assembly budget includes dollars for Rockaway Beach Branch study

by Benjamin Kabak
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has been a tireless advocate for a Rockaway Beach Branch rail study.

Assemblyman Paul Goldfeder has been a tireless advocate for a Rockaway Beach Branch rail study.

When last I checked in on the Rockaway Beach Branch line toward the end of 2015, I had kinda sorta vowed to leave well enough alone. The debate has grown a bit toxic with park advocates fighting with proponents of rail reactivation who are fighting against proponents of Select Bus Service with motorists and NIMBYs hovering on the wings. But as Michael Corleone once bemoaned, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. The “they” this time is Assembly representative Phil Goldfeder, and the get is Assembly-approved dollars for a true study of the best uses of the fallow right of way.

For years, the one ask I’ve had for the Rockaway Beach Branch line is a refresh of a decades-old feasibility study to determine, based on current city growth patterns, whether reactivation would be feasible and at what cost. What we’ve gotten since this nascent effort to revitalize the right-of-way began was a one-sided study from a rails-to-trails advocacy group that was funded nearly entirely through New York taxpayer dollars. It was a rigged assessment from the start and ended with fanciful renderings and no realistic path forward for the so-called QueensWay linear park. Goldfeder is hoping to right that wrong.

In a budget passed by the state Assembly this week, the Assembly allocated funding for a feasibility study of rail reactivation and would direct the MTA to complete the study by March 1, 2017. It is, unfortunately, a one-house budget and it’s not clear if the State Senate’s measure will include similar funding (or if Gov. Andrew Cuomo would approve such a request). Still, it’s a sign that someone at least is thinking through this issue.

Goldfeder explained his support for the funding. “With so many families in Queens suffering through some of the longest commutes in the city, it’s important that we explore every option to improve transportation. A feasibility study of reactivation the Rockaway Beach Rail Line will do just that. This study will provide us with an accurate picture of the state of the line and show not just what it would cost to reactivate, but also the impact this would have on thousands of commuters in the community,” he said.

Goldfeder hopes that a study would provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the right of way. He wants a full assessment of the current condition of the infrastructure (which, in all honest, is not good) and he wants to understand the costs of reactivating the line for passenger service. We haven’t had a clear indication of these costs, potential ridership or the impact to the area in nearly two decades, and the last study was not well received by transit advocates or community activists who disputed its findings.

A rail use for this right of way seems like a long shot with many forces aligning against a plan, but it deserves a fair hearing. As I’ve noted in the past, money is the way to get that hearing. If the state does allocate the dollars, the MTA will follow through with a study. And then we’ll know if, in the late 2010s, there is a way forward for the Rockaway Beach Brance line or if this dream should be allowed to fade away while other, productive uses of the ROW are identified.

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JJ March 18, 2016 - 10:49 am

Phil Goldfeder, not Paul Goldfeder.

Benjamin Kabak March 18, 2016 - 11:01 am

For some reason, I always want to call him Paul, not Phil. It’s been a years’ long mental block.

Ian March 18, 2016 - 12:11 pm

In the picture you posted he looks like Paul O’Neill’s twin brother. Maybe it’s a Yankee thing.

Mike M. March 18, 2016 - 12:51 pm

Your mind may be going to Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic.

Bolwerk March 18, 2016 - 10:51 am

If this passes the Senate, it’ll be an interesting test of how much Cuomo cares about preventing rail. Certainly studying the matter is a no-brainer, and, if we could trust the MTA to control costs, reactivation would be a no-brainer. OTOH, keep an eye out for political pressure from the Cuomo administration to snowball the report in favor of parks or doing nothing.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2016 - 12:49 pm

Snowballing the report is something we must make sure doesn’t happen. There are many reasons why the MTA would not want an objective study. State money is already available to study possible uses of existing unused and underused railroad rights of way. The MTA previously was asked to use that money to study RBL reactivation, but would not say they if they would apply for the funds or not. When asked by the press the excuse they gave was that they did not own the right of way which is totally irrelevant since the do not own the subways either, but still run them.

So Goldfeder took this tact to direct them to do a study if the money is approved by the governor. It would be far better if an objective group would perform the study instead instead of trusting the MTA with it.

Bolwerk March 19, 2016 - 5:04 pm

I don’t know if I trust anyone to do an “objective” study. Tri-State might be reasonable, but even they have competing projects.

There are really only three alternatives worth studying: subway integration, LIRR integration, and doing nothing. For the first two, I’d just want to know how much it would cost, why it would cost that much, and how many riders it could attract. Deciding whether to do the project is never an “objective” question anyway.

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 5:44 pm

Besides how much it would cost in absolute and per-mile dollars, the subway conversion study also needs to ask how many riders would be lost in the system as a result of cuts elsewhere to make room for this service. That’s the real story here.

Bolwerk March 19, 2016 - 6:49 pm

Easy to answer: none or near enough. Some local QB service would be lost east of Woodhaven I’d guess and, even if those locals ever got busy, it’s probably just three stations losing one local service and one of those stations is an express station.

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 8:28 pm


There are two services currently using the Queens Boulevard Local pairing and neither of them can pick up the extension easily: the R is already too damn long (and also, switching the R to Astoria and the W to Forest Hills was deemed impossible because of yard access concerns which either are real and preclude it or are bullshit and mean the R should be disconnected from Queens Boulevard immediately), the M’s route would become too long with the added route mileage.

The options are adding a third branch of service to Queens Boulevard (either the G or the return of the V), which further exacerbates the line’s interlining catastrophe especially if the M goes to a full branch’s worth of service (which would basically force 5 TPH of the G as the only possible extension), or cutting back one or both of the existing Queens Boulevard services to Manhattan to free up room for a replacement service.

Cutting the V off of the M is politically untenable, but would increase service to Brooklyn and permit 15 TPH to operate 6 Av Local – QB Local – Rockaway Beach as the return of V train, and then the question is how many riders are lost from the M service change versus the gained ridership on the new line.

Cutting the R back to Whitehall and extending the W to Bay Ridge costs you no useful one-seat rides and therefore no riders, but if the yard access argument trumpeted as a reason to not send the R to Astoria and the W to Forest Hills is legitimate, it will apply just as much if the Bay Ridge – Astoria service is called the W instead and would ALSO preclude separating the R from its yard to run to JFK.

mrsman March 20, 2016 - 6:09 am

When comparing the N and R, I understand the yard argument: N Astoria-CI, served by CI yard
R Forest Hills-Bay Ridge served by Jamaica yard

But what yard is served by a train from Astoria-Whitehall?

Ryan March 20, 2016 - 8:57 am


Having said that…

– Trains “terminating” at Whitehall could gain transforming designations and simply become special Whitehall – Coney Island N runs, providing yard access that way. This is presumably how the W will connect to a yard when it comes back.
– Some (small number of) trains already assigned to the D and R routes are assigned to the 38-38 Sts Yard in Brooklyn, and this yard is on the MTA’s wishlist for expansion to relieve overcrowding at other yards throughout the system. Even without expansion, however, this yard could handle a greater portion of the R’s assigned trains.
– City Hall’s lower level could with some minor modifications be pressed into service as additional R train storage. (It’s already used for layups on occasion.)

The W could extend to Bay Ridge, with 36-38 Sts becoming its dedicated yard. In exchange, the R could be cut back to Whitehall (representing a dramatic reduction in route mileage for zero ridership cost as Brooklyn-Midtown and Whitehall-Queens would both be preserved as single seat rides) and continue utilizing Forest Hills as its yard. This maneuver combined with shifting the R from 60 St to 63 St utilizing all infrastructure that exists already fills the 63 St tunnel to 30 TPH, and also permits Queens Boulevard Local / Astoria Local / Broadway Local / Broadway Express services to all increase from their current 20/25 TPH capacity ceilings (constrained by the 30 TPH limit on the 60 St tunnel) to the full 30 that the infrastructure is capable of holding. Again, no useful single-seat rides and therefore no riders are lost under such a scheme.

Whitehall – JFK Airport via Broadway Local / 63 St Tunnel / Queens Boulevard Local / Rockaway Beach is still a highly unwieldy route in terms of length, and would similarly have no direct yard access, but it’s an option. In my estimation, it’s not a very good option, but it is an option.

A better option would be to send the R up Second Avenue along with the Q, permitting 30 TPH into the Upper East Side well ahead of Phase 3’s completion / the T’s inauguration. That still permits both Broadway pairs, the 60 St Tunnel, and the Astoria Line to all increase to a 30 TPH cap, but without eating up that 15 TPH of capacity that isn’t being utilized in the 63 St tunnel at present. You’d have to revisit this whole problem once Phase 3 was actually completed of course, but that could be decades away and in the meantime the Revenge of V Train could be restored as a 57 St – JFK Airport service without overburdening Sixth Avenue from Rockefeller Center south.

Bolwerk March 20, 2016 - 10:19 pm

Huh? Seems to me there are extensive stretches of ROW with room for 3+ tracks. Storage seems like a non-issue, and perhaps RBL would offer some surplus storage.

Ryqn March 21, 2016 - 9:15 am

There’s plenty of space to store trains on disused/infrequently used infrastructure like Astoria’s third track or in City Hall as well, but this is deemed insufficient and used as a reason to oppose sending the R to Astoria.

Personally, I don’t buy the argument that the R has to be tied to Forest Hills Yard or any yard; but if we’re acknowledging that it doesn’t have to be, then diverting it to JFK Airport is absolutely a boneheaded decision in terms of routing and the R should instead be diverted to either Astoria or Second Avenue with the W running from Whitehall – JFK Airport instead. The R is already a massively unstable and incredibly unwieldy route without the addition of this line.

Bolwerk March 21, 2016 - 1:57 pm

The only likely merit I can see for your concern would be NIMBYs acting to prevent condign storage along the route.

In any case, I’m not even sure it’s necessary. I could see need for more storage for load balancing, but perhaps not much. I find it incredibly unlikely that riders would be lost, regardless.

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 3:33 pm

I want to clarify that yard access/storage space concerns aren’t my argument, they are the argument that was used against me every time I made the case for R to Astoria or R cutback to Whitehall and W to Bay Ridge.

Yard access or lack thereof won’t cost you any riders; it’s the speed and reliability, the operational knock-on effects, and the service adjustments that would potentially cost you riders.

To summarize, the potential service patterns are:
– Extend some runs of the G along the line, utilizing 5 TPH of capacity which goes unfilled because the 53 and 60 St tunnels combined can push no greater than 25 TPH into Queens Boulevard Local. This doesn’t necessarily cost you any service elsewhere but makes the interlining problem on QBL roughly three times worse. Additionally, the G’s own reputation is not entirely undeserved; these two issues combine and spell a lot of potential ridership loss due to frequent delays arising from service instability. QBL doesn’t need to be at even more of a routine failure risk.
– Extend the R along the line, utilizing the entire 10 TPH of capacity it can be assigned due to the overutilization of the 60 St Tunnel. This is actually an even worse option than the G train because of the already extreme route length of the R, as well as the service reliability of the line which is already a cause for concern (due to its length).
— Extend the R, and simultaneously shift it from 60 St to 63 St, thereby using the entire 15 TPH available on 63 St (and bumping the TPH utilization on QBL up to 30). This doesn’t solve its route length, but does solve a critical problem with the East River crossings, and while extending the R is a terrible idea, rerouting it is a great one and should happen as soon as possible.
– Extend the M along the line, utilizing its entire potential 15 TPH. The M’s route length would become far too long as a result of this extension, leading back to the same ridership loss potential that exists with the G and R options due to service unreliability.
– Switch the terminals of the R and the W so that the R only runs to Whitehall and the W runs to Brooklyn, then extend the R. This is one of the only two good choices for servicing Rockaway Beach, but if the yard access concerns have any legitimacy to them, then no amount of new storage space at or around JFK will solve that problem for the W as a Bay Ridge – Astoria service.
– Reverse the combination of M and V service, restoring M Nassau St Local service into lower Brooklyn and the V Sixth Avenue Local – Queens Boulevard Local. This is politically untenable, but largely only because of the perceived ridership loss on Myrtle Avenue with the attendant loss of a single seat ride to Midtown. (That ridership will be gained in lower Brooklyn is conveniently disregarded.) Nevertheless, operating V service between Houston/2 Av and JFK Airport is probably the best solution from a route length and operational capacity standpoint.

Absent one of these choices, Rockaway Beach can only be serviced if it is disconnected from Queens Boulevard entirely. This means either a shuttle service (dubious value), or a connection to some other line (no other subway line exists; so this gets very expensive very quickly as a matter of course). Running it north to Northern Boulevard via Junction Boulevard or even as far as LGA would create a true north-south link from one coastline to the other, but has very little value otherwise (except if going from JFK to LGA allows us to capitalize on rail-to-LGA zeitgeist.)

Bolwerk March 21, 2016 - 7:58 pm

Assuming it’s a problem at all, and I acknowledge it could be, I don’t think length of the M or R is necessarily an unmitigable problem under the right conditions. This includes storage and sidings with adequate trains/gap trains. These should be easy to provide for on RBL. Hell, gap trains for the service not used on RBL could probably be stored on RBL.

For the most part, I don’t see much reason to worry about adding unreliability. The Queens Blvd locals are lightly used given their capacity. And unreliability they experience happens elsewhere. The hitch is RBL, if it serves the Rockaways, might add some interference by interlining with the A Train – likely especially problematic for the R.

J March 18, 2016 - 10:51 am

The Right-of-Way is the most precious thing right? And the third rail (so to speak) of a rail reactivation is that NIMBY’s would object to rail in their backyards.

If rail really is in the cards, why not cut-and-cover a subway and then have an at-grade linear park on top?

Bolwerk March 18, 2016 - 11:10 am

Because (1) the linear park is stupid and pointless no matter what, (2) NIMBYs won’t like the linear park either even if it weren’t stupid, and (3 – should probably be number #1 in most people’s estimation) it costs more probably by an order of magnitude.

Alistair March 18, 2016 - 12:05 pm

Well… if the formation were at or below grade, this would be worth looking at. But of course the RBB is mostly elevated, which makes this pretty hard to do. Not impossible, but you’d have to go under roads that the formation goes over, dig out bridge supports, and the like. That sounds like a pretty heavy lift. For good or ill, it pretty much needs to be either a rail line of some kind (we’re assuming subway rather than LIRR here, but that’s not set in stone) or a walking/biking trail. There are good arguments for both, but the city is more likely to get a bigger bang for the (bigger) buck by putting trains on it.

The other piece of this, of course, is that the biggest bang for the buck will be obtained by running in along the LIRR, which requires a reconfiguration where the Port Washington line joins and an acceptance that they can manage with four tracks instead of six west of there. And of course, a complex tie-in to the Queens Blvd line around 36th St, preserving six tracks to Manhattan with a variety of destinations.

Bolwerk March 18, 2016 - 1:32 pm

I think it’s mostly best described as on an embankment.

I assume if you followed the prescription J mentioned, you’d build a subway under Woodhaven, not along the RBB embankment. This would be fine, I guess, but it’s much more expensive than RBB reactivation. RBB is not the best corridor for rail service in that area, but it’s there already.

John-2 March 18, 2016 - 1:41 pm

I suppose you could do both — Cut-and-cover at the north end of the line, where the majority of moneyed NIMBYs (and the ones itching for their linear park) would be located, then emerging up and onto the embankment somewhere around Union Turnpike, rehabbing the infrastructure through Forest Park and down to Liberty Avenue.

Ryan March 18, 2016 - 2:22 pm

Problem is, the moneyed NIMBY part of the line is the only section with plausible value. The bellmouths (without which, you’ve suddenly gone from 90~95% rehab job to brand new tunnel punch-out from a severely overburdened active rail line) are at Rego Park and point to the RBB structure, and there’s no easy way to re-junction the line if it’s going to cut and cover under Woodhaven unless you bypass Woodhaven entirely, or turn it into a transfer point and keep running the Woodhaven/RBB subway north until it junctions into yet more infrastructure that doesn’t exist except on maps and planning documents. (Read as: Northern Boulevard)

Furthermore, a reactivated/replacement LIRR stop as well as the Fulton St and Jamaica transfers sit best on Woodhaven instead of on the RBB corridor, which suggests that if anything, the line should be rehabilitated between Rego Park and Forest Park, then follow Woodhaven south to Rockaway Boulevard. This half-and-half linear park scheme would be exactly the opposite of that.

David March 18, 2016 - 4:50 pm

When we say that the bell mouths are present to facilitate a spur to the rockaway beach line ROW, to what extent have they been built out? Was a flying junction built for the SB track over / under the QBL right of way?

Also, on a more or less related note, were any steps taken as part of the east side access project to facilitate a future extension / connection to the 63rd st line? If and when another service is routed through that tunnel along with the F (or whatever successor it may have), is that service bound to draw trains only from the Queens Boulevard Line?

Ryan March 18, 2016 - 6:13 pm

A flying junction was built and is in place to service the branch. Not sure how far it goes, but it definitely crosses the entire ROW, so it goes far enough.

Were that provision not in place, this would be an entirely different conversation – but that provision is there, and it would be patently absurd not to use it under any scheme which hopes to wire this branch into Queens Boulevard. (Obviously, merely crossing Queens Boulevard en route to some other line would require an entirely different approach, and puts Woodhaven cut-and-cover back on the table.)

Per your other question, I’m inclined to believe the answer is no. East Side No Access purported to utilize the existing tunnel and did not to my knowledge include any modifications to it, which means the likelihood that it added any sort of provision to pull trains out of some other tunnel is low – and considering that of the three tunnels between Queens Boulevard/Astoria and Midtown, one is at capacity and the other two are exactly over/under capacity relative to the other that switching the R from 53 St to 63 St along with the rerouting of the Q to Second Avenue load-balances everything so that all three tunnels push through exactly as much capacity as there is to fill in Astoria and on Queens Boulevard. (Six tracks worth of tunnels connected to two tracks Astoria, two tracks QBL, two tracks QBX.) Any tunnel provision that goes to somewhere else, say Northern, couldn’t be filled as a matter of course. Actually, it couldn’t even be half-filled unless you want to send one of the tunnels back over capacity, which means that any future subway line in Northern Queens would need to connect to a brand new tunnel instead (86 or 125 are the only good choices, however, it’s far more likely that the tunnel would be built out of something from the grab bag of terrible choices that is 49/57/67/72 Sts because of the supremacy of Midtown, or something).

David March 18, 2016 - 10:08 pm

Is switching the R out of the 59st tunnel (or whatever designation we’ll call the QBL local at the time) and into the 63rd st tunnel one of more likely services to be routed down the 2nd Ave line towards 34th st? And is relief of capacity constraint on the Astoria line a strategic goal? Particularly, does this position the Astoria line for significant service increases and/or expansion into northern queens as a longer and more central trunk line? For example, if there is to be a northern line (and not event considering an extension to laguardia), would the Astoria line be a serious candidate?

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 4:09 pm

Okay, so to clarify, there’s three tunnels right now.

There’s the 53 St Tunnel, which is a direct continuation of the Queens Boulevard Express tracks into Midtown. (The M and late-night E service must use switches at Queens Plaza to shift to the local tracks.) 53 St is near its absolute capacity and will arrive at its absolute capacity if M headways are increased to a full branch worth of service.

There’s the 63 St Tunnel, which ends at a switch permitting access to both the local and express tracks under Queens Boulevard just north of Queens Plaza. This tunnel is currently only used by the F, but the infrastructure to extend Broadway Line trains through the 63 St Tunnel all exists right now anyway – an easy switching maneuver just before 57 St/7 Av could move R trains onto the express tracks there. This is important to note because…

…there’s also the 60 St Tunnel, which feeds both the Astoria and Queens Boulevard Local track pairs. This is the tunnel which is dramatically over capacity, as both the Broadway Local and Express pairs feed it. The NQ (soon, NW) must use this tunnel as there’s no other way to access Astoria, but the R could easily move from this tunnel to 63 St. That would fill the 63 St tunnel with FR services, both of which could go to 13~15 TPH, and allow the 60 St Tunnel to continue serving Astoria with 13~15 TPH each to Broadway Local (W) and Express (N) services.

Making this switch essentially means that 30 TPH can service Sixth Avenue Local, 30 TPH can service Broadway Local, and 30 TPH can service Broadway Express in Manhattan, and there’s no other scenario in which this is possible: leaving three services dependent on 60 St means that Broadway Local Services are capped to 20 TPH (all of which would come through the 60 St tunnel as 10 TPH R, 10 TPH W) and the Broadway Express Services would be capped to 25 TPH (15 TPH coming from Second Avenue as the Q to join the remaining 10 TPH through the 60 St Tunnel as the N), and as there’s no way to switch Broadway Local trains into 53 St, the other move you could make (M from 53 to 63) frees up capacity in the 53 St tunnel that can then be used by nobody.

Similarly, shifting the R from 60 to 63 means that 30 TPH can service Astoria (all 30 TPH coming out of the 60 St tunnel), and 30 TPH each can go to the Queens Boulevard Local and Express pairs. (15 each from 53 and 63 Sts.) This is, again, the only scenario in which this is possible: leaving the R where it is means that Astoria is capped to 20 TPH, and while Queens Boulevard Local theoretically can achieve 30 TPH it can only do so by overburdening itself with three distinct service patterns with wildly differing frequencies and destinations, one of which is already the oft-maligned G train. In other words, even more of an interlining nightmare and potential for disruption than already exists on Queens Boulevard.

While Phase 3 includes a connection from the 63 St tunnel to Second Avenue, utilizing that connection without sucking capacity away from some other Manhattan trunk line is going to be extremely difficult, as would be filling a new tunnel under Northern or Astoria, or an elevated over GCP. An extension of the Astoria Line isn’t necessarily a great option, but it’s the only one that would maintain the potential for 30 TPH all the way around.

Ryan March 20, 2016 - 2:55 am

Rereading my above comment, it occurs to me that I failed to follow up on the other real alternative: a wholesale new tunnel.


As you can see in the map above, a new tunnel could be constructed underneath LGA, surfacing into a viaduct along the Grand Central Parkway, then diving back down into a deep bore tunnel underneath Astoria Boulevard, the East River, and 86 St. The beauty of this is that it provides a more useful link between LGA and Manhattan (and can tap into all that angst about LGA that occasionally drives studies for a subway to there), relieves pressure on one of the busiest crosstowns in Manhattan, can be built in such a way as to leave the door open for a future extension to New Jersey and that provision isn’t mutually exclusive with sending it to Midtown as well. (With a wye, half the 10 Av service goes to NJ and the other half to Queens, and the other half of the NJ service also goes to Queens – 30 TPH all around.)

The introduction of a flying junction at 70 St would allow for this thing to get built in two phases – Phase 1 from South Ferry to LGA using the spare capacity on the 1, and Phase 2 extending south from 72 St along 10 Av through Midtown and Greenwich St into Downtown, ending at WTC. And, just to bring us full circle here, a phase 3 extension could bring trains south from LGA, through Central Queens along either Junction Boulevard or the expressway medians, to Woodhaven Boulevard or – yes! – the Rockaway Beach Branch and JFK.

Strictly speaking, Northern Boulevard may be a little better for pulling in ridership because it’s more centrally located, but connecting 86 to Northern is a little bit too much of a pain in the ass. The problem is, the cross streets that could host a Northern Boulevard tunnel effectively are all as I mentioned in a grab bag of terrible choices; 72 is the best option of a whole bunch of bad options, but building a tunnel under 86 that we know we can fill from day 1 doesn’t preclude an eventual 72 St tunnel as well.

Larry Littlefield March 19, 2016 - 1:07 pm

Right, it’s an embankment and that means it’s quiet. Also means it won’t work in deep snow.

Bolwerk March 19, 2016 - 4:39 pm

Like buses and numerous open cut rail trenches? I’d barely worry about that.* In a bad year, 355 days out of the year don’t see snow that problematic, and even climate change probably won’t increase the number that much. Had the service been operating this past winter,† we might have seen a single shutdown of 36 hours.

* I would also guess it’s easier to push the largest quantities of snow aside on an embankment than it is in a trench. But maybe I am wrong and the effort is the same.

† okay, it might not quite be over, but probably is

Phantom March 18, 2016 - 12:25 pm

Build the Second Avenue subway before wasting any money and time and effort on fun new subway lines to nowhere.

Bolwerk March 18, 2016 - 1:06 pm

The corridor has pretty high residential density. Not huge, but high. The “nowhere” part is the part already operating in the Rockaways!

Philip McManus March 19, 2016 - 11:55 pm

The Queens Public Transit Committee supports the QueensRail. We need new railways in the outer boroughs. We need more faster and safer transportation with equal funding and services. Select Bus Service, Vision Zero and QueensWay will take away bus stops, bus frequency, traffic lanes, left turns, parking, a railway and more outer borough commuters will get tickets including bus riders. We don’t need to slow down traffic and take away more time and money from commuters. We don’t need more gridlock and accidents. We need the QueensRail now. We are tired of reallocation and consolidation of our transit services. Give us back our train and our time, freedom, safety and our prosperity. Stop treating us like slaves on the plantation and a dumping ground for the inner borough. We demand equal services and funding. A tale of two cities. (inner borough vs. outer boroughs). Join our group. http://www.qptc.org.

Ryan March 20, 2016 - 12:29 am

How many pedestrians a year dying on your streets would you consider an acceptable exchange for free flowing traffic?

You’re an idiot, first of all, and your committee is a joke. You claim to be pro-transit but the “QueensRail copyright 2016 you” is a shiny convenient and unlikely subway expansion for which you and your buddies can hide your true anti-transit biases behind. Unfortunately, your wholesale opposition to Vision Zero and your front-page victim blaming reveal your true position.

Clean it the hell up, Phil, and come back when you’re ready to have a real conversation that doesn’t literally begin with you admitting you value human life less than you value some arbitrary amount of time spent behind the wheel of your car.

BrooklynBus March 20, 2016 - 3:41 pm

Wow! From your previous comments I actually thought you were intelligent. Looks like I was wrong. Philip McManus stated Vision Zero will take away traffic lanes, left turns etc and increase gridlock and revenue for the city, all of which is true. That was all he said about Vision Zero.

You take that comment and respond unfairly accusing him of not valuing human life, but have no problem at all with car and truck trips taking longer, not to mention bus trips as well since bus drivers also must abide by lower speed limits.

Apparently, you are the one not able “to have a real conversation” with someone who doesn’t share your views on Vision Zero. You are the one who needs to “clean it the hell up” since you are the one who is calling names, not Philip McManus.

Ryan March 20, 2016 - 4:18 pm

Vision Zero is a goal, nothing more and nothing less. “We want to reduce pedestrian deaths to zero.”

How cities, municipalities, this country or the world set out to try and reach that goal, the initiatives undertaken to reach that goal are open for interpretation. We can have and I’m open to having reasonable discussions around how the city works towards achieving Vision Zero.

Saying you oppose it wholesale is an untenable position. It is, quite literally, saying you’d rather people continue to die in the crosswalks.

When I say “clean it the hell up,” I’m talking about statements like this one:

“But pedestrian safety must not come at the expense of moving traffic.”

Or this one:

“Another safety measure might be pedestrian education.”

Or this one:

“In fact, we believe that many aspects of the program are fundamentally flawed because it is a program of young urban planers and not mature traffic engineers.”

The QPTC’s website pays lip service to integrating ferries into the Metrocard, but that’s the only other transit improvement aside from this rail line that they purport to argue for. There’s nothing about streamlining or improving bus service in here. There’s nothing about narrowing lanes to the federal minimum widths, which would actually allow more vehicles to utilize Queens streets while also going a long way towards slowing down traffic. Other than “we oppose Vision Zero because we don’t like the way the city is pursuing this goal,” there’s no real alternatives put forward. And certainly, it goes without saying, that absolutist rhetoric like “pedestrian safety must not come at the expense of moving traffic” leaves very little room for debate once we get deep into the sources of pedestrian fatalities, some of which include the fact that vehicles moving at 30, 35, 45 MPH with no buffer space or protection for pedestrians nearby is a recipe for fatalities. Those kinds of speeds are absolutely appropriate for freeways, but absent putting up bollards along every single sidewalk edge, there’s no place for those kinds of driving speeds on the surface streets of Queens neighborhoods or anywhere else that pedestrians can be expected to walk.

I’ll also note that when it comes to things like fare rationalization, Philip McManus is suspiciously silent. When it comes to things like better utilizing our existing transit infrastructure, Philip McManus is nowhere to be found. He appears when summoned by any mention of this particular right-of-way, or of nearby Woodhaven Boulevard, but when the topic shifts to anything else… he vanishes.

I don’t believe I’m being particularly unfair to the man, since he’s gone through the trouble of organizing several rallies and commenting on many a post such as this one: I’m not putting words in his mouth. I’m not taking his statements out of context. I don’t believe that, as it stands, his committee is worth having a discussion with – not until he either acknowledges that Vision Zero is a noble goal even if we can disagree plenty on its woefully poor implementation to date, or answers the question I posed to him when I called him out yesterday evening.

I’ll ask you the same question, in fairness.

How many killed pedestrians are a fair value exchange for free flowing traffic? One per year? One per month? Let’s quantify the value being placed on human lives by statements like “pedestrian safety must not come at the expense of moving traffic.”

BrooklynBus March 20, 2016 - 6:08 pm

First of all let me say that I cannot speak for Philip McManus. I can only speak for myself. Second, it wasn’t Philip who started throughing around insults. It is possible to have a civil discussion without insults.

Third, a goal must be a reasonable one, not something that is thoroughly unobtainable and one that will resort to any means without considering any consequences like traffic coming to a halt, because Vision Zero can only be achieved when traffic speeds reach zero.

Fourth, I am no opposed to Vision Zero entirely. I support some or maybe most of its features. What I am opposed to is exaggeration of dangers to pedestrians that make it appear crossing streets such as Woodhaven Boulevard is like playing Russian roulette by comparing accident rates on all streets equally. Arterial roadways will never be as safe as one way local streets, yet the City is treating every street as if it were equal. When you consider the number of safe crossings versus the number of crossings that involve some sort of incident, the percent of crossings resulting in injury or death is infinitesimal. That is not Russian roulette.

I also resent statements that imply if SBS would have been in effect, the four deaths and many injuries on Woodhaven in the past four years would not have occurred when that us not true if you look at the causes of those accidents. SBS has nothing to do with improving pedestrian safety and several years ago DOT stated that Vision Zero was a totally separate program when asked how buses could move faster with lower speed limits. Now all of a sudden SBS and Vision Zero are part of the same program.

No one is for decreasing pedestrian safety, not even Philip McManus, so quit portraying anyone who opposes Vision Zero as being in favor of reduced pedestrian safety. The questions you pies are ridiculous so I won’t answer them. No one is talking about killing people vs. free flowing traffic. What we are talking about is one pedestrian killed at an intersection regardless of the reason does not make that intersection automatically “dangerous” and in need of redesign. Yet that is exactly what Vision Zero is doing. Someone was recently killed at Nostrand Avenue and Avenue Z and the following week DOT announced sidewalks will be extended there because it is a ‘dangerous intersection” without any release of data regarding how many other accidents or deaths occurred there or at other intersections to prove that intersection was the best candidate for that type of treatment. Their reaction simply was to show the City is doing something.

Well if they really want to improve pedestrian safety, why do we have at any given time hundreds of intersections with painted crosswalks thoroughly worn out and lane and directional markings that are completely worn out all over? Why do we have faded or missing traffic signs for five years or more? Those cause accidents too by motorists making last minute decisions when they become confused? I wrote to DOT once about three times and still had to wait three years for lane markings to be repainted. Now ten years later, they are once again worn out. Do I have to write again and wait another three years? I have been complaining for five years about one missing stop sign. DOT finally stated they would get yo it by January 1st. It still hasn’t been done.

So what I am saying is that Vision Zero is nothing more than a bunch of BS to raise revenue and nothing else, because if the city really were interested in reducing accidents, we wouldn’t have streets with dangerous potholes, worn out lane markings, missing signage and portions of highways that are dark for years.

And I certainly do not believe that 30 mph generally is too fast a speed in this city. For most streets it is perfectly safe. For a few streets a safe speed is 10 mph, for some its 20, for some it is 25, for some 30, for some 35 and for some even 40 is perfectly safe. Lowering the default speed limit to 25 mph is just ridiculous especially when there isn’t a pedestrian around for blocks.

Ed Unneland March 21, 2016 - 1:06 pm

District managers working for community boards were supposed to be able to bring city agencies together to address issues like this. Under a concept called “coterminality,” agency service delivery areas (like police precincts) were to be drawn along the same lines as the community districts. This way, district managers could have periodic meetings with precinct commanders and people at a similar level in other agencies to go over what is going on in a community and keep after the agencies to get things fixed. Unfortunately, it did not seem to work.

BrooklynBus March 21, 2016 - 3:06 pm

I really don’t see how coterminality applies to this situation.

I think coterminality was a great idea, but it never became reality because it would have increased transparency and actually make people responsible. Politicians don’t want that. They want to be able to shift blame easily. Coterminality makes that more difficult.

Not having transparency is what politicians thrive on and is the same reason they won’t allow dedicated funding. Wouldn’t it be great if say the revenue from parking meters would be dedicated to fix our roads. Potholes would disappear because road resurfacing would be adequately funded. They much prefer all funding disappear into the mysterious black hole of the general budget where they can spend it on increased salaries for city council members because if the fabulous job they are all doing.

People wouldn’t mind paying increased taxes if they knew what the money was going for. Instead the city takes tax money from us and wants volunteers organize clean-ups or fund educational programs privately when those functions should be accomplished with the taxes we are already paying.

Rich B March 18, 2016 - 12:30 pm

I have a feeling that the engineers are going say the structure needs complete replacement in most places in order to carry trains. The ROW is still extremely valuable, as putting new elevated where there was none is generally a non-starter. But I wouldn’t count on saving any money by re-using the actual structure.

Eric March 19, 2016 - 7:14 pm

Presumably you can still use the embankment. Just not the bridges over the streets.

j.b. diGriz March 18, 2016 - 12:44 pm

While it’d be great to have the dream of routing the R train along the route, I’d be happy with a shuttle service that manages transfers to the R, J and A along the way. (LIRR too, if they were up for reopening that closed station on Atlantic…)

Ryan March 18, 2016 - 1:34 pm

It’s funny how whether it’s extending the revived W into Brooklyn to make up for the years-since-lost M service there, switching the R and W in Queens to dramatically cut down on route length while losing neither any service nor any useful one-seat rides, or sending the R up Second Avenue to attain full service to the Upper East Side while we wait (potentially for a very long time) for the line to get long enough for the T to be instated, a consistent complaint (often cited as the reason not to do it) is how such a maneuver disconnects the R (or W) from its assigned yard, how none of the abandoned or never-even-built yard spaces that could house the R can be (re)activated, how just being a couple of switches or a transforming designation away from a yard is an inadequate and impossible solution.

Yet, for a line that currently exists in ruins, for a line that would have the R join the A both at JFK Airport but more importantly on that dubious pantheon of “routes that are far too long and unwieldy because of it,” for a line that would also pull the R far away from that pesky Forest Hills yard that is required to be used as the R yard lest complete catastrophe befall the Broadway line and all who use it…

It’s no longer an issue. Funny how that works.

j.b. diGriz March 18, 2016 - 3:26 pm

I acknowledge your bitterness, and commiserate. But I was talking about a shuttle line. And were it to be extended out to JFK, there’s space for a small yard.

Having the willingness to make it a larger yard, I can’t say personally whether that makes an R run to JFK more feasible, since this would require PA involvement either way, but the land is theoretically there for that as well.

wiseinfrastructure March 18, 2016 - 3:16 pm

Solve several problem in one transit project

1- The Port Washington LIRR need to be detached from the LIRR and converted to a premium non fra subway line
2- the capacity of the 63rd street tunnel must be utilized
3- the Rockaway line (JFK) and a LGA link feed relatively cheaply into this scheme:

connect and combine the port washington line, the rockaway line and a new LGA spur with the following services

-run 3 trains per hour servicing the port washington line with stops only between Port Washington and Douglaston and then stops at Flushing and a new slim Manhattan terminal
-run 3 trains per hour servicing all stops at from Bayside (bell blvd) west terminating at the Manhattan terminal
-run 3 trains per hour servicing stations Bayside and west and then switching to the “g” track near Queens Blvd
-run 4 trains per hour from LGA down the Grand Central parkway merging into the PW and terminating in Manhattan
-run 4 trains per hour from LGA down the grand central over the PW line and then switching to the g line
Run -run 4 trains per hour from JFK up the rockaway line merging into the PW and terminating in Manhattan
-run 4 trains per hour from from JFK up the rockaway line over the PW line and then switching to the g line

in short you are sending through the 63rd street tunnel per hour: 3 eastern pw train + 3 queens pw trains + 4 +Lga trains + 4 JFK trains = 14 trains per hour which when combined with the current f trains through 63rd street would be full but manageable utilization

you are sending down the G line 3 queens pw trains + 4 lga trains + 4 jfk trains= an easy 11 trains per hour which will be providing real links to the transit system

the maximum load on the PW line (where the pw line and rockaway branches merger) would be per hour the 14 manhattan bound trains + the 11 g bound trains = a manageable 25 trains per hour

A 14 train per hour terminal would have to be built in manhattan
the 2nd avenue south turnoff from the 63rd street line would be used to connect to either

– a 62 street terminal between 3rd and lex connecting to and 60th/lex 63rd street lex supper transfer station
-via a spur to near grand central terminal station north east of lex and 42nd street

the real issue is that you are running 7 services over one set of tracks.
you however only overlapping with the subway in the 63rd street tunnel

that the western end will each only have 11 and 14 trains per hour is not hard to manage

the services created include:
-lga to both manhattan and brooklyn
-jfk and mid queens services to manhattan and brooklyn
-6 manhattan pw trains per hour stopping in flushing
-3 trains per hour hour between flushing and brooklyn
-numerous woodside switching opportunities

David March 18, 2016 - 4:28 pm

Honestly you lost me at “solve several problems in one transit project.”

Manuel March 18, 2016 - 10:33 pm

Amazing people cry and bit3h about transit put you don’t want it in ur back yard just do it like the Nj light rail what the F is the big deal

Chris March 19, 2016 - 7:21 am

The biggest problem any RBL reactivation faces is the QBL connection. The QBL is already delayed enough as-is, and connecting another line to it only makes it more unreliable, especially if it’s the R (and bad publicity would ensue if your brand-new train is always delayed).

CBTC would help a little, but any R reroute would realistically require extending the W to Bay Ridge and cutting back the R to Whitehall.

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 2:46 pm

Cutting the R back and extending the W is something that should happen anyway – as I mentioned in another comment, this dramatically cuts down on route length, improving operational costs and efficiency while eliminating no useful one seat-rides. The only reason it hasn’t is because of bullshit yard access ‘concerns,” frequently brought up as a reason why the W can’t run to Brooklyn and why the R must run to Queens Boulevard instead of Astoria.

It’s funny how the same group that cries foul over any attempt to improve Broadway line services and especially the R right now suddenly forgets about the horrors upon horrors that they promise would befall the line if the R were disconnected from Forest Hills Yard whenever talk about the Rockaway Beach Branch starts up.

Toby Sheppard Bloch March 19, 2016 - 9:36 am

Assemblyman Goldfeder has been quiet in the fight to make sure the current MTA capital plan in fully funded, but wants to add new capital projects?

Good luck with that.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2016 - 12:42 pm

Could Goldfeder possibly be advocating a study because it makes sense and that the cost for rebuilding may not be as great as SBS proponents such as yourself fear. Perhaps the cost of reactivating the RBL won’t cost much more than the insane $400 million SBS cost plus the cost of Queensway? Perhaps with more long term economic benefits that SBS never would have, with none of the negatives of increased traffic congestion and air pollution that would come with the elimination of general traffic lanes and left turns that is proposed with SBS?

This study should have been part of the Woodhaven Corridor study all along.

So is it the results of this study you fear that you don’t want it conducted?

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 2:51 pm

It’s just as likely that the results of this study will be that the Queens Boulevard can’t support another service and this entire thing ends up going nowhere because absent that link to Manhattan its value becomes far more dubious even in light of a $400 million price tag.

This is far from the slam dunk you’re making it out to be.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2016 - 3:10 pm

I am not making anything out to be a slam dunk. I am only advocating for a fair and complete study.

There also are other alternatives other than a linking to the Queens Blvd subway. Also, there are other transit options using the right of way that need to be investigated other than rail. (The $400 million price tag I referred to was for SBS on Woodhaven Blvd. Not for the ROW.)

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 4:36 pm

Disagree: all of the existing infrastructure is pointed directly at Queens Boulevard. Any other transit option basically involves throwing out the existing provisions, which is going to dramatically inflate the price even if you can find the political will to overcome moneyed NIMBY opposition (which will without a doubt intensify if you go with a Woodhaven Elevated alternative, and there’s no way that this thing makes cost/benefit as a subway when that means underpinning Queens Boulevard).

The LIRR alternative has dubious value without a dramatic overhaul of LIRR fare structures (and even then, the stop density would likely either be too high for LIRR or too low to be useful to the corridor). Absent that, any other mode you can put in this right-of-way either runs into a dead end at the provisioned QBL merge (and a shuttle between 64 Rd and JFK Airport is of dubious value) or becomes a cost and engineering nightmare trying to make that last ~1/4 mile push through to Woodhaven Boulevard station.

BrooklynBus March 19, 2016 - 5:44 pm

What about a busway or people mover or even a monorail? Shouldn’t they at least be looked at in the interest of considering all alternatives, even if they are easily ruled out?

As far as elevated line, do you think an el over the Jackie Robinson the connect near Union Turnpike is a reasonable possibility?

As far the LIRR possibility, I agree that would only make sense if the intracity LIRR fare structure is overhauled so that it is not greater than twice the subway fare.

Eric March 19, 2016 - 7:24 pm

The Jackie Robinson is surrounded by cemeteries and parks. That makes it pretty useless for transit construction.

Ryan March 19, 2016 - 8:07 pm

What about a busway or people mover or even a monorail? Shouldn’t they at least be looked at in the interest of considering all alternatives, even if they are easily ruled out?

Sure, they’re worth a look, but the busway takes out a lot of property on its way to merge back into Woodhaven around Met Av or else it dumps a whole lot of traffic into one of several unpleasant merge scenarios just north of the LIRR, which is also the reason that everyone’s favorite cheap transit gimmick of a mixed-traffic trolley can’t bridge this gap either.

The people mover and the monorail aren’t much better and aren’t better enough on the space consumed front to justify serious exploration as an alternative for a Woodhaven – JFK shuttle.

As far as elevated line, do you think an el over the Jackie Robinson the connect near Union Turnpike is a reasonable possibility?

It’s a possibility, and you could connect to the yard if you went Union Tpke – Jackie Robinson – RBB south to JFK. But as I mentioned in a previous comment, half of this line has real potential value over a Woodhaven SBS alternative, and unfortunately, that’s the same half that’s plagued by the technical problem of being aimed at the choose-your-poison poor choice pair of Queens Boulevard Local or an LIRR conversion.

I do like the idea of studying this, but I’m expecting the study to come back negative, and it bothers me to see the transit advocacy community turn out for this thing in a feverish “RAIL AT ANY COST” push – disregarding the many reasons why this isn’t going to work and can’t work without a lot of reorganization in the system.

Danny Ruscillo March 20, 2016 - 7:36 am

Phil I want to thank you again for ALL your efforts to get this Rockaway Beach Rail Line (QueensRail) back on track.

Marty Ingram March 20, 2016 - 4:04 pm

The RBL will benefit all of Queens. It will help to relieve the congestion on the Van Wyck and Woodhaven Boulevard. Currently there is a phone app called “WAZE” that redirects traffic from congested roadways to better routes. As a result many cars will be traveling through normally quiet neighborhoods. This will greatly reduce the quality of life issues to the neighborhoods surrounding the Van Wyck and Woodhaven corridor.
Besides reducing traffic congestion in central Queens the RBL will help to speed up intra Queens transportation. Right now a passenger from northern Queens traveling to southern Queens by train will need to trave through Manhattan to get to southern Queens.

Bill March 20, 2016 - 9:01 pm

Thanks, Phil. We got the ball rolling. Let’s hope it picks up speed.

Steve March 20, 2016 - 9:03 pm

Took a while, but maybe, finally, something practical will get done.

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 9:44 am

“because Vision Zero can only be achieved when traffic speeds reach zero.”

Well, actually, Vision Zero can be easily achieved when impact speeds reach 10~20 mph, the range in which most 90% of injuries are recoverable and 98% survivable; you don’t have to take my word on that, you can take AAA’s: https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011PedestrianRiskVsSpeed.pdf

If you’ve got a 90% chance of walking away from getting run into at 15 mph, the same smarter road design that reduced speeds to that range will also minimize the chances of actually getting run over. And remember, this sort of road design would be applied to shared spaces like neighborhood streets or commercial business districts, the former of whom are often extremely vocal about their desire to slow traffic down and the latter of whom appreciate the impact on marketing that having a street which encourages you to pull over and buy something has on their businesses. (Main Street tends to suffer when all its would-be patrons go blowing past it at 35+.)

I also resent statements that imply if SBS would have been in effect, the four deaths and many injuries on Woodhaven in the past four years would not have occurred when that us not true if you look at the causes of those accidents. SBS has nothing to do with improving pedestrian safety and several years ago DOT stated that Vision Zero was a totally separate program when asked how buses could move faster with lower speed limits. Now all of a sudden SBS and Vision Zero are part of the same program.

DOT is absolutely wrong to lump SBS into Vision Zero. We agree on that. SBS is a program to enhance transit service, Vision Zero an initiative to reduce pedestrian fatalities. They’re compatible goals but you can’t apply the same solution to both issues. (As an example, narrower lanes are actually harmful to bus traffic because they take away a bus’s ability to switch lanes to avoid obstacles.)

The fact is we can disagree on certain implementations and we can disagree on certain things which are not being implemented but absolutely should be, such as converting arterial streets into slower moving commercial streets. I’m happy to have that debate. It has nothing to do with SBS, and using SBS as a reason to oppose Vision Zero (again, not specific programs and action items undertaken as part of moving towards Vision Zero, but rather the goal itself) is moronic, and ought to be called out for exactly what it is: hostility towards pedestrians.

BrooklynBus March 21, 2016 - 12:31 pm

You are your worst enemy. You have just ruined your case for Vision Zero. You just stated that in order for it to be achieved speeds on all arterials need to be lowered to 20 mph.

Do you have any idea what the effects on the economy would be if the maximum speed on a non-expressway is lowered to 20 mph? The price of goods would skyrocket for one thing because of greatly increased delivery costs.

That type of maximum speed may work for a small compact city, where intra-city travel distances are short, but not for a sprawling city like New York. Travel distances in NYC are long and many parts of the city are forced to rely solely on arterials for long distances, such as much of Brooklyn. Slowing speeds down to a maximum of 20 mph would greatly increase many trip times. That means the average speed would be 15 mph or less. That just doesn’t work and is insane. How low would the average bus speed go? Five mph? It is currently only about 7 to 10 mph. You are proposing bus speeds where walking would be almost as fast for every trip. And do you really think bikes would keep their speeds to below 20 mph? Or do they get an exemption to travel faster than cars because they are not motor vehicle? Your biases have become very clear.

There are much better ways to reduce pedestrian fatalities than a ridiculous solution like virtually stopping all traffic. Two and three hour intra-city trips when expressways are not available, with the absence of direct mass transit routes is just unacceptable.

VLM March 21, 2016 - 12:51 pm

And do you really think bikes would keep their speeds to below 20 mph?

Do you have any idea how hard it is for a cyclist to maintain 20 mph, especially on a city street? Or is this just typical Al Rosen hating on anything that may slow him down for a minute or two even if it means saving lives? No one more selfish on travel times with a louder voice than you, my friend.

BrooklynBus March 21, 2016 - 2:54 pm

How fast was that cyclist going in Central Park last year when he killed that pedestrian? It was over 25 mph. The same is true with the cyclist who was looking at his feet while cycling down a pitch black street without any reflective gear that my friend ending up hitting while he was crossing an intersection at about 10 mph. The cyclist wasn’t hurt but that didn’t stop him from trying to make a legal case that was finally dismissed after three years when he failed to produce any evidence that he was injured.

Responsibility is a two-way street. Quit trying to make it appear tea all cyclists and pedestrians are angels and all drivers care nothing about safety.

nb7 March 21, 2016 - 1:21 pm

Average travel speeds on surface roadways in NYC are already about 20MPH, it’s hard to see what you’re so afraid of here.

BrooklynBus March 21, 2016 - 2:55 pm

Average travel speeds on surface roadways are currently less than 20 mph. We don’t need them to drop even further.

john fazio March 21, 2016 - 3:46 pm

i am a 79 year resident of hamilton beach .there once was a lirr. station in my community in 18 minutes we could be in midtown .i am also on the transportion community of com. bd 10. a study shows connecting the path train to this line it would only take 36 minutes to reach newark airport, can you think of all the traffic and pollution and time and money that would be saved, john fazio


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