Will Rebirth Of ‘A’ Train Kill Ferry Plan?
As a famous ersatz king in a famous Broadway show once said, “Tis a puzzlement.”
On January 23, in the wake of a devastating fire at the Chambers Street subway station, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) issued a statement that said, “Customers should be aware that we have no plans for the restoration of C-service in the near future.”
On January 24, an MTA spokesperson said, “After closely examining the damage, it has been determined that service [on the C and A lines] can be restored within three to six months.”
In the wake of that fire and the possibility that Rockaway riders would be disrupted for years, two politicians began jockeying for position in the coming mayoral election by promising to try and obtain a commuter ferry service for Rockaway.
Congressman Anthony Weiner was over the line first in the race to promise Rockaway a commuter ferry with a hastily-called press conference on Friday, January 29 at the Beach 90 Street subway station on the A line.
Weiner wants the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund the ferry service as a transportation emergency.
“For all intents and purposes, the residents of Rockaway are cut off,” he said, as riders passed by, many wondering what was going on and pausing to take a look. “On good days, the commute by subway can take an hour and a half. The fire, however, has turned the ride into a marathon, with some riders reporting commutes of two and a half hours or more.”
Many riders in the crowd that had gathered around the reporters present nodded in agreement and yelled encouragement.
Weiner’s plan calls for FEMA to contract with a local ferry operator to provide a commuter service for the next six months, or until travel times on the A train go back to normal.
The entire cost of the ferry service would be born by the federal government under the proposed plan.
The service, which would run seven times each day, would operate out of Riis Landing in Fort Tilden and travel to both Pier 11 at East 34 Street and the West 28 Street ferry dock.
“Traveling at 30 knots, the trip would take approximately 25 minutes,” Weiner said.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, likely to be Weiner’s opponent in the upcoming Democratic primary for Mayor, took a different tack.
Miller, who represents a Manhattan district, sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, asking for extra transit funds to create the needed ferry service from Rockaway to Manhattan, although the letter seemed to make it unclear that Miller knows that Rockaway is in Queens.
“The Metropolitan Transit Authority is not doing enough to help marooned Brooklyn A and C Train riders following Sunday’s service-haulting fire at the Chamber’s Street stop,” Miller wrote.
“There is an allocation in this year’s city budget for ferry operations that is currently going unused. The item was meant to provide routes from Rockaway to Pier 11 – a route that could easily be linked with continuing service to Manhattan’s West Side,” Miller added, referring to the $300,000 that City Councilman Joseph Addabbo put into the budget three years ago.
“That is why we request that the unused, City Council allocated, DOT funds allowed to provide ferry service to Manhattan from the Rockaways, be used immediately to alleviate congestion on the A and C lines in Brooklyn,” Miller’s letter continued.
Councilman Addabbo told The Wave that the only reason Rockaway does not have a commuter ferry presently is because the mayor will not release that $300,000. He says that a ferry operator has agreed to run two ferries in the morning and two in the evening for $10 round-trip, but the mayor’s office keeps saying that a subsidy coming from council member item money has never been done.
“We have the ferries, we have the landing, we have the money,” Addabbo said. “All we need is for the mayor to release the money.”
When Daily News reporter Warren Woodbury questioned a spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg about the money, he quipped, “Miller should discuss that issue with Anthony Weiner.”
The mayor has resisted a subsidized ferry service for Rockaway for the past two years, and experts believe that it would be unlikely that he would add to the $300,000 currently available in order to make the service affordable to Rockaway commuters on a regular basis.
On Tuesday, February 1, however, the MTA pulled the rug out from under the two politicians by announcing that service would be “substantially returned to normal by the end of the week on both the A and C lines.”
After more than a week of chaos, confusion and terrible overcrowding, the trains began running on Wednesday morning at about 70 percent of what it had been prior to the fire.
According to the MTA, transit engineers worked around the clock to patch together a temporary signal system that got the lines rolling.
Some locals are calling it “The MTA Miracle.”
Weiner told The Wave on Wednesday that he intends to move ahead with his plea to FEMA for a commuter ferry service despite the fact that service on the A line has been reinstated on a partial basis.
“I’m going to use every opportunity to get a ferry for Rockaway even if I have to bring it to public attention during transportation crisis and during sunny days at the beach. This campaign is going to bring attention to Rockaway and its need for a commuter ferry.”
An MTA spokesperson said that rush hour traffic on both the A and C lines northbound would continue to run at about a 70 percent frequency in relation to the pre-fire traffic. Southbound A and C traffic is expected to be at 80 percent of pre-fire capacity.
Service on the Rockaway Park A Express remains suspended, however and will remain so indefinitely, according to the MTA Website, www.MTA. info. Riders who normally take that express should take the shuttle to Broad Channel where they can pick up regular service to Manhattan.
The agency warns that it expects overcrowding on that line, particularly during rush hours.
There will be times, particularly in the evening, when the C line will be shut down for repairs, affecting the A line as well.