2007-05-04 / Columnists

It's My Turn

By Keith Goldberg

By Keith Goldberg

The following was prepared for presentation to the City Council's Transportation Committee at a recent meeting in Broad Channel. Goldberg is a civic activist, who is involved with youth athletics and with the Graybeards.

The technology advances in fare collections, which have eased the means of transfer, and the consolidation of all bus routes under the MTA umbrella, offers an opportunity to look at Rockaway's public transportation needs holistically.

There have been many calls over the years to reopen the Whitepot Junction spur of the old LIRR to restore service from Rockaway to Midtown. While this would be best for Rockaway, it is not likely to happen in light of all the other transportation projects already laid out by the MTA. What can happen is a change to service along the A line.

Prior to the AirTrain rail link to Jamaica station and Howard Beach station, a bus linked the airport to the Howard Beach station, and passengers transferred to a Super Express 'Train to the Plane' with direct service to downtown Brooklyn and limited stops in Manhattan afterwards, along the 'A' express line. This service was eliminated, but with the AirTrain link in place and the explosion of housing growth in Rockaway, it should be revisited. Regular 'A' service could terminate at the Howard Beach Station. 'A' Super Express service could originate at the Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park terminals. These would make their normal stops in the Rockaways and Broad Channel. At Howard Beach, these passengers could transfer for the regular 'A' service if their destination is prior to downtown Brooklyn. AirTrain passengers could then board the 'A' Super Express in Howard Beach (a car or two could be saved for their use only) or choose regular 'A' service.

The 'A' Super Express would then stop at downtown Brooklyn, Fulton Street transit center, West 4/6, West 34/6, West 42/6, Rockefeller Center, West 57/6.

Transfers to other subway lines would be available at all these stops. This would be a much more attractive service to drive ridership of the AirTrain and of course would greatly benefit Rockaway residents with reasonably quick service to downtown AND midtown. There should be no need for a premium fare for Rockaway residents and thus no need for extra 'ticket collection' personnel on the Super Express as there was with the Train to the Plane.

Bus service can be improved through a combination of eliminating unnecessary service, creating symbiotic local/ express lines and a central transit hub, and then increasing frequency on remaining lines. This is in place on the Q113 bus from Far Rockaway to Jamaica Center which offers both an express and local service. The Q53 and Q21 connect Rockaway with Queens via the Cross Bay Bridge and Cross Bay/Woodhaven Boulevard. The Q53 should be an express service with stops after Broad Channel at Rockaway Blvd/Liberty Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Queens Center, Broadway/Roosevelt and Roosevelt/61st Street. The Q21 should mimic the route of the Q53 but provide local service along this route and terminate at Queens Center. The Q35 connects Rockaway to Brooklyn via the Gil Hodges Bridge and Flatbush Avenue. In Brooklyn, there should only be stops at Kings Plaza/ Avenue U, Kings Highway/Ave L, and the terminal stop at Flatbush/ Nostrand. The B41 already provides local service along the same route. Anyone desiring local service can transfer easily at Kings Plaza or Kings Highway.

Within Rockaway, there is no need for both the Q22 and the Q35 on the west end. A Central Hub Loop should be created bounded by Beach Channel Drive on the north, Beach 108 Street on the east, Rockaway Beach Boulevard on the south, and Beach 116 Street on the west. This loop is essentially the one that is currently used by the Q53. It should also be used by the Q21, Q22, and Q35. All four lines would travel around the hub. There would be stops at Beach Channel Drive/Waldbaum's, Beach Channel Drive/ Beach 108 Street, Beach 108 Street/Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach Boulevard/Beach 111 Street, Rockaway Beach Boulevard/Beach 114 Street, and Beach 116 Street between Rockaway Park A Terminal and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. This last would be the Central Transfer Point for all, with transfer also available at Beach 108 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The Q21, as stated before, would mimic the Q53. The Q22 would stop at the Beach 116 Street transit hub. Those continuing westbound would transfer to the Q35 at that point. Eastbound service would then begin by following the Hub Loop and continuing along Rockaway Beach Boulevard after making the left at Beach 108 Street. The Q35 would stop but not terminate at Newport Avenue and Beach 116 Street, but instead enter and follow the Hub Loop at that point. It would stop at the Central Transfer Point on Beach 116 Street before then turning onto Newport Avenue and continuing west. There could also be additional buses before and after school designated as Q22S and Q35S that would alter their routes slightly to service Beach Channel and Scholars' Academy. The elimination of duplicate service on the west end should then allow for increased frequency for the Q35 making it more attractive to riders. The elimination of eastbound service along Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 116 and Beach 108 would greatly relieve congestion along that stretch without sacrificing service. The Hub Loop would create better access to the post office and Waldbaum's shopping center, particularly for those who are currently dependent on car service.

It would create more direct access to Stella Maris and the nursing homes for riders of the Q35. Finally, the Central Transfer Point in front of the Rockaway Park Terminal would better serve riders of the A Super Express making it more viable.

A commuter Express Bus service to midtown could also be explored with a west end route stopping at Beach 129, 116, 108, 102 and 96 Streets before heading out via Cross Bay Bridge, and an east end route stopping at Beach 59, 72, 84 and 90 Streets. This will be in greater demand as Arverne-by-the-Sea gets completed.

Ferry service is another option that has been tried in the past but has not been able to sustain. PlanNYC calls for pursuit of increased ferry service and Rockaway would seem to be a candidate for such service. Clearly this service would need substantial subsidies to be viable, as well as ample adjacent parking and public transportation links in Rockaway and Manhattan. I will leave it to others to formulate a proposal for this.

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