Transportation Improvements for Commuters
As I sat aboard the upper deck of Rockaway's own "American Princess" commuter ferry for the first time, the city skyline fading in the distance, I pondered why a neighborhood like ours, conveniently located a mere 12 miles from Manhattan, lacks an efficient and speedy public transportation system. Now, I admit, we have made some great strides in recent years, for example, the ferry can deliver its customers to lower Manhattan in an hour and the express buses do the same for our midtown-bound residents. However, there are still a number of areas that need improvement so I've outlined below what I feel would benefit our community the most immediately. To the community, I encourage you to contact many of our local politicians and candidates to voice your concerns. You can also post your thoughts on our new Google forum at http://group.google.com/ groups/rockawaycommuters. To the politicians, I urge you all to listen to your constituents and understand the steps that need to be taken.
We can start immediately with expanded express bus service. Far Rockaway houses the MTA bus depot for a number of express bus routes. Throughout the day, buses leave the depot and head north on Woodhaven Boulevard for Manhattan, many of them without a single passenger. If the MTA is looking to make more money, they need to run the routes in Rockaway to fill those empty seats. Southbound, QM15s discharge their last passengers in Howard Beach and continue south to the depot empty. Again, by filling these seats with passengers, the MTA makes money and we get increased service.
The ferry is catering to a very narrow customer base. On the afternoon I took it home, 15 passengers were aboard the 3:30 p.m. ride, one of which disembarked at the Brooklyn Army terminal. It seems unfair to our community to needlessly stop in Brooklyn when our route is long enough. The ferries bound for Highlands, New Jersey, follow a similar route in the New York Harbor and make no such stop. By removing the stop, we can speed the service. Though the company offers a $1 transfer to its midtown location at East 34th Street, such a connection is practically useless as it makes two stops in Brooklyn before its arrival. If a direct connection can be made, the midtown-bound residents of our community can consider it an option. By replacing the Brooklyn Army terminal stop with the East 34th Street stop, the ferry company can increase its profitability, a very good thing in these trying times.
We deserve an express A train that bypasses all of the stops in central Queens and Brooklyn. Trains from Penn Station to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania require less than 90 minutes to travel 100 miles. The mid-morning A trains require a similar amount of time but travel a small fraction of the distance. Amtrak is apparently doing something right.
The changes I have proposed all utilize the existing services we have. They are improvements. I am tired of hearing promises by our local politicians that with their help, the Rockaway line of the Long Island Railroad will be restored. I can't wait 10 to 20 years for such a change, it's a hard thing to sell to both existing and prospective community members, and it doesn't help the many commuters gearing up for the coming school term and/or changing work schedule. Using the federal money from the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act for such a capital project is great and well worth it. Right now, though, let's work with what we already have. All aboard!