It’s About Time For Park And Ride
Now that our latest ferry project is on life support, it is time to consider a commuter proposal I brought to the attention of local politicians nineteen years ago. It is functional under all weather conditions; and, commuters, no matter the hour, will be reunited with their vehicles upon their return trip. Park-N-Ride, a commuter method to curtail traffic, pollution and congestion in Manhattan has been successful in New Jersey for decades. It can be successful in Rockaway, too; and it could co-exist with the ferry. A Park-N-Ride from Riis Park Parking Lot is an express link to Manhattan whose “ time is overdue. The following plan is merely a suggestion subject to change but not indifference: Initially, during rush hour, buses would leave from Riis lot every 20 minutes alternating downtown and midtown starting at 6:30 a.m. running until 8:30 a.m. After rush hour, bus service would reduce to one city bus per hour or two mini buses per hour every half hour depending on preliminary demand. Evening rush hour, 5 p.m. through 7 p.m., will reverse the morning rush hour routine.
From 7 p.m. until midnight two mini buses per hour will return to Riis on the half hour and the hour. From midnight to morning rush hour, a single mini-bus will be scheduled per hour temporarily until de-mand is assessed. With transportation from Rockaway to Manhattan arduous, haphazard and at times, unsafe, instituting Park-N-Ride as a regular route for the MTA is the long overdue cure for Rockaway’s commuter blues. Moreover, using mini-buses during off peak hours is a suggestion that should be instituted throughout the city as a cost cutting measure from this time forward.
Why, one might ask, would the city start this route in times of fiscal distress? The answer is that we warrant it (which is why we got the ferry), we deserve it and we pay more than our fair share for it in tolls and taxes and it is the missing piece of our commuter puzzle. If, as recently reported, Manhattan can get a bubble over 24 tennis courts in Central Park and a shuttle from 59th Street to the courts and City Hall can be renovated to the tune of $120,000,000 (for starters), High Line Park and a Second Avenue Subway, there is no excuse for passing over Rockaway, clearly, commuter discrimination. That the mayor can justify removing our ferry in July while not substituting a viable mode of transportation to the city from Rockaway is insulting and unacceptable.
According to the numbers, one city bus saves pollution from 66 automobiles going to the city. A mini-bus seats 6-12. If we can prove our ridership will pay for the buses, Rockaway commuters more than deserve a complement to the ferry. If we can believe the mayor’s push for congestion pricing is to discourage drivers from clogging Manhattan traffic, even he would have to admit that Park-NRide is the ticket. If his true intent in inflicting congestion pricing on residents of the outer boroughs is to swell the city’s treasury, Park-N-Ride will defeat that point. Well, mayor, which is it?
Naturally, this proposed bus schedule is subject to change commensurate with ridership. Parking is free for the non-summer months at the Riis lot; and, a $40 summer pass is available for purchase during the entire beach season. The fare is currently $5.50 for express buses. The parking lot is there. Ten months of the year it is not in use. Let us use it to our advantage.
If buses serving Rockaway are permitted on the Belt Parkway, in the HOV lane, it is possible to get into the city in well under an hour. And, unlike the ferry, inclement weather is a non-issue.
Let us have ferry service in the summer as a permanent summer conveyance along with year around express buses - the perfect Rockaway partnership and the key to our commuting future.
For too long Rockaway has been discriminated against commuter-wise by our politicians, occasionally throwing us a ferry bone. These politicians have never been committed to easing the commute from ‘here to there.’ Give us what we need and make it permanent. Price it as one would any commuter express bus. Adjust the size of the buses to reflect ridership numbers; but, do not tinker with the time schedule. Revive the ferry for the summer for as much a commuter vehicle to Manhattan as a day at the beach from Manhattan. Does this make too much sense for political decision-makers?
With looming limitations on Access- A-Ride, with the price of gasoline so high, with auto exhaust pollution an environmental issue, with the prospect of congestion pricing, with increasing tolls, with the reality of resuming the Cross Bay Bridge toll, with no chance of getting the LIRR to stop on Beach 116 Street and with the ferry not a four season answer to our commuter needs, Park-N-Ride might just be the ticket to bring Rockaway into the “twentieth” century. The fact that the paucity of jobs here and the out of control building of housing with zero job creation demand its residents leave the peninsula for work, the very least our politicians can do for us is to transport us to and from our jobs in Manhattan in a cost efficient and timely manner. We deserve it.