2010-10-22 / Columnists

Weiner Writes From Capitol Hill

If Only A-Trains Could Fly
Commentary By Congressman Anthony Weiner

Getting from the Rockaway Peninsula to Manhattan can resemble the 1987 John Candy movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But in this case, you can also add “ferries” to the title.

Let’s try another idea – the express A Train.

The joke almost writes itself – I know that “express” and “A Train” barely fit in the same sentence. But the idea is getting traction as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the City continue to make life harder and harder for commuters and businesses in Rockaway.

Running on more than 31 miles of track, the A Train is New York City’s longest subway route – and no one knows this better than Rockaway residents who rely on the train to get them from the peninsula to Manhattan.

On a good day, it can take up to an hour and a half to reach downtown Manhattan from Rockaway Park. If track work or service changes require riders to transfer to a shuttle bus, it’s even longer and this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Currently, Rockaway residents who

live near the stations at Beach 25th Street, Beach 44th Street and Beach 67th Street all need to use alternate routes if they want to make a trip to Manhattan – and this is scheduled to continue until fall of next year.

This is unacceptably subpar service for those who use the A Train for work, errands or recreation. And it highlights just how badly Rockaway needs better train service.

But, is it possible to speed up the A Train? Let’s find out.

I have written to MTA Chairman Jay Walder to request a feasibility study for express service to and from Rockaway. Given the transportation problems in this part of Queens, this is the least they can do. Hopefully, the MTA will seriously consider the potential advantages that could come with a plan like this.

In the past, the MTA has used pilot programs to test express train service for limited periods of time in different parts of the city to determine if the service can be implemented on a full-time basis. This should be done in Rockaway and along the A Train route through Queens and Brooklyn.

Ensuring that New York residents from every corner of all five boroughs have equal access to public transportation should be one of our City’s top transportation priorities. But with the current decisions being made by City Hall and the MTA, it’s clear that their priorities aren’t where they should be.

Whether it’s the implementation of tolls on the Cross Bay Bridge – the only intra-borough toll in NYC – or the decision to eliminate the Rockaway Ferry and ignore the $15 million in federal funding I secured for capital expenses for the service, the City and the MTA are disproportionately harming New Yorkers in the outer boroughs – especially those in Rockaway. As if that’s not bad enough, fares are set to increase again.

And to top it off, we are stuck with excruciatingly slow subway service.

We need to look at our transportation problems differently if we are going to solve this crisis. Currently, the MTA’s response to its ongoing budget problems has been painfully simplistic. Instead of long-term planning and a willingness to explore new ideas, the MTA seems content to saddle the middle class with fare hikes and new toll charges.

Plain and simple – Rockaway residents are not getting a fair shake when it comes to their transportation options.

Traveling to and from the peninsula shouldn’t remind people of an 80’s John Candy film, and that’s all the more reason to give express A Train service a chance.

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