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May 8 marked the 65th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Jamaica Bay trestle that severed the Rockaway Beach Line (RBL). Many Rockaway residents believe it is no coincidence that their communities began to decline at the same time. No wonder: the loss of direct train service turned a swift 45-minute trip to midtown into a 75-minute + hassle. Who wants to live or go to the beach in Rockaway under those circumstances?

Many solutions have been planned, tried, and partially implemented since 1950, like express buses, the IND (A) through Brooklyn, and ferries. However, each time, when their shortcomings were revealed, the one best answer was revived: why not fully restore the RBL as the core mass transit link to Midtown?

The latest such proposal is the New York City Department of Transportation’s (NYCDOT) $231 million Woodhaven SBS, now morphed into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Unfortunately it has serious flaws that have been highlighted by Assemblymen Philip Goldfeder and Mike Miller and State Senator Joseph Addabbo.

The BRT plus LIRR or subway would still take 75 minutes if not more to reach midtown. It would also force some bus riders to walk more. Meanwhile drivers will fume in delays as the BRT would swipe two lanes while seeing 24 left hand turning movements banned, forcing cars and heavy trucks onto narrow residential streets.

In contrast, a new QueensRail would improve transit without interfering with motorists, commercial operators, and pedestrians. It will also attract more customers, and by extension prompt job-and tax revenue creating green redevelopment. Trains are far quieter, cleaner, safer, and more popular than buses. Studies have shown that customers prefer rail to bus even when rail is slower.

Ironically the City of New York had planned to connect the RBL into the Queens Blvd. subway lines back in the 1930s. There is a cutout east of the 63rd Drive/Rego Park station for a link to the RBL. But no reason has ever been clearly given as to why it wasn’t built.

Unfortunately, in Queens NIMBYs rule. Politicians have evaded the RBL restoration for fear of being defeated by powerful residents living by the right-of-way. NIMBY politics explain Governor Cuomo’s

transfer-riddled and long-wayaround proposed LGA train which saves no time over current ways to access LGA. Astoria residents killed the most direct, appealing, and practical option, which is to extend the N train.

The only way the ghost of the 1950 fire can be put to rest is with a comprehensive and open study of the QueensRail, examining it against other alternatives like BRT, just as was done with the Second

Avenue Subway. The QueensRail study would look at many options, like the Montauk Branch, going underground instead of reusing the controversial berm, and seeking regulatory flexibility to permit shared LIRR and subway operation over Jamaica Bay.

While the recommended transportation option may be expensive, it will likely to be the best choice for residents, neighborhoods, and the future of New York City.

Brendan Read is a former Richmond Hill resident and longtime transit advocate

The Rockaway Times THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015 Page 43

Ideas for Smarter Transportation

Time Again for the Old Rockaway Beach Line as the New QueensRail

By Brendan B. Read