Express bus foes want ’50s train back

By Eric Jankiewicz

While the city moves forward with plans to create an express bus service that would run along Woodhaven Boulevard, some residents in Rockaway are pushing for the revival of a subway line that once ran from Rockaway to northern Queens.

“They never even considered the train tracks which are right nearby,” said Phillip McManus, president of the Queens Public Transit Committee. “We support mass transit that’s going to make a big difference.”

McManus and his group are based out of Rockaway Beach and they have held “rallies” during Select Bus Service, the city’s name for express buses, meetings and workshops. They are against Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Blvd because they fear that traffic will increase and advocate for the restoration of a train line that was owned by the Long Island Rail Road and ran between Rego Park and Rockaway Beach. The line was closed in the 1950s after a fire cut service in the middle of the line.

McManus and others argue that the A line that currently serves the Rockaways is undependable and doesn’t reach most parts of Queens.

“It’s quicker to get to Brooklyn than to Forest Hills from Rockaway,” McManus said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The city is holding public workshops throughout April for the public to give their feedback on the block-by-block street redesigns that were recently released. Advocates are calling the design the city’s most ambitious bus project aimed at reducing travel times north and south along Woodhaven Boulevard and Crossbay Boulevard.

The design features bus-only lanes along the main road and some argue, including McManus, that the bus only lanes will increase traffic congestion. Transit advocates say it will decrease traffic by establishing an order on the road and reducing skirmishes between buses and cars that can take place on the road.

According to the city, the creation of Select Bus Service (SBS) doesn’t mean that a Rockaway train line will never come to fruition.

“These two projects – Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard SBS and Rockaway Beach Line – are not in direct competition,” a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said. “Bringing SBS to Woodhaven Blvd and Cross Bay Blvd does not preclude the reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line.”

And Joan Byron, a supporter of SBS and lead researcher at Pratt Center, noted that the abandoned line doesn’t have the long reach that an express bus service on Woodhaven Boulevard would have by running all the way up to Flushing.

“It’s hard to see it making sense to revive it as a LIRR branch,” Byron said . “The subway system is just slammed. The only way to increase capacity is to look at how we can improve the performance of the bus system.”

Reach reporter Eric Jankiewicz by e-mail at ejankiewicz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.