By Tom Momberg
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she is planning to present a cost-effective idea to bring a transit alternative to underserved areas of Glendale and Middle Village to the Department of City Planning in the coming weeks.
An aide to Crowley gave TimesLedger Newspapers some details of her idea to bring a diesel-powered light rail passenger train line to the portion of the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch that runs from Glendale near Woodhaven Boulevard into Long Island City, potentially serving residents of Middle Village, Ridgewood and Maspeth, as well.
“Each day, we are faced with too much traffic congestion and unreliable bus service,” Crowley said in a statement. “A light rail service could help to alleviate these issues and also be cost-effective for the city to implement. We should take advantage of this existing rail line and transform it into something everyone can benefit from.”
Freight trains are currently the only cars that operate on the Montauk branch of the LIRR, and mostly west of Jamaica, but Crowley’s aide said they hope a schedule could be worked out to accommodate commuters in addition to freight.
Similarly, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system in Hudson County, N.J., which is under contract with New Jersey Transit, moves more than 54,000 weekday passengers across 24 stations in addition to moving freight in some areas, according to NJT.
Crowley is proposing passenger stops at the Metro Mall in Middle Village and in Long Island City in order to connect commuters to the M subway, as well as to the No. 7 and E trains.
Furthermore, the councilwoman is proposing the MTA maintain the light rail system, so passengers could pay for their commute using a MetroCard and avoid the high costs of the LIRR.
Crowley’s office said no formal hearing has been set with City Planning yet, but the public has been quite receptive to the idea. City Planning did not respond to a request for comment.
The LIRR offered passenger service on the Montauk branch until 1988, when it was discontinued due to a limited ridership. But now, as the nearest subway stations to central and southeast Queens have an increasing reputation for being slow and overcrowded, Crowley said alternatives are needed.
Since Crowley plans to pitch what is just a preliminary idea to City Planning, so her office had no proposed cost estimates or timeline, but noted the capital cost for such a project would be minimal compared to most MTA projects.
Once a project proposal is formalized, it would be subject to public review and need to go before Queens Community Board 5.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb