LIRR, under Pennsylvania RR ownership and for-profit status, operated what was known as RBL or Rockaway Beach Line. Approximately 2 years ago, I initially briefed this Council on RBL. Some Members requested that it wasn’t the opportune time to discuss RBL – there were more important projects that were needed for improved service to Nassau & Suffolk Counties. In life, we always point out how timing is everything. The time, and need, has arrived for additional transit options for both Rockaway and Queens County residents and tourists - especially as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Queens County has experienced significant tourist and population growth. It has been evidently proven and is only anticipated to increase. Without additional mass transit options, such as RBL, many of the negative points below, will become an unfortunate reality.
My objective today is to describe and outline the facts so we can take an official position on whether to support or oppose this Project.
For a very detailed and informative historical overview, I recommend you read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockaway_Beach_Branch
Everyone should have:
1 – A copy of a Flyer that outlines why RBL is a win-win situation for all
2 – A copy of an old sample schedule showing the times and frequencies of service when RBL was in actual revenue service.
3 – A copy of the MTA RBL Analysis report and this Position Paper.
Additional and viable options
Currently, Rockaway Park, which is part of the West End of the peninsula, primarily has bus service. Additionally, though they have direct access to the subway, it has a history of furnishing very poor and unreliable service. Many of the residents have proclaimed their commute to take as much as 2 hours to go one-way into Manhattan. The East End has various options, including, but not limited to: express bus service, subway and LIRR service. East End residents also have the option of driving on toll-free roads. RBL‘s immediate objective will be to furnish quick public transportation to Rockaway West residents. Other neighborhoods that will share in the benefits are Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Maspeth and Rego Park.
Recently, the residents of Rockaway West began to utilize the newly created ferry service. Critics have praised it. Unfortunately, at the present time, it is only temporary and is anticipated to terminate by end of 2013.
A reduction in fuel consumption and air pollution, because there will be fewer cars on the road.
Immediate jobs would number in the hundreds - beginning from planning and construction of RBL to permanent jobs in operations and maintenance. In addition, this project alone will indirectly create a substantial number of employment opportunities. Pre-Sandy Rockaway saw approximately 7+ million visitors and tourists. Thus far, Post-Sandy Rockaway has not fully recovered. The Boardwalk, independently, is a vital, integral and inherent part of what attracts so many to the Rockaway Beaches. The original route was and is still planned for a one-seat northbound trip through Queens.
RBL would further add and increase sales of merchandise and service. Many new businesses will be created directly and indirectly as a result.
Increased property values
Historically, upon commencement of revenue service real estate value have always seen an immediate and considerable increase.
Currently, MTA & LIRR’s priorities are ESA, 2nd & 3rd Track. Even if RBL were placed as their #1 Priority Project, it will be years, albeit, decades before it sees revenue service.
There are 2 main groups that are opposed to RBL: The Queensway group, which is an organization that is seeking to modify RBL into another High Line, and those that don’t want any kind of railroad operation in their immediate vicinity.