Sunday, June 2, 2013

Buses and trains in Woodhaven

In this blog, Capt. Subway has written that we should run the R subway on the unused Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Railroad, and I've written that we should run Select Bus Service on the parallel Woodhaven Boulevard.

On one of my followup posts, BBnet3000 argued that the Rockaway Branch is not well enough located:

Also, most of the commercial development in this area is along Woodhaven Boulevard, which this subway kind of misses. Theres a reason subways are usually built under streets. When I ride the bus on Woodhaven Boulevard (to go to the auto-oriented Trader Joes incidentally, though Forest Park is also worth visiting) I usually think id like a better bus, rather than a train a block to the east (for what its worth, this bus seems to have pretty good ridership, and a lot of people DO ride it to the Rockaways in the summer). For the densest parts of Woodhaven its several blocks to the east and inaccessible through the private properties of the Rego crescent.

There is in fact walkable commercial development along that section of Woodhaven Boulevard from 62nd Drive to where the cemetery starts at Furmanville Road, but that's the only walkable commercial development the entire length of the boulevard. North of 62nd Drive you've got an apartment complex, a Catholic school parking lot, a deli and a park before you get to Queens Boulevard and the subway station. South of Furmanville Road you have the cemetery on one side and sprawly stores on the other, then the big-box stores, then the Montauk Branch.

South of the Montauk Branch there are a few businesses, but they are almost all located on street corners. The vast majority of commercial use in this corridor is on the avenues that cross it: Metropolitan, Myrtle, Jamaica, Atlantic, 101st and Liberty Avenues. On Woodhaven itself you see mostly houses - and a lot of one-car garages.

If you walk down one of those avenues, the Rockaway Branch is never far away.

One thing to remember is that this is not just about better access to existing businesses, but enticing more and better businesses to locate there. The commercial buildings along the avenues are generally two stories, allowing for greater walkability - more shops, restaurants and offices in a small area. The ones on Woodhaven Boulevard are mostly one story, which limits their potential.

So yes, Select Bus Service would be good for the commercial stretch of Woodhaven north of Saint John's Cemetery, but a subway would be better for businesses further south in that corridor. That's why we should have both.


BBnet3000 said...

As far as the Woodhaven Select Bus, which is really a no-brainer as far as im concerned: This road is way oversized for the car traffic ive ever seen it get, yet ive barely been lucky enough to ever get a bus seat, especially in the summer, where many people take the bus down the full length of Woodhaven to go to the beach.

As for the subway, I still think Triboro RX is a better line for subway reactivation than the Rockaway line. We can likely not get either, but if we can get one id much rather see Triboro. It does amaze me that subway expansion is so difficult and expensive. We are vastly wealthier than when we built the subway system in the first place, but utterly ineffective at doing anything....

Anonymous said...

The problem with having both SBS and subway service is that the Woodhaven corridor is probably not big enough to support both at the same time, in the way that Second Avenue could probably host both the M15SBS and a full-length SAS (whenever that happens)

Adirondacker12800 said...

Let me see if I have this straight. Select Bus on Woodhaven Blvd. isn't worth it because Woodhaven Blvd. isn't developed enough. But building the train is worth it because it would bring development to underdeveloped Woodhaven Blvd. Hmmmm.

Cap'n Transit said...

Is that what you think I'm saying, Adirondacker? No, I think we should have both.

Adirondacker12800 said...

It's doesn't need both in the state it's in now. It's iffy if it needs Select bus. Traffic moves well on Woodhaven Blvd. Zone around the new subway for 30 story apartment buildings for a block around the subways stations, makes it worth it. So you would be building subway in Queens because people in Brooklyn, who have subway already, don't want to put in zoning for 30 story apartment buildings at their subway stop?

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting question from a former resident of Woodhaven. The Rockaway branch had a stop at Jamaica Avenue called "Brooklyn Manor," because the streets of Woodhaven south of Jamaica avenue to 89th avenue, from 98th to Woodhaven Boulevard, were filled with larger-than-average wood frame houses. Now, while the railroad was running, it was a one-seat ride to Penn Station for a non-subway commute.

Where would you find evidence to show, economically, that cutting the neighborhood off from a one-seat ride to Midtown changed the demographic focus of it? I would think lack of quick, easy access to Midtown would drive away the nomenklatura that worked there.

Could you pay for the restoration of the Rockaway Branch with a special tax on the increased value of those large houses, now again within easy commuting distance of Midtown?