Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TWU Joins Queens Coalition to Re-Activate 3.5 Miles of Rail, Delivering Subway Service to 500,000

Supporters of the Rockaway Branch line's restoration to rail service received the endorsement below by none other than the TWU - The Transport Workers Union Local 100. A big thank you to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) for helping fight the good fight!

TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen spoke at a press conference organized by supporters of re-activating the Rockaway Beach Branch, a 3.5 mile stretch of abandoned railroad track that "would connect South and Northern Queens in a way that is not currently possible," according to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). Goldfeder and officials from Queens College released a study that concluded reactivating the line would generate about 500,000 subway rides per day. TWU Local 100 is strongly in favor of the idea, and we favor the use of MTA capital funds to reactivate the line.

"We view this as a once in a lifetime opportunity," Samuelsen said. "We have existing transit access that has fallen into disuse. In this instance, we have an opportunity to expand the subways and deliver transit service to 500,000 riders a day that is desperately needed. Because it is an existing asset, we have the opportunity to do it at a fraction of the cost of new construction." He also spoke of the big economic boost the line would bring to Queens. "We have an existing transit asset," he reiterated. "Why let it slip out of our hands? Why not put it back into use for 500,000 transit riders?"

On Thursday, February 12, 2015, TWU President John Samuelson reiterated his support for the restoration of rail service as an opinion in the Queens Chronicle saying that, "...the most meaningful, and often overlooked, difference between the 2 plans is the potential for increasing access to jobs. Reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line, which was owned and operated by the Long Island rail Road until 1962, would be a far more economically advantageous to the 250,000 people residing within a half-mile of the existing right-of-way."

He later added in the op-ed piece that the fare revenues produced by passengers riding those rails would yield significant farebox recovery that would minimize the strain on NY State's finances but yield a return on investment - something the park plan could not due because ongoing maintenance issues would have to be generated with donations - something local residents are not financially equipped to handle because of their economic situation. Only the High Line in the Chelsea part of Manhattan could hope to achieve enough donations to keep it going.

One final note. Samuelson stated the recovery from Hurricane Sandy cost the MTA $75 million. Putting rail service back here would cost $800 million - a bargain considering what other transportation projects cost. Even NY State Controller DiNapoli wrote that the rails were a cost effective way of expanding the MTA's services.

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