I first posted about this back in January, but the Times reported this week that the city is studying possible uses for the LIRR’s abandoned Rockaway branch.
The Regional Rail Working Group has been studying the matter and suggests refurbishing and reopening the line to train traffic. Advocates of this plan cite several advantages, two of which really stand out to me: First, it would cut the commute from the Rockaways to Manhattan in half, from one hour to half an hour. Second, if linked to the JFK AirTrain, it could provide a one-seat ride from Penn Station to JFK, at a fraction of the cost of Pataki’s proposed link from Lower Manhattan to JFK. (Pataki’s plan would cost 6 billion bucks and would probably entail digging a new tunnel under the East River, along with acquiring right-of-way. This plan would cost only 400 million and could use existing tunnels and right-of-way.)
The cynic in me still feels, though, that the JFK/Lower Manhattan link is the sugar designed to coat the real medicine: increased LIRR access between the Financial District and the Long Island suburbs. As Ray Sanchez pointed out in Newsday this week, NYC usually gets the short shrift in transit funding, compared with the suburbs.