The Rockaway transit hack


Getting to and from Rockaway has never been easy, as any resident or visitor can attest. Daily ferry service was cancelled in 2014, although it is slated to return in 2017. Only half of the peninsula is served by a direct-to-Manhattan subway connection. Bus service is often abysmal, and isn’t calibrated to meet the increased demand of summer beach-goers.

This year alone we have experienced paralyzing traffic jams, and a copper cable theft that resulted in the shutdown of rush hour subway service. While these are isolated incidents, the resulting chaos highlighted the need for improved transit and infrastructure options for the peninsula.

Activists have been trying for years to reactivate the Queens Rail, a dormant branch of the LIRR. That line could potentially provide a 30-minute ride direct to Penn Station, and would also alleviate congestion along the Woodhaven Boulevard corridor. However, it is in competition with other high-profile projects for MTA Capital Funding.

There is an alternate rail option that already exists, with a common fare collection system in place. The AirTrain at Howard Beach, which connects A train riders to JFK Airport, can also be used to get to Jamaica Station. From there, commuters can connect to the Long Island Rail Road, or the F train.

I tried it out recently:

2:18PM Arrived at Howard Beach A train/AirTrain Station, located at Coleman Square. Paid $5 (using my MetroCard) to enter the AirTrain platform.
2:22PM JFK-bound AirTrain departs
2:27PM AirTrain arrives at Federal Circle stop. Exit the train, go down a short flight of stairs to the outbound tracks to connect to a Jamaica Station bound train.
2:31PM Jamaica Station bound AirTrain departs Federal Circle.
2:35PM AirTrain arrives at Jamaica Station. Pay $5 upon exit, just steps away from the LIRR and F train.


It’s not cheap, and you have to get to the Howard Beach station first. But it is a fast connection, and the easiest way into Manhattan when the A train is out of service.

This could be an interim solution, to be used in emergency situations: extend the Rockaway Park shuttle to Howard Beach, and allow riders to connect to the AirTrain for a reduced fare. Making this happen requires very little other than the cooperation of the MTA and the Port Authority. What do you say, Governor Cuomo?