With the A Train Gone, Traveling to the Rockaways Becomes Much Harder

Monday, March 11, 2013


Before Sandy, every A train trip between the Rockaway peninsula and the rest of New York City began and ended with a crossing of Jamaica Bay. The train moved along a piece of land so thin that, from inside the train, it appears to skim atop the water. But for months, that 3.6 mile railroad bridge has been out, doubling commutes for Rockaways residents and further adding to the sense of deprivation brought on by Sandy.

On October 29, Sandy's storm surge overwhelmed that thread of connection. When the waters receded, the A train's foundation was gone, removing a major transit link from the peninsula's 130,000 residents.

One of those residents is Senior Producer of The Takeaway, Jen Poyant.  She moved to the Rockaways a few years ago for a relatively affordable beach home -- far from Manhattan, but still, a direct shot on the A train.  Water filled Poyant's basement, and came within a foot of flooding her first floor.  For a month, she and her family couldn't return home.  When she finally got back, she was overjoyed, but the daily trip to work can feel overwhelming -- like a little bit of work squeezed between commutes.  

The direct train ride has become an odyssey from a slow-moving crowded bus to the train miles into the mainland.  Sometimes, fellow commuters told Poyant, it takes all night to get home from Manhattan.

The MTA says its aware of the frustrating commute, but can't promise relief until summer.

MTA executive director Tom Prendergast described the result to the City Council: "An entire bridge and critical subway line serving the Rockaways was destroyed."

With the A train out, the MTA put subway cars on a truck, drove them to the peninsula and lifted them by crane onto tracks that serve six stops at the end of the line. The H train now runs for free from mid-peninsula at Beach 90th Street to the eastern end of the Rockaways. Bus service has also been increased. 

But these are temporary measures. The list of needed repairs to the A train is extensive, and the going is slow. "We had to build out the shoulders on the east and west sides of the track, where you saw the washouts occur," Prendergast said. "We've had to replace damaged and missing third rail protection boards and insulators. We've had to replace signal power and communications equipment, which is ongoing." And damage to the Broad Channel subway station has not yet been fully repaired.

The MTA has patched and reinforced the land bridge where Sandy took large bites from it. But crews are still laboriously laying track and rebuilding the signal system from scratch — both on the railbed crossing Jamaica Bay and on the west end of the peninsula.

In the meantime, the MTA says it'll keep increasing service on the Q53 line, using old buses that have been held back from retirement. Those buses are jammed with riders every weekday rush hour as they make their way over the Cross Bay Bridge. More buses are coming in April. 

The A train is expected back no earlier than late June.


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Comments [4]

Rachel from Rockaway Beach

Yes. This has been a mess and continues to be an ongoing pain in the side, however, this could be tolerated much better with a few changes by MTA.

#1. Substantially increase the number of Q52 buses running from the Rockaway Blvd (Liberty Ave)A-Train stop to Beach 67.

We live on Beach 74th and my daughter and her friend commute to Times Square every day. When they get off of the A-Train at Rockaway Blvd., they can wait up to 1/2 an hour for one Q52 buses to show up, meanwhile Q53 after Q53 shows up. It's common to have four Q53 buses show up for every single Q52. This is unacceptable.

#2. Increase the hours that the Q52, Q53 and Q22 run from the Rockaway Blvd. A-Train stop. If, for any reason whatsoever, my daughter has to stay in Manhattan past 10:30 at night (which is regularly, as she is a professional performer and events/ rehearsals can run late), there's a good chance that she'll miss the last bus, resulting in a $30 car ride to Rockaway Beach. This is unacceptable.

#3. Continue to give us information on when the A-Train is going to resume running. It's one thing to deal with this situation, but another entirely to feel that we, as passengers, have absolutely no right to know what is going on. Monthly postings of the A-Train status and progress would be so appreciated.

I don't begrudge MTA the price increase. I have lived in Texas for the past 25 years and using MTA is, in my experience, a bargain. It is far less expensive that owning and maintaining a car.

I also understand that these repairs take time and we all have to just deal with the situation. However, if MTA would just do the 3 steps I've listed above, it would make the situation much more tolerable for those of us still affected by Sandy's devastation.

May. 14 2013 12:27 PM
Wilder Than You from 11694

As someone and raised In Rockaway, I can tell you definitively the MTA's management of this has is been disgustingly greedy, dishonest and incompetent.
Most importantly, there are LESS buses for those west of the bridge (B 80th and up) than pre-Sandy, not more - that is A BLATANT LIE!! Also, they stop running at random, unpredictable tines (between 10-2) every night completely, stranding hundreds of us that keep thIs city running for those pigs to keep leeching off of. Further, they HAVE added nearly double the Q52 to Far Rockaway that are redundant and service the same routes as the ridiculous shuttle bus (which does not service the 116th side at all, and runs a ridiculously pointless lane through Areas serviced by countless other busses with no correlation whatsoever to the A train it is meant to replace. I could go on for hours; this was written on my phone during the now nightly 45 minute wait for a sardine can that is scheduled (pre-Sandy "increases" to come every twelve minutes and run all night).
If I were the MTA, I would be desperately trying to figure out how to reimburse and placate residents before they inevitably need something from us and find vengeance as cruel (ir merely pathetically executed, or both) as their "service" has been for us.
One last example: a perfect representation of the incompetence and Asnd complete disregard for the massive profits they take from us (AND HAD THE BALLS TO INCREASE RATES ON US WHILE WE STRUGGLE TO REBUILD WHILE ALLOWING OUR COMMUTES TO DOUBLE WHAT THEY WERE): the bus that is the only way out requires a metrocard, but there is no way to purchase un on the entire peninsula - the machines sit in an office with full power and electricity, unserviced and inoperable, and the MTA shows no leniency to the thousands of stranded residents, nor takes any (ridiculously obvious and cheap to fix or replace machines that allow you to collect your payment, no?) Action over seven months later. All comes back around, and the karma for this will be vicious - the MTA will be wishing they could have meekly been reborn as the Cockroaches they've shown themselves to be.

May. 09 2013 09:47 PM
margaret from staten island

This is living on Staten Island and being a commuter. Except there is no bridge to rebuild. Taking the express bus is the worst. 3 hour commute each day and that's if you make your connections. The city can build a rail system for 3 million and it never got approved.

Mar. 11 2013 04:31 PM
MAUREEN from Rockaway Park, NY

It's my understanding that the MTA has provided the East end of Rockaway (Beach 90th Street to Mott Ave.) with buses from the Howard Beach station. Why wouldn't they do the same for the West End, ending at Beach 116th Street which is where the A train ends? My 16 year old leaves Rockaway for her High School in Manhattan at 6am and now does not get home from school util 6:30pm, and that is with no extra cirrucular activities!!
For my peace of mind I'm now paying $6.00 each way for her to take the Express Bus which saves her some time and stress in the morning. The MTA should allow students MTA cards to be used as a discount for the Express Bus until they can restore service as well as providing bus service directly from the Howard Beach station to the Western route of the A train's normal service. Rockaway commuters have been undr enough stress & discomfort since October for the city to not step up it's assistance to Commuters!!!!

Mar. 11 2013 09:38 AM

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