It seems wherever Major League Soccer wants to build a stadium in New York, there’s a problem. In Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, there were issues with removing a big chunk of the park. There were problems with a landlord in the Bronx. And, if approved, the league will have to grapple with getting people to south Queens.
Should a stadium be approved at Aqueduct, its planning team will need to explore how to increase and create new transportation options to get the ball rolling on an arena. The stadium and a resulting transit solution will help solve the staggering issues of getting people in and out of the area.
“The developers need to talk to the community,” said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, one of the area’s hawkish transportation advocates. “And what I think they’re going to hear from the community is transportation.”
The A train will be the first major fix to move more people to an area that will likely seat 25,000 to 30,000 in a stadium. Limited frequency and the fact that the line branches off to Rockaway, Aqueduct, JFK International and Jamaica have put off riders from heading to the region, according to experts.
“The most frustrating thing in the world is you have got to wait for three A trains,” said Joan Byron, policy director for the Pratt Center for Community Development. “People want to get to different places. And the A train isn’t the most direct connection.”
Resorts World Casino, which opened three years ago, has already created the demand before more frequent A train service to Aqueduct. Service to the stop has gone up from 60 riders a day when the station closed in 2011 to 1,700 riders in recent weeks, according to the MTA. And while Resorts World also buses gamblers from sites around the city, Goldfeder said the demand is there for more service.
“It’s very telling,” he said. “That gives you an indication of what needs to be done.”
One of the hallmarks for moving people quickly to the site would be a Rockaway Beach Railroad – a 50-year defunct line that would, if revived, run from Rego Park to Howard Beach. Despite pushback over noise concerns, the line would bring fans and gamblers from Penn Station to Howard Beach, near Aqueduct, in just more than half an hour – about half the time as the subway.
Rail advocates used the proposed line two years ago as a bargaining chip to keep a convention center in the cards for Aqueduct at a revival price estimated at $500 million. While that plan has fallen through, advocates have still rallied for the line in the post-Sandy recovery to bring more people south.
One of the most popular options has been select bus service, with dedicated lanes to quickly move people along Woodhaven Boulevard, Byron said. The express buses, she said, would take up a lane of the strip that runs from Jackson Heights down to Rockaway. By splicing a lane out of Woodhaven for buses, it clears up traffic, streamlines the trip and draws more people toward mass transit.
“Cars take up most of the space on the Boulevard,” she said. “It obviously impacts the folks on the bus, because the bus is stopping and going anyway. It just feels that people don’t have a predictable trip.”
The Department of Transportation has put an overhaul of Woodhaven Boulevard, including new bus lanes and medians, at about $200 million.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said publically last week that she couldn’t support an MLS Stadium currently because infrastructure – including transportation – is non-existent.
That’s been a common theme in the area, since redevelopment began with the construction of Resorts World, through convention center talks and now with the stadium. No matter what solution, or catalyst, will bring more people to the area quicker, the remedy, Goldfeder said, has to be broad-based.
“There’s no one transportation solution,” he said. “I think we need to look at various modes and provide whatever is necessary to what is accessible.”