Brooklyn Boro

City releases $150K study revealing new details on proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar line

April 26, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The proposed BQX is shown in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: New York Mayor's Office, Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via AP
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In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $2.5 billion streetcar line dubbed the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) that would run along the Brooklyn waterfront from Sunset Park to Astoria, Queens.  

The impetus for the BQX has been the tremendous growth of waterfront neighborhoods like Red Hook, DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which boast clusters of high-tech businesses.

Last week, the city released a five-week, $150,000 city-commissioned study that reveals new details about the proposed streetcar line.

The report, which is titled a “rapid assessment,” is the first review of the BQX since the mayor announced the plan. The city expects to release a more extensive study in the future.

According to the study, the BQX would serve 45,000 to 50,000 riders daily and would cut travel time significantly for commuters, adding viable travel options to transportation-starved neighborhoods like Red Hook.

The streetcar would also give riders a faster and more direct route to Queens without detouring into Manhattan on the current F, N and R lines, and commuters would not need to walk long distances to the waterfront from G train stops that are further inland.

The study details the travel tendencies of the neighborhoods that the BQX would run through and provides predictions on the number of people who would use the line daily.

Using travel data from 2013, the study predicts that 193 Red Hook residents would use the BQX daily to commute to DUMBO, while only 26 would make the reverse trip.

The report predicts that 51 people from Astoria would go to DUMBO every day and that zero would make the opposite journey.

The confirmed findings from the report found that the BQX proposal is “reasonable” and that it makes sense “with some modifications.” The report also states that a streetcar “is the most appropriate transit intervention along this corridor” and that “modern streetcars are the right vehicle technology …  rather than larger light rail vehicles.”  

The study cites the Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek and the Hamilton Avenue Bridge over the Gowanus Canal as bridges along the route that “may have the structural capacity to support streetcar operations with some modifications.”

The report, however, says that new streetcar bridges may need to be constructed as an alternative if the bridges require “extensive modification.”

According to the report, an alternative route connecting DUMBO and Atlantic Terminal, which was suggested in the original proposal, would “unnecessarily” complicate the plan.

A more detailed analysis is needed to better understand “sensitivity factors related to connecting subway and ferry proximity,” “the effects of various transfer policies on ridership” and “coordination with any ongoing or future development initiatives,” the report concedes.

According to the study, a ride via the BQX from Williamsburg to Astoria would take 34 minutes off a 61-minute trip. Google Maps has the same trip taking 46 to 50 minutes via public transportation.

In another example, the report states that traveling from the Queensboro Bridge to the Brooklyn Navy Yard via the BQX would cut 32 minutes off a 59-minute trip. Google maps clocks the same trip via the F train at 37 minutes.  

The city told POLITCO in an article published Friday that the reason for the travel time discrepancies with Google Maps is that the report used “transit desert” areas along the waterfront to calculate times.

Below is a table of commuting times compiled by the Brooklyn Eagle using data from the study.

The city’s report confirms that the BQX would run though the 100-year flood zone and that “avoidance and flood protection measures should be considered” in Newtown Creek, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Red Hook and Sunset Park.

The city plans to do an environmental review of the proposal this year, begin work on the BQX in 2019 and start service in 2024.

Jon Orcutt, TransitCenter’s advocacy director, told POLITICO that the new plan “doesn’t alleviate any of the concerns that we have had about this since hearing the mayor’s announcement, which are small market and high costs.”

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