OPINION: Thoughts on the BQX
To the Editor,
While the idea along the waterfront sounds idyllic on the surface at first glance, the EDC’s proposal to run a streetcar down the Brooklyn Waterfront is yet another misguided effort in solving the gordian knot that is this city’s transit deficiency. Conceived in what seemed — to an outside observer — a rushed fashion, proponents of the line must first surmount myriad technical and routing issues, and then face the facts that their route is not what they claim it is. While the line’s boosters say that it will eliminate transit deserts, the BQX serves really only one neighborhood — Red Hook — that can really be termed as such, and provides questionably useful service to the others.
On the technical end of things, the line must contend with the fact that it is being built largely on narrow streets, and that almost its entire route will be in a flood zone.
As most commuters know, the City’s buses are in a state of enduring crisis, resulting from their badly spaced stops, and their need to navigate crowded, narrow streets during rush hours. Unless the City is willing to eliminate on-street parking or narrow sidewalks across vast swaths of the line’s route, the BQX’s cars will meet largely the same fate as its rubber-tired counterparts, rendering the line useless to all but the discretionary traveler.
The designers of the BQX are also setting themselves up to see their transit system be in the crosshairs of the next Sandy. Except for the stretch of the line in Downtown Brooklyn, the line is entirely within high-risk floodzones, putting the right of way at risk of being severely damaged by storm surge. Furthermore, as any car storage/maintenance yard would have to be near the line, the cars themselves would have nowhere to flee, all but ensuring that NYC taxpayers will frequently buying new fleets of trolleys for the BQX.
In terms of utility also, the BQX falls flat. Despite a surge in economic activity in the outer boroughs, Manhattan is still the region’s unquestioned economic center. And while outer borough connectivity should be pursued, the commutation market along the line is not terribly large. A cursory look using the Census’ LEHD survey gives the author a paltry 30,000 people commuting along the corridor each day. In other words, if every person commuting along the corridor used BQX, the line would have about one forty-third of the ridership of the Lexington Avenue lines. Now, advocates for the route will argue that I am ignoring transfer passengers from subway lines, which is absolutely true. However, I refuse to take those passengers into account until the EDC can guarantee free transfers between to the two, as doing so would be a distortion of the facts as they are.
Finally, if waterfront residents want a transit service, give them a Select Bus Service route. It makes much more sense given ridership projections, and the physical nature of the neighborhoods involved.
The BQX seems like a solution in search of a problem. While building light rail lines is an honorable pursuit, the EDC should build them where they’re needed. Instead of building what is really a gimmick for the waterfront, cover Outer Brooklyn, Eastern Queens or the Bronx with a network of light rail lines, bringing the 21st century to neighborhoods left behind. To survive as a metropolis, it is imperative that we build for need, not for politics.
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To the Editor,
Growing up in the Fort Greene Housing Development, going to high school in Bushwick, and visiting my mom in Flushing, the G train has always been an integral part of my day to day. It is high time that we find new ways to connect Brooklyn and Queens, and I’m encouraged that New York City is heeding the example of other global cities by exploring streetcars like the BQX.
As a frequent rider of the B62 and B57, I know too well the struggle of waiting for buses that are delayed and overcrowded. I’m excited for an option that will depart every five minutes at peak hours and carry an estimated 50,000 riders a day — more than any bus service in the city — because it will have dedicated right-of-way.
I founded Brooklyn’s Tillary Park Foundation because it’s important to me that residents from every corner of New York are able to access the public parks that make our city such an amazing place to live. The BQX will provide reliable, convenient transportation and invite tens of thousands of residents to explore new sights, sounds and tastes along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront.
Tillary Park Foundation
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To the Editor,
DUMBO has led Brooklyn’s economic resurgence; its success kickstarted the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and has helped spark development and investment in many other Brooklyn neighborhoods.Yet today, getting to DUMBO from Red Hook takes almost an hour by transit; Long Island City is an hour on a good day.
The Brooklyn Queens Connector is an exciting new transportation option that will cut those times in half.
I’ve watched the tech community blossom in DUMBO, but the growth of our sector and our neighborhood is constrained by the lack of reliable transit. In order to grow, we need to attract the best talent from across the entire city. Our companies employ thousands of New Yorkers that live outside of Brooklyn and the BQX would reduce their commute times dramatically.
Furthermore, the demand for new transit options along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront will only intensify as the neighborhood adds thousands of jobs in the coming years with new offices opening up at Empire Stores and the former Jehovah’s properties. It’s important that we build for the future, and the BQX is the best option to do that. We commend and support the City’s efforts to make this new transit line a reality.
Executive Director, DUMBO Improvement District