It’s No Teleporter, But the Mayor-Supported Streetcar Is Going to Be a Game Changer

Photo of Mayor Bill de Blasio by Kevin Case via Wikipedia. Rendering from Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via NYT

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    Bummed the L train might not run for a year? Cursing the G train’s spotty service? The Mayor finally has some good transit news — he’s backing the Brooklyn Queens Connector, a high-profile proposal for a 16-mile waterfront streetcar line running from Sunset Park to Astoria.

    If built, it will be a transportation breakthrough for Brooklyn. But hold onto your Metrocards, the trek to streetcar utopia won’t happen overnight.

    Brooklyn Streetcar Queens Connector

    Map from Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via NYT

    Running on tracks embedded along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, the planned streetcar route would travel at 12 miles an hour and connect roughly a dozen different neighborhoods. The speed is only slightly faster than the average bicycle, but a 27-minute journey from Greenpoint to Dumbo is still faster than today’s mass transit options, the New York Times points out.

    When we wrote about the plan for the Brooklyn Queens Connector last month, the reader reaction was supportive, if tempered by understandable city cynicism:

    “I think this is pie-in-the-sky dreaming,” wrote one commenter who added, “though I’d really love this, as it’d be very convenient, and would take the pressure off the pedestrian surges going into Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

    There have been a number of Brooklyn streetcar plans over the years as other major cities like Portland and Atlanta successfully adopted them. This particular waterfront route was first concocted more than a decade ago by urban planner Alex Garvin. Streetcar enthusiast and Midwood resident Arthur Melnick has also been pushing this idea for more than a decade, to no avail.

    But with de Blasio’s backing and the support of a number of high-profile (and wealthy) New Yorkers — including Two Trees’ Jed Walentas — this latest proposal might not be so outlandish after all.

    It speaks to the recent transformation of Brooklyn — and the city. People want to work near where they live — as the recent surge in Brooklyn office developments shows.

    For someone living in Wallabout and working in Sunset Park, the streetcar would have a significant impact on commute time. And it certainly will knit together the burgeoning workspace developments along the route — Industry City, Dumbo Heights, and the Navy Yard — with expanding residential areas in Red Hook, Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Long Island City.

    This can only be good for real estate values in those areas — not to mention the Mayor’s approval ratings. The timeline, however, might put a damper on even the most enthusiastic cheering.

    Brooklyn Streetcar Queens Connector

    Rendering from Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via NYT

    Even if the plan makes it through the community review process and secures much-needed funding (the projected cost of the streetcar increased from $1.7 billion to $2.5 billion just over the past month), construction won’t start until 2019. And the streetcar wouldn’t begin taking riders until sometime around 2024, according to the Times.

    If streetcar construction is anything like the construction of other mega-projects, we can probably tack on another two or 10 extra years.

    Sorry, L Train riders, the streetcar won’t arrive in time to save you. But the prospect brings more light at the end of the tunnel.

    Brooklyn Streetcar Queens Connector

    Rendering from Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via NYT

    [Source: NYT]

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