Travelling from Brooklyn to Queens in New York City, the hourlong journey will take you a bus ride, a transfer, and subway ride.
By 2024, New Yorkers may have a faster waterfront option: streetcars.
In February, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $2.5 billion plan to install a 16-mile streetcar line from Brooklyn to Queens. On November 2nd, city officials unveiled the routes they’re considering, the New York Times reports.
Though the streetcars would only travel 12 mph, the average cross-borough trip would still take less than a half hour. Called the BQX, the line would move approximately 50,000 riders a day, and is expected to cost $30 million a year to operate and maintain.
The cars look like a sleeker version of San Francisco’s trolleys.
The proposed route goes through neighbourhoods that have seen rapid development in the last decade, but are still underserved by the existing subways. The biggest reason for this is because NYC’s subway system was built in the early 20th century. Those who planned the subway routes never could’ve predicted that Brooklyn’s population would rise from 1.6 million in 1910 to 2.6 million today (Queens’ population went from just 280,600 to 2.3 million in the same period). There’s only one line, the G, that connects Brooklyn and Queens.
According to the proposed routes, the streetcars would run alongside cars in some of the busiest areas of the two boroughs.
The waterfront route would no doubt be scenic, but it’s uncertain whether the plan takes NYC’s rising sea level into account. By the end of the century, New York City’s sea level is predicted to be six feet higher than it is today, according to a 2015 report.
With that in mind, it may not be optimal to build a multi-billion-dollar streetcar line right next to the water. A powerful storm, like we saw with Hurricane Sandy, could flood and destroy the metal tracks. Although the subways mainly suffered from flooding, Sandy wiped out 1,500 feet of above-ground tracks in Queens (though they have since been replaced and a three-mile wall to protect them has been added).
$2.5 billion is a lot of money to invest in building shiny streetcars in areas at risk for floods, but the city believes it’s worth it.
“The cost can be offset by a revenue stream taken from the expected rise in property values along the route,” officials told Gizmodo.
According to the New York Times, some residents also worry that the new line would increase housing prices in isolated neighbourhoods, like Red Hook.
Still, if the plan goes through, it would offer a much-needed connection between the two boroughs.