Mayor de Blasio has proposed a new streetcar line that will run near the East River and link Brooklyn to Queens. More specifically, it would start in Sunset Park and end in northern Astoria. Tentative plans in Long Island City have it crossing the Pulaski Bridge and running along 11th Street up to the Queensboro Bridge, and then shifting to 21st Street for the rest of the trek north. It is expected to cost $2.5 billion.
Great idea, I love it. It would be a fantastic addition for LIC. Just one thing – about that price tag? This sounds like a very low number. We’re talking about laying 16 miles of track in one of the most crowded and expensive cities on the planet. $25 billion sounds more plausible than $2.5 billion.
In visualizing solely the LIC segment, I can quickly think of a major roadblock: the Pulaski Bridge. A new bike lane was just put in place, which eliminated a car lane. Now you want to remove two more of the remaining four car lanes? I think it’s logistically undoable and thus a streetcar would require a new bridge at a cost …well in excess of $2.5 billion.
You get the point, even if we split the difference and the project comes in at $12.5 billion, this is a low-ball number. Conceptually I don’t think it’s even to close to the headline. Worse, because there’s a very long lead time until completion, there’s little accountability for staying on budget. Which begs the question: do you think a major politician would make a proposal/promise like this if he had to personally guarantee a chunk of his net worth as overage, even with a big contingency?
Even moving away from the cost to build the whole thing, be it $2.5 billion or $25 billion, would there be enough demand along this route to make it operationally break-even? While I think it’s great to be able to access Astoria or Williamsburg (and beyond) via streetcar for the one night a month I might get to either, for all the talk of the need to connect Brooklyn to Queens, I don’t believe the demand is big enough by those currently using it on a daily basis.
Thus, the idea comes off as a big ‘throw-it-out-there’ plan to avoid the real problem of overcrowded subways and roads. Because by the time it’s approved, or not, a whole slew of new buildings that are actually being built now, will have been completed, and the current administration will probably be gone.
In fact, the similarities between this proposal and decking over Sunnyside Yards for affordable housing, are astounding, in terms of their potential to be NYC’s ‘Big-Dig’.
Unlike the alternative solution to the Yards though, the transportation problem is probably intractable. The city has reached its maximum capacity of comfortable commuting, and short of building another tunnel under the East River, the ability to add capacity is minimal.
Nevertheless, though it won’t do anything for my daily commute,1 as a resident of LIC I’d be happy to spend other people’s money to hasten my trips to Costco and Smorgasburg. Now the only question you need to answer Mayor de Blasio, especially apropos given that it’s Super Bowl weekend, is at $2.5 or even $5 billion, are you personally ready to risk it all on the ‘Under?’
Mayor de Blasio to Propose Streetcar Line Linking Brooklyn and Queens – ‘Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, acknowledged “some significant engineering challenges when you are putting a modern system like this in a very old city.”’
What’s Up With NYC’s Streetcar Plans? – “Right now, de Blasio is proposing to start construction in 2019, and begin service in 2024″
- Actually, if it makes it easier for all the new people who will be moving into the new towers in Greenpoint, to access the 7-train, it’ll make it worse [↩]