Mayor offers some more detail on BQX streetcar project

TimesLedger Newspapers
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Mayor Bill de Blasio rallied supporters Tuesday in Red Hook, Brooklyn for his proposed $2.5 billion Brooklyn Queens Connector, the 16-mile-long streetcar system that would serve communities from Astoria to Sunset Park, along the East River waterfront. The mayor called the corridor one of the fastest-growing parts of the city, with more than 405,000 residents and 296,000 workers, where transit capacity has not kept pace.

“This is an area that is so important to the future of New York City because more and more we’ve seen that innovative people, creative people, entreprenurial people want to be here,” de Blasio said. “They see tremendous promise. You can see the amazing job growth and business growth that’s happened here in the last decade or two and there’s a lot more where that came from and that’s why we need to be ready for it by providing the type of transportation that will allow that growth to benefit all.”

He vowed to have “shovels in the ground” on the zero-emission, green and clean, state-of-the-art system by 2019. When the line is fully constructed, the mayor said the BQX would serve 50,000 riders per weekday connecting 13 NYCHA developments, 10 ferry landings, 15 subway routes and more than 30 bus lines.

A ticket will cost the same as a Metrocard swipe, but it is unclear whether there will be free transfers between the streetcars and subways and buses. The mayor said discussions with the state-run MTA are ongoing.

The project would finance itself, with the city raising money by creating a non-profit with authority to issue tax-exempt bonds. The city would pay off debt by taking in increased real estate tax revenues based on the value of existing and new developments, officials said.

Many details of the project remain unclear, such as the exact route and location of stops, the amount of parking spaces that would be lost and how much the self-propelled, battery-operated BQX would interfere with traffic.

City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called the system a “hybrid” between light rail and a mixed-traffic streetcar.

“Our goal here is to have streetcars move in traffic,” she said. “But as much as we can a right-of-way where we’ll be keeping traffic out so we can achieve speeds that are going to make the real travel time savings that we’re talking about.”

While the mayor had plenty of support at his Red Hook event, the project is causing some trepidation among transit advocates here in Queens.

“The $2.5 billion, 12-miles-per-hour streetcar recently propopsed by the mayor is a major concern for commuters who drive,” Queens Public Transit Committee Phil McManus said. “This streetcar idea reminds us of the proposed Select Bus Service for Woodhaven Boulevard. Combined, both plans stand to cost the public almost $3 billion, yet may leave our roads in worse condition then they are now.”

Mike Scala, vice president of QPTC, said the grassroots group favors more transit options, such as the reactivation of the Long Island Rail Road Rockaway line, but he wants to learn more about the BQX plan.

“Will we lose lanes of traffic, consequently causing more congestion?” he asked. “Is it worthwhile to make this investment now when projects like QueensRail, serving areas that more urgently need transportation improvements, remain unfunded?”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Danny Ruscillo from Rockaway Park, Queens NY says:
I fully agree with Phil McManus and Mike Scala of the Queens Public Transit Committee .The investment should be "NOW" put the Queens Rail in operation reactivate this line its a much needed form of transportation and an excellent option for many.
Feb. 18, 2016, 5:47 am
Matt W. from The Raunt says:
Connecting NYCHA houses ? What about those of us that need public transportation to get to WORK ? RE-ACTIVATE the QueensRail NOW ! See, this is why he's a short sighted "ONE TERM MAYOR" ! He turns a blind eye to ALL the congestion on Woodhaven blvd. Which BTW you can see from space ! There's a railroad 6 blocks east of Woodhaven blvd. that can be used but, this mayor refuses to listen to the working people. OTB-- "ONE TERM BILL"
Feb. 18, 2016, 12:22 pm
Eugene Falik from Far Rockaway says:
First of all, the plan is not for a "zero emission" system. At least not until all of the region's electricity comes from renewable sources. Generating electricity creates its own form of pollution -- just not on the streetcar.

The streetcar, unlike a bus, moves only as fast as the slowest vehicle in its path since it can not go around a stopped vehicle. And, least some plan to permanently remove traffic lanes, it's time to start applying engineering data once again to the operation of the Department of Transportation.

What data are there about traffic speeds and air pollution on streets where lanes have been removed for bicycle lanes, bus lanes, and "traffic calming." Why is it that DOT says that these activities have not slowed traffic, but others who have measured the results (WABC-TV, Google) say otherwise?

More to the point, is this the best use of 2.5 billion dollars? Wouldn't reactivation of the QueensRail line ($500-700 million) benefit far more people per dollar?

Wouldn't it be smarter to test the streetcar concept with a bus that would cost far less and run faster?

What would you do if it were your money?
Feb. 18, 2016, 5:11 pm
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:

Everybody is in an uproar because of Obama cutting the NYC terror Fund from $181 million to $90 million (, but what about the billions that deBlasio wants to waste on this ridiculous Brooklyn/Queens Streetcar or the billions he wants to dump on the so-called “homeless crisis.”

This ridiculous streetcar system is expected to cost about $2.5 billion ( A system that goes from LIC to Redhook along the water and will benefit very few folks, not too mention the problem with street cars when they need to go around say a double parked truck or car.

This mayor also wants $3 billion in funding for about 15,000 units of supportive housing and accompanying social and health services for the homeless. Again, a very small percentage of the NYC total population ( The homeless population is approximately .75% of the total NYC population. While the problem needs to be fixed, dumping billions is not the answer, that is just plain wasteful spending, which we have already seen with this manufactured problem.

In the meantime the majority of working class people suffer major amounts of —— quality of life issues from a broken down subway system, poor roads, garbage and countless other quality of life issues, that billions of dollars certainly can help with. But that would just make plain sense.

Talk about your wasteful spending by the government, including a 32% raise for a-hole City Council members and a useless Public Advocate position.

And people are making a big deal about this cut in the NYC Terror Fund. I am sure there was tons of wasteful spending on that $181 million dollars, no doubt.

The apple is ROTTEN.
Feb. 18, 2016, 5:42 pm
Vin from The Edgemere Wasteland! says:
There is a BEAUTIFUL,,,,,INACTIVE,,,,,Railroad Right of Way,,just sitting there,,waiting for someone with any kind of brains,,to REACTIVATE it! This one action will solve a multitude of problems for the City in one stroke of the pen! We don't need another stupid, run down, druggie infested park to dump our tax dollar money into....Time for our Lazy Politicians to put down their crack pipes and do some work...Reactivate that Railroad.....NOW!
Feb. 18, 2016, 9:42 pm
Bill from Howard Beach says:
Western Queens has few, if any, transportation issues. It's eastern and southern Queens that has a transit deficit. But of course the yuppies in western Queens vote for deBlasio, while in Howard Beach, Glendale and Whitestone the mayor didn't do so well. it's all politics.
Feb. 19, 2016, 10:01 pm

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