Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Brooklyn Queens Connector streetcar could be a transit equalizer (brooklyneagle.com)
35 points by jger15 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

The BQX is a bad idea. It is parallel to a subway line that could be upgraded with much higher frequencies and trains double the length. The bus routes it would replace are also nowhere near overcrowded or at their frequency limit.

Mostly it serves as an exercise at diverting money from public transit serving working class commuters being pushed farther and farther out from Manhattan, to the property developers gentrifying the New York waterfront, and who were allowed to do so without any sort of meaningful infrastructure investment there.

Yeah I agree, it's a vanity project for De Blasio and the real estate developers who have new developments along the proposed route.

I live in Greenpoint and have no need for this, the G and the ferry are good enough to get me to any of the points along the proposed line. If they really want this they could just allocate a dedicated bus lane that could potentially double as a bike lane.

A "great transit equalizer" would be an expansion of the M to LaGuardia and the N/W to the Bronx.

The state of public transit to/from LaGuardia is terrible, but unfortunately it's hard to imagine any notable subway expansion happening any time soon given Byford's recent resignation (in the face of Cuomo's constant meddling) and the constant back and forth bickering between Cuomo and de Blasio.

I agree, I don't think there's a chance of that actually happening.

There were some rumors that Andrew Yang might run for governor in NYC, would actually be interesting to see him run for Cuomo's seat. A competent governor would unify the MTA, NJ Path and LIRR under one system and potentially add a few extra stops in Queens.

The problem for a guy like Yang is that Albany is such a cesspool, it’s hard for an outsider to know what levers to pull to get anything done. But electing insiders just perpetuates the cesspool-ness, and around we go. I’ve been out of the state for 10+ years so maybe things have changed, but I’m not optimistic.

The BQX is a bad idea.

Yup. The article is extremely superficial, and ignores the many obvious flaws in the BQX proposal.

It reads more like marketing material for the property developers that everyone knows are the real backers of the project - rather than a news article.

The ferry is just as, if not more, egregious in this regard - it's the most heavily subsidized form of public transit in the city, at over $10 per ride actual cost, and based on my experience on the East River route, seems to largely serve tourists and people who live in Williamsburg and work on Wall Street.

I live fifty yards from one of the ferry stops, in fact I took it just today. I find it enormously useful, if I didn't bicycle everywhere it might even be my primary form of transit.

And the BQX… goodness gracious, what a dream. It would take me to the bouldering gym up in Queens, or the one down in Gowanus, most of my local hangouts, even my hair stylist…

All that said, building a light rail line for a target audience of ME is utter insanity. The BQX is dumb as hell, and will never get built.

My take -- as someone who fits neither category, and who uses the ferry quite frequently -- is that it helps to make the overall system more usable, by making certain areas more accessible. For certain trips (East Midtown to Greenpoint; Lower Manhattan to the western edge of Red Hook, for example) it quite definitely is the shortest hop.

It's also much more pleasant (and healthier) ride than the subway. One of the negatives of life in NYC is the significant amount of time spent underground (or on buses, swimming in the exhaust and street noise). Ferry trips provide a significant respite from all of that.

So it's a "sunk cost" but adds value overall. Though I realize this is a nuanced value proposition. And that valid questions can be raised about which communities are getting the most benefit from the service.

Yeah I use it all the time to get to midtown, dubmo and wall street from greenpoint. It's really convenient and much more pleasant than the train.

It's also great for tourists. I take everyone who visits me from out of new york on it and it's always a hit.

Don't get me wrong - I live in Greenpoint too (and work in Dumbo), so I totally love it from a personal perspective - but at the same time the level of subsidy strikes me as outrageous given that it largely connects wealthy waterfront neighborhoods. I don't think they really needed to equalize the fare with subway/bus fare to encourage ridership - as you've pointed out, it's by far the most convenient and pleasant way to make those journeys, which feels like enough incentive to equalize it against something like an Express Bus instead.

(A downside from a personal perspective - the Greenpoint-Dumbo trip is fine, but the reverse trip can be pretty brutal, especially in the peak of summer, when the boats often reach capacity before they even make it from Wall St.)

Yeah I got stuck on the crazy lines back from Dumbo a few times before and will never do that again, taking a citi bike is a great alternative.

The subsidies are bad but it's a net positive for the city and I'm sure a fare hike wouldn't hurt it too much.

I used to take an empty bus (in heavy traffic) down Metropolitan ave from Kew Gardens to Bushwick before and it really convinced me that the city should consider getting rid of the fares, at least on busses in the outer boroughs. The amount they spent to install the new select bus service ticket machines must have been insane, and now they're spending $250 million to clamp down on fare evasion.


Public transit should be subsidized

Back in 2013 the MTA said this about simply making G trains as long as the platforms would allow, which is how most other trains in the MTA work:

> "Longer trains are not in the cards however. The report notes: "Given that increasing the length of G trains to 600 feet at current ridership levels would be a misallocation of NYC Transit resources and could lead to reduced service frequency and crowded transfers, other means were examined to address concerns associated with short trains."

And yet, it sounds like they want to spend billions on this streetcar project.

Having said that, the routes aren't excessively overlapping. The proposed BQX hugs the water, whereas the G train goes inland quite a ways north of Prospect Park.

Yeah, it's mostly an attempt to add reliable transit by the astoria waterfront and the brooklyn navy yards, which would be amazing for property values in those areas.

The property markets in those areas are already on fire, it's not as if it needs help

It seems like few things get built in NYC if they don’t also line the pockets of interested parties.

I was curious why not a BRT. It seems like it would accomplish the same goal but be cheaper and more flexible. On the BQX website, their answer for "Why not a bus?" is mainly not technical but about working around bureaucracy:

"Bus lines can’t attract value based financing or more employers and jobs to the corridor. An urban light rail requires tracks and more permanent infrastructure, and will generate more investment and value since unlike a bus line, it can’t be easily rerouted or canceled."

"Buses are run by the MTA. Even if a bus line made sense for this corridor, the city would not be able to add one without funding and approval from the MTA. The BQX can be done by New York City alone, without the complications and political issues that comes from projects requiring coordination among city, state, or federal agencies."

> An urban light rail requires tracks and more permanent infrastructure, and will generate more investment and value


An urban light rail requires tracks and more permanent infrastructure, and will generate more investment and value for real estate insiders and friends of the admininistration.

See the movie "Chinatown".

Nonsense. What they should really be doing is cutting the fat and corruption from the inept MTA...but that's never going to happen.

Compared to any other developed nation, subways in NYC are an embarrassing joke.

How about allowing private bus operations and privatize the MTA's?

You’ll get shouted down for this suggestion.

But there is no amount of money the MTA can’t waste. The MTA is a bloated, incompetent, and completely unsalvageable organization. The subway system in NYC will never be fixed, properly upgraded, or properly maintained while the MTA is in charge.

At minimum the actual construction and maintenance wings should be privatized.

In most US cities, privatizing public transit wouldn't work financially.

The Bay Area Caltrain was actually private until fairly recently (1985), when the operator gave up and the state took it over.

However, even the state doesn't want to operate it, and there was a review around 2010. But Stanford University weighed in (over 10,000 riders/day) and the review stopped.

You would have to look at the numbers for NY.

Note that the "MTA" was originally two private entities that ran out of money building the system.

I don't see why. It works in Buenos Aires, for example. Any American city should be jealous of Buenos Aires' bus system.

And the bulk of the NYC subways were built and operated by competing private companies for decades. That stopped when first the city regulated them to the point that they could not make improvements, and then the city nationalized them.

> In the Downtown Brooklyn area, the argument for the BQX is a strong one.

Downtown Brooklyn ("DoBro" if you're a millennial real estate agent) is already the most well-connected neighborhood in Brooklyn by a huge margin.

Also how can you write an article like this and not include a map?

“Residents are left with no choice but to take the subway to Manhattan and back ... or take the bus, where ridership has continued to decline.”

So, there is an existing alternative that doesn’t involve absolutely fucking up traffic, and...? People aren’t using it.

So, this sounds like bullshit.

I don't think the BQX will fuck up traffic. Most of the streets on the alignment are not particularly busy; all of the through traffic takes the nearly-parallel BQE.

The reality is that if this route is such a good idea, it could be a bus route today. I have never been on a tram like this and thought "wow, we're making really good time along these city streets". It's just an overpriced bus.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact