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Who Opposes New York's BQX Streetcar? Not Who You Think

Brooklyn and Queens need better transit, but activists say this waterfront "luxury trolley" is not the way to get it.
November 28, 2017, 7am PST | Katharine Jose
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Though New York City has one of the more comprehensive and relied-upon public transportation systems in the U.S., parts of the outer boroughs have never been well-served by transit.

Given that, and given that streetcars have been a popular cause of the grassroots in a number of cities in the last decade, it may seem unlikely that community groups in Brooklyn and Queens are actively opposing a proposed streetcar line along the waterfront.

But New York City is different, and the BQX has never belonged to the grass roots. In a city with a demonstrated capacity for lots of subway and bus routes, the streetcar reads, to some, as sort of a stunt—a charming, unique mode of transportation serving quickly gentrifying areas. As Tyler Woods writes at Technical.ly Brooklyn, “it if the point of the project is really to upgrade transportation to those neighborhoods needing it most, that could be done more easily and less expensively in other ways.”

It does not help that the board of the organization pushing the streetcar, the innocuously named Friends of the BQX, is populated largely by representatives of some of the largest real estate companies in the city.

Woods quotes Tabitha Woods of TransitCenter:

"'The BQX corridor’s ridership doesn’t even come close to warranting a major capacity increase,' Decker explained in an email. 'The very features that will be required to ensure a streetcar is faster than a bus, namely true dedicated lanes, could be used to make the buses that currently run on that route faster and more reliable.'"

Considering the state of the subway system, the outer-borough streetcar may be losing popularity in general. "It’s unclear how the flashy and expensive BQX project would be affected by such a sentiment, if it lingers," Woods writes, "but…probably not helpful."

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Published on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 in Technical.ly Brooklyn
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