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What New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Can Learn From New Jersey

Mayor de Blasio wants to build a $2.5 billion, 17-mile Brooklyn-Queens streetcar (BQX). Emma G. Fitzsimmons of The New York Times suggests he look for tips across the River—not the East but the Hudson, at NJ Transit's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.
February 18, 2016, 12pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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New Jersey Transit's 18-mile Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) line opened in 2000 and carries more than 46,800 weekday passengers. It is one of three light rail lines owned by NJT, the other two being the Newark and River Lines.

The line "travels from Bayonne through Jersey City and Hoboken to Weehawken," writes Fitzsimmons. "The system offers a look at the benefits, and challenges, of creating a modern transit system that blends into the urban streetscape."

Credit: Wikipedia: System map with connecting rail service. Also see New York Times regional map showing both HBLR and BQX (best to view in article).

The first thought readers may have is questioning the comparison because one is light rail, the other a streetcar. Well, not quite.

"The feasibility study for the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar [BQX or Brooklyn Queens Connector] route, which was paid for by a group that includes real estate interests, recommended what amounted to a hybrid streetcar and light-rail system," writes Fitzsimmons.

Light rail generally has clear separation from streets and longer distances between stops, while streetcars fit in more seamlessly with city traffic. The plan under consideration calls for a streetcar with light-rail features, including more space between stations and a dedicated lane when possible. But the streetcar would move at slower speeds than light rail, at an average of 11.3 miles per hour, according to the mayor’s office.

The tips come from what to expect in terms of opposition, e.g., loss of parking spaces, and how it can benefit the communities the rail system serves.

"U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Sen. Cory Booker, and other supporters say the Hudson-Bergen line has brought significant residential and commercial development to Hudson County, boosted the economy in the districts it passes through, and helped relieve highway congestion," writes Meir Rinde for NJ Spotlight in an article about extending the line to Bergen County, the Garden State's most populous county.

Mayor Steven M. Fulop of Jersey City tells Fitzsimmons what may be in the BQX's future, should it graduate from a plan to a project.

“There was tremendous pushback from the community,” Mr. Fulop said of early hostility to the light rail’s route along Essex Street in Jersey City. “Today, I think the residents there would tell you it was a huge success.”

Hat tip to Martine Powers, POLITICO Morning Transportation

Full Story:
Published on Monday, February 15, 2016 in The New York Times
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