Brooklyn Queens Streetcar Hopes to Learn from D.C. Streetcar's Mistakes
"Washington’s experience serves as a cautionary tale, underlining the challenges even supporters say could complicate the de Blasio administration’s plans," writes Emma G. Fitzsimmons of The New York Times. "Asked about Washington’s troubles, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, predicted a smoother path for New York."
"Gabe Klein, a former district transportation director who inherited the streetcar project under the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat who served from 2007 to 2011, said a major challenge had been that priorities shifted across four mayoral administrations and six transportation chiefs," writes Fitzsimmons. Klein went on to head Chicago's Department of Transportation.
“One of the biggest problems with the D.C. streetcar is the lack of continuity,” Mr. Klein said.
"His transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, said that she had spoken with officials in Washington and that New York would learn from their mistakes," writes Fitzsimmons.
Ms. Trottenberg recently told reporters that one lesson from Washington is the city must carefully consider preliminary decisions for the streetcar, because it would have to live with them for a long time. The project will need a sound organizational structure, she said, and the city is considering creating a local development corporation to oversee the plans.
Calling the boom in streetcars “a national and a worldwide phenomenon,” Ms. Trottenberg named the system in Portland, Ore. [touted in a 2011 NPR article] and France’s many lines as examples of successful models that New York would examine.
"France is not alone in using trams, of course; Germany, notably, has dozens of such systems across the country, as do Switzerland, the Netherlands, and others," wrote Yonah Freemark in The Transport Politic in 2012. "But as of late, France’s cities have made an unparalleled investment in the mode."
Not all local governments stick with streetcar plans. Arlington County, Virginia dropped a plan that had been under consideration for 15 years, to the disappointment of Fairfax County. The New York Times goes into detail about the surprise decision to drop the plan, as well as other streetcar disappointments, as does NPR.
Another notable streetcar that didn't leave the drawing board was in San Antonio, Texas, though it appeared political forces got the best of it.
Before Mayor de Blasio proposed the BQX, his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was interested in pursuing a Red Hook, Brooklyn to downtown Brooklyn streetcar. See 2010 press release and feasibility study [PDX].