Home Brooklyn On the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront and ‘cool ideas’

On the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront and ‘cool ideas’

by Benjamin Kabak

Is this waterfront street car a ‘cool idea’ or the G train but worse? (Via Next New York)

For years, a certain faction of New York City transit advocates and aficionados have agitated for a Brooklyn and/or Queens waterfront streetcar. For a long time, the Brooklyn Historical Railway Association agitated, and nearly secured a city commitment, for a Red Hook-based revival of a Brooklyn streetcar line, and lately, a waterfront streetcar/light rail line has been fetishized by urban design experts and newspaper columnists alike. I have never much warmed up to the idea.

And yet, it won’t die. As we learned on Friday, a new conglomerate of — transit advocates? people who want newspaper headlines? — has proposed studying a Brooklyn waterfront streetcar. Sally Goldenberg and Dana Rubinstein broke the story, and it’s a gem. As you will not surprised to hear in New York City 2015, it’s an idea spurred on by developers rather than people with actual transit knowledge, and the basis for the support is because it sounds cool.

If you think I’m kidding, I’m not. Here’s what David Lombino, the Director of Special Projects at Two Trees had to say: “It’s a cool idea. We’re a supporter. Could be transformative for Brooklyn and Queens someday. We’ll see.”

It’s a cool idea. Now that’s a great basis for transit development, especially for a project that would require the upfront investment that a new-to-New York transit mode such as a streetcar would present. The Capital New York reporters had more:

While the waterfront has decent subway connections to Manhattan, the paucity of north-west transportation connecting Astoria to, say, Red Hook, has long been a source of frustration. The G train alone just doesn’t cut it. And so an advisory committee of some of the city’s more prominent developers, transportation experts and community organizers has taken shape in an effort to find a remedy. Together, they’ve commissioned HR&A Advisors (planning commissioner Carl Weisbrod’s former employer) to study the economic impact of a streetcar or lightrail connecting Brooklyn’s Sunset Park to Astoria, Queens. The route could include hot housing markets like Red Hook, Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn, as well as areas where commercial outfits and offices are setting up shop, such as Long Island City and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

…The committee includes Regional Plan Association president Tom Wright, traffic engineer [Gridlock] Sam Schwartz, Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership president Tucker Reed, Industry City executive Andrew Kimball, urban planner Alex Garvin, Fifth Avenue Committee executive director and City Planning Commission member Michelle de la Uz and Red Hook Initiative founder Jill Eisenhard. Schwartz will conduct the feasibility study.

“I’m interested in seeing how the research comes out,” Wright said. “There’s the possibility of both connecting to other existing transit services—bus, rail and ferry—and complementing other proposals.”

The project’s advocates have no idea what the final recommendations will reveal, but already their claims are a mass of contradictions. They seem to feel that Industry City, with nearby subway service from the N, R and D trains, is isolated while they don’t know who would run — or more importantly fund — light rail. “One of the attractive alternatives is this wouldn’t necessarily be run and operated by the MTA, but that it’s open for a concession operation, which would probably be a good thing,” RPA President Tom Wright said.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this. Besides my belief that “it’s a cool idea” is never the basis for transit investment, I’m highly skeptical of modes of transit that aren’t operated by — or at least integrated into — the MTA network. Setting aside the fact that we don’t know who feels that subways that are 7 stops from Times Square aren’t sufficient for service to Industry City or how many people would actually need to go from Astoria to Red Hook or Long Island City to Industry City on a daily basis, it raises a red flag any time we introduce a second fare into the travel equation from areas that aren’t really that transit-starved in the first place.

Based upon current transit operations, our goals should be to improve current options. The B61, for instance, is painfully slow through Red Hook to its subway connections on either side, and it serves low-income workers who have few other options. Without figuring out a way to upgrade these transit services while introducing a “cool” waterfront streetcar because it fits with developers’ real estate ambitions would raise serious concerns about transit access and investment. If this sounds like a class issue, well, that’s because it is.

This isn’t to say that inter-borough connections aren’t sufficient. They suffer from the same historical problems that plague the subway and bus systems. But if advocates are lining up behind a waterfront study because everyone is only know just realizing that it might be an 8-10 minute walk from Two Trees’ Domino Sugar Factory development to the J/M train or an overcrowded L, well, I worry about what that means for better transit access for the rest of New York City. Let’s get it right because access matters for everyone and not because the company sinking money into areas with good views but long walks to the subway thinks it’s a “cool idea.”

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JS August 3, 2015 - 12:39 am

Agreed re the waterfront proposal, but I think NY is seriously underestimating the power of light rail. LA’s Expo Line—largely a modern, quiet elevated with some subway and street-running elements—is a spectacular success, and its likely total cost for Downtown LA to Santa Monica will likely be less than the cost of extending the Purple Line from Koreatown to the eastern edge of Beverly Hills.

Largely elevated LRT has promise for corridors that have high bus ridership but where full-on subways are too expensive to be cost-justified—I think many of the early SBS corridors outside Manhattan meet this description, and some crosstown corridors in Manhattan. It might also be a strategy for expanding transit into the areas in Queens and outer Brooklyn that have spotty coverage. SBS is a start in terms of improving service in places where the subway isn’t, but eventually people are going to demand something grade separated to deal with traffic delays. Unless the MTA suddenly gets a whole bunch of money to tunnel underground, that means Expo Line-style elevated light rail.

Eric August 3, 2015 - 6:11 am

If you’re building “largely elevated” light rail, you might as well build fully elevated subways for almost the same cost. That’s much cheaper than an underground subway, and has the same passenger capacity. The problem is, any elevated construction is extremely difficult politically, particularly in white neighborhoods (both hipster neighborhoods and neighborhoods of white families). Maybe in Asian or Hispanic neighborhoods, or commercial zones like Utica, it has more chance of getting through.

Also, the Expo Line is not a success by NYC standards. It gets 30 thousand riders a day. That’s just 2% of the ridership of the Lexington line. Light rail inherently has much lower capacity than subways (though higher than buses).

Henry August 3, 2015 - 10:19 am

It’s not really a question of racial composition or income (although they do play a part in it), but also of scale. Elevated rail isn’t a big deal if it’s in the middle of a highway, running through industrial or undeveloped areas, or in the middle of a suburban arterial that has eight moving lanes and two left turn lanes. It’s much more up close and personal when it’s running over a two or four-lane road and twenty feet away from apartment windows. Unfortunately, most of the really big roads in the five boroughs that could feasibly have elevated rail without much opposition are either in places that don’t need them, have parallel rights-of-way already (like Woodhaven Blvd), or already have a subway running underneath or over the road.
New York does need to have a serious conversation about light rail though, if only because we just need a serious discussion about modes and a future transit network in general. But the powers that be have zero interest in that actually happening.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 10:51 am

Elevated rail in the middle of a highway is almost always stupid. Sometimes it’s a political bone to throw to suburban politicians so they’ll allow you anything better than a mixed traffic bus.

AG August 3, 2015 - 9:48 pm

I remember seeing that in Chicago the first time I went there. I thought it was strange.

Henry August 6, 2015 - 5:23 am

A highway is certainly not ideal, but even our arterial roads aren’t terribly wide. At least with arterials (and to a lesser extent, highways) allow for sane bus-train connections.

Ryan August 3, 2015 - 11:00 am

Parallel rights-of-way are useful for when you don’t want to compromise your subway headways by running a huge LIRR/NJT train down those tracks every 15 minutes.

Wall Street to Staten Island via the BQE is a good example.

Henry August 6, 2015 - 5:24 am

The main example I was thinking of was the deactivated Rockaway Beach line, which would be easier to build and connect to the subway than a parallel line on Woodhaven.

Alon Levy August 3, 2015 - 10:31 am

Any connection between those proposals for New York and the Expo Line is incidental.

Brief classification of technologies that fall under the light rail umbrella in the US:

Light rail (or tram-train, this side of the Pond): fast on the outside, slow on the inside. It goes on streets in city center, sometimes even in mixed traffic, but outside city center it has its own ROW and maintains high average speeds. The Blue, Gold, and Expo Lines in LA are all examples. So are most new North American light rail lines.

Subway-surface (or premetro): fast on the inside, slow on the outside. It goes in a subway in city center at relatively high speed, but outside city center it runs on the surface at lower speed, sometimes even in mixed traffic. For capacity reasons, each city center tunnel fans into multiple surface branches. Examples include the Boston Green Line, Muni Metro, and the SEPTA Subway-Surface Lines.

Streetcar/tram: slow everywhere. It runs on streets, sometimes in dedicated lanes and sometimes in mixed traffic, though new lines outside the US usually have dedicated lanes. The New York proposal is of this form.

Note that lines that are fast everywhere are not called light rail (unless they’re the LA Green Line) but subway, elevated, heavy rail, or sometimes light metro if the trains are shorter.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 10:56 am

What about St. Louis & it’s metro system.

aestrivex August 3, 2015 - 12:51 pm

Thats a good point. By Alon Levy’s classifications the St. Louis Metrolink, which is officially classified as light rail would be “light metro”.

The St. Louis system uses technology and overhead power supply which resemble light rail in any other system, uses short trains consisting of 2 cars, and has its own elevated or subway ROW for its entire route.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 1:51 pm

As I remember, St. Louis Metrolink & L. A’s light rail use similar fleets. Compare this to HBLR or MAX in Portland.

Alon Levy August 3, 2015 - 7:09 pm

The LA Green Line uses similar rolling stock to the Blue, Expo, and Gold Line, so people call it light rail. There might also be expansion plans that involve it running at-grade with unprotected grade crossings, I’m not sure. But as it is today, it’s rapid transit. I don’t know much about St. Louis, but it sounds similar.

Alon Levy August 3, 2015 - 7:13 pm

Not really relevant, but, overhead power supply is not unheard of on full subways. Systems that are integrated with mainline rail, for example most Tokyo subway lines, use overhead wires, usually with slightly higher voltage than third rail, for example 1.5 or 3 kV. But the Shanghai Metro and Singapore’s Northeast Line, which are isolated systems, use overhead wire too. It’s uncommon, but it happens.

Eric August 4, 2015 - 3:04 am

St. Louis Metrolink has a handful of at-grade crossings at low-traffic streets. It never waits at these because there are railroad-style crossing gates which always go down before the train comes. St. Louis was lucky that most of the ROW was already grade separated when they decided to build it.

tacony August 3, 2015 - 1:39 pm

Odd example. LA hasn’t had much more success converting space for cars into space for transit than NYC has. Most of the Expo Line runs on the former right-of-way of a Pacific Electric trolley line. Before there was Expo Line service on that right-of-way, there was an abandoned rail line, not a roadway for cars. Not a great comparison to SBS corridors in NYC.

Most of LA’s successful light rail is on abandoned private ROWs that already existed before the auto era or are built into the generous space in highways. LA hasn’t converted its popular bus routes to rail or anything of the sort. And the little street-running section of the Expo Line between USC and Downtown is extremely slow. It’s only successful because of that old private ROW on Exposition Blvd.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 2:04 pm

True, but at least Metro had the foresight to attempt reactivation of such rail row. Be thankful that the rails to trails program never took hold there.

Also the Gold line does run in the center of I-210 witch is unfortunate since the center of social activity around there is along Colorado Boulevard & other cross streets such as Lake.

Info comes from http://www.lightrailnow.org.

AG August 3, 2015 - 9:52 pm

“at least Metro had the foresight to attempt reactivation of such rail”

there is really no comparison. 30 years ago they pretty much had a blank slate. their system is almost like a newborn baby. they grow fast for the first couple of decades. then when they reach a certain age of maturity – you no longer get taller – but put on weight.

pete August 3, 2015 - 2:12 am

LRV systems must have dedicated lanes which is fine on a 3×3 or 4×4 (park-drive-drive-drive\//\-drive-drive-drive park). No “shared” left turn lanes either. LRVs must have a pedestrian fence in the middle unless it is a island platform to stop jaywalking and leg amputations. LRVs will never be faster than any BRT in NYC. LRVs can’t go around a double parked car or truck. In NYC, it is legal for a truck to double park for deliveries. If you talk about “elevated” LRVs, just build a fucking subway line.

The LA expo line is much closer to the 7 train or LIRR (specifically Babylon Branch) than any “street car” or tram project. Except for the rail vehicle and power source choice, it is indistinguishable from LIRR in construction.

AG August 3, 2015 - 9:53 pm

well except LIRR trains are much longer..

Eric August 3, 2015 - 6:04 am

It’s a stupid idea, but no stupider than the mixed-traffic streetcars which are being built across the country.

pea-jay August 4, 2015 - 7:07 pm

If we are going to blow money on a water-front oriented plan, why not on that gondola plan instead? At least those things don’t get stuck in traffic and the views are better

Bolwerk August 4, 2015 - 7:25 pm

They also only cross the water and don’t provide particularly good connections anywhere else.

This mixed traffic phobia is just the wrong reason to be against surface rail. It probably isn’t more unreliable in mixed traffic than a bus. Hell, it might be more reliable.

That said, I’d love to see it studied, and I don’t think anyone has.

Chet August 3, 2015 - 8:11 am

In a world where money, nimbyism, and other transit priorities weren’t so glaring, this would be a nice thing. Since we live in a very different world, this idea really is beyond the pale.
Considering the huge swaths of the city, eastern Queens. south eastern Brooklyn, ALL OF STATEN ISLAND, that has no subway service at all, these people’s priorities are truly ass backwards.

To give people an idea of just how close the 36th Street station on 4th Ave is to Manhattan, last week I drove from my house on Staten Island (mid-island part) to 35th Street, parked right by Sunset Park High School, took a D or N to Atlantic Avenue, transferred to a 4 train. From leaving my house to walking out of Grand Central- 57 minutes.
(A note, I consider that time incredibly fast. Under an hour to midtown on a weekday..awesome! An express bus would have been about 30 minutes longer, as would driving all the way to midtown- not including paying out the ass for parking.)

Love to see a group of people get together to study the actual costs of a train from Staten Island to either the 59th St N/R station; or an alternative- an almost straight shot across the harbor- two intermediate stops- Red Hook and Governors’ Island.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 9:01 am

Light rail to the waterfront would be better than waterfront light rail. The waterfront is, in fact, not that accessible by subway. But there are dense neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens with narrow streets that are not terribly bus-friendly either.

Eric August 3, 2015 - 9:42 am

“The waterfront is, in fact, not that accessible by subway.”

Disagree. Most of the waterfront is within 500 meters (a 5 minute walk) of a subway station. In Greenpoint the only line is the G, but everywhere else on the waterfront, the closest line is a useful line like the L or F.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 10:45 am

If by most, you mean “almost none.” The L is about 600 meters from the waterfront at its closest point (Bedford Ave.). TBF, the distance to Kent is about 435 meters.

A couple of stops in downtown Brooklyn are closer to the actual waterfront, but not many. That leaves a wide swath of waterfront between Williamsburg and downtown Brooklyn where the G is the closest rapid transit link, and it’s often a kilometer away. That’s not even looking at Astoria and southern Brooklyn.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 11:03 am

I know it’s not nessessary, but this proposed line is no substitute for the G no matter how disliked that subway line is.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 11:21 am

IMHO people really exaggerate the G’s problems, both its accessibility and its service pattern.

But LRT certainly could fill other service gaps.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 4:40 pm

No doubt about that. Light rail has a key roll to play in the NYC transit landscape. It’s to bad others cant see that.

LLQBTT August 3, 2015 - 9:07 am

Unless all parking is removed from Kent Ave (which won’t happen), there is no room for light rail. But I like your cynical closing. To that I say, TT’s needs to follow the JC model, such as the Beacon which offers free shuttle van service to Grove St. In addition, there’s the every 1/2 hour B32, a not very crowded bus, that is supposed to solve the walk to/from subways.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 10:52 am

It’s an interesting idea even if not the most practical. I have said this before – all transit modes have a place in NYC, so don’t poo poo it without the study findings. If it doesn’t prove out, then so be it.

One requirement – Metrocard/ MTA payment must be accepted reguardless if it is privately operated. That is the way Portland streetcar functions. Even though it’s an arm of the cities transportation department, it functions as part of the TriMet network.

tacony August 3, 2015 - 2:11 pm

What’s the perceived issue with non-MTA services accepting Metrocard?

The Roosevelt Island tram, Bee-Line Bus system, and NICE Bus all accept Metrocards despite not being operated by the MTA. And of course the PATH takes non-unlimited Metrocards only (because “it’s not the MTA,” despite the fact that the RI tram, Bee-Line, and NICE bus all take unlimited Metrocards and are also not the MTA…)

adirondacker12800 August 3, 2015 - 4:20 pm

Metrocard is hopelessly obsolete?

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 4:46 pm

So what? What ever payment system replaces the Metrocard is what would be implemented by order of the city or the MTA as a condition for construction.

adirondacker12800 August 3, 2015 - 6:11 pm

They have to decide on one. It’s gonna be really hard to convince Philadelphia and Boston of the virtues. Or compel them. Even harder for Chicago and Los Angeles to swallow. And forget about Tokyo and London.

adirondacker12800 August 3, 2015 - 6:19 pm

New York State is going to have as hard time compelling New Jersey or Connecticut to do much of anything about fare media or anything else. Even less influence on SEPTA or the CTA in Chicago. Or Tokyo or London.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 7:40 pm

Why “compel”? Just agree to some common standards and let each implement them on their own time.

Anonymous August 4, 2015 - 6:52 am

The problem with agreeing on a common standard is, by the time it’s fully rolled out across all agencies it already got hopelessly outdated. The Clipper Card and the Dutch ‘OV-chipkaart’ are examples of what could go wrong by designing it this way.

I guess switching to contactless payments (using debit/credit cards, Apple Pay etc) will at least make the development costs mostly someone else’s problem.

Alon Levy August 4, 2015 - 11:00 pm

On the other hand, FeliCa…

Bolwerk August 5, 2015 - 9:32 am

Not sure there is any reason to believe that sort of obsolescence is going to be repeated like it was for the swipe era. There are actual economic forces making Metrocard (and swipes in general) obsolete. Predictable ones, ones that were at least vaguely predictable as far back as the 1990s.

Where do you go from contactless? Fingerprints and retinal scans? I see some impracticalities, though maybe the NSA/TSA/NYPD would be willing to overlook them!

pete August 4, 2015 - 12:57 am

Bee Line (Westchester) and CT Transit accept transfers from each other, although one is MetroCard, and the other is GFI TRIM paper magcards, so it is basically paper transfers between the 2. http://www.cttransit.com/fares/transfers.asp

Eric Brasure August 3, 2015 - 3:46 pm

And the Portland Streetcar, while built and owned by the city, is operated by Trimet.

AMM August 3, 2015 - 2:47 pm

If this sounds like a class issue, well, that’s because it is.

This is IM-not-so-HO the central issue.

It’s yet another example of providing a perq for the already over-privileged (i.e., the rich folks who are going to be buying in these soon-to-be-upscale waterfront neighborhoods) and yet another handout for the real estate developers, while those with less pull get the leavings.

I can’t think of a single high-profile “improvement” proposal in NYC in the past, oh, 10 years, that wasn’t about providing bon-bons for the well-healed and gimmees to the real estate industry, often with a healthy dose of screw-the-peasants.

j.b. diGriz August 13, 2015 - 12:34 pm

The Rockaway Beach Line reactivation proposal would actually help lots more middle-class and lower-middle-class people. than 4%ers.

rustonite August 3, 2015 - 3:12 pm

This is not a phenomenon that’s unique to New York; nonsense projects like this are popping up in lots of cities. There’s two phenomena intersecting here: political nihilism, and White People Don’t Ride the Bus (TM).

Normal political processes in the US have broken down completely. In a normal country, urban and rural interests would do some horse trading, you’d get a new parkway in Bumfuck County, and a new subway line downtown. But over the last 30 years, something like a quarter to a third of the US population has converted to political nihilism: government is always the problem, taxes are always bad, blah blah Reagan blah. So instead of normal horsetrading, we get one side horsetrading, while the other is trying to murder all the horses. If you think I’m exaggerating, I point you to Donald Trump, who is the logical result of all this.

Nihilist politicians force those of us who want to get something done to go outside the system: special taxing districts, public-private partnerships, etc. However, those mechanisms are mostly subject to the control of local property owners and developers, who suffer from White People Don’t Ride the Bus (TM): the firm belief that “nobody” (which means, nobody they know) rides the bus, and only rail based solutions are worth any effort.

This is how you get (for instance) the Kansas City Streetcar and the Delmar Loop Trolley in St. Louis, both streetcar projects pushed by local developers. KC and STL’s metro transit authorities are between a rock and a hard place: the state contributes nothing to their budgets, thanks to nihilist control of the legislature, and it’s hard to compete for federal funds with no state funds, so their systems are lousy. Well to do developers and business owners get frustrated trying to work within the system, so they work outside. Outside the system, they’re not accountable to anyone but themselves, so they follow their class prejudice and produce a transit system by and for the upper middle class: streetcars to nowhere.

Unfortunately, the only counter to 30 years of nihilist propaganda is at least another 30 years of positivist propaganda, and that seems unlikely, and the counter to White People Don’t Ride the Bus (TM) is reduced income inequality, which is even less likely. So the US will never have good transit, and we’ll continue to get these stupid stupid projects.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 3:50 pm

Whites (or Middle Klass) Don’t Ride The Bus™ might be resonant in LA,* but this is NYC. Whites aren’t that troubled by buses. It was white liberal reformists who imposed buses over streetcars in the living memory of some older FloridiansNew Yorkers. At worst, you could maybe say that whites insist on buses for others.

Almost no politician in NYC takes light rail seriously even where it’s needed. Unfortunately you are right that it often comes down to development dollars. Even in the one case where I’ve seen a politician propose it (Elizabeth Crowley) recently, it really was a light rail to nowhere (LIC to Glendale, hugging the LIRR).

The thing is, some segments of this proposal really do make sense. But a lot of tings are silly, like the distance.

* By my anecdotal experience, that attitude has faded a lot in this century already even there.

adirondacker12800 August 3, 2015 - 5:19 pm

They’ve figured out that being that explicit would be considered rude so they use code words and phrase it a bit differently.
Real Americans ™ drive everywhere.

Three-fer or four-fer buried in that. Real Americans are rich enough and well enough to drive everywhere. They live someplace where the land is cheap enough for lots of free parking. Or where the zoning requires it even though it’s expensive. They don’t have to take the the train or ferry or the subway or streetcars either.

Bolwerk August 3, 2015 - 5:54 pm

Well, there is certainly a car bias in NYC. But he was implying a rail bias or something.

SEAN August 3, 2015 - 4:35 pm

Normal political processes in the US have broken down completely. In a normal country, urban and rural interests would do some horse trading, you’d get a new parkway in Bumfuck County, and a new subway line downtown. But over the last 30 years, something like a quarter to a third of the US population has converted to political nihilism: government is always the problem, taxes are always bad, blah blah Reagan blah. So instead of normal horsetrading, we get one side horsetrading, while the other is trying to murder all the horses. If you think I’m exaggerating, I point you to Donald Trump, who is the logical result of all this.

That’s an interesting take. One of the outgrowths of this is the rise of the T party. Trump is a reflection of that sentiment along with Glen Beck & Alex Jones further afield. It’s become scarry since rational decision making has been thrown to the wind &I cant describe what has come to fill the void left behind.

Alon Levy August 3, 2015 - 8:17 pm

No, that’s not how things in normal countries work, at all, actually. This sort of urban-rural horsetrading is the hallmark of the 20th-century US Congress. In Switzerland, they’d put it to a referendum, no matter what. In Britain and France, the national government and the capital city or region’s government collaborate on big things like Crossrail or Grand Paris Express, while provincial cities get bupkis and occasionally fund small improvements out of their regional budgets. There’s a fair amount of resentment in Northern England about how the rolling stock for regional rail is second-hand trains from London, but the problem is that the North doesn’t really have the tax base to get new trains, whereas London does.

Of course, the support for both Grand Paris Express and Crossrail is bipartisan: Grand Paris Express went through several iterations between PS and UMP The Republicans, but the basic outline of the project remained; and Crossrail, both Labour and the Conservatives promised to keep building in their 2010 election platforms. British and French wingers do not dismiss large cities the way their American brethren do.

adirondacker12800 August 3, 2015 - 9:57 pm

There being an urban population to horse trade with is a 20th century phenomena.


Alon Levy August 4, 2015 - 10:58 pm

I say 20th century to contrast with the 21st century. So far there’s not much horsetrading because the parties refuse to cooperate on any matter more important than renaming post offices.

adirondacker12800 August 4, 2015 - 11:45 pm

The Democrats offer to compromise. Warmed over Romneycare for instance. Which then became anathema because Democrats settled for it.

JAzumah August 4, 2015 - 11:07 am

The Tea Party aren’t a bunch of idiots. They are tired of government malinvestment (Detroit People Mover, anyone?) and meddlesome “do-gooders” trying to tell them how to live without knowing anything about their lives. We have to face the fact that many transit agencies are stagnant and won’t do anything unless asked. Each of these new ideas reflect the opinion that the MTA is stagnant.

Eric August 4, 2015 - 5:11 pm

As if the private sector is any less prone to malinvestment. Didn’t we read today that Microsoft, which bought Nokia just last year for $9 billion, decided to write off the entire value of the purchase?

Around the US, there are a number of transit agencies that are run competently, but have no chance to implement their ideas because the local Tea Party voters would rather spend billions on new exurban freeways than millions on unsexy transit improvements. The MTA has the unfortunate combination of suffering from Tea Party types upstate and from internal incompetence.

adirondacker12800 August 4, 2015 - 6:11 pm

The Tea Party spends most of it’s time trying to get the government to tell people what to do. They are solidly behind freedom for rich straight old guys who happen to be nominally Christian. Everybody else they are anxious to impose the heavy hand of government on them.

johndmuller August 4, 2015 - 6:39 pm

JAzumah says:
The Tea Party aren’t a bunch of idiots.

When I was a kid there was a car game where you got points for spotting things out the window; certain signs, license plates, buildings, animals, whatnot. You got 5 points for a “Bunch of Bossies” (herd of cattle).

They are tired of government malinvestment (Detroit People Mover, anyone?) and meddlesome “do-gooders” trying to tell them how to live without knowing anything about their lives.

What were the original Boston Tea Party participants if not “meddlesome do-gooders” trying to tell (the king) how to live without knowing anything about (his) life? (I guess they might also have been a bunch of rowdies acting out on a Saturday night.) Which of these two are these neo-objectivists trying to emulate

Alon Levy August 4, 2015 - 11:03 pm

What were the original Boston Tea Party participants?

Pisspants who didn’t want to pay their taxes and didn’t like that there were limits on how far west they could ethnically cleanse the Indians. They were later joined by other pisspants who wanted to expand their slave plantations to the west.

Saul August 4, 2015 - 11:44 am

Well-put and seconded.

John-2 August 4, 2015 - 12:28 am

New York probably should study the ongoing travails of the H Street/Benning Road trolley in Washington to get a general idea of what’s likely to happen — or at least the likely problems a Brooklyn-Queens waterfront line would face just on the logistics alone.

Any NYC plan, like the D.C. line, would not have dedicated former rail lines (Los Angeles and others) or alleyways (Dallas and others) off the main streets, where you at least narrow the concerns down to cross-street traffic. NE Washington’s population density is similar to where the waterfront line would run, so seeing how that works when it finally opens would be a way to gauge the cost/benefit merits for doing it, other than being a ‘cool’ project.

johndmuller August 4, 2015 - 5:49 pm

First of all, streetcars are cool. They are cooler than walking in the rain; they are cooler than slogging through the slush; they are cooler than baking in the heat, humidity and various unpleasant smells and other people with attitudes or abstract mental conditions on the sidewalk. Isn’t that enough?

It’s not always about getting somewhere in the shortest amount of time. Getting where you are going in a calm and dignified manner has much to be said for it. Contrary to popular belief, there is enough time in the day. In fact, one could say that the amount of time in the day and our adaptation to it have been honed to perfection over the millenia. It is the perceived need to speed that is dysfunctional and mal-attuned with the multiverse.

Have you ever tried to relax when switching to the express in the vain attempt to get one local ahead? Can you relax while the meter is ticking away and ka-chinging even when you are standing still? How rewarding is it when you risk life and lawmen passing someone on the right or on the wrong side of the road only to find them beside you at the next red light?

Can you enjoy reading your tablet or paper on the bus (be honest now); use your phone productively;enjoy the view; doze off?

All this, and good karma too. Take the streetcar, the limo for the rest of us.

Alon Levy August 4, 2015 - 11:06 pm

Usually, it is about the shortest amount of time. Sorry. You put a streetcar that’s slower than walking, most people are just going to walk.

adirondacker12800 August 5, 2015 - 12:54 am

Why are Manhattan’s crosstown buses so crowded?

Bolwerk August 5, 2015 - 9:21 am

Because at least usually the bus is not slower than walking. Nor are any streetcars that I’m aware of slower than walking.

Could be that that traffic jams sometimes make vehicles without dedicated lanes slower than walking. Could be there are some outlying cases of routes that really are scheduled to be that slow.

Henry August 6, 2015 - 5:37 am

When there is limited funds to go around and many commuters in the far-flung neighborhoods suffer hour and a half commutes, a toy train for the waterfront hipsters should be the least of our problems. People have managed to read the paper and use their bus on the phone for years now; I know I can and do.

Boris August 5, 2015 - 1:37 am

There’s at least one abandoned or underused rail line in each NYC borough. Why the hell shouldn’t we use them? With minor changes to zoning near them we can have major TOD developments that would pay for tens of miles of rail transit in former rail ROWs.


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