One reader responded to a recent post on the problems involved in building a bridge over Newtown Creek, suggesting that the article was too negative toward the project and that no infrastructure would ever be built if people only saw the inherent flaws — certainly a valid viewpoint.
However, before we begin a new multi-billion dollar project, we need to evaluate the time, expense and displacement it will create and decide if those billions of dollars might be better spent on subways or other existing forms of mass transportation. The city says that the streetcar will be ready in 2024, but critics feel this is a wildly optimistic timeframe.
John Orcutt, a streetcar critic and spokesman for Transit Center, a non-profit public transportation advocate group, stated, “The biggest concern is these kinds of transit projects haven’t performed well and have been difficult to implement.”
Washington D.C experienced years of delay and large cost overruns on a much smaller streetcar line, and the New York plan is far bigger than what any other American cities have recently built. The de Blasio administration envisions 30 stops over a 16-mile route and 60 streetcar vehicles. The very scope of the project almost ensures many more years of delay than Washington’s tiny system.
Another issue that many have with the streetcar is that in a city already short on parking, the rail line would eliminate hundreds of parking spots, so that drivers all along the route would be vehement enemies. It is hard to imagine City Council members backing a plan that would draw the ire of their driving constituents, especially if they never take the streetcar line.
It is still not clear if the streetcar would be woven into the subway system or if it would be an independent system. There is also the huge question of whether the system would honor MetroCards. It is hard to imagine that many riders who already pay a lot for public transportation would shell out even more money for the tram if the streetcar fare costs extra. A limited ridership would mean that the billion-dollar cost of the streetcar cannot be justified.
There is one other problem with bridges: bureaucracy. Besides the time and expense of constructing a bridge, building spans today mandates conducting long and costly environmental impact studies that could take years and push back the 2024 date even further into the future. Let’s not even begin to contemplate the delays legal challenges to the light rail line would create.
Perhaps the more than $2 billion earmarked for the trolley could be better spent on a renovation of the inadequate G line. Certainly improvements to the G would have a greater impact on the local transportation situation in the near future. Clearly, the city needs to explain how the plan for the streetcar is more positive for Greenpoint than a subway overhaul.