Report of the Brooklyn Community
Board 8 Light Rail Subcommittee
September 27, 2016
Updated on October 8, 2016


The latest U.S. Census statistics show the City of New York has grown by 375,000 people in
the past 5 years. The affordable housing crisis and the city’s overburdened transportation
infrastructure are only going to be further exacerbated.
At the current rate, we’re looking at a population of 10.1 million New Yorkers by 2036:

8.6 million in mid 2016 (current)
9 million by 2021
9.35 million by 2026
9.725 million by 2031
10.1 million by 2036

New York City Once Had One of the
World’s Largest Streetcar Systems

During the 1920’s General Motors, Firestone tires, Standard Oil and other fossil
fuel interests, formed a holding company called “National City Lines” (NCL). NCL
then targeted Manhattan’s extensive streetcar system New York Railways as its
high-profile prototype for converting the entire U.S. electric streetcar system to
buses made by G.M., fueled by Standard Oil gasoline, and rolling on Firestone

Then Mayor LaGuardia was recruited by NCL to remove all of New York City ‘s
streetcars, and replace them with buses, tires, fuel, etc. purchased from NCL’s
constituent businesses. During 1935- 1936, New York Railways was converted to
bus operation.

In 1949, the NCL conspirators were found guilty in federal court of conspiracy to
destroy the U.S. electric streetcar system. This verdict was upheld on appeal in
1951. However, this came too late – streetcars all over the country were already
being replaced by NCL’s buses.
The last Brooklyn streetcar ran on Halloween, 1956. The last streetcar in New
York City (the Queensboro “Ed Koch” bridge shuttle) ran on April 7, 1957

The Brooklyn Streetcar System Circa 1930

“In the case of the largest cities, care
must be taken to create a transit line
that has enough capacity to meet
long-term demand”
- Chris MacKechnie,
Public Transit Service Planner
August, 2016
Source: Different-Modes-OfTransit.htm

BQX Route as
originally proposed
by the Friends of the

But What About Streetcars For Existing,
Densely Populated Neighborhoods
Which Are Underserved by the Subway?

Official Map of NYC Transportation Deserts
Source: Circa 2009 SBS study by the NYCDOT and MTA

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which Itself Is
Underserved by the Subway, is a Centrally
Located “Jumping Off Point” for Extending the
BQX Into Several Other Transportation Deserts

Proposed Crown Heights BQX Extension
Approximately 3.14 route miles (6.28 track miles)

“Ton for Ton” a Streetcar Only Uses 5% The Energy of a Bus

Modern Streetcar Track Greatly Reduces Noise

Rail Boot

Is it possible for BQX streetcars to
operate Twice As Fast - or Even 3½
Times Faster - Than a Bus ?

Could be…

New York City SBS lanes are known for delay caused by road blockages, due to other
vehicles illegally entering and/or parking in the dedicated lane. Brooklyn buses have an
average speed of 7 mph. Source:

Perhaps BQX streetcar lanes need to not only be "dedicated" together with "Traffic Signal
Priority" (TSP), but may also need to be "protected" by a physical deterrent such as a
"continuous rumble strip" between the rails, and a highly proactive traffic regulation
enforcement policy.

The BQX with protected dedicated lanes and Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) should be able to
maintain a schedule speed of 25 mph. In "mixed traffic" conditions, a schedule speed of
14 mph is feasible - Similar to another form of surface rail transportation - the former
"Els" of downtown Brooklyn, circa 1914.

BMT “El” Time / Distance Map, Circa 1914

BMT “El” Station Map, Circa 1914

Data Derived From Circa 1914 BMT
• Stations per route mile: 2.29
• Average distance between stations: 0.44 mi –
a little less than a half mile apart
• Average speed: 14 mph

BQX Operating Goals Summary
- Average number of stations per route mile: 2.29
- Average distance between stations: 0.44 mile. Less than a
quarter mile walk to a streetcar station
- Average speed: 14 mph in mixed traffic*, 25 mph in
protected dedicated lanes with traffic signal priority
- A service density of 4 streetcars per mile, per direction
In Brooklyn, buses travel at an average speed of 7 mph

* The average speed of the new Washington D .C. streetcar is 12 to 15
mph in mixed traffic.

Pedestrian and “Other Vehicle” Safety Is Paramount

"There were no track related bike crashes in route sections where
streetcars had dedicated right of way”
Source: July, 2016 Toronto streetcar bike safety study

To Function In Brooklyn, a Streetcar Must Be
Able To Negotiate 36 Foot Radius Curves
Photo location: Spadina Loop, Toronto; August, 2016

Bombardier Flexity Outlook

Siemens S70, San Diego Light Rail

CAF “URBO 3” streetcar,
Cincinnati, OH

CAF “Urbo 3” streetcar, Interior view

Single unit streetcars may offer additional operational flexibility, as they can
be coupled together into 2 or 3 car trains to suit differing passenger capacity
demands, and decrease headway time between streetcars


VarioLFplus/o Double Ended Streetcar

Each Car Carries 110 Passengers

Tax Increment Financing
Has Been “On The Books”
Since 1915. A Similar
Mechanism Was Used to
Fund The #7 West Side
Subway Extension in


Existing low and moderate income residents, and small "mom and
pop" business owners, could be exempted from the "tax
Perhaps after the streetcar is built, some of the future "tax
increment", could go towards making capital improvements to
medical and educational facilities within the “Transit Improvement
Federal grant funds such as "New Starts" should be utilized to the
fullest, in order to generally reduce the impact of the "tax

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