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De Blasio's Streetcar Plan May Not Include Free Transfer to Subway or Bus

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 16, 2016 5:27pm
 A rendering of the proposed streetcar that would run between Brooklyn and Queens.
A rendering of the proposed streetcar that would run between Brooklyn and Queens.
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Courtesy Office of the Mayor

RED HOOK — The route for the proposed $2.5 billion Brooklyn-Queens streetcar is still up in the air and there's no guarantee riders will be able to transfer to the city's subways, buses and ferries, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

The mayor revealed some new details of the 16-mile streetcar system that would travel through Astoria and Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Navy Yard, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park.

The exact route and its stops will be developed after community engagement sessions are hosted, officials said. 

READ MORE: Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar Would Eliminate Hundreds of Parking Spaces

"This will create connections between many neighborhoods," de Blasio said. "It will connect this new light rail system to 10 ferry landings, 15 subway routes and 30 plus bus lines."

 Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference at Pioneer Works in Red Hook Tuesday morning.
Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference at Pioneer Works in Red Hook Tuesday morning.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

While a ticket for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector will cost the same price as the MTA's single-ride fare, it's unclear whether there will be free transfers between the streetcar, subways and buses. Passengers may have to purchase a new card — separate from a standard MetroCard — to use the service. 

"We will have to figure out whether we're creating our own independent approach to a card or whether we're doing something integrated with the MTA," de Blasio said.  

Discussions with the MTA, a state agency, around an integrated fare payment system are ongoing, de Blasio said. 

But the mayor anticipated that riders would use the streetcar to get between points within the system, without having to transfer to other modes of public transport.  

"I think we should also remember that a lot of people are going to take this, just to take this," he said. 

Deputy mayor Alicia Glenn added that there would likely be discounts for senior citizens and students, similar to ones that the MTA offers. 

"But even if this were a thing unto itself... it would still be adding intensely to people's options and ability to get around," de Blasio added. 

The city estimated that the streetcar system would serve almost 50,000 passengers per day, and that trolley cars would be "clean and green" with zero emissions. 

The projected cost for purchase and installation is $2.5 billion, with capital raised through the creation of a nonprofit that can issue tax-exempt bonds, according to the press release. 

The mayor estimates that construction will begin in 2019.

Tuesday's announcement took place at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, a neighborhood with poor access to public transportation options. The community also faced devastating flooding during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 

"It is a wonderful community with such tremendous character," de Blasio said, "but it's been through a lot of struggle." 

When asked whether Red Hook may lose its B61 bus line, currently its main access to a subway station, de Blasio responded that that wouldn't necessarily be the case. 

"We need a lot more mass transit," he said, referring to all forms of public transportation, including buses. "I work from the assumption that we need all of the above."

The mayor announced that passengers using the streetcar will "save them an average of 30 to 40 minutes in their commute" between Brooklyn and Queens. 

According to the city, travel time between Astoria and Williamsburg, which is currently 61 minutes using the N and L trains, will be cut down to 27 minutes.

Traveling between Long Island City and Red Hook will be 50 minutes as opposed to 67 minutes on the G train and B57 bus line. 

Greenpoint to DUMBO will be 27 minutes, rather than 51 minutes on the B62, the city said. 

Community engagement sessions are expected to begin in the coming months.

In 2011, a study from the Department of Transportation found that a streetcar would not be feasible for Red Hook.

But de Blasio dismissed that earlier ruling from the city.

"This is different from going from Red Hook to Downtown Brooklyn.. this is a particular proposal," he said.

"The simple answer is that we spent two years looking at the issue and decided there was more possibility than had been seen previously."