Astoria, Long Island City, Transportation
Nov 19, 2016

BQX Updates

An update on the BQX.

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We’ve talked about the BQX streetcar before here on We Heart Astoria, and wanted to pass on the most recent information on it. The DOT has released a pamphlet with an update on locations under study, which of course include Astoria and LIC. The document is divided up into six sections: Challenges, Opportunity, Idea, What We’ve Heard, What We’ve Learned, and Timeline.

Is the BQX Really Necessary?

To summarize: the area along the westernmost edge of Queens and Brooklyn (AKA the waterfront) has poor transit access—and by transit they are talking mainly about subway access; there are buses that run up and down this section of Queens, most of which connect to the subways further away. The area is also growing and changing, with new developments popping up regularly, and the demand for transit of all sorts will grow. Even if you add more buses to the current routes, there will come a time when they will not be able to accommodate the population.

As an aside: there are a ton of folks who already live in the area and frankly, they deserve better and more frequent transit.

There’s also mention of a “shift from Manhattan-centric connectivity”—the job development/growth in Brooklyn is an example of this; people are commuting from Queens to Brooklyn to work. And then there’s the coming Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, which will have both jobs and classes folks need to commute to.

Walkability and Ease of Use

Now who doesn’t love a walkable neighborhood? Transit helps support that, and the goal of car-free or at least less car traffic. Even if you drive, we can agree the traffic congestion sucks. Diluting traffic to walking, land transit (buses, rail), ferries, and bikes along with cars (because we are not delusional—cars are here to stay), helps everyone and makes a more livable community. Being able to connect those modes of transportation with each other is also important.

The BQX is billed as “A modern, efficient, state-of-the-art transit link to support the growing Brooklyn and Queens waterfront.” BQX team makes these assertions as to the problems the streetcar will solve:

  • Improve connectivity through efficient, reliable transit
  • Provide access to workforce opportunities
  • Provide sustainable solutions that strengthen the built and natural environment
  • Boost to local small businesses

They envision a world where the streetcar has stops about a half mile from each other (about 10 blocks, as is the case with much of the subway), frequent service, some dedicated lanes for the streetcars as well as having the right of way while in transit. Fares will match the subway fares (which we’ve heard might go up to $3 in the not so distant future), and most interestingly to me—that the streetcars will carry more people that buses, an argument in the reverse that BRT advocates like to bring up.

Potential Routes

The document contains a slew of pages arguing for the streetcars, which you can read on your own and come to your own conclusions, but for purposes of this article I’ll take a look at the Route Planning section. It looks like they are still trying to figure out the route and make a number of suggestions in that direction.

The Astoria terminus is at Hoyt Avenue South, but could be at the cross street of 31st Street (not likely), Vernon Blvd (challenging because of size/width), or 21st Street (most likely).

bqx-route-astoria-north-queens

Further south in Astoria and into LIC favorable routes include 11th Street and Vernon Blvd.

bqx-route-astoria-south-lic-queens

Regardless of routes, the BQX will cost a pretty penny—$2.5 billion. And then it is estimated that it will cost about 30 million a year to operate. Funding will come from bonds and “increased real estate value along the corridor.” It has been mentioned that developer Two Trees Management is pushing hard for this and will most certainly benefit. With this in mind, an article on CityLab says, “If economic development is the main goal of a transit project, then it’s private developers and not the riding public who should pay for it.”

Timeline

Finally, the timeline—2024 is the predicted start for the streetcars to run. That sounds like a long time from now, but it’s really only 8 years. However, we know how things get delayed in this city, and it’s very possible that the BQX would start running after that.

bqx-timeline

So tell us—how are you feeling about the BQX these days? Is it going to be a help? Or just a waste of time/money/effort? Take a look at the PDF and let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

One Comment

Gabrielle Knight

I think it’s ridiculous. 8 years?! That’s almost an entire census cycle and enough for another population shift. It would probably (ha) take the MTA less than one year to introduce additional bus service/routes. That would solve many of the commuting problems virtually immediately by comparison, and, for much less money. Plus, let’s not forget about flooding potential near the river. I simply do not understand how this has any traction.

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