If you’ve never visited New Orleans, you need to. It is a one of the few American cities with a rich culture, especially for its size. When Hurricane Katrina unleashed her devastation in 2005, more than a few people were writing eulogies for New Orleans. They said that New Orleans would never fully recover, and that this city’s greatness was dead.
Poignantly symbolic was that the New Orleans Saints played their home games for the 2005 season outside the city. New Orleans did not die, and yesterday a great symbolic victory was achieved. The New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl for the first time. They are world champions!
It was an interesting game. The Indianapolis Colts thoroughly outplayed the Saints in the first quarter, and took a 10-0 lead. Then the Saints turned things around, and finished the half down 10-6. The second half began with a shocking onside kick by the Saints, which they recovered. The third quarter would end with the Saints down by just one point, 17-16. The fourth quarter was all New Orleans, and they won the game 31-17.
Like many other people, I neither like nor dislike the Saints, but I really wanted to see them win. Not for their fans, but for their city.
New Orleans’ recovery from Katrina is still not complete, but I hope that yesterday’s victory has brought their spirit to new heights.
It seems as if the Brooklyn Bridge was always a part of my life. When I was born, my family lived in Cadmen Plaza North, at the Bridge’s foot on the Brooklyn side. Today I live in a building across the street from the Bridge on the other side. I love that bridge, and never cease to find it wondrous.
Some things about it disturb me. There are the rusty ramps that were slapped on to it, in an act of vandalism, to accommodate cars on the Manhattan side. The ramps make the Bridge hostile to its environment. Noise and pollution whisk along these asphalt curves. The often overlooked storage spaces under the bridge are separated from the urban scape. This is one big mess that scrapes across the grain of those beloved qualities of the Brooklyn Bridge.
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That storage space should be better utilized, but that is difficult to do as long as the ramps persist. The ramps should go, but they really have to stay to accommodate all of the cars that use it. What to do?
Buses and trucks are no longer allowed over the Bridge. Only vehicles under 6,000 pounds. What if cars and vans were banned from the Bridge so that streetcars could once again use it? The Bridge would have to be shut down for a few years to make the conversion, but upon reopening, more people would be able to travel over it in streetcars than they can today in automobiles.
Where would those streetcars go?
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Some Notes about the Brooklyn Bridge Streetcar Map
The lines on this map are more of an exercise than a formal proposal, but some thought did go into them.
Implementing this idea will not only require money, but it will need to overcome the opposition to removing cars from the Brooklyn Bridge. It is that opposition, perhaps more than the financing, that could be the biggest obstacle.
The money is not an insignificant obstacle, especially with a rehabilitation project for the Bridge about to begin. The idea on this blog post can’t become an official project until after the already approved rehabilitation project begins. This would mean that capital costs would be irretrievable. The general public has a horrendous comprehension of basic economic concepts, such as sunken costs, so even if a cost-benefit analysis showed that streetcars are the better investment, cries of “waste” would get plenty of media play. All of that said, good ideas can triumph over bad ones. Just look at what Jane Jacobs did.
[Red Line] Red Hook to Park Avenue
Running a line from Red Hook is a no brainer. This neighborhood has poor mass transit access, is developing, and it is close to the Bridge. It is so close to the Bridge, that the temptation to make the Manhattan side of the route long was irresistible. So, it goes up Park Avenue to 125th St. The length of the route is reasonable, but Park Avenue probably is not. There will be operational problems keeping the streetcars on time. Neighborhood opposition from the Upper East Side is very possible. It is not necessary to run any route up Park Avenue to justify converting the Brooklyn Bridge for streetcars but the idea is worth exploring.
[Orange Line] Coney Island to the Lower East Side
The Lower East Side is another neighborhood in desperate need of improved transit. This line starts at the 1st Avenue L Train station, which will eventually (hopefully) also be an entrance to the Second Avenue Subway’s 14th St station. From there it winds up at Avenue C, and then heads south to, and across the Bridge. After it runs down the Adams/Boerum corridor, this line heads east on Atlantic, east on Flatbush, south on 7th Avenue, and it then snakes its way to Ocean Parkway, an amazingly wide boulevard that is just begging for streetcars. At its southern end, Ocean Parkway curves into Surf Avenue, and to this lines southern terminus by Seagate.
[Yellow Line] Howard Beach to South Ferry
This line has a terminus by the Howard Beach A train and JFK AirTrain station. It works it way west on Linden Boulevard and Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza, north on Flatbush Avenue. west on Atlantic Avenue, and then north on the Adams/Boerum corridor to the Bridge. On the Manhattan side, this line heads south on Park Row to a terminus at South Ferry. This is currently rendered with Broadway used for South Ferry bound streetcars, and with Church Street carrying northbound traffic. Broadway and Church might make for a poor choice, in which case other options (West St.?) could be explored.
[Green Line] Floyd Bennett Field to the Lower East Side
This route starts at Floyd Bennett Field, and works its way up Utica Avenue. Utica Avenue. This is very deliberate. Utica Avenue has long been part of various public agendas for expansion of the subway system, dating back at least since 1911. The IRT, under the 1913 Dual Contracts, included bellmouths for such an expansion, and the Utica Avenue station was built west of Utica Avenue to allow for such a connection without any exits to Utica Avenue! The IND Second System, that was proposed in 1929, was to have built a Utica Avenue line. The MTA, soon after its 1965 birth, proposed an ambitious expansion plan, including a Utica Avenue line. In 2008, the very influential RPA, released “ Tomorrow’s Transit: New Mobility for the Region’s Urban Core.” This report also recommends a Utica Avenue line connected to the subway system. In context of the MTA’s current finances, a Utica Avenue subway line is little more than a pipe dream. A streetcar line is not a substitute for a subway, but it is a better stop-gap measure than buses.
At Atlantic Avenue, this line heads west, and then north up the Adams/Boerum Corridor to the Bridge. As currently rendered, it then heads north on Park Row, East Broadway, and Avenue C through the under served Lower East Side, and then west on 13th Street to a terminus on 2nd Avenue, between 13th and 14th Streets. Brooklyn bound traffic uses 14th Street to Avenue C.
[Blue Line] Starrett City to Lincoln Center
Starrett City is a development that opened in 1972 with poor mass transit access. Today, its 14,000+ residents are still in need of better transit. This makes this neighborhood a great place to a start a line. From the southern terminus at Seaview Avenue, it runs north on Pennsylvania Avenue, west on Atlantic Avenue, and then north on the Adams/Boerum corridor to the Bridge. once on the Manhattan side, this line heads west on Chambers Street, and then north on West Street and 11th Avenue to Lincoln Center.
[Indigo Line] Queens Center to South Ferry
The objective of this line is to serve an area of Queens, Maspeth and Middle Village, that sends a disproportionate amount of car traffic to Manhattan. It starts at Queens Center, a mall at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard. This terminus was chosen primarily because there is the potential of constructing a streetcar storage facility on a large plot of land by the LIE, but also because it is a destination location at a subway station.
From Queens Center, this line heads west on Queens Boulevard, and then south on Grand Avenue, Flushing Avenue and Fresh Pond Road. It then runs southwest and west on Gates Avenue, west on Fulton Street, and then north on Adams Street to the Bridge. On the Manhattan side, this line heads south to South Ferry on whichever alignment is selected for the Yellow Line.
[Violet Line] Manhattan Beach to Greenwich Village
This is the College Line. The idea is to facilitate synergies between most of the institutions of higher learning in Brooklyn, as well as with some of those in Manhattan. A linear college town could emerge along this streetcar line. It starts in Manhattan Beach by Kingsborough Community College. It heads west on Oriental Boulevard, north on West End Avenue, east on Emmons Avenoe, and then north on Bedford Avenue. Along Bedford, this line stops at Brooklyn College and then Medgar Evers College. It turns west from Bedford to DeKalb Avenue. Along DeKalb, it stops at Pratt Institute’s main campus, then at St. Joseph’s College, and then at LIU. This line continues west on Fulton Street, and then north on Adams Street, where it stops within a few blocks of Brooklyn Law School, City Tech, NYU Poly, and St. Francis College. On the Manhattan side, the first stop is near Pace University. This line continues north on Park Row and the Bowery, and the west on Houston Street. The Violet Line (name is a coincidence) finally heads north on LaGuardia Place to Washington Square Park, which is at NYU, and within blocks of Cooper Union and Hebrew Union College, and then north on University Place to 13th Street. The lines northern terminus is there, and the point of reversal to head south on 5th Avenue is by Cardozo Law School, New School, and Parsons School of Design (which is part of the New School.) That’s between 15 and 17 institutions of higher learning, depending on how they are counted, and I may have missed some. Not bad.
[Black Line] South Ferry to Yankee Stadium
As mentioned in the Red Line’s description, running a streetcar up Park Avenue is rife with obstacles. If these can be overcome, then this would be the one line on this map that does not run to Brooklyn. It uses the alignment from South Ferry, and the Park Row/Bowery/Park Avenue alignment to run up Manhattan. North of 125th St, this line runs to the Bronx over the new 3rd Avenue Bridge (if it can support streetcars,) to the Hub. It then runs north on Melrose Avenue, west on E. 161st Street, and then terminates at River Avenue by Yankee Stadium.
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And what about that storage space below? How about something along the lines of a Downtown Lincoln Center. It could be called the Roebling Center, named John A. Roebling, Washington Roebling, and Emily Warren Roebling. Inside would be space for performing arts, a museum or two, and some restaurants. With those decrepit ramps out of the way, why not?
So there it is. An idea that popped into my head three weeks ago, now floating in cyber space.