Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s promise of a streetcar pilot during his most recent campaign, it won’t be happening in Brooklyn — at least not any time soon. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided not to support the pilot after concluding a five-month feasibility study. The focus of the study was Red Hook, Brooklyn, but also included a much larger area along the borough’s waterfront to determine how to better connect the area to the city’s extensive bus and subway system. As we mentioned last year at this time, 22 US cities were considering streetcar lines as a mode of sustainable public transportation. With national popularity and community support, the vote against the project comes as a surprise.
The DOT’s decision was announced last week during the third Community Advisory Committee meeting on April 14. The top reason for nixing the project was money — estimates put the project up around $176 million, or $26 million per mile of track. It would be an additional $7 million in annual operation costs. Although Red Hook has one of the lowest rates of car ownership, at 18.5 percent, the study concluded that the additional transportation system would only capture 12 percent of commuters and public transportation riders.
Not all hope is lost for Red Hook. In addition to the feasibility study, the DOT also presented short-term improvements for the area’s current lack of public transportation, as well as steps to be taken in order to get the density needed to support a streetcar line. The DOT has begun investing the feasibility of rerouting the B61 bus and creating a new pedestrian friendly intersection at Mill Street and Hamilton Avenue. Additionally, pathways to the Smith and 9th Street F and G lines stop would be enhanced to create a more welcoming environment for pedestrians. As for long-term projects, DOT suggests a zoning change that would allow for mixed use development along major through-ways which would ultimately increase activity in the area and thus increase the demand for public transportation.
The final DOT report on Red Hook’s streetcar line will be released sometime in the early summer.