Brooklyn Queens Connector-compressed Image: Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via The New York Times

New York City’s trolleys haven’t been seen since 1960, but they will see a resurgence with a new Brooklyn-Queens line serving up to 50,000 riders a day. The line will stretch 16 miles from Astoria in Queens to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, neighborhoods with fast-growing job hubs that have long been considered underserved by public transit.

During a press conference, while flanked by supportive officials and activists, Mayor de Blasio announced that groundbreaking on the line could begin as soon as 2019.

Once completed, residents will be able to travel from the Queensbridge Houses to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 27 minutes and from the Red Hook Houses to DUMBO in 20 minutes. The city-funded (and eventually self-sustaining) streetcar line could generate 28,000 jobs and over $25 billion in wages and economic activity for New Yorkers.

The project is estimated to cost $2.5 billion, with capital raised through a new non-profit with the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds. Those bonds would eventually be paid off by capturing a percentage of the increase in existing and new development values along the corridor. Fares and advertising will also contribute.

Mayor de Blasio says updated transit is vital to accommodate new job growth and equal opportunity. “People in neighborhoods like Red Hook haven’t had the quality transit they need and deserve. This new service means opportunity for those families, and it’s also going to strengthen communities up and down the waterfront.”

New streetcar systems have prompted construction and economic boosts in other large cities. Since 1999, when construction began on Portland’s modern streetcar system, new development has boomed. Mayor Charlie Hales says that new property market value along the Portland Streetcar corridor tops $4.5 billion, including 7,400 residential units. He notes that 38 percent of streetcar riders don’t own vehicles and nearly one-third of Portland jobs are located along the streetcar’s route.

The Brooklyn-Queens streetcar has already garnered broad support from elected officials, transportation advocates, academics, business leaders, and area residents. City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez calls the project “music to the ears of waterfront residents in Queens and Brooklyn.”

Carlo Scissura of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce says that the project is a much-needed step to build up New York City’s infrastructure, calling the new streetcar line a “world-class transit option that will drive sustainable economic growth and deliver tens of thousands of jobs.”

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