Cross-Brooklyn subway line could revolutionize commuting in the borough

Leaving Brooklyn? Fuggehddaboudit.

According to a new study conducted by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), New Yorkers throughout the boroughs, excluding Manhattan, are not getting as much bang for their buck as they’d like when it comes to accessible mass transit.

The study, called “Overlooked Boroughs: Where New York City’s Transit Falls Short and How to Fix it,” details the shortcomings of the city’s transit system, why the system was designed this way, and some possible solutions on how to fix the problem—a problem that leaves the more than 60 percent of Brooklynites without cars literally out in the cold.

But that could be changed, said RPA, with the addition of a Triboro line, running along 24 miles of existing railroad tracks between 65th Street in Bay Ridge through Queens to Co-Op City in the Bronx. In Brooklyn, such a line would run along the Long Island Railroad tracks currently being looked as a possible connector to a proposed Cross Harbor tunnel for freight trains.

Because of the right-of-way’s route through central Brooklyn, it could not only connect the borough directly to Queens and the Bronx, but also provide train service to neighborhoods such as East Flatbush and Flatlands which currently have none, as well as intersecting with numerous existing lines along the way. By connecting outer boroughs without going through Manhattan, such a route would be almost unique in the city’s subway system; currently, only the G train never enters Manhattan.

RPA calls such a line “the most promising” of potential subway expansions, contending in the report that, “This line would address many of the weaknesses found in the transit system in the boroughs – poor connectivity within and between the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, slow bus service, excessive transferring and service reliability. Current bus service and improved SBS/BRT routes would be hard pressed to duplicate its speed and connectivity advantages.”

In addition, the report notes, “The right-of-way is now used exclusively by freight services, but this valuable resource could be used for both freight and passenger service, as numerous other rail lines do around the world.”

“Too many residents of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island are forced to make long and circuitous commutes every day, often going out of their way to travel relatively short distances,” said Jeffrey Zupan, RPA’s senior fellow for transportation and one of the lead authors of the study. “In the many neighborhoods that are located beyond a comfortable walking distance from a subway or railroad station, residents have to rely on slow and infrequent buses, adding to the time and inconvenience of their commutes.”

RPA’s goal is to implement a “well-functioning transit system for both low- and average-income New Yorkers” while putting them “in reach of millions of jobs, schools, hospitals, cultural facilities, and other services.”

“Much of the growth in jobs, homes and travel in the coming decades will take place outside Manhattan,” added Tom Wright, president of RPA. “That growth won’t be sustainable unless we make some very significant changes to our transit system.

“Good transit access plays an enormous role in expanding opportunity to education and jobs,” Wright continued. “As New York works to foster a new supply of housing to meet surging demand, we need to think more broadly about how our transit network will accommodate the city’s needs well into the 21st century.”

The RPA intends to follow up with Mass Transit Authority (MTA) regarding the Triboro line and other proposed improvements. Because a considerable amount of funding is needed to complete the projects, the RPA says it “will continue to advocate for adequate funding” with its partners in the business, environmental, and civic sectors. The entire study can be viewed online at

Additional reporting contributed by Helen Klein.


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