We the People: What New York City’s transportation network needs

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that the state of New York is “strong” and affirmed his commitment to transportation and public infrastructure improvements among other things in his $145.3 billion budget. Our city is without question the economic engine that propels the state and if it is to continue its amazing renaissance, then our subways, roads, bridges and tunnels need  work.

The governor’s commitment is reassuring but we need more than just repair and replacement. The cash-strapped MTA is already giving 30 subway stations renovations to make them cleaner, brighter and easier to navigate while three R train subway stations (Prospect Avenue, Bay Ridge Avenue and 53rd Street) are getting high-tech Wi-Fi and cellular telephone equipment so that straphangers can work and play while underground.

The N train is getting badly needed refurbished stations and platforms on its elevated portion in Brooklyn. If Brooklyn is to continue to be on the forefront of this golden age of Gotham, then we need better subway service. We need to transform our stations from dangerous and dirty shelters of last resort for those in need and keep them clean and bright after they are renovated.

Moreover, we need innovation and not just renovation. It should include long range plans for new subway tunnels, light rail lines, more ferries and safe bicycle lanes. Brooklynites have submitted petitions asking the MTA to add more R trains to the line because of overcrowding and delays so it is past time to create a better mass transit system which would get more people to use it which would reduce road traffic.

The governor promised $26 billion for the public transportation system which will get us needed new buses and subway cars but that is not innovation which the system does need. A public/private partnership like the one constructing the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement could be used to move the Gowanus Expressway closer to the water and the replacement roadway could include dedicated bicycle lanes and light rail tracks while it replaced the patchwork of never-ending road projects that this highway has become.

Mayor Bill de Blasio should be working with Brooklyn leaders and Governor Cuomo to make this dream a possibility. This achievement would be worthy of Brooklyn and it would also guarantee future growth. A new “Skyway” could be beautiful, practical and incorporate in it conduits for utilities, tracks for mass transit and lanes for green transportation besides moving cars and trucks more efficiently.

That kind of project would make it possible to transform Third Avenue into Brooklyn’s own Avenue de Champs-Elysees. Mr. de Blasio should spend some of the energy he pours into the Central Park carriage horse “issue” into this sort of project which would transform South Brooklyn and enhance our transportation system.

The mayor announced support for a proposed Brooklyn-Queens street car system with a price tag of $2.5 billion. It would connect Astoria and Long Island City with Williamsburg and Red Hook. If this is really a serious proposal, then where is the money he will need to build the system? Wouldn’t this money be better spent increasing the capacity of the L train tunnels between Manhattan and Williamsburg?

Brooklyn’s popularity has stretched our current subway infrastructure to its limit. If the city wants to spend billions, then the current system could use that money to improve service and a small amount of the money could build a street car system finally to connect Red Hook and maybe the Sunset Park shore area to the subway system.

Trolley cars used to run over the Williamsburg Bridge which allowed people to travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn between 1904 and 1948. A passenger could take a trolley car from Nostrand Avenue, Ralph Avenue or Grand Street over the bridge and into Manhattan. A station was built for the trolley service near the Chambers Street subway station.

After trolley service ended in 1948, the former track area on the bridge was rebuilt into automobile lanes while the trolley station itself was just left vacant and it is still there below the Chambers St. Station. The underground terminal still has two potential tracks, never opened, running from the west end of the trolley station to connect it the subway line.

We don’t need promises or proposals. We need Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio to work together to transform our mass transit system into one that will be the envy of the world.

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