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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Twenty NYC Bus Routes are Candidates for Light Rail

  About two weeks ago, a meeting was held at Auto-Free New York where a speaker suggested that twenty bus routes in NYC are candidates for conversion to light rail or streetcar.  I did not attend the meeting but I got the list and I posted it.  Using some old shape files on bus routes in NYC (c. 2009),  I constructed a map of those twenty bus routes.  If light rail or streetcar service is provided for each route, it is possible that the route taken would not be exactly the same as the present day bus route.  Perhaps private rights of way may be utilized and the issue of one way streets has to be dealt with.  Part of the B-44 route in Brooklyn is one-way on two different streets.  Would light rail follow the same pattern?  Notice that some of the proposals involves using one of the bridges between Queens and the Bronx.  Would the NYC Department of Transportation take space from car lines to provide a right of way for light rail?  At any rate, this is very interesting and this discussion will be continued.  Many years ago, I saw an article in ERA Headlights (NY Division Bulletin) that stated that many of the bus routes in Manhattan meet the criteria for light rail, that being, a certain number of passengers carried per hour.  In bringing Light Rail or streetcars to New York City, particularly Brooklyn, I would not emphasize future development but I would stress the comfort of riding a railed vehicle and the environmental benefits.  The plan above looks beautiful, but I know that it will not be easy to bring light rail over existing bridges due to the powerful auto lobby.  It is interesting to note, that the heavy bus routes in Brooklyn, namely the Church, Utica, Nostrand and Flatbush Avenue lines were the last to be converted from streeetcar during the period of 1950 to 1956.  Notice that Staten Island is not included.  I am not sure if this is an oversight in the list but I do know there are some light rail plans for Staten Island, I believe on the western part of the island.  Some people think that the New Jersey Transit Bergen-Hudson Light Rail line should be extended to western Staten Island.

In the map below, I brought in a recent subway shape file.  Notice how some of the proposed light rail lines go directly to the terminals of some of the present day subway lines.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Is this Trolley Line Support Pole 120 Years Old?

This photo was taken off Google Maps and shows the intersection of Church Avenue and Schenectady Avenue in East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  If you look at the light pole and mast to the left of the bakery, you can see the metallic pole with a horizontal attachment to support the power cables.  According to Forgotten New York, this is at the South West corner of Schenectady Avenue and Church Avenues.  As a child, I was able to see the end of electric surface operation in Brooklyn and I noticed that generally speaking, for the few lines that had intact overhead, such as the Church Avenue, McDonald Avenue, Coney Island Avenue and some of the trolleybus lines such as Cortelyou Road, the thick power cables ( not the trolley wire itself) was generally on the eastbound side the street.  If this was the case, this pole which supported the power cables (because of the horizontal attachment with insulators) would have been on the eastbound/southern side of the street, not the SW intersection, but I may be wrong.  It is interesting to note that 39th Street, between 5th Avenue and Ninth Avenues, had power cables on both side of the street:  one set for the Culver Line and one set for power for the Church Avenue Line.  Other cities, from the pictures that I saw, specially Philadelphia, did not "display "its power feeder cables alone the trolley support poles, unlike some lines in Brooklyn.  At any rate, along this stretch of Church Avenue, which may have been called "East Broadway",  received electric trolley service on June 1, 1896.  If this pole was there from the start, which is not easy to tell, because the pole may be a replacement or the original poles were wood in this then rural part of Brooklyn, this pole would have to be 120 years old (1896-2015) and it would span three different centuries.  Of course, the pole did its job for holding the span cables and power supply for trolley operation from 1896 to 1956 or 61 years.  I remember passing through the area in 1970 or so and I remember a similar solitary pole in the same location, but it was in middle of  a block, not at the corner, as far as I remember.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Let Us Give a Tanks

These two personal pictures come from the personal collection of ..... which are part of the Brooklyn Historical Society collection.  I am posting them here not because I like stealing but because these photographs are very rare.  I posted earlier that there were gas tanks near the Sea Beach Line in Bensonhurst near 8th Avenue.  Here is a 1950's picture of the Sea Beach "8th Avenue Station" showing the edge of a large gas tank.  The gas tank is of the stationary type and I do not know if it was as tall as it's brother in Coney Island.  Notice the Type D Triplexes at the station.

The photo below comes from the collection of John D. Morrell and the photograph was taken on 5/30/1958.  I do not know when the gas tank on the extreme right was taken down.  The gas tanks were are over Brooklyn, including some "baby" tanks in Sunset Park.  They are all gone now due to advances in storage technologies for natural gas.

  This photo also comes from the Brooklyn Historical Society and was taken in December 1958.  You are facing the Manhattan bound platform  at Smith-9th Street of the then "D" train that ran between Coney Island and 205th Street in the Bronx.  Notice the gas tanks above the station roof.  At that time, the platform had windows of frosted glass.  They became shabby after the years and the Transit Authority blocked them up.  In a recent renovation, the windows were restored without glass and they are very nice and offer beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline and downtown Brooklyn.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the restored arch over Fourth Avenue and 9th Street was also restored but with frosted glass and we thus are missing a nice vista.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Twilight Zone: Between Electric Operation and Forgetfulness

   One TV series that I enjoyed was the "Twilight Zone". Twilight, a time when it is clearly not day or night and so on.  How about a time that is with the things we love, such as streetcars, trolleybuses and  elevated lines and the time that they are forgotten?   When streetcars stopped running in Brooklyn on October 31, 1956 and trolleybuses on July 27, 1960, the tracks and wires did not disappear on those dates.  As far a Brooklyn is concerned, the wires and poles and tracks were around for ages.  You can see a street with the tracks paved over but the wires and poles were intact, or a street with tracks and no wires or poles, or a street with a few scattered trolley poles.

These pictures come from the Brooklyn Historical Society.  I am using them for educational purposes only and they should be shared.  The views are of Church Avenue, the last streetcar line in Brooklyn.

  This private photo is showing Church Avenue near East 16 th Street.  The building with the water tower is at Ocean Avenue and I may have had a tooth extracted in that building.  You are facing east towards Brownsville.  The picture is from 1963 and the tracks are gone.  A trolley line support pole is on the right with part of the span wire still attached.  It looks weird, doesn't it?

  Church Avenue and Beverly Road.  The sign is pointing to the Greater New York Savings Bank.  A support pole is across the street and there are no tracks.  At the extreme right is another support pole.

This is another photograph from the Brooklyn Historical Society and this is near Marlborough Road? and Church Avenue.  You are looking south east at some historic houses which I believe are still standing in this historic district.  It looks like 1962 or 1963.  Notice that the wires and poles are still up in this segment but the tracks are buried under a new layer of asphalt.
   Eventually, all the poles would be removed and sometimes a pole may have been left alone.  In the site "Forgotten New York", locations of solitary poles are explored.  I remember one at the intersection of Nostrand and Flatbush Avenues at the "Junction".  It was missing a "hat".  The few remaining poles in Brooklyn could be found on Surf Avenue in Coney Island and at select former trolley turn around loops, such as First Avenue and at New Utrecht Avenue and 62nd Street.  There are others as well, but they are getting scarce.  For many years, the power supply for the Culver Line\Shuttle came from a substation at Fifth Avenue and 39th Street in Sunset Park.  Thick power supply cables ran up 39th Street on poles like those shown above to the Ninth Avenue subway station.  The wires crossed south of the station house across a yard to join with the Culver Line at 37th Street.  These cables were connected under the middle track under the  el structure.  When the Culver Shuttle stopped operation in 1975, the el structure and these cables and poles lasted to the 1980's when the el structure was removed.  These poles and wires, on the west side of 39 th Street really gave the feel of a trolley operation years after service stopped.

   It is ironic that some of the trolley poles and wires lasted until around 1963 or later.  In a few more years, in 1969, the environmental movement was born.  If perhaps these poles and wires lasted until then, perhaps a rebirth of electric transit could have taken place in New York City.  Now I do not think it will ever happen.  Everyone loves BRT (Select bus Service) and streetcars and trolleybus are being developed with great electric storage capacity.  Soon, the wires will not be necessary and the fun of electric urban surface transit will be gone, in my humble opinion.

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