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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.

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