Next Stop, Never: Red Hook Trolley Plans All But Abandoned

04/19/2011 8:57 AM |

Going nowhere fast.

  • Going nowhere fast.

Last year we got really excited when the city’s Department of Transportation set aside some cash and contracted transportation consultants to look into a plan to install streetcars in Red Hook to connect the isolated ‘hood to the Smith-9th Street subway station and Downtown Brooklyn. But according to a DOT report released last week (PDF here) the project isn’t viable.

Among other things, the report presented to the Community Advisory Committee on April 14 by the DOT and consultants from URS found that to set up the streetcar system going from Smith-9th Street along Centre Street, Beard Street, Van Brunt Street, Columbia Street, Atlantic Avenue then along Boerum Place to Borough Hall, would cost roughly $176 million. On top of that, the annual maintenance and operating costs would run between $6.2 and $7.2 million.

Meanwhile, the projected benefits amount to a daily increase of 1,822 transit riders, against Red Hook’s current transit-riding population of 14,809, so a 12.3 percent increase in ridership—a conservative estimate apparently not sufficient to justify installing a streetcar. Other, more concrete problems with the idea have to do with streetcar turning radii, the widening of streets and reshaping of sidewalks, though it all begins to sound like the excuses given for not burying the BQE—especially when the lame alternative offered by the DOT is to redesign the intersection of Mill Street and Hamilton Avenue. More of the same for Brooklyn’s notoriously transit-strapped nabe.

(Curbed, NewYorkology; photo: Transit Museum)

2 Comment

  • What this “massaged” report doesn’t say, is that while it costs $41 per hour to run a streetcar, it costs NYCT $160 per hour to operate a bus. What the report doesn’t tell you, is that according to URS’s own experience in Portland, OR, it really costs $12 million per mile to build the streetcar line, not $26 million per mile as URS now claims. What DOT DID say in an email last Dec, is that URS and DOT project a 43% increase in Transit Demand in Red Hook. Another thing they don’t want you to know, is a new streetcar costs about $800,000. DOT wants you to think its over $7 million per car. Finally, another key fact that DOT doesnt want you to know, is that a 2 mile start up line could be built for under $33 million, with $25 million coming from a special FTA grant for new streetcar projects.

  • DOT/URS have been attempting to use certain misleading technical jargon, to confuse the issue of what the REAL Red Hook streetcar operating costs would be. The true unit of measure for a streetcar, or any other transit mode, is “Vehicle Cost Per Hour”. Of course, DOT didn’t allow this unit of measure to be used in the URS study. For a real number, lets look at our sister City, Philadelphia. Its highly “instructive”, that URS used Philly streetcars as a “case study”- but then URS didn’t use SEPTA’s own operating cost documentation…Compare the following figures, with the current NYCT bus operating cost of $160 per hour (National Transportation Database):

    Philadelphia Streetcar Hourly Vehicle Operating Cost: $47 per Hour.
    Source: SEPTA Planning Document, 2009. See page 58 here:
    Let’s now use some simple arithmetic:
    $47/Hour x 3 streetcars (on a 2 mile start up route) x 12hours/day x 365days/year = $617,580 PER YEAR

    Let’s now take another current streetcar example: Memphis, TN, where “hourly vehicle operating costs” are about $78/hour (National Transportation Database):
    $78/hour x 3 streetcars (on a 2 mile start up route) x 12hours/day x 365days/year = $1,024,920 PER YEAR.
    Where the Heck did DOT/URS get their totally OFF THE WALL (+$7 million per year) operating cost numbers from? Could it be- DOT and URS have purposely sabotaged this Red Hook streetcar study- or maybe they just cant do 2nd grade arithmetic?
    Read my own streetcar Operating Cost findings research and formulas here:….

    As for the ridiculous