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Bill de Blasio

De Blasio’s Not Done Wasting Time on the Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar

While New Yorkers continue to abandon slow, unreliable bus service, Mayor de Blasio continues to insist that his proposed $2.5 million Brooklyn-Queens streetcar remains a high priority for his administration. He even wants the feds to step in and fund it.

On Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen appeared to call the future of the $2.5 billion proposal into question, telling the Daily News  that if the streetcar doesn't "pay for itself," the city will "have to decide whether or not this is the right use of capital money for a transportation project."

On the Brian Lehrer show today, de Blasio took issue with the Daily News and said it's full steam ahead for the BQX. And for the first time, he raised the possibility that the federal government would help fund it.

The mayor said he was "hopeful" about that possibility "because of the presence of Senator Schumer in the Senate and the role he plays." Schumer's daughter, Jessica Schumer, is the interim executive director of the developer-funded streetcar booster organization Friends of the BQX.

A low-ridership streetcar route along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront never made much sense, but as bus ridership plummets, it becomes even harder to justify.

De Blasio can't even keep bus lanes clear bc NYPD parks in them all the time. Solve that first before talking about a 16-mile streetcar that will cease to function if a single cop parks on the tracks. https://t.co/bh58CI8Yhh

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) April 6, 2018

De Blasio pointed out on WNYC that the city's growing population demands more housing and transit capacity. But the only solutions he referred to were ferries and the streetcar. The mayor never mentioned the city's buses, even though hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers rely on bus service each day and City Hall has the power to improve it.

The city could do a lot for bus service with the hundreds of millions of dollars de Blasio wants to fork over to ferries, which carry fewer than 10,000 trips per day, and the BQX, which has an anticipated daily ridership below 40,000.

On Brooklyn's B44, for example, a $15 million "Select Bus Service" investment in dedicated bus lanes, transit signal priority, off-board fare payment, and bus bulbs led to 15 to 30 percent faster service for 40,000 riders.

De Blasio reps are quick to point out that the city is working with the MTA to expand Select Bus Service. But while the city's work to improve routes like the Bx6 in the South Bronx and Q52/Q53 on Woodhaven Boulevard shouldn't be discounted, overall bus speeds continue to get worse and riders keep abandoning buses. The approach of rolling out a couple of upgraded routes each year is plainly insufficient.

The more time and effort de Blasio spends on the BQX, the more he's telling bus riders that they don't matter to him.

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