Clang! City dashes Red Hook’s trolley hopes

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The city has derailed a ballyhooed plan to return trolley service to Red Hook, dashing the dreams of the transportation-challenged peninsula.

It’s just too expensive to bring back the old streetcars to Red Hook, according to a Department of Transportation report presented to civic leaders last week.

The biggest problem? After pouring $176 million into a 6.8-mile loop linking Borough Hall and Red Hook, the trolley would only add 1,822 new riders to the subway at Smith-Ninth Street — not an ample justification for the investment.

Instead, the city is now considering redesigning Mill Street and Hamilton Avenue, changes to the B61 bus route, and pedestrian improvements near the Smith-Ninth station, alternatives that were presented in the study by the San Francisco engineering firm URS.

The trolley project’s annual operating cost of $6.2-$7.2 million was also a factor in its rejection, officials said.

The streetcar would have run along Centre, Beard, Van Brunt, and Columbia streets, Atlantic Avenue and Boerum Place to the nexus of borough government.

Only last year, Transportation honchos were effusive when they announced the study.

“We’re looking back to the future,” cheered Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Streetcars remain part of the transportation mix in cities from Toronto to Melbourne, and we need to consider all options to improve transit access in underserved neighborhoods like Red Hook.”

So the news that the trolley was dead came as a disappointment to longtime residents frustrated by the neighborhood’s public transit isolation — which began when trolley service was dismantled there in the 1950s.

“It would have been nice to have them back,” said Sue Amendola.

As a girl, Amendola rode the trolley along Van Brunt and Richards streets. “But it would be nice to have a lot of things back in Red Hook.”

And trolley enthusiasts were angry.

“The city has once again wasted $300,000 of taxpayer money in scuttling the plan,” said Bob Diamond, president if the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, which installed a trolley line along Beard Street 12 years ago — but the city pulled the plug on that operation. “This flies in the face of the city’s mission of promoting green forms of transportation to foster a sustainable community,” Diamond added.

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Or from Yellow Hook says:
Janette Sadik-Khan should GIVE everybody a bicycle - who needs trolleys when you have a bike?
April 21, 2011, 3:04 pm
Bob Diamond from Kensington says:
There are some major facts about streetcar projects that NYC DOT doesn't want you to know:

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, the ultimate key fact that DOT doesn't 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, called a "TIGER Grant".

Dont believe me though, read what the prestigious American Public Transit Association (APTA) has to say of the TRUE costs of a new streetcar line here:
April 21, 2011, 3:08 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Trolley Dodgers!
April 21, 2011, 3:56 pm
Bob Diamond from Kensington says:
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 “wide turns and narrow streets issue” (streetcars originally ran on all these streets), if new American made streetcars were purchased ($800k each), this “issue” would simply vanish. Its certain "gold plated" foreign made streetcars that cause some urban geometry problems- such as the type URS is currently peddling here in the U.S...
Think about this: who precisely did DOT and URS "design" this streetcar line for? Clearly not for the benefit of the public...then for who? Maybe for the Bernie Madoffs, Ivan Boeskys, Michael Milikens, and certain "gold plated" foreign railway equipment suppliers? We have a name for this here in Brooklyn: GRAFT !
April 21, 2011, 7:40 pm
Susan from Sunset Park says:
To bad, it would have been nice. One line in Coney Island would have been great also.

By the way the DOT must be out of there mind if the said a streetcar would cost 7 million per car. A NYC Transit or MTA Long Island RR railcar cost 1 to 2 million per car & alot of that has got to do with over computerized railcar.
April 21, 2011, 8:27 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
recently I was in Bordeaux France, they had a great little trolly system around the city, Reims France was in the process a trolly system around town.
when I was a Kid we had the trolly on Ocean Ave. And Coney Island was great.
it would be a great system running in all of downtown Brooklyn.
April 23, 2011, 4:50 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If the trolley was stopped decades ago for certain reasons, then there is no reason to bring them back. The present day buses made them become obsolete when they were introduced in the early 1900's, and part of that had to do with the fact that they weren't restricted by tracks or overhead wires. I don't mean to offend Bob Diamond here, but the trolleys aren't comming back anytime soon. Today's trolleys are no different from the buses. Next, people will be asking to bring back the els despite the fact that they were taken down also due to the fact that weren't efficient.
April 23, 2011, 11:03 pm
Rusty Dreams from Red Hook says:
Whether offense is taken or not, Bob Diamond should have been smart enough to hire a "front man' years ago. While his dream may have been well conceived and brilliant, he was NOT the person to either present it or try and sell it to anyone who is enough in the loop politically to make it happen. For a good part, the death of the Red Hook Trolly can be attributed to the same person who tried bringing it to life. Now all we will ever see is Mr. Diamond's rusty dreams.
April 25, 2011, 7:37 pm

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