(9.11.2010) NYC DOT
Announces Study To Determine Feasibility Of Streetcars In Brooklyn
Related News Articles:
9.11.2010) NY Post
Article: "City revamping plan for Brooklyn streetcar line" (PDF)
(9.11.2010) NY1 TV News Report & article: "City
Considers Plan To Revive Brooklyn Trolleys" (external link)
(9.11.2010) The Wall Street Journal: Red Hook’s Desire for a
Streetcar Gets a Boost
(9.11.2010) Cobble Hill Association: Street Cars from the Past in
(9.30.2010) A Word on the
DOT's Brooklyn Streetcar Study- We're Not Part of It, But We Hope It
(10.23.2010) Bob Diamond's Notes
from the Oct 18, 2010 Brooklyn Streetcar Study Community Advisory
Additional Info on Passenger
Boarding Islands / Areas for Streetcars
BHRA's comments regarding NYC DOT's Red Hook
Streetcar Study, CAC Meeting 2, Dec 13, 2010
(9.30.2010) A Word on the DOT's Brooklyn
Streetcar Study- We're Not Part of It, But We Hope It Works !
We have a unique "once in lifetime" opportunity to get a Brooklyn
streetcar system totally for free- 100% Federally funded. We feel the
DOT should be marshaling all resources at its disposal, to get this
study done successfully, and speedily, before the political climate in
Washington changes again.
As we know, after a delay of five years, the DOT has now decided to
move ahead with the Red Hook Streetcar study- something which we
heartily applaud. This delay was largely due to the "bucking" of their
Brooklyn office for the past several years (see attached
We know from experience, that the first order of business in any study,
is the review of all previous studies on the same subject. This
isn't happening with the DOT Brooklyn streetcar study, even though
"several feet" of prior studies are available. The Brooklyn office has
opted to not include us as part of the study team. Rather, they are
starting over from "square one".
The DOT Brooklyn office is causing the consultant, URS, to operate in
what we fear is a virtual "local information vacuum". The study will be
devoid of the unique, useful information, accumulated over 29 years of
experience in the specific field of resurrecting the Brooklyn streetcar
system, which we could have brought to bear for the benefit of the
project. The present modest level (under $300k) of available funding,
really does not afford the option of "starting over from scratch", and
we hope the result is not a study that concludes another study is
We truly hope that we are incorrect in our assessment of the situation,
and are looking forward to being proven wrong. We wish them all the
best of luck in their endeavors!
|Bob Diamond's Notes
from the Oct 18, 2010 Brooklyn Streetcar Study CAC (Community Advisory
I think the composition of the "advisory board" is great.
The bottom line of building any functional streetcar line is financial
benefit to the community: the enabling and promotion of neighborhood
revitalization and development. Therefore, this study, however
preliminary, really needs to address opportunities for "Transit Related
Development" along the route. The word "Streetcar" must become
synonymous with the phrase "transit oriented development".
From group feedback at the meeting, another important topic to address
in this study, is the misconception that "the streetcar will only be
one slow and poorly operated mode of transportation replacing another-
the bus". There has to be a tangible and substantial improvement to Red
Hook's "lack of transportation dilemma". The study currently at hand,
needs to speak in terms of using streetcar to improve mobility between
Red Hook and other neighborhoods- transforming Red Hook from a "half
hour neighborhood (time needed to get to the nearest subway station)"
to a "seven minute neighborhood"- by using all available tools, such
traffic signals controlled by the movement of the streetcars.
passenger boarding islands with right lane traffic bypass (as
Francisco, upper Market Street) to expedite passenger loading and
unloading, while minimizing traffic delay. A functional boarding
arrangement (the traditional way to create boarding areas) is via a
in the center of the street (this is utilized in New Orleans and San
Francisco). These principles are explained in detail in the
section below entitled: "Additional
Info on Passenger Boarding Islands / Areas for Streetcars"
- utilize new
and/or refurbished streetcars that have acceleration and
braking performance comparable with that of the classic "PCC".
Essentially, use streetcars that can "keep up" with other traffic, and
not themselves become obstructions to the other traffic in the common
roadway they share. The PCC was developed with this specific goal in
mind, back in the 1930's, right here in Brooklyn.
Let's look at a side by side comparison of the performance
characteristics of an obsolete streetcar, which the PCC replaced, with
the performance characteristics of the PCC: (Source: PCC The Car That
Fought Back, by Stephen P. Carlson and Fred W. Schnieder III, 1980, pg
Performance of an
Obsolete Streetcar, Toronto 2700-2898
Acceleration Rate, MPHPS- 2.00
Service Braking Rate, MPHPS- 2.70
Emergency Braking Rate, MPHPS - 3.30
Balancing Speed, MPH- 30
vs. Performance of Brooklyn PCC
Acceleration Rate, MPHPS- 4.75
Service Braking Rate, MPHPS- 4.75
Emergency Braking Rate, MPHPS- 9.00
Balancing Speed, MPH- 42
When using existing bus route data to estimate new streetcar demand,
certain parameters for estimating the lower and upper range must be
taken into account. First, lets look at estimating the lower limit.
According to Boris Pushkarev, past President of the Regional Plan
Association and author of Urban Rail In America: Exploration of
Criteria for Fixed Guideway Transit, when estimating new streetcar line
demand, existing bus ridership numbers must be increased by a "Rail
Factor" of at least 30%.
Pushkarev's "Rail Factor" theory is greatly expanded upon, by the
actual numbers experienced on San Francisco's (MUNI) Market Street "F"
line. The "F Line Streetcar" came about during the 1990's, when an
existing bus line was replaced by a streetcar. The ridership instantly
DOUBLED (100% increase) and has been steadily increasing every year
since. See Railway Age, May, 2001, for the explanation proffered at
that time by then MUNI General Manager Michael T. Burns "people
wont ride a bus will ride a streetcar"(PDF)
. Therefore, the immediate demand (the day the line opens) for a new
Red Hook streetcar should be
somewhere between a 30% - 100% increase over the existing bus route.
One "Fatal Flaw":
The one "fatal flaw" that I can see (with nearly 30 years of
hindsight), is the fact that a follow up- and currently unfunded-
"alternative mode analysis" would be required in order to get the
Federal construction $$. We have a very narrow window of opportunity to
execute this project, we need to strike while the iron is hot- while
the Obama administration and Transportation Secretary LaHood are still
My suggestion, was that URS, as a "super turn key contractor", should
consider providing that "Alternative Analysis" report ASAP at no up
front cost- initially on "speculation", or as a tax deductible donation
to a non- profit entity, as URS is potentially the overall project
|Additional Info on
Passenger Boarding Islands / Areas for Streetcars
NYC DOT's streetcar website, it mentions that "streetcars pick up
passengers curbside". If by curbside, they mean swerving the tracks
toward the existing curb, that isn't the best way of doing it. Here's
Back in the 1930's the NYC Department of Traffic (DOT's predecessor)
did a study on Manhattan traffic congestion. What they found, was that
much of the congestion was caused by buses- because buses weave through
traffic, from the left lane, to curbside, and vice verse, in order for
passengers to board and alight. This "weaving motion" was found to
create "congestion waves" in the traffic behind the buses.
Further, a "buffer zone" consisting of a row of parked cars, separating
moving vehicles and pedestrians, has traditionally been used throughout
NYC. This so vehicles can travel at faster speeds, while having a
minimum potential impact on pedestrians.
If by curbside boarding however, they mean extending the curb into the
street to form a
passenger boarding area (as they do in Portland),
this is a much more practical approach. In this arrangement, also known
as "Bus Bulbs", the boarding area is a curb extension from the
sidewalk, through the lane that is typically used to park cars in, to
the streetcar tracks in the center of the street. This method of
passenger boarding, appears to work best on wide, one way streets.
The traditional way however, to create boarding areas, is to utilize
"Passenger Boarding Islands With Right Lane Traffic Bypass" to expedite
passenger loading and unloading, while minimizing or eliminating
traffic delay behind the streetcar. Such a functional boarding
arrangement, is via a designated passenger
in the center of the street. (Note the preceding linked image shows
this method in use on Brooklyn's Livingston Street, circa 1935. Note
the sign for Loeser's Department Store). This method is currently
utilized in cities such as New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Both Bus Bulbs and Passenger Boarding Islands, are also superior to
curb side boarding, as they allow the streetcar to maintain a
designated lane and straight track. This enhances ride comfort, and
minimizes wheel noise. While Bus Bulbs do not create a weaving
effect producing "congestion waves" like a city bus typically does;
however, on narrow streets, whenever the streetcar or bus stops at a
Bus Bulb, the traffic behind it has to stop too. In terms of
traffic operation, Boarding Islands With Right Lane Traffic Bypass, are
superior to Bus Bulbs, as the vehicles behind the streetcar on narrow
streets, do not have to stop when ever the streetcar stops.
Suggested Reading List:
The following books are available from the Transportation Research
Board's on-line bookstore:
TCRP Report 95- Chapter 17- Transit Oriented Development
TCRP Report 33- Transit- Friendly Streets: Design and Traffic
Management Strategies To Support Livable Communities
TCRP Report 65- Evaluation of Bus Bulbs
TCRP Report 100 2nd Edition- Transit Capacity and Service Manual
TCRP Report 137- Improving Pedestrian and Motorist Safety Along Light
TCRP Report 40- Strategies To Attract Auto Users to Public
Transportation (Note: May be out of print, can also be obtained through
Amazon.com or Ebay).
comments regarding NYC DOT's Red Hook Streetcar Study, CAC Meeting 2,
Dec 13, 2010
The reports generally look good, except for three major concerns:
1) The "Alternative Comparison with Bus
Mode" needs to be done as part of this report. There
is no money on the horizon for any "follow up" studies. It's now, or
2) The assumption
that streetcar will only cause a 12% increase in passenger usage is
unreasonably conservative. Based upon comparable precedents and studies
we believe that ridership should be (at the very minimum)
double within the first year or service and likely triple within the
first five years of operation. For more information, refer
written comments made previously by the Regional Plan Association's
former President, Boris Pushkarev, and the actual numbers experienced
on the San Francisco "F" streetcar line- who's ridership immediately
DOUBLED when converted from bus. for more info see: Charts & Data on
Environmental and Economic Advantages of a Streetcar line (vs. other
An Additional factor that will account for increased ridership are the
private bus shuttles that operate in Red Hook (ex. the IKEA shuttle),
the Streetcar will likely pick up riders that would otherwise take the
shuttle or drive to retailers like IKEA and Fairway.
Also comparisons with extensions to existing streetcar systems (ex.
Philadelphia) are not as comparable as the opening of the first line of
a new system - there will be a substantial ridership increase due to
the novelty draw of the first streetcar line in Brooklyn.
the streetcar's operating speed is an important aspect of the project.
We completely disagree with the report, which says streetcar's have to
run at the same speed as buses.
Any number of traffic engineering tools can be used to increase the
streetcar's speed over the existing bus. For example, traffic light
preemption controlled by the movements of the streetcar, passenger
boarding areas or boarding islands with right lane traffic bypass
(reduces streetcar dwell time at stations), and many other methods can
be used. (from more details see: Additional
Info on Passenger Boarding Islands / Areas for Streetcars).
Furthermore, even if the most bare-bones
possible was built by merely laying down streetcar track that follow
the existing bus route (with no signal timing, traffic engineering,
boarding areas or pedestrian/ street improvements of any sort);
even this bare-bones streetcar line would run significantly faster that
the current bus that run that route. The reason for this is: NYC
Transit buses are purposely run at very
slow speeds, in an effort to make their pollution emissions seem lower.
are electric and have no spot emissions, they transcend the whole bus
paradigm (of necessitated slow speeds to save fuel/ limit pollution)
and therefore can be run at faster speeds than buses, improving
commuting times over the buses they replace. (for
more info refer to the Transportation Research Board's TCRP Reports 33
Map of potential routes from 2nd CAC Presentation
(notice similarity to our various route designs featured on our maps
Here is a complete PDF version of the powerpoint presentation URS made
during the 2nd Streetcar Community Advisory Committee