Last week, the de Blasio administration left us scratching our heads.
First, the de Blasio administration effectively said the BQX was not possible without federal funding, which is highly unlikely with this president and the current makeup of Congress. Just days later, the administration released a revised plan for the BQX that saw substantial cuts to the route, while pushing back the timeline for completion.
This new plan seems to be misguided at best, and to constitute malpractice at worst.
With major parts of Queens, and the city writ large, either being a transit hellscape or no-man’s-land—and the mayor’s longstanding unwillingness to put some skin in the game on funding the MTA as the subway system disintegrates before our eyes—it is puzzling that the city would put considerable resources towards building a glorified joy ride for the affluent and tourists.
As many reporters and advocates have pointed out, the light-rail line runs along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront in mostly affluent areas—and through neighborhoods that have other transit options.The city’s own report says that riders would be better served taking the R train over the BQX. Even more outrageous is the fact that the light-rail effectively runs parallel to the G train in all but one area: Bedford-Stuyvesant. And with the revised route, Sunset Park has now been nixed, which was the only other lower-income area on the proposed line.
Couple the BQX saga with the mayor’s continued expansion of the city’s ferry system—which also serves primarily affluent areas and does not provide a free transfer from the city’s existing transportation network—and we are reminded of the mayor’s “Tale of Two Cities” narrative, and we are finally starting to understand. The city does not have the money to chip into the MTA, but does have the money and willingness to focus efforts on a ferry system; a light-rail along the gold coast; pedal-assist bike shares in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn; scooter services in Williamsburg; and more.
It seems odd that a populist mayor who claims to be laser focused on issues of inequality is so excited about the BQX—the brainchild of a major real estate developer, with a funding scheme based on a value-capture fantasy, servicing 40,000 people in some of the wealthiest parts of the city.
With longstanding proposals that would have a direct and more immediate impact, such as more SBS (select bus service) or BRT (bus-rapid-transit), the mayor should stop pushing a fantasy that he has openly admitted is unlikely to happen, and work with the experts and advocates to implement real solutions for Queens and the rest of the city.