Trolleys on track to return to Brooklyn, but ridership uncertain
Clanging trolleys could return from the grave to Brooklyn streets. But who would ride them?
Some planners estimate that tens of thousands of commuters and residents could flock to a new service running between Red Hook and downtown Brooklyn along the waterfront. It could also attract tourists visiting the new Carnival Cruise Lines Terminal in Red Hook and the Brooklyn Bridge Park now under construction, local officials said.
“We’re talking about an area that isn’t served well by subway access,” said Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
However, the Regional Plan Association found that the local population would have to grow by more than 50 percent to provide sufficient demand. Since 2000, the entire population of Brooklyn has only grown by 4 percent, according to U.S. Census figures.
Nevertheless, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made streetcars serving “growing waterfront communities” in Brooklyn and Queens one of the issues in his mayoral bid. And the federal government is also on board, with the city receiving a $300,000 earmark this year to study the feasibility of streetcars running along a Brooklyn waterfront route.
“Even if you only ran it during rush hour, it would help,” Daniel Jones, a worker in Red Hook, said of trolley service. He argued that bus service is at times unpredictable.
Trolley track costs about $30 million to build per mile, which is more expensive than a bus line but far cheaper and easier to construct than a subway, said Bob Diamond, a Brooklyn rail buff who helped bring about a pilot trolley in Red Hook between 1999 and 2001 before funding ran out.
Trolleys could also help relieve overcrowding of local subways and buses, as they provide about twice the capacity of a bus, Diamond said..