The Infrastructural Fever Dream

Streetcar[Image: Rendering by Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, via The New York Times].

Brooklyn might be getting a waterfront streetcar system. It would connect Sunset Park all the way to Astoria, Queens, offering “a 16-mile scenic ride” and becoming the de Blasio administration’s “most ambitious urban engineering project to date,” the New York Times reports.

The plan, to be unveiled on Thursday in the mayor’s State of the City speech, calls for a line that runs aboveground on rails embedded in public roadways and flows alongside automobile traffic—a sleeker and nimbler version of San Francisco’s trolleys.
By winding along the East River, the streetcars would vastly expand transportation access to a bustling stretch of the city that has undergone rapid development—from the industrial centers of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to the upper reaches of Astoria, Queens—but remains relatively isolated from the subway.

Not only is this a great idea—as it also would help to link the otherwise surprisingly insular neighborhood of Red Hook to the rest of the city through public transport—but also, entirely selfishly, because the proposed Hamilton Avenue stop would be about two blocks from my apartment.

BrooklynStreetcar[Image: Rendering by Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, via The New York Times].

It’s interesting to consider this plan in light of another public transportation tidbit that has been making the rounds in social media the past few days. That’s the 2009 map featuring “all of LA Metro’s currently unfunded projects.”

There are “Green Line extensions to Norwalk and San Pedro; Wilshire, Santa Monica and Sepulveda Pass subway lines; lots of rapid buses in the San Fernando Valley; high-speed elevated line to Santa Ana. Light rail tracks on Exposition, Crenshaw, Slauson, Sunset and Westwood.”

LAMap[Image: Map by Studio Complutense, via L.A. Metro Research Library and Archive].

At first glance, at least for this once and future Angeleno, that map is like some weird fever dream of possibility and connection, as incredible as any science fiction film. In fact, I still remember how many people in the Los Angeles cinema where I saw Spike Jonze’s film Her started laughing when Joaquin Phoenix rides the long-promised “subway to the sea.” Their laughter didn’t come only at the seeming absurdity of such a project ever being fully funded and built; it also came with a quiet air of astonishment and delight: imagine if such a thing were possible.

But it’s just infrastructure—and we can fund it—this sprawling mechanical fantasy through which we’ll get from A to B.

1 thought on “The Infrastructural Fever Dream”

  1. A better western Brooklyn-Queens connector is a great idea, but the propose plan has two big problems. It doesn’t integrate with the existing subway infrastructure and the route is needlessly long and round about. I agree that it could connect a number of under-served areas, but it needs to get people to major terminals and it should follow a quicker, more direct route or it will become another G/GG line.

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