Our transportation system was built when Manhattan was the hub of the region’s economic activity. Train and subway lines radiate outwards like spokes on a wheel, bringing employees and resources from the outer boroughs into the city, while leaving other boroughs relatively disconnected from one another.
But this system no longer reflects the reality of our city, one in which boroughs like Queens are driving economic activity and surpassing Manhattan as centers for economic growth.
From 2000-2015, the number of new businesses in Brooklyn and Queens grew by over 30 percent. By connecting the two neighboring boroughs, we have the opportunity to supercharge this growth. We can do that by reorienting our transportation grid to reflect this new reality.
According to a recent survey from the Long Island City Partnership, access to reliable transportation was the most important factor for the 515 Queens-based businesses who participated.
Those same respondents complained that existing options were either at capacity or did not adequately connect them to neighboring boroughs.
The BQX would alleviate this congestion by providing a reliable new transportation option. While buses are often overcrowded and snarled in traffic, the proposed BQX streetcars would provide capacity that far exceeds current vehicles.
And because the BQX would have dedicated right of way, it wouldn’t be subject to traffic jams like buses and cars.
The BQX will also deliver a reliable transportation option to the many NYCHA residents in Queens, over 90 percent of whom are black or hispanic.
That is why 74 percent of NYCHA residents along the corridor support the BQX.
Residents living in public housing developments like Queensbridge Houses, the largest in North America, have long struggled to find job opportunities due to a lack of access to transportation.
A job opportunity in Brooklyn could mean enduring a 60-minute or longer commute through Manhattan each way, despite its relative proximity.
The BQX would connect these residents to a growing number of jobs along the corridor. This includes the many minority-owned businesses, which grew more in Queens than in any other borough from 2000 to 2015.
It’s clear that the New York City of the past is very different than the New York City of today, which sees an abundance of economic activity outside Manhattan.
It’s incumbent upon the city to support innovative transportation ideas like the BQX, which will deliver the transportation infrastructure needed to help our city to thrive in future.
Thomas Grech is executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.