The present state of the transit system is misery for the more than 5 million people who use it every day. Average travel times have increased, and every day brings a new set of delays.
More importantly, trains are at capacity. The 7 line during the morning and evening commute is running at nearly 100 percent capacity, and there's only more people waiting to get on.
On top of that, our current mass transit system – especially when it come to the subways, which despite all of its issues is still the most efficient form of mass transit – is too Manhattan-centric.
Already the city's two most populous boroughs, more and more people are moving to Queens and Brooklyn.
In the past, most of those people kept their jobs in the city – partly because that's where the jobs were and those locations were most accessible.
But the city has been working hard for decades to revive old industrial areas in Queens and Brooklyn in an effort to attract new industries, from Industry City in Sunset Park up to the Navy Yard all the way to Long Island City.
So not only are more people moving to Queens and Brooklyn, so are many of the jobs. And they are good-paying jobs that lead to upward mobility for people who, partly because of a lack of mass transit, are stuck in minimum-wage, dead-end jobs.
Enter the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar that would connect the waterfront neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens, all the way from Astoria to Sunset Park.
There is no shortage of support for a new transit option for the residents of Queens and Brooklyn, which are currently connected only by the G train, which is already the red-headed stepchild of the entire subway system.
And, of course, there are detractors. Most notably those that worry that the BQX would accelerate gentrification, especially since one formula for funding the project is a concept known as “value capture,” which essentially means paying for the streetcar through increased property tax revenue.
It's worked well in other cities, and the neighborhoods that the streetcar will run through are already some of the fastest gentrifying in the city. Overly optimistic estimates put the opening of the BQX sometime in 2024, which meant the waterfront neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn won't even resemble what they are today.
Besides, the day we stop investing in public transit because we are worried about overdevelopment is the day we become a doomed and stagnant.
The BQX has the possibility to be a transformative project, we just need the leadership at both the city and state level to make it a reality.