What makes New York unique among all world cities is the entire palette of cultural and global experiences that make us all New Yorkers by a little fraction – or a big one.
Among these features is the streetcar now envisioned to link not only Brooklyn with Queens, but workplaces, parks, residential developments and varied cityscapes, creating a genuine necklace of vibrant urban places.
I have had a keen eye on the varied NYC development dynamics for some years now, and am amazed how they link with what happens in the urban areas of Northern Europe.
The sizes, scales and global importance of the Nordic cities cannot be compared with those of NYC, but their will and determination to design for more sustainable and liveable urbanity is the same – and so are some of the tools they use to accomplish their mission.
Among the all spinoffs of old and well-tested means of urban transit capable of boosting urban development, modern light rail systems are the most exciting. They solve locally specific transit needs but are also place makers for entire urban neighborhoods.
This is particularly important to my Finnish, highly engineering-minded hometown now building its own light rail system.
Importantly, light rail systems unite cities and urbanists the world over, with their shared interest to invent and test new transformational dynamics of the urban. Thus, light rail systems comprise a globally accepted urban development practice – a phenomenon no other form of transit - with the possible exception of the early stages of internationally connected national (heavy) rail services in 19th century Europe - have managed to establish.
Thus, being part of this global community of light rail aficionados provides me a unique pair of lenses to look, see and understand the great promise of the proposed BQX connector, not only for the boroughs and neighborhoods immediately connected, but to the city as a whole.
The BQX can contribute to the City’s pursuit of achieving its 2040 growth targets in a sustainable way, and add New York to a global community of cities that work for smart and sustainable urbanity.
No matter if you look it from the neighborhood, city or global perspective, the proposed light rail service is an ambitious goal, capable of putting NYC in the league of urban avant gardists it should belong to.
Ilari Karppi, PhD
Urbanist and urban development scholar
University of Tampere, Finland