A substitute for the three-borough X line, as proposed by Christine Quinn

substitute-three-borough-x-line-proposed-christine-quinn
The route of the proposed triboro SBS. (Quinn's campaign.)
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“Our subway system was completed in the 1950s, when more than half of New Yorkers lived in Manhattan and less than 200,000 lived in Queens," said Christine Quinn this morning. "Times have changed.”

Today, nearly five million New Yorkers call Brooklyn and Queens home, and while it's easy for them to get to Manhattan, the city's spoke-and-hub subway system and lethargic bus network makes it tough for them to move between the other boroughs, where a lot of the city's job growth is happening.

One imagination-capturing but very expensive proposal to remedy that is known as the Triboro RX, or the X line, a subway running along underutilized (but existing) railroad rights of way between the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.

Quinn has another idea, one that would take a lot less time to build and, with a $25 million price tag, cost a lot less: a bus rapid transit line running 25 miles from Yankee Stadium through Queens to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.

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The bus rapid transit idea "would be basically in place of that," said Quinn, referring to the Triboro RX, which she said, in an accompanying press release, would cost $25 billion. (After this article was published, the Quinn campaign emailed to correct that estimate; the actual cost of the Triboro RX is estimated to be $1 billion.*)

The rapid bus line would look something like this:

"The concept is really solid," said Joan Byron, the director of policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development, when I sent Quinn's proposal to her. "The idea of connecting Brooklyn and Queens to the Bronx is right on. We might say you can do a better job with several diferent routes instead of trying to do it all with one. But the idea is important."

Byron also thinks the idea is even better than the Triboro RX because it wouldn't clog up railroads that could be used to get more freight rail off city streets.

At the press conference at Court Square, the existing subway connection point between western Queens and Brooklyn, Quinn said that her Triboro line would differ from the city's existing and relatively ineffective Select Bus Service lines, because it would have real, protected bus lanes, allowing buses to move in rapid succession like street-level subway cars.

“Going through this many boroughs, that may not be possible in every spot, but the degree to which you can have that, that’s kind of one of the key things about bus rapid transit or select bus service," she said.

But what's to prevent a Quinn administration from yielding to the same sort of NIMBYism and official squabbling that has basically neutered bus rapid transit in New York City?

"I think a couple different things can be done," she said. " One, I think as people get even the level of service they now have, they’re gonna see, 'Wow this already has given us great potential and be able to envision what more might happen. ... Two, then we need to do a better job involving communities in the input process, in the development process.”

*UPDATE: According to a spokesperson for the Quinn campaign, the $25 billion figure was a mistake, referring to the cost of a much bigger plan from the Regional Plan Association which included the RX line as a single component. The Quinn spokesperson said the correct estimate for the RX line is $1 billion. I confirmed that figure with the R.P.A.