Connections Across the Tech Triangle
It is easier to get to Manhattan from Downtown Brooklyn than it is to other parts of the Tech Triangle. Traveling between points within the Tech Triangle neighborhoods of DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Navy Yard by modes other than car is a challenge. Bus service and subway stations are clustered in certain areas such as Cadman Plaza and Jay Street/MetroTech. Some stations are difficult to find for those unfamiliar with the area and some stations, such as the High Street station for the A/C trains, and can leave a person in a “no man’s land” in the midst of parking lots, cut off from adjacent neighborhoods.
Pedestrian and bicycle connections should be strengthened within the study area, particularly along the key corridors of Cadman Plaza East, Jay Street, and Flushing Avenue through transportation enhancements such as traffic calming improvements, geometric modifications, and streetscape treatments. The development of low cost, short-term remedies, as well as longer-term, capital-intensive solutions would soften these barriers. In addition, pedestrian and bicycle treatments have been focused on establishing and strengthening distinct, safe north-south and east-west connections—connections currently constrained by highway off-ramps and bridge/highway infrastructure. While Sands Street, Navy Street, and Flushing Avenue are well-established east-west corridors, connections to the north and south of this axis are lacking.
Jay Street is a primary corridor that could connect Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO. However, Jay Street lacks a two-way bicycle route for a portion of its length, and is also not an established connection on most pedestrians’ mental map. A two-way bike lane along Jay Street would create a safe cycling path from Downtown to the water. Lastly, New York City’s bike share program has tremendous potential to provide more travel options for tech workers. Bike sharing will be important to provide first-mile/last-mile transportation to many existing and future cyclists, bridge numerous gaps in the bus and subway network, and provide more convenient transportation for shorter trips.
The MTA’s approval of the extension of the B67 bus route, which would connect Kensington, Park Slope, and Downtown Brooklyn to the Navy Yard and southern Williamsburg, is an important first step to getting people to the Navy Yard, and additional measures can be taken to improve access from northern Brooklyn and the ferry stop at Shaeffer Landing to the Tech Triangle. Many people working in the Tech Triangle area live in Williamsburg/Greenpoint and providing convenient transit access is critical. Recent news of a proposed “nerd” ferry connecting points along the East River (including the Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island) to a proposed landing at Jay Street would also strengthen ties with northern Brooklyn and Manhattan. The East River Ferry service has proven to be even more popular than projected, providing a direct transit route between Brooklyn’s waterfront neighborhoods, and the Plan encourages ferry landings at the end of Jay Street and the Navy Yard.
A 21st-century trolley service that connects Barclays Center with Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO and all the way to Brooklyn Bridge Park could be implemented within a very short timeframe and as part of a larger marketing strategy. The marketing effort would include branding the shuttle bus with a name to gain exposure and attract potential riders. The shuttle vehicle might also include bike racks to further extend its usefulness and the range of its passengers.
Specifically, the challenges to making better connections across the Tech Triangle include:
- Challenge 1: The Brooklyn Navy Yard needs to be better connected by public transportation.
- Challenge 2: Jay Street needs to be an active, walkable corridor all the way from Downtown to the East River.
- Challenge 3: Making east-west connections are difficult.
- Challenge 4: There should be better transit connections between Barclays Center and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
A number of initiatives have been proposed to address these challenges, a few of which are highlighted in more detail below:
The Plan proposes the extension of the B67 route from Kensington/Park Slope/Downtown Brooklyn/York Street station terminus to Wythe Avenue. This would allow for links to the J/M/Z train. This proposal requires the two-way conversion of York Street between Bridge and Jay Streets.
The Plan also proposes extending the B24 routes from southern terminus at Williamsburg Bridge Plaza to enter the Navy Yard at Clymer Gate and then follow the same routing as the B67 through the Navy Yard to York Street station. The extension of the B24 route would create a new single route connection from Greenpoint and
Williamsburg, linking L train stops to the Navy Yard and to DUMBO.
The B67 extension in combination with the B24 extension would mean eight buses per hour between York Street and the Navy Yard.
Currently the York Street station is the primary means of public transit to DUMBO, and its ridership over the last few years has been increasing substantially. A ferry landing at the end of Jay Street that would connect to the larger ferry network on the East River would provide another important means of access to DUMBO, particularly from tech workers in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Ensuring that ferry tickets could be tied-in with MetroCards could increase commuter ridership as people could transfer from bus/train to ferry. In addition, the ferry landing would continue to strengthen Jay Street as a key corridor all the way to the water’s edge.
Additionally, there is clear interest from Navy Yard businesses for a ferry landing within the Navy Yard. While a location has not been set out, future studies should look at suitable locations.
Bike Lanes on both sides of Jay Street
Given the challenges of cycling along Jay Street due to the Manhattan Bridge vehicular off-ramp, the Plan proposes a two-way cycling route on Jay Street between Tillary and Sands Streets. At the intersection of Jay and Sands Streets, it is suggested that cyclists cross on the southern side of Sands Street onto the sidewalk, which would allow for connections to the Manhattan Bridge cycle route or the cycle route to DUMBO beneath the Manhattan Bridge.
York Street Station southern entrance onto Jay Street
The Tech Triangle Strategic Plan proposes a southern entrance for the York Street station F train onto the western side of Jay Street near the new City Tech building at 300 Jay Street. The recent and planned development activity in this area would benefit from this new entrance. The proposed subway entrance would also create more foot traffic along this section of Jay Street.
Learning from the Past: The Future of Transit in the Tech Triangle
The Borough of Brooklyn once had a web of trolleys that included lines going over the Brooklyn Bridge, out to Coney Island, and connecting along the Brooklyn working waterfront from Sunset Park to Greenpoint and beyond to Long Island City. Many cities across the country have explored new surface transportation options, including New York City’s Select Bus Service (SBS) operating on various routes throughout the City.
With the increasing connectedness between Brooklyn and Queens tech neighborhoods, and the rising demand for tech space in old waterfront development, a new SBS route could create a needed link between communities along this waterfront. The proposed SBS route would complement existing subway lines as there is no rail service that provides a similar connection. SBS routes offer great flexibility with minimal infrastructure costs. SBS buses can take the form of regular sized-New York City Transit buses or longer articulated vehicles. Where feasible, the SBS route would travel along dedicated bus lanes and be served by a signal priority system at intersections. With limited stops and an off-board payment system, the SBS route would provide a speedy and reliable connection between waterfront communities extending from Long Island City to Greenpoint/Williamsburg all the way to Sunset Park. SBS stops would also be located near existing subway stations and ferry landings, creating multimodal hubs. An SBS feeder route could be established along Flatbush Avenue in the form of a Shuttle Bus that would connect Barclays Center to the waterfront route.
The potential success of the waterfront SBS route would set the stage for replacing the bus route with streetcar/light rail. The system could be modeled on Berlin’s tram network which dates back to 1865, or more recent American systems like Portland, Oregon’s Streetcar or New Jersey Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Line. Linking new transit with the tremendous development opportunities along Brooklyn’s waterfront in places like Flushing Avenue near the Brooklyn Navy Yard and 2nd Avenue in Sunset Park could create an Innovation Corridor driving the Borough and City’s economy for years to come.
Cleveland Downtown Trolley, a network of five free lines, operates every 10-15 minutes. Orlando, FL operates the LYMMO, a free, downtown BRT shuttle that uses 35 foot buses. Long Beach, CA operated four free downtown circulators until 2012, when it merged three of them into regular transit routes. Old Town Trolley Tours operates faux trolleys in hop-on, hop-off services in Boston, Washington DC, Savannah, and Seattle.