Monday, October 20, 2014

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Brooklyn Bridge Could Become More Transit-Oriented In Future

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TWC News: Brooklyn Bridge Could Become More Transit-Oriented In Future
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It's now just one of many ways to cross the East River. But when it first opened, the Brooklyn Bridge was the only crossing between Brooklyn and Manhattan and transformed the way people got around the city. NY1 Transit reporter Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

It may be hard to imagine now, but when it opened, the Brooklyn Bridge actually had tolls: one cent for pedestrians, two cents for livestock like sheep and as much 20 cents if you had a carriage drawn by two horses. And unlike today, there was also mass transit across the Brooklyn Bridge.

"People took trains across the bridge, people took trains across the bridge,” says former Transportation Commissioner Sam Schwartz. “At one point, there were four tracks across the bridge. More than 400,000 people a day in those early decades used the Brooklyn Bridge every single day. Then a strange thing happened. The car started coming around and by 1920, 1930, people began saying, you know, this is kind of old-fashioned, using rail. Let's modernize the Brooklyn Bridge."

Modernizing the bridge meant making more room for cars.

"By then you had a subway system that went from Manhattan to Brooklyn and also the demand for automobile use was extremely high at this point,” said Manhattan Borough historian Michael Miscione.

Train tracks were removed from the bridge in 1944 and within about 10 years, trolleys had also stopped traveling over the bridge, and the roadway had been reconfigured for six lanes automobile traffic, as it remains today.

As a result, the number of people who now cross the Brooklyn Bridge is about half what it was at its peak in 1907. Of course the bridge has proved indispensable when the subways shut down, like during the transit strikes of 1980 and 2005 and the blackout of 2003. It’s still extremely popular with pedestrians.

“The Brooklyn Bridge walkway is getting so popular that we may have to begin to think, How do we accommodate all the pedestrians? Should we put the roads on a diet? Should we introduce some kind of transit service? Probably not a bus service, but maybe it will be a light rail service going across the bridge,” says Schwartz. “So in the next 75 years Îtil its bicentennial, I think the bridge probably will go back to a more transit-oriented bridge."

— Bobby Cuza
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