I read with great interest the article about a proposal being pushed by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation to build a tram system from St. George in Staten Island to lower Manhattan.
At first blush, the idea seemed cool and innovative, but as with all things, the devil is in the details and this idea is no exception.
As someone who has spent his entire life on Staten Island and who has built a career working to resurrect St. George and the North Shore of Staten Island back into the hub of culture, nightlife and liveable housing that it once was, I feel compelled to point out a few things with respect to this proposal.
- Does it make sense to spend millions of dollars to study something for which the technology does not yet exist?
- We are currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars to raise the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate new supertankers. Do we want to run 5.7 miles of cables at a fixed height over one of the busiest shipping channel in the world? Who knows what height we will need to accommodate future ships?
- The potential landing site for the proposed tram is on private property and would require a lengthy condemnation process with no certain conclusion.
- We simply don’t need studies, we need more and better transportation and we need it now!
Let’s consider these facts: Staten Island is surrounded by water, which never requires resurfacing, maintenance, or repair; our ferry system is currently carrying approximately 75,000 passengers a day with the ability to increase capacity; waterborne transportation is among the least costly, reliable and safest modes of public transportation; Staten Island needs more “other than road surface” public transportation options.
Currently, there is a vast water taxi network providing connectivity between New Jersey, Brooklyn and Manhattan. If we build the infrastructure to dock additional boats in places throughout Staten Island such as Snug Harbor, Navy Pier, Great Kills and Tottenville, it will encourage private operators like New York Water Taxi and NY Waterways to add Staten Island to their routes. Wouldn’t it make more sense to tap into this existing transportation network now rather than spend time and money studying future technology?
With all due respect to the SIEDC, we need infrastructure improvements such as: increased sewer capacity, gas and electric upgrades, sidewalk improvements, roadway resurfacing and expanded mass transit service.
These are very real necessities that require very real money. We should be investing our tax dollars on immediate, proven waterborne transportation upgrades for Staten Island before spending it studying a tram for which the technology doesn’t even exist yet, or molecular transportation pods for that matter!