March/April 1995, p.2

The Eighth Street Trolley

George Haikalis is the President of the Village Crosstown Trolley Coalition, a Greenwich Village grassroots organization dedicated to restoring a trolley line to 8th Street. AFP's Gary Roth met with Mr. Haikalis to learn about the Coalition and its plans for Greenwich Village transportation development.

Trolleys in Toronto, Canada ride in the center of the street.Why do we need a trolley line on 8th Street?
GH: We need to change the walking environment and quality of transport. The trolley will do that by being its own carrot and stick. Cars cannot park in its tracks, because it must get through. It will calm traffic and it's fun to ride.

Why a trolley instead of a bus?
GH: Because a bus is flexible, and can go around a vehicle, it can turn off its route. Car drivers take advantage of its flexibility.

What would be the main advantages/drawbacks?
GH: Advantages of the auto-free street reduced conflict between people and vehicles, quieter, less pollution, safer, reduced accidents. Pavement will be replaced by grass, trees, cafes and benches-there will be a re-creation of common spaces.

On the side of commercial activity, there will be increased retail sales, improved property values, increased tourism.

Disadvantages: Where will the displaced traffic go? There seems to be a shrinkage in car traffic with a reduction in road space, but it is not an even ratio-it will not be in balance.

It is a package deal, closing the street and placing the trolley - these two things together give you mutually reinforcing benefits. If you closed the street and did not put in the trolley or if you put in the trolley without closing the street, the benefits would be substantially reduced.

What about people who need special attention such as elderly, emergency vehicles and deliveries?
GH: The design must accommodate the passage of fire trucks and ambulances. As far as police go, it would be preferable if they patrolled on foot, or by bicycle. 'Me goods movement can be handled in hand trucks or carts, and the accommodation of wheeled goods leads to accommodation of wheeled people--wheelchair access, cut curbs. As far as front door access for the infirm, some vehicles can be accommodated on a permit basis. In addition, taxis may be let in after midnight to allay the fears of walking home late at night. In the current situation, many people with restricted access may have to wait for the bus and walk up five flights, while able-bodied people stick out their arm and up pops the magic taxi.

Who would pay for this and how much would it cost?
GH: The city budget has money set aside for public transport and highway funds. We will carve out a piece of the budget. The trolley is vital to NYC's future by helping to bring in tourist money. The cost would entail planting steel rails, and rebuilding the roadway with interesting pedestrian stonework. Ibis may cost $30-40 million. For comparison, the Second Avenue subway may cost about $2-3 Billion. The current West Side Highway (Route 9A) improvement plan alone will cost about $380 million. If the slop off the side of the pork-laden 9A project were transferred to the trolley/pedestrian way…Basically street space is a free good which everybody wants to use without paying for it Yes, cars and trucks will be displaced, but we will offer another option besides driving, and we believe people will be pleased.

How do NYU and the MTA stand on the plan?
GH: There is some interest from NYU, but MTA's surface transit people are so overwhelmed keeping the buses running, they are not ready for a new paradigm of surface transport. 

What is the biggest hurdle to successful completion? 
GH: Time and money--to have the sources to articulate the vision in a way that people can understand and to ease their concerns about negative impacts and show them the advantages.

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