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