One might think that getting from Brooklyn to Queens—or vice versa—would be easy.
For one, they’re physically connected to each other; they share the same landmass—the start of Long Island, but not technically Long Island. Secondly, they’re New York’s two biggest population centers. And finally, of the five boroughs, they’re both major drivers of population and job growth in the city right now.
But unless you own a car—which most New Yorkers do not—it’s strangely hard to get from one borough to the other. By subway, residents must seek out train lines at the ends of each borough, before backtracking. Bus routes are notoriously circuitous and slow. Both systems are a result of the spoke-hub model, designed at a time when Queens was comparatively pastoral and Brooklynites largely headed into Manhattan for work. So much so that even in 2018, it’s a common refrain in New York City mass transit that if you’re going between the two boroughs, you’re either going through Manhattan, or not going at all.
That’s what made The Great Cross-Borough Mobility Mode Challenge (that was my name for it, at least) on this steamy Tuesday morning during rush hour a bit more interesting.
Just after 8:30 a.m, seven participants simultaneously left a starting point in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and hopped onto their assigned means of transportation: subway, bus, Citi Bike, Uber, UberPool, taxi, or electric moped. Their goal? Pass this goofy made-up finish line—which had a sign, green tape, and all—outside of the Court Square Diner in Long Island City, Queens, where myself and a handful of other transit-beat reporters were waiting beneath the shadows of rapidly rising condos and subway tracks.
The race was put on by Revel, a shared electric moped company that recently premiered in north Brooklyn. The point of the stunt, beyond snagging some media attention, was to highlight the fact that traveling during rush hour between Brooklyn and Queens sucks. And it only stands to get worse once the L train goes offline for 15 months in April of 2019, dispersing hundreds of thousands of riders onto overburdened stations and roads. The big question: Which of these shared-mobility services, old and new, performs best under pressure?
And they wonder why we own cars here...