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Interborough Express looks to bring trolley cars back to NYC streets with light rail connecting Brooklyn and Queens

Interborough Express set to use light rail, a success of trolley cars
Interborough Express set to use light rail, a success of trolley cars 02:54

NEW YORK -- The commute between Brooklyn and Queens could soon look and sound different thanks to the MTA's Interborough Express project.

The MTA recently announced the proposed route will shorten travel time between Bay Ridge and Jackson Heights, and the transit authority decided on using light rail. 

CBS New York's Elijah Westbrook has been tracking how the project is shaping up, and spoke with a train expert to understand how this will look for your commute. 

Trolley cars are making a comeback in New York City, but not in the form you're likely thinking. MTA officials said in a recent townhall it's moving forward with a fleet called "light rail" for the Interborough Express or IBX.

"They can operate in mixed traffic, on streets, they can operate on a railroad, they can operate through tunnels," said Michael Shiffer, senior vice president of MTA Regional Planning.

The light rail is a successor of the trolley, similar to what riders would see in cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Newark. The trolley was once a mode of transit New York City used until the 1950s, according to historians.

Westbrook drove out to Lynbrook, Long Island from Manhattan to chat with railroad expert and one of Train Land's owners, Ken Bianco. He and his family have been running the train collection store since the 1960s  

"I think it's a great idea and I think it's probably much needed, something different," said Bianco. "It's definitely effective and for certain people, it's perfect. It's definitely something that's going to work for the majority of the people, because most people if they're traveling to work, they only travel a certain distance." said Bianco.

As it stands, the project is expected to shorten travel time between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, Queens.

The MTA said the quieter trains will be the most cost effective, and they will use a freight rail line that's currently underused. The line would pass through 20 neighborhoods and connect to 17 subway lines and the LIRR.

"Very few people would ride all the way end-to-end. You're not necessarily riding from Jackson Heights to Bay Ridge, you're riding intermediately through various parts of the line," said Shiffer.

The MTA said the project will require a budget of $5.5 billion. It's still very early in the process, however the MTA expects the project to be completed in 2027.

Once in service, officials say more than 115,000 daily riders will use the Interborough Express. The formal environmental review process will continue the rest of this year. 

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