I'll admit it: my last post was a setup. Thanks - and apologies - go to faithful reader Alon Levy, who proved the perfect foil for my strategy. When I proposed running 9.75 foot wide B Division cars on the Flushing Line, he wrote, "Widening the Steinway Tunnels for this to be feasible is even harder than converting the Contract 1-2 IRT to Division B specs." He's absolutely right. As was discussed in detail in the SubChat thread I linked to, the Steinway Tunnels were built of cast iron between 1886 and 1907 for streetcars, and can't easily be widened to accommodate the B Division cars.
What's that you say? The Steinway Tunnels were built for streetcars? Well, it's been said that good streets include streetcars, and we've got a bad street on our hands. Queens Boulevard has killed too many people, and despite the best efforts of the DOT to change it without really changing it, it's still killing people.
The family of Asif Rahman has called for part of Queens Boulevard to be converted into a bike lane. That call has been taken up by Transportation Alternatives, Councilmember Gennaro and others. One potential criticism of that plan is that unless the new bike lane is full of cyclists from day one, it will represent a reduction in capacity.
That capacity could be maintained by adding a streetcar line to the Boulevard. In other parts of the world it is recognized that adding streetcars can calm dangerous boulevards at the same time as they increase mobility.
It's true that Queens Boulevard is served by several subway lines, but there is no subway service between 49th Street and Broadway, two miles out of the Boulevard's seven mile length. That section has recently been upzoned to encourage density, but it's not as near transit as it should be. Some of that section is walking distance from the subway, but in many parts it's a long walk. For several years the Boulevard had both trolleys and subways, and the demise of the trolley company can't necessarily be taken as an indication that the trolleys didn't work.
Also, the #7 train and the Queens Boulevard subway line are some of the most crowded trains in the city. There are a lot of people who want to go short distances along the Boulevard, and the Q60 bus is often slow and unreliable. If you're going from Forest Hills to Rego Park, or LIC to Sunnyside, it's quicker to hop on a trolley than to go down into the subway and back up again. If you're going from Sunnyside to Elmhurst, it's a lot quicker to take one trolley than two subways.
Even better, the streetcar can serve a lot of people who now take the #7 to Manhattan from Sunnyside and Woodside. Instead, they can get on the streetcar. The tracks can run down Queens Boulevard (in a dedicated right-of-way, naturally) to the Sunnyside Yards, and then go either over or under the LIRR tracks to the portal at Hunterspoint Avenue. From there it's a quick shot through the tunnel to Grand Central, Fifth Avenue and Times Square. That means a lot less people trying to squeeze onto the former #7 train at 46th Street.
If trolleys are too outlandish for the alternative-transportation crowd in New York to get behind, you could do it with Bus Rapid Transit too. It would cost almost as much and look shitty, but it would have a similar traffic calming effect.