Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has proposed a light rail reactivation of the Montauk Line, which ended passenger service in 2012 due to low usage and the cost of upgrading the line with federally-mandated PTC. Granted, usage would be low on any rail line that only saw two trains a day and ran express (real passenger service ended in 1998), so Crowley’s argument is that after almost 20 years of growth, running a dependable light-rail service would make good use of lightly-used freight tracks and be a respectively used service.
I would be inclined to disagree, if we were talking about a strict reactivation of the old right-of-way. Past Flushing Ave, the line runs entirely through industrial areas, and even if you were to rezone all of that industrial land and redevelop it (highly unlikely given the lack of manufacturing space remaining in the city,) the presence of Newton Creek, First Calvary Cemetery, the BQE, and the LIE all within a stone’s throw of the line would limit the catchment area of any stations past Flushing Av. In addition, the LIC terminus right now is not very developed; the Hunters Point South development could change that, but besides the East River Ferry the terminus misses the transportation hub at the center of LIC several blocks north.
Fortunately, there is an alternative; a rail line branches off at Andrews Av to head southwest towards Williamsburg.
Such a connection would run on the existing spur line to Bushwick Pl, where the light-rail would run on Montrose Av, Division Av, and Kent Av before terminating at the East River Ferry pier in Williamsburg. A routing on Kent Av would allow connections with the East River Ferry and the planned BQX; but if the routing were to have a negative impact on the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway and the BQX were not to proceed, the line could instead terminate at Roebling St.
Stations were sited to provide maximum connections to the existing transit network and destinations along the way. As far as other potential sites go, there is no station connecting to the Myrtle Av Line because it would not be feasible to build an intermediate station for connections and there is nothing in the immediate area of that rail junction to serve. Likewise, there are no stations between Bushwick Av and Fresh Pond Road because that area is both mostly industrial and a high flood-zone risk; it might not be beneficial to support development in such a flood-prone location. Ultimately, because the station spacing is so sparse, the line could potentially function as an express connection between Jamaica and Williamsburg, in contrast to the frequently-stopping slog that is the J. Because Williamsburg is so much more heavily built up than LIC (and short of ripping up the highways and cemeteries or filling in Newton Creek, will continue to be so), such a line would be better patronized and spur more development than a line to LIC.