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Joint DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team Proposal for “LIC Autonomous Rapid Transit” Places Third in National Design Competition

April 3, 2019

DDC: Ian Michaels, 718-391-1589,

Long Island City, NY – Lorraine Grillo, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and President and CEO of the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA), announced today that the joint DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8’s proposal for an autonomous and trackless tram system for Long Island City has placed third in a national design and construction competition designed to address urban transportation congestion.

Fourteen ACE Mentor teams from around the country took part in the urban transportation segment of the Construction Industry Round Table’s 13th Annual National Design & Construction Competition. Teams were required to identify an asset or means of transportation in a particularly congested urban area and propose a cohesive design and construction solution to alleviate the problem, indicating how that asset would be integrated to impact other elements of the local transportation grid. A total of 64 ACE Mentor teams submitted for various parts of the competition this year.

“The DDC/SCA team researched its transportation proposal thoroughly, with field visits to map the entire proposed route plus a detailed budget accounting for construction, station costs and the price of the tram cars themselves,” said Lorraine Grillo, DDC Commissioner and SCA President and CEO. “We’re very proud of the team and the national recognition they’ve received for their work in this prestigious design competition.”

“Congratulations to Team 8 and its amazing mentors from DDC, the SCA and AECOM. We are incredibly proud of our students and their dedicated mentors. Team 8 worked hard to envision a transportation system that would address the real-life needs of our local community in Long Island City. Their project is both innovative and practical and our wonderful mentors have provided our students with a unique learning experience that will open the doors to opportunities in the ACE industries,” said Lee Llambelis, Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships and STEAM initiatives.  

The DDC/SCA team’s proposal, “L.I. City Auto-no-mous Rapid Transit,” addresses congestion in Long Island City and surrounding neighborhoods through the creation of Long Island City Autonomous Rapid Transit (LICART), a trackless tram that would provide a cost-effective and sustainable public transportation system linking the western portion of Queens with northern Brooklyn. The system would incorporate optical guidance systems that circumvent the need for a costly infrastructure overhaul,
and would operate through an energy-efficient hybrid engine running primarily on battery power.

The team’s proposal maps out a route of 7.43 miles with 26 stops, running from Astoria, Queens south to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and connecting with several existing subway lines. The students estimate a tram would run every 10-15 minutes from 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily, with a total ride time of about 35 minutes in one direction.

Streets along the new trackless tram route would be redesigned to add an isolated “tramway” with a median for stations. Automated optical guidance systems would detect lines on the road and provide the trams with guidance using GPS and LIDAR technology. Although fully autonomous, “drivers” would be stationed in each tram to override optical guidance system if obstructions appear in right-of-way.

The students estimate the cost of establishing the trackless tram plus its route and its stations at just over $125 million. A fare, that has yet to be determined, would be charged per ride. Advertising in stations would be rented out at $10,000 per month per station. The system would be expected to generate $250,000 each month in ad revenue, which would be put toward system maintenance.

An example of the kind of trackless trolley proposed for Long Island City by the DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team 8

There are 17 public high school students from Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island on this year’s DDC/SCA ACE Mentor Team. Founded in 1994 by a group of leading architects, contractors and engineers in New York City, the ACE Mentor Program has served over 65,000 students nationwide and over 10,000 students in New York alone. Today more than 9,000 students and 3,600 mentors participate in ACE each year in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Three-quarters of ACE students come from minority and underserved communities.
DDC’s partnership with SCA and ACE Mentor is organized under the DDC’s STEAM education initiative, established in 2014 as a pipeline for City students to career fields related to science, technology, engineering, art/architecture and mathematics.


About the NYC Department of Design and Construction
The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit