One of the biggest impressions left on me during my travels in Europe was the ease of walking around busy urban centers in pedestrian only zones. Some of the beautiful commercial areas in Barcelona and Munich were particularly striking.
Last year over Memorial Day weekend, New York City had closed off portions of Times Square and reduced traffic on selected stretches of Broadway in order to create pedestrian zones. My concern at the time was that the success of these efforts was going to
“depend on how they eventually begin linking Times Square with Harold Square and by extension Madison Square and Union Square.”
The response to the Times Square changes this past year has been positive overall. Following in the success of these changes, the city is looking to add more pedestrian zones to other high profile areas.
Automobiles would be banned on the block between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, creating a pedestrian plaza bookended by Macy’s/Herald Square and the Empire State Building. The result would be a street effectively split in two.
On the west side of the pedestrian plaza, all car traffic would flow west, toward the Hudson River. On the east side, all car traffic would move east, toward the East River. Buses would still operate in both directions, and through the pedestrian plaza as well, but in dedicated lanes separated from passenger cars by a concrete barrier.
The dedicated bus lanes also appear to be taking a cue from a system in use in cities like Curtiba: transit buses using the lane would allow passengers to pay for bus tickets at sidewalk kiosks before boarding, and buses could signal traffic lights to remain green as the buses approach intersections. Be sure to read the comments at the original article.
And at Union Square (a move that will help the Greenmarket and ease confusion at a difficult corner):
Almost all traffic would be banned from the block of Broadway north of Union Square, between 17th and 18th Streets, under a proposal under consideration by the city’s Transportation Department.
Tables and chairs could be installed on the block, which would be open to pedestrians and bicycles in a design similar to the plazas now seen in Times and Herald Squares. A pedestrian plaza would also be installed on East 17th Street, which runs along the north side of Union Square, replacing a lane of traffic.
Again, check out the comments. The comment by Alan is a good one. While I’m in favor of these changes and partial towards developments on Manhattan because this is the borough that I live in, I am increasingly interested in seeing how these and other transit changes can benefit everyone in NYC. Especially in light of the MTA and their continued service cutbacks.