Bloomberg Puts Forward a Bold, Transformative New Vision for Broadway

CarFreeBway-TSQ_1.jpgBefore and After: A rendering of a car-free Broadway at 7th Ave., Times Square, looking north. Download a larger image.

New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan unveiled plans to pedestrianize a large swath of Broadway in Midtown Manhattan at a small briefing in City Hall this morning. Intended to improve motor vehicle traffic flow, enhance safety and provide more and better public space to pedestrians, the plan seeks to solve what Sadik-Khan called a "problem hidden in plain sight for 200 years."

As the only Midtown street that pre-dates the 1811 street grid plan, Broadway "creates pinch points and traffic congestion as it traverses Manhattan crossing busy avenues," Sadik-Khan said. Extending from 59th Street at Columbus Circle to 23rd Street at Madison Square with substantial pedestrian-only areas at Times and Herald Squares, Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for Broadway is, arguably, the boldest and most transformative street reclamation project since Portland, Oregon decided to tear down Harbor Drive in 1974.

CarFreeBway_HSQ.jpgBefore and After: A rendering of a car-free Broadway at 6th Ave., Herald Square, looking south. Download a larger image.

In addition to creating a vast swath of new pedestrian space in "pedlocked" Midtown, DOT estimates that the plan will reduce southbound motor vehicle travel times by 17 percent on 7th Avenue and northbound travel times by 37 percent on 6th Avenue. To measure the plan’s effect, DOT will be closely monitoring a number of criteria including economic data. With numerous storefronts vacant and office and retail rental rates lagging behind other prime Midtown corridors, Broadway is currently "underperforming" by a number of economic measures, Sadik-Khan said. Based on experience in other cities, a more pedestrian-friendly Broadway should "get more people out on the street. They will buy more coffee and do more shopping."

Construction on the street redesign — which is being presented as a pilot project and being built with temporary materials — will start in May and continue through August, Sadik-Khan said. Work around Herald and Times Square will be done during the Memorial Day weekend to ease concerns about traffic congestion. 

While Broadway’s existing bike lane will remain intact it was, notably, de-emphasized in DOT’s renderings. Broadway will now be considered a "pedestrian priority" street and Sadik-Khan said she expected the bike lane would mainly be used by tourists and pedicabs. The bicycle rental company Bike & Roll is considering setting up a rental facility somewhere along the route. "Fast cyclists are not going to be interested in going through this. Messengers will be directed to use 7th Avenue," she said.

Bway_improvements.jpg

  • Similarly, while I think it’s great that you’re working to improve the schedules in Brooklyn, why not try to get some exclusive right-of-way? I made some proposals for improved express bus service last May:

    – Make the Gowanus HOV lane two-way and 24/7
    – Run more express buses
    – Extend the Church Street Transitway north, and institute a parallel southbound route
    – Institute through-running of buses to New Jersey and the Bronx

  • Gary Fisher:

    “But with less cars wouldn’t there also be less cars double parked?”

    I sure hope that would be the case but I wouldn’t count on it. You are correct citing better enforcement and a change in parking policies.

    Cap’n Transit:

    I have not been paying attention to the local politics so I wouldn’t know why it is taking so long, but I would think money has a lot to do with it. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the merchants are delaying it. But if they are, I would hope it is because of legitmate concerns that are being addressed. In many instances the big guys doing the planning are not aware of the little nuances that really do matter and can be addressed by making small changes. Then you also have the NIMBY’s who would rather inconvenience many because of their selfish concerns.

    Marketing,fancy vehicles and stations may not seem like much to you, but it may make the difference between a tourist using BRT and hopping into a taxi.
    Of course getting buses moving are just as if not more important, and they are all related. A bus that is easier to circulate in also speeds the buses.

    In 1985, I spoke to the then head of the TA’s Operations Planning. I told him that a prime reason why tourists don’t use buses is that they do not know where they go. I suggested that the routes in Manhattan be renumbered to correspond with the streets and avenues they operate on so tourists feel more comfortable about riding buses. (This was when the destination signs only showed route numbers and destinations.) He told me that this was a dumb idea that wasn’t necessary to encourage ridership. Four weeks later, most of the crosstowns were all renumbered just as I suggested, the M34 and M42 among them. I still believe that user-friendliness goes a long way to attract the occasional rider who may be afraid of public transit.

  • njresident

    The buses and trains commuting from New Jersey stop at about 1:00am, as the waterway ferry. Are we to ASSUME that the streets that cross Broadway/7th Ave. are going to stay open? This may be obvious, but I’m just wondering. I don’t see any of the so call actual’plans.’

    This will mean that since the taxis are going to have to go around and around we will be paying more for cabs.

    Brooklyn, you are not alone. Are those of you who are so gun ho about this plan New Yorkers? I was raised in Manhattan and worked at Broadway and 40th. Broadway is the only two way avenue for blocks on either side. The roads are one way. Can you imagine what one will have to do to turn around?

    If you guys are from NY, than where is your open mind about those who are not from NY. Or do you not need NJ residents coming to NY. We do more than support the arts, shows, sports, and work we pay a lot of your taxes. My daughter works in front of Duffy Square, she uses ‘mass transportation,’ and getting a taxi, when she works late, to catch the bus will be very difficult. She would have to walk a couple of blocks but the cabs won’t take her for just 3 blocks.

    While some of you are just thinking of ‘enjoying’ Time Square, a lot of people have to work there. Think of others, it could enrich your lives.

  • I have not been paying attention to the local politics so I wouldn’t know why it is taking so long, but I would think money has a lot to do with it.

    Based on what I’ve read they’re doing this fairly cheaply – no iconic stations – so I don’t think money has that much to do with it. NIMBYism basically killed the Merrick Boulevard route, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was what’s delaying the 1st/2nd Avenue and Rogers/Nostrand lines. If you find out anything, please let us know.

  • Also, I’m a big fan of user-friendliness and low barriers to entry, but I think there are other ways to market buses to tourists. The system doesn’t have to be designed around them.

  • gecko

    This Times Square makeover is absolutely terrific! And, absolutely amazing how much more work has to be done for a serious citywide transformation.

  • “Based on what I’ve read they’re doing this fairly cheaply – no iconic stations – so I don’t think money has that much to do with it. NIMBYism basically killed the Merrick Boulevard route, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was what’s delaying the 1st/2nd Avenue and Rogers/Nostrand lines. If you find out anything, please let us know.”

    I’m glad they’re not spending too much on the stations. The MTA site doesn’t specifically state why the Merrick Blvd route was halted. All I know about Rogers/Nostrand was that elimination of parking was a neighborhood concern. I still think that Flatlands Corridor would have been a much better choice than Nostrand. You could have served two shopping centers, JFK and local shopping areas.

    Question: How do you do quotes here. I tried clicking on link but nothing happens.

  • Question: How do you do quotes here. I tried clicking on link but nothing happens.

    to to the above, I entered

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    Question: How do you do quotes here. I tried clicking on link but nothing happens.
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  • We’ve been meaning to provide commenters with some basic formatting tools for a while now. So, we’ll get back on that.

  • How about editing abilities for logged in users?

    (Like, so I can fix my 10,000th typo, above.)

  • Manhattan User

    But wait! IF we drive all the traffic out of Manhattan, who will carry the MTA on their backs with tolls on the East River Bridges. Doesn’t the Ravitch plan NEED all those cars heading into Manhattan?

    Or is the answer Just keep raising the toll! Just to drive more traffic out. Just to rasie the toll, just to drive more traffic out.

    PS maybe you all missed it, but the ideilic pedestrian space is going to have an “Emergency Lane down the middle. Should be fun watching the turists jump out of the way of the fire truck.

  • “IF we drive all the traffic out of Manhattan…”

    Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. We certainly aren’t coming to it with a measly $2 bridge toll and the closure of a stretch of Broadway that blocks more traffic than it moves.

  • Aaron, is there further material that could help me research this sentence in your article? I would like to follow up with the Commissioner.

    “While Broadway’s existing bike lane will remain intact it was, notably, de-emphasized in DOT’s renderings. Broadway will now be considered a “pedestrian priority” street and Sadik-Khan said she expected the bike lane would mainly be used by tourists and PEDICABS” [emphasis added-pm]

    Was this mentioned at her press conference? This is a very positive development for the pedicab trade that for years has been denied the ability to create pedicab stands after pitches made to the DOT, etc. for a way to limit the roaming and over-crowding and improve the quality and appease certain theater owners.

    At least having access to a portion of this new pedestrian territory as you note may decrease the tickets pedicabs receive (more so than others) for stopping anywhere along Broadway right now in the theater district.

    In short, this is huge.

    -pm

  • precaryus

    Wow, good call New York! Picture a hundred new outdoor cafes, fountains, concerts all the time and festivals out the wazoo!

  • curious new yorker

    I don’t get it…..where is all the normal traffic going to go?

  • J. Mork

    Away.

  • Sounds good, the only concern I see is the increase in the saturation of vehicles in the streets, but they have surely thought of this

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