Bloomberg: The Transformation of Broadway Is Here to Stay

times_square_night.jpgThere’s no going back. Photo: nanpalmero/Flickr

Eight months after New York City changed traffic patterns in midtown Manhattan, transforming Broadway and reclaiming acres of urban space for pedestrian plazas at Times Square and Herald Square, Mayor Bloomberg announced this morning that the trial has proven successful and the changes will be permanent. Streetsblog will post a full report, including data collected from the trial period, later today. Stay tuned.

Update: We’ll post highlights shortly from a very interesting press conference and Q&A with the mayor. If, in the meantime, you want to comb through the data in DOT’s evaluation report, here’s the PDF.

  • I hope DOT will follow up by installing permanent fixtures such as bollards (where appropriate) and seating bolted to the ground.

  • NattyB

    I def like it now. But, those bike lanes between times and herald sq are useless. It’s like a slow bike lane where you need to blow a whistle at every intersection to avoid hitting tourists/peds who are looking down at their phones or up at the sights.

    Bitching aside, it’s still a great improvement from before and glad to see they’re keeping it.

  • NattyB – No offense, but you’re kind of talking like a motorist! My take is that these public spaces are now intended to serve a greater purpose than just mere traffic corridors, regardless of how many wheels said traffic may have.

    By the way, are you from Baltimore? Does “B” stand for “Boh” by any chance?

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Allow me to assist local columnists like Susan Dominus and Steve Cuozzo to write what will surely be their idiotic responses to this great news:

    …Real New Yawkahs are walkers, not sitters; we’re a city of motion, not repose. We became used to the fact that Midtown Manhattan was a traffic-choked shithole and we real New Yawkahs, particularly hard-bitten news guys and gals like ourselves, want to keep it that way. We also miss the fact that you can no longer purchase a $15 hand job in Times Square. But we already complained about that in a column of mine in the mid-90’s so let’s just drop it.

    All those cars stuck in traffic look really neat when you’re on the 50th floor of a Midtown high-rise. The car traffic really helps you feel the “energy” of the city when you’re up there on the 50th floor. The flimsy lawn chairs don’t feel as “energetic” and alive from my lofty perch above the city. When I’m looking out of my window on the 50th floor I want to see slow-moving headlights and tail lights. It makes me feel like the King of the City. I can’t hear the honking, I can’t smell the exhaust. I could give a shit what the pedestrian experience is like. I believe a city should be planned and designed so that it is visually appealing from the 50th floor of a Midtown skyscraper. Lots of shitty Midtown car traffic provides NYC with its energy and pulse. What maniac would take that away? Off with Sadik-Khan’s head.

    Granted, I’m a real New Yawkah and rarely travel beyond Manhattan, so I have no idea what other world cities are doing to improve their public spaces and transportation systems — and nor do I care. The bottom line is that real New Yawkah’s like myself and my fellow long-time Times, Post and News reporters drive almost everywhere. You need to travel 18 blocks? You drive! We’ve got free parking so why not. Even on weekends, we spend our leisure time hunting for on-street parking spaces. And because of this change by the Tyrant Bloomberg, I now have to walk an extra block to catch my taxi home to the Upper West Side….

  • Josh

    I hate to be a cynic, but, what’s to prevent a future mayor from reversing these “permanent” changes?

  • The whole thing opens up a new issue when it comes to snow removal. I just snapped these pics this morning:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/10798592@N08/4349166908/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/10798592@N08/4349166862/

    Separately, now that it’s permanent I feel free to share my gripe as a bike commuter: the changes really have slowed me down considerably on my bike commute home. The spaces where cyclists have to share space with pedestrians–both where it’s by design and where it’s NOT by design, but by ped behavior–add minutes to my commute home.

    DOT held public comment meetings on the project last year, and a few DOT people there seemed absolutely shocked that those spaces forced us cyclists to go so slow that we found the spaces frustrating. They really seemed not to understand that bike commuters want to move faster than pedestrians! I’m sure most of them don’t think that way, but the way the bike lanes function seem to reflect such thinking–that cyclists should be moving at about 5mph. And note, I don’t ride like no messenger. I go at a pretty moderate speed. Yet these lanes really slow me down a lot.

    Yeah, yeah, I agree that it’s better for more people that the change is now permanent, but I really, really miss the fast bike route Broadway used to provide me.

  • Before I get flamed, I should add that, as I’ve said before, I don’t at all blame the pedestrians for overrunning the bike lane in many spots. I am glad pedestrians have more space where they feel they can safely let their guard down a little. I blame the choice of location for the bike lane.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Perhaps the bicycle boulevard idea is better for through bicycle traffic by experienced riders. Which is what I suggest for Park Avenue N. of 14th Street.

    Slow the cars down to a reasonable speed, say 18 mph, and shift out the through traffic with occasional blocks to motor vehicles but not to bicycles. But keep enough motor vehicles so that it doesn’t all become extended sidewalks.

    When you have as many pedestrians as in Times Square, you really need to give them the space.

  • Amazing, wonderful, terrific. Can’t wait to see what’s next from DOT.

  • Angry Pete

    I’ve been tormenting Cuozzo with this:

    Tis a pity what has happened to Steve Cuozzo, the formerly astute commercial RE reporter and restaurant reviewer. In his completely delusional, fact-free ravings, poor Steve has now confused being an “insatiable walker” with regular use of News Corp.’s black car service to and from his home.

    Once again, Cuozzo’s gone off the rails on pedestrian malls with nothing to back up his rant except bile. Politics can’t be the only reason that City Planning, Municipal Art Society, Times Square Alliance, real estate kingpins, hotel operators, retailers and restaurateurs support pedestrian malls. The designs aren’t perfect, but they WORK for people, New Yorkers and tourists alike. Auto traffic NEVER generated commerce in Times Square and never will.

    and this:

  • Hmm, the report shows no decrease in overall bicycle injuries with the new configuration. I wonder what the per capita figure is?

  • Ken Coughlin

    This is wonderful news — NYC is finally joining world-class cities like Paris, London and Melbourne in reclaiming public space from the automobile. But let’s not forget that this was made possible only by findings that pedestrianizing Broadway had actually improved “traffic.” We will know we have arrived in the promised land only when impacts on the movement of motorized vehicles are accorded lower priority than pedestrian safety and urban livability.

  • Amen to that, Ken! Every single decision we make in this country has to come down to a number, and that number is typically either in dollars or traffic count. I, too, look forward to the day when we can finally draft public policy for the benefit of social welfare, even if it doesn’t put more money in somebody’s pocket, or more cars through a corridor. Unfortunately, mathematicians are having a tough time quantifying actual quality of life.

  • James

    Marty Barfowitz’s parody piece in post #4 cracked me up. And for the record, Times columnist Susan Dominus lives in tony Hastings on Hudson in Westchester, rather than the Upper West Side.

    This is great news.

  • J

    DDartley,

    DOT is well aware of the issue of the bicycle lane placement problems. The following is from the report released today(Appendix B.3):

    “During the public input sessions, many people commented on the bicycle lane configuration of the 2008 Broadway project from W.42nd to W.35th Streets, suggesting that the bicycle lane and plaza spaces be swapped. In that project, the bicycle lane was placed between the sidewalk and new pedestrian plazas. For Green Light for Midtown the new pedestrian zones were placed directly adjacent to the sidewalk with the bicycle lane closer to the parking lane. This arrangement provides a seamless extension of the sidewalk.”

  • Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project area are down 63% & Pedestrian injuries are down 35%

    Think of how many fewer people ended up in the emergency room. On that measure alone this project is a public health triumph!

  • Tiddlywinks!

    Thank you so much Mayor Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan. Forward thinkers rule.

  • Marty: no, the cocooned Manhattan people are precisely the people who cheer every initiative Bloomberg sells. The main opposition to street closures and bike lanes comes from local small business.

    Ken: do Paris and London pedestrianize their main centers, as in Times Square, or narrower streets without delivery trucks, as in Fulton Mall or the pedestrianized alleys in Lower Manhattan?

  • Rob B.

    Hey James (Comment #14): Not sure Hastings is all that “tony”, although there are nice parts. Many residents moved there because they couldn’t afford the Upper West Side. Scarsdale it is not.

  • Kaja

    Larry’s suggestion for Park Avenue just blew my mind.

    It’s my preferred north-south avenue on foot, bike, and car; and I’d gladly trade automobile through-traffic between, say, 14th and 33rd, for a dedicated bike lane and somewhat attenuated car traffic.

    Permanent pedestrianization is great news. (I also find it slower on a bike, but I’m too busy being awed by the spectacle to really care. If I’m in a hurry I haul down 7ave. It’s not a big deal.)

  • James

    Rob – Hastings has a median family income of $129k (as of the 2000 Census). No doubt it it substantially higher today. It’s an affluent suburban town and I’m pretty familiar with it as I work in Westchester. My point was that Dominus can leave the ‘energy’ and ‘hustle and bustle’ behind on Metro North every evening, while those who actually live in the city are forced to deal with all the externalities imposed upon us by car usage even after the work day is done.

  • @Marty Barfowitz,

    Don’t leave out the peerless (and clueless) Andrea Peyser.

  • Andrew

    Alon Levy:

    The local businesses in this case seem to like it.

    Do you consider Trafalgar Square a “main center” or a “narrower street”?

    (And, incidentally, distressingly little of Lower Manhattan is pedestrianized. Even the sidewalks are used for parking.)

  • ddartley

    Good to know, J. “Swap” is actually the word I wrote on the big map they gave us to make comments on, along those particular stretches. I just hadn’t read the full report when I posted the comment above.

  • I consider Trafalgar Square to be an open plaza, like both of New York and San Francisco’s Union Squares.

    Lower Manhattan has a couple of pedestrianized alleys, such as Stone Street in some parts. It’s not a lot, but it’s a good example of where pedestrianization makes sense. The amount of foot traffic matches the width of the street. And the pedestrianized streets there are so narrow they could never be important for deliveries. It’s the same in some of the success stories of pedestrianization in Boston and Philadelphia.

    There aren’t actually a lot of wide streets anywhere in the world that have enough foot traffic to avoid looking like dead zones. Broadway isn’t: Herald Square is pretty sketchy after about 9, and the pedestrianized lanes are deserted. The one example I know of that seems to work, Nanjing Road in Shanghai, is like Times Square but without the delivery issue – the road is flanked by malls, so deliveries don’t go on the ground floor anyway.

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