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Car-Free Parks

The Traffic is the Mitigation

1:03 PM EST on November 20, 2006

mitigate, verb
[Latin stem of mitigare, from mitis, mild, gentle]
1. Make milder in manner or attitude, make less hostile, mollify.
2. Give relief from pain. Lessen the suffering caused by an evil or difficulty.
3. Make less oppressive. Make more humane, more bearable.

nascar_centralparl.jpg

How Orwellian is this? The New York City Department of Transportation's Holiday Traffic Mitigation Plan went in to effect on Friday and lasts until the day after New Year's. In order to give New Yorkers relief from the crushing number of motor vehicles that pour into Manhattan during the holidays, DOT is reversing car-free hours in Central Park and allowing traffic to rule the Park's Loop Drives from 7am to 7pm on weekdays. In other words: Accomodating more traffic is the mitigation for more traffic.

Rather than, say, reducing transit fares or only allowing pedestrians and buses to use 34th Street during Thanksgiving weekend so that the maximum number of shoppers could cram into Manhattan and empty their wallets into the city's coffers, New York City transportation officials still believe, despite so much evidence to the contrary, that making the city more inviting to automobiles will somehow reduce congestion.

The plan is being framed as an initiative "designed to encourage mass transit use and facilitate vehicular travel in and around the City." Says DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall:

weinshall.jpgThere is nothing better than New York City during the holidays and each year we take steps to help make room for the many people that want to enjoy our City's attractions. This plan is put into place to handle the additional traffic that the holiday season brings.

It is not all bad news. DOT is expanding pedestrian space at Times Square by eliminating the "crossover" at 45th Street, Prospect Park's car-free hours remain intact, and some recently installed muni-meters are being packaged as part of the Holiday Traffic Plan as well. But the car-free Central Park rule reversal and the general lack of innovative thinking shows that the Iris Weinshall Rennaissance has a ways to go. The Commissioner still seems to be taking bad advice from her top traffic engineers.

Here's to a happier, healthier Holiday Season -- in 2007, perhaps.  

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