Streetfilms: Carmaggeddon Averted as Broadway Comes to Life

When New York City opened up new pedestrian zones in the heart of Midtown this summer, naysayers predicted a traffic nightmare. Nearly two months later, we’re still waiting for the much-feared Carmaggedon.

In this video, Streetsblog publisher Mark Gorton
takes us on a tour of Broadway’s car-free squares and boulevard-style blocks, where conditions have improved dramatically for
pedestrians, cyclists, and, yes, delivery truck drivers. As Mark says, the counterintuitive truth is that taking away space for cars can improve traffic while making the city safer and more enjoyable for everyone on foot. There are sound theories that help explain why this happens — concepts like traffic shrinkage and Braess’s paradox which
are getting more and more attention thanks to projects like this one. While
traffic statistics are still being collected by
NYCDOT, there’s already a convincing argument that Midtown streets are functioning better than before: To understand it, just take a walk down Broadway.

  • jwb

    I love this film for its adamant narration, with just a hint of gloating undertone 🙂

  • Lars

    People that understand traffic knew this would be a success all along. It is up to all of us to convince everyone else who still doubt its merits or are passing along wrong information to turn the tide to make future projects easier (and more bountiful!)

  • let the sunshine in

    If you build it they will come. If you take it away they will go away.

    We just need more people who understand this. Hopefully people will begin to understand and leave the car at home, or not buy one in the first place.

    Fighting Carmaggeddon is karma-getting. NYC is on the right path.

  • gecko


  • Has there been any attempt by, e.g., the NY Post to walk back any of their hysterical demagoguery leading up to the changes?

  • Fantastic film!

  • Subtitles would be great, not all of us have access to sound. Otherwise, looks like a good video!

  • It seems that NYC is rightfully asserting itself as the livability leader it should be. Such decisions, as demonstrated in this film, spur innovation and improve livability, which breeds only more of the same. This is exactly the reason why I am leaving Miami for NYC in September.

  • What, no Zozo?

  • Urbanite

    DOT? Many of the concepts and items you mention (chairs, umbrellas, planters) were influenced more by the local bid (34th Street Partnership) than DOT. Just making sure they get a bit of credit as well.
    Thanks for the post!

  • Great video, especially the part about deliveries.

    One quibble: was the last shot taken from a bicycle riding through the pedestrian area?

  • Neil:

    Cadman plaza pedestrian/seating area where final shot takes place does not have “No Biking” signs up (and to add in fact there are signs specifically stating you can ride s-l-o-w-l-y thru Herald Square on your bike – although not so in Times Square where there are “dismount bike” signs.) Besides riding a bike through extremely slowly and then speeding up the visual is one way for us to impart the space and for viewers to really get a feel for how it works. It is one reason why our films work better than anyone else’s attempts at documenting them.

  • ha ha – what an idiot. walk 2 blocks away…..there you’ll find your traffic jams.

    you know if you take away video cameras douche bags like you go away as well.

  • nordy

    Let’s not forget an ages long effort to fully close the roadways in Central and Prospect Parks. If you can shut down parts of Broadway full time, why can’t we shut down those park roads full time?

  • @nordy,

    That’s a really, REALLY good question.

  • dave

    Living on the corner of 47th and 9th Ave., I’m hear to tell you that this hasn’t been an unqualified success.

    Ninth avenue has long been a parking lot in the evening hours, thanks to previous traffic changes. Now, thanks to this redirection of traffic, there are more cars honking and stuck at the intersection below my window.

    I guess the pedestrians are more important than the people who live in the areas that are negatively impacted by these decisions.

  • Dave:
    So you’ve confirmed what we all agree: there are too many cars on 9th Avenue. The way to reduce motor vehicle traffic (and all the negatives it brings with it) is through livable streets initiatives such as the opening of Broadway to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. If the 9th Avenue bike lane is extended uptown (a dire need), the traffic calming will help reduce the issues with cars you’re currently experiencing.
    I found it very strange that you differentiated “pedestrians” and the “people who live in the areas”. How do the people in the neighborhood get home?
    I can’t wait until some of these improvements find their way uptown!

  • ChrisC

    “Let’s not forget an ages long effort to fully close the roadways in Central and Prospect Parks. If you can shut down parts of Broadway full time, why can’t we shut down those park roads full time?”

    Problem with closing the roads in Central Park is buses would have to go miles out of their way to get from the west to east side.

  • Mike

    no one is talking about closing the transverses, which are used by buses. Just the loop drive.


Coming Soon: The Broadway You’ve Been Waiting For

Vehicles will be redirected from Broadway to Seventh Avenue, as the orange sticker says, "Starting Sun May 24" DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today officially announced that work on new pedestrian spaces at Times and Herald Squares — the "Green Light for Midtown" pilot program — will enter a new phase this Sunday night, when auto […]

The New York of 2016 Needs the Wide, Generous Sidewalks of 1906

The Times ran a feature on the pedestrian crush in New York City today, and as good as the photos are, they don’t do the situation justice. To get a sense of just how inadequate the sidewalks are in Midtown, you need to go there — or failing that, watch this Streetfilm from 2009 with narration by Streetsblog publisher Mark […]

High-Tech Midtown Traffic System Will Ignore Pedestrians and Buses

The Department of Transportation is rolling out a response to Midtown traffic congestion that is as high-tech as it is intellectually outdated. Microwave sensors, video cameras, and E-ZPass readers will gather traffic information in real-time and beam the information to the DOT’s Queens command center, where engineers will instantly adjust the traffic lights as needed […]