Take a Look and Vote on the New Proposals for a Car-Free 42nd Street

A group of planners and architects is advocating for 42nd Street to be transformed into a car-free street with light rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]
One of the four final design concepts for transforming 42nd Street into a car-free street with light rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]
For nearly 15 years, a group of architects and planners who go under the banner of Vision42 have advocated for a car-free 42nd Street with light rail and expanded pedestrian space [PDF]. Hoping to catch the interest of the de Blasio administration, last spring the group launched a competition seeking conceptual designs for a re-imagined 42nd Street. Now the four finalists are up for a public vote.

Vision42 received 123 submissions from around the world in a contest run by The Architect’s Paper. A panel of judges narrowed the field to four final entries. Each won a $3,000 prize funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust, and now you can vote online for your favorite design concept.

Another conceptual design extends the greenery of Bryant Park out onto 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]
Another conceptual design extends the greenery of Bryant Park out onto 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]
The goal is to breathe new life into a plan that yet to win over policymakers. “Our difficulty in the past has been that Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t like light rail,” said Roxanne Warren, an architect who chairs Vision42. The Bloomberg administration did propose a major busway and pedestrian space on 34th Street, another marquee crosstown route, but that plan was significantly scaled back under pressure from nearby property owners.

“Surface public transit really doesn’t work unless you make the determination — it’s politically tricky for sure — but you have to make the decision to give priority to public transit over private driving,” Warren said. “It’s both about the quality of urban space and the fact that we are overwhelmed by motor vehicles.”

Another plan proposes a center-running bikeway along 42nd Street. Image via Vision42 [PDF]
Another plan proposes a center-running bikeway along 42nd Street in addition to curb-running rail. Image via Vision42 [PDF]
“The reason that we picked 42nd Street is that it goes river to river, and it’s a straight shot for public transportation. And we think that public transportation should be prioritized over private automobiles,” Warren said. “It’s a nightmare getting along 42nd Street.”

  • ahwr

    From here-



    The stabling yards and maintenance facilities for 14 streetcars will require an area of about 60,000 SF. In previous studies, several options were identified for this facility. All of the sites are located towards the West Side between 10 th and 12 th Avenues and from 30 th Street in the south to a former NYC Transit bus depot on the south side of 41 st Street. Environmental upgrading and major developments along the Hudson River has restricted options on the river wharfs. The most convenient site is probably a tractor trailer park which is also a possible site for a southern extension of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. However, there are still at least two other sites potentially available. One possibility is to convert a small portion of the Long Island Rail Road maintenance and storage yard into a light rail maintenance facility. Alternately, a number of locations exist where a new light rail yard could be jointly developed as part of a much larger commercial development. Our estimate is a nominal cost that would depend on commercial discussions with land owners

  • ahwr


    “During busy hours in the most crowded parts of the street, bicyclists will be expected to walk their bikes, so that they don’t pose a threat to pedestrians.”

  • Daniel

    Why light rail and not BRT? When I visit other cities I prefer the light rail to buses of any type, but it seems that these systems have considerable upfront costs in the US. And in this case you also need to site the depot in a fairly expensive part of the city. That said, midtown needs a lot more car free zones and 42nd would be a natural start.

  • Bob

    Yes definitely – all major throughstreets should have dedicated mass transit lanes, even if only during rush hour

  • Bolwerk

    This project seems largely about design more than just transit. LRT is an aesthetic choice, and the project includes a lot of non-transportation elements that probably don’t fit well with busways. That said, how many North American surface rail systems actually have higher costs than peer bus systems? Not many. San Fran seems like the worst offender.

    I think the coolest direction, albeit most remote, this could go would be to have HBLR expand through the Lincoln Tunnel and serve this segment. Then you can use New Jersey’s depots.

  • qrt145

    I thought the first lane of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Aves. was already a pedestrian lane! 🙂

  • Why are urban planners these days always trying to make cities into forests? Some tasteful, well-placed plant life is good but you don’t need to go overboard (especially regarding the second picture).

  • al

    Expand that even further. Send the Light Rail up 3rd Ave to the Queensboro Bridge and then across into Queens down Queens Blvd and Northern Blvd. Have a (decked over?) depot at Sunnyside. It would also link to LGA, Citi Field, and USTA.

  • realposter

    why??? energy consumption – heat island effect – storm water run off – cleaner air…

  • realposter

    BRT doesn’t make a lot of stops…. The light rail would stop often – similar to a trolley – to promote pedestrian movements.

  • realposter

    57th as well

  • ahwr

    A transit line from 42nd street to citi field and the usta? Sounds like the 7 train.

  • Bolwerk

    A better analogy would be the Q32, the bus that runs from roughly Penn Station to Sunnyside and beyond. It does parallel the 7 Train’s Queens Blvd ROW.

    Not what al suggests makes much sense without a private ROW, but at least along the Queensboro Bridge and Queens Blvd. there is both space and historic precedent for that.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    This can solve the age-old NYC problem of “how do we get across town?”. A car-free street with a crosstown light rail every 10th block!

  • ahwr

    It stops every block, not every tenth. River to river in 21 minutes.


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