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Bus Rapid Transit

Opinion: We Need a Miracle on 42nd Street

Imagine if 42nd Street was transformed from a gritty through-route full of vehicles and fumes into one with much wider sidewalks and bus rapid transit!

Rendering: Mickael Deprez|

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Imagine if 42nd Street was transformed from a gritty through-route full of vehicles and fumes into one with much wider sidewalks with trees and benches to give pedestrians a more relaxed experience to stroll and shop. And bus riders and cyclists a fast and reliable cross-town route?

We are starting a campaign today to ask the City of New York to reimagine 42nd Street.

Imagine this Miracle on 42nd Street with:

  • Wider sidewalks, trees and benches to give pedestrians a calmer, more relaxed experience. 
  • A car-free busway to spirit riders between Second and 12th avenues in less than 25 minutes instead of double that.
  • Protected bike lanes both ways so that people can bike along 42nd Street without having to risk life and limb.
  • A much nicer experience navigating among the transit hubs of Grand Central, Times Square, and Port Authority. 

We applaud the city Department of Transportation’s apparent plan to improve bus transit on 34th Street, but we would take this idea further. Imagine being able to ride a bus across Manhattan on 42nd Street in 20 minutes or so. In fact, why not every major cross street 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd etc. all the way up and down Manhattan?

The 14th Street Busway is a great example of what can be done. It often used to take 45 minutes to take the bus across town on 14th Street before the Busway. Now it can often take less than 25 minutes. Why is this the only crosstown Busway? 

Bus ridership on 14th Street increased by 30 percent when the Busway was introduced. 

Imagine if you could walk a few blocks from most places in Manhattan and there was a rapid Busway where you could get across town in 25 minutes or less. That would dramatically change transit for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

Here's what 42nd Street looks like ... on a good day.

When the 14th Street Busway opened in 2019, a lot of people thought it would unleash carmageddon with cars pushed out and clogging up neighboring streets. But it hasn't happened. Drivers adjusted to the Busway. 

Instead, what you would have experienced was a very quiet and calm 14th Street. You could even have a conversation, that most urban of activities. You can’t do that on 42nd Street now. 

And there will also be a massive improvement in safety.

In the five months after the Busway was launched, total reported crashes between Third and Eighth avenues dropped from 84 to 42 — a 50-percent decline — and pedestrian injuries dropped from nine to six, a 33-percent dip, according to city stats.

Changing 42nd Street from a through street for cars and trucks to a busway will change the way it is used. No longer will you have a wide, continuous thoroughfare that encourages faster speeds for cars and trucks to get through Manhattan that increases the danger to pedestrians. Instead, it will be a more calm and safer thoroughfare for pedestrians to cross.

42nd Street is an icon

The heart of New York City is Times Square where 42nd Street crosses Broadway. Broadway is gradually being revamped in a way that would have seemed extraordinary 20 years ago. Block after block is being turned into something much more human in scale with seating areas, bike lanes, pedestrian areas. We also have a campaign for the Broadway Linear Park

Millions of visitors come to Times Square and are routinely treated like cattle, penned in on narrow sidewalks bursting with activity and people. Most New Yorkers avoid the area when they can because of this overcrowding. Over 2.5 times as many pedestrians traversed 42nd Street as did vehicles in 2023, yet two-thirds of the streetspace is given to cars.

The sidewalks on 42nd Street need to double in width. We need public seating and trees to shade them. Imagine public seating on a sidewalk on 42nd Street to take a load off after a long workday or a busy day sightseeing or just hang out and watch the rest of the world go by. What a radical idea!

All of 42nd Street is crying out for more green space. Bryant Park is the only park along 42nd Street between First Avenue and the West Side Highway. Micro green spaces can be added to 42nd Street that double up as bioswales to mitigate flooding. They also serve to cool the area in the summer heat. Hundreds of thousands of people inhabit the space along 42nd Street as workers, tourists, and residents and surely they would appreciate more space to walk and relax.

Let’s make a visit to Times Square so much fun and such a nice experience that people will hang around even longer and spend even more of their tourist dollars in this great City. Maybe us locals will also want to spend time there.

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