Times Square Transformations

Time to Walk Around

times_sqI haven’t had a chance to meander over to Times Square in the last few days, but I am looking forward to it. This is a change of heart for me, as well as for many other New Yorkers who generally try and avoid the place like the plague. But over the holiday weekend, a rather large swath of Broadway between Times Square and Herald Square became closed to automobile traffic. And this is no summer tourist trap, its a pilot project for permanent traffic interventions.

Named Green Light for Midtown, this endeavor is part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to get people walking–in the streets–in Midtown Manhattan. According to the DOT, Broadway has consistently been a thorn in the side of any traffic mitigation and alleviation efforts in the city. So what do we do? Get rid of the street all together. To some it may seem counterintuitive. But I always remember a comment made in Contested Streets–a wonderful film produced by Transportation Alternatives a few years ago–that no matter how many bridges and roads we build, they will become full of traffic so long as we keep thinking within the lane. So, shutting down roads makes both a symbolic and design statement.

Whether Times Square will be transformed into an idyllic picnic destination or will remain simply as the leviathan energy sucker–mental and electric– remains to be seen. Maybe Tokyo and Las Vegas get matching Leviathan medals. But that really is beside the point. In places where pedestrians are squeezed onto sidewalks, traffic problems can’t be solved with the same thinking that created the mess in the first place. So this is a welcome experiment. As the Times reports, not everyone is happy. Cabbies are among the disgruntled. But change is never easy, especially for those who perceive the burden to be on them. Have you been there? Care to share your thoughts?

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