You might be able to use it again.
Mayor Plans to Close Parts of Broadway to Traffic
By WILLIAM NEUMAN and MICHAEL BARBARO
Published: February 25, 2009
The city plans to close several blocks of Broadway to vehicle traffic through Times Square and Herald Square, an experiment that would turn swaths of the Great White Way into pedestrian malls and continue Mayor Michael R. Bloombergâ€™s effort to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown.
Although it seems counterintuitive, officials believe the move will actually improve the overall flow of traffic, because the diagonal path of Broadway tends to disrupt traffic where it intersects with other streets.
The city plans to introduce the changes as early as May and keep them in effect through the end of the year. If the experiment works, they could become permanent. The plan was described by several people who were briefed on it this week.
Mr. Bloomberg was expected to announce the plan Thursday.
A City Hall spokesman declined comment in advance of the announcement.
The plan calls for Broadway to be closed to vehicles from 47th Street to 42nd Street. Traffic would continue to flow through on crossing streets, but the areas between the streets would become pedestrian malls, with chairs, benches and cafe tables with umbrellas.
Seventh Avenue would be widened slightly within Times Square to accommodate the extra traffic diverted from Broadway.
Below 42nd Street, Broadway would be open to traffic, but then would shut down again at Herald Square, from 35th Street to 33rd Street. Then, below 33rd, it would open again.
The plan is the latest move by Mr. Bloomberg to change the way the city thinks of its streets, making them more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and chipping away at the dominance of the automobile.
Once the changes are in effect, a large stretch of Broadway in the heart of Midtown would be radically changed.
Last summer, the city narrowed Broadway from 42nd Street to 35th Street by setting aside two lanes on the east side of the street for a bike lane and promenade with tables, chairs and planters.
That project, called Broadway Boulevard, met with some skepticism at first but quickly became a popular lunch spot for office workers and tourists. Under the new plan, officials are considering creating a similar promenade from 47th Street north to the vicinity of Columbus Circle.
A theater industry executive who was briefed on the plan this week said the reaction among Times Square business leaders was largely favorable.
â€śI think it potentially could be a big plus if it speeds up traffic flow through the Times Square area,â€ť said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the briefing was considered confidential until the mayor announces his plan. â€śIf you have a major pedestrian area, that actually could be something welcoming and lovely.â€ť
Cora Cahan, president of the New 42nd Street, a nonprofit group that oversees seven historic theaters, said she was not briefed on the latest plan but had seen preliminary proposals last year.
â€śI think itâ€™s very worth trying,â€ť she said, adding that Times Square badly needs more room for pedestrians.
The plan has some risks, especially if it does not deliver on the promise of decreasing congestion.
New York drivers, including cabbies and truck drivers, can be zealous in defending their use of the cityâ€™s streets. Their passion helped doom Mr. Bloombergâ€™s congestion-pricing proposal last year to charge drivers to use the most heavily traveled streets of Manhattan.
Some may also question the timing, now that the city is struggling with a recession. The theater executive who was briefed on the plan said one worry was whether taxis and other vehicles would have difficulty leaving people in front of theaters.
Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow for transportation for the Regional Plan Association, an independent organization, said planners had been calling for similar changes for years.
He said Broadway tended to foul up traffic at each intersection with an avenue. To allow for green lights on Broadway, the duration of the green lights on the avenues and cross streets had to be shortened, backing up traffic.
â€śThe lower the volume is on Broadway â€” or if you eliminate it altogether â€” then traffic is going to move better,â€ť Mr. Zupan said. â€śThatâ€™s one of the positive things thatâ€™s going to come out of this. The win-win is that the space that youâ€™re freeing up will be used by pedestrians.â€ť
So are those left wing liberal Independents trying to eliminate travel by car, on block at a time?