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March 10, 2009
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Off the heels of a recent survey claiming NYC is the second-worst congested city in the nation, the Office of the Mayor and the NYC Department of Transportation announced a move to ease congestion in Times Square and Herald Square: eliminate lanes of car traffic, and make way for foot traffic. As a pilot program called “Green Light for Midtown” that will run from May through the end of the year, Broadway from 47th to 42nd Streets and 35th to 33rd Streets (at the cross-over points with Sixth and Seventh Avenues) will be closed off to traffic and replaced with café tables and pedestrian lanes. If successful, the program will remain permanent. Finally, people may be able to move through Times Square with ease. And, perhaps, car congestion will be alleviated by 17%, as the DOT is claiming.

“This experiment is a thoughtful and creative approach to our persistent problems — gridlock, pedlock, and thousands of people walking dangerously in the street for lack of space,” said Tim Tomkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. According to the report, more than 356,000 people walk through Times Square daily. Also, although there are 4.5 times as many pedestrians as vehicles, only 11% of the space is currently allocated for them. With a high rate of accidents and congestion that prohibits emergency vehicles from passing, it is about time a pilot program was launched. It makes sense that redirecting traffic to maintain the gridded traffic flow, instead of permitting Broadway traffic to cross over other avenues, would ease congestion. I am looking forward to being able to walk from the Times Square subway station to hang out on the steps of the new TKTS booth without having to put myself in harm’s way.

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