Saturday, April 24, 2010

More People, Less Cars

Last year the city made radical changes to Times Square, Herald Square, and Madison Square when parts of them were blocked off to traffic and were replaced by pedestrian plazas.

The results have been wonderful: people are free and safe to walk around these very hectic areas, they can sit in beach chairs or at tables and eat, read, or talk, and it has brought a new vitality and relaxed energy to these crazy parts of town. Less car + more people = good.

But wait -- there's more! Now the city wants to create a pedestrian plaza around Union Square, closing the blocks just north of it to traffic. I was actually in Union Square last night -- a gorgeous, beautiful, Spring evening -- and the area was blazing with people and fun. Most of Union Square is already blocked off from traffic and is basically a big plaza anyway so extending it will only make it better.

Perhaps the most ambitious plan, however, is the DOT's proposal to eliminate most traffic from 34th street. The plan is to have traffic only going one way and to install dedicated bus lanes. Getting across 34th street, either by car or foot, is a nightmare so this will make buses go much faster and hopefully alleviate these bursting streets of people and get traffic across much faster.

It's nice to know that after almost a century of genuflecting and deferring to the automobile, finally pedestrians and public transportation are taking priority, at least in our city government's mind.

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