Yesterday Mayor Bloomberg of New York City made an historic announcement that will have wide-reaching implications for street design and public space transformation around the country.
Broadway in Times Square (42nd St. to 47th St) and Herald Square (33rd St. to 35th St) will now be permanently closed to traffic. What initially started as an experiment to improve public safety and traffic flow in May 2009 is being widely touted as an outstanding success.
The result? Traffic speeds are up on diverted routes, pedestrian and motorist injuries have plummeted (down 63%), businesses are benefiting from increased foot traffic, noise pollution is down and the area is dominated by people rather than modes of transportation.
The move to make these stretches of Broadway permanently car-free is supported by 74% of people who work in the area, according to a survey conducted by the Times Square Alliance.
Take a look at the stark difference in the Before and After pictures of Times Square:
The transformation has widespread support from the business community as well and was called “a 21st century idea” by Dan Biederman, director of the 34th Street Partnership (thanks to Streetsblog).
Last October I argued that temporary transformation is a more effective and legitimate way to gauge public opinion:
“People are used to roads and streets and public space being devoted to cars. That’s why it is essential to make the changes initially and give people the opportunity to feel and experience the delight of a public plaza and then to vote. New York and San Francisco are making temporary changes to demonstrate the value of returning space to people and have promised to return them to business as usual if that’s what people want.”
I’ll repeat: If you build cities for cars, you get cars. If you build cities for people, you get people.
New York did this and people love it. The rest of the country should begin following suit immediately.