Beyond Bloomy's Broadway
A vision of the future of Manhattan
By Annie Karni
Now that Mayor Bloomberg has permanently banned cars from Times Square -- transforming one of the world's busiest intersections into a pedestrian plaza -- city officials and transportation experts are mulling the Next Big Transportation Thing.
Besides continuing to favor congestion pricing -- charging drivers to enter Manhattan south of 86th Street during peak hours -- Bloomberg has hinted that more traffic changes are possible.
"It doesn't mean one size fits all," the mayor said of the Times Square experiment. "But I think it's encouraging that we're getting merchants from other parts of the city saying, 'Can you please do this for us as well?' "
While the city is keeping mum on what's next, transportation advocacy groups have plenty of ideas. The Post asked some experts to weigh in on the future of Manhattan, particularly below 59th Street (the southern edge of Central Park), to give us a peek beyond Bloomy's Broadway.
Jeffrey Zupan, senior fellow for transportation for the Regional Plan Association; Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives; and George Haikalis, founder of Auto-Free New York, weigh in on what's possible and what they dream about.
Second Avenue Subway
The long-awaited Second Avenue subway line would ease congestion on the crowded 4, 5, and 6 lines by providing another East Side line that would run from 125th Street to the Financial District in lower Manhattan. The first phase of construction, which started in 2007, would add new stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets. The completion date for the $4.45 billion first-phase has been pushed back to 2017.
Group-Share Taxi Stands
The Taxi & Limousine Commission recently rolled out its first group-share taxi stands, which would save New Yorkers money by sharing a cab and keep taxis moving faster on the streets. Eventually, the pilot program is expected to be rolled out at: Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, West 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, East 72nd Street and Third Avenue, West 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.
Expanded East River Ferry Service
The city's Economic Development Corporation is putting the finishing touches on a study that would expand the city's commuter ferry system along the East River by 2011, a spokesman said. The current ferry service between lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Army Terminal would be expanded to include stops in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City and connect to Pier 11 and East 34th Street in Manhattan. Ferries would service about 1,700 commuters a day, according to the EDC, which is also studying the feasibility of extending ferry service to Coney Island.
Bike Share South of 59th Street
Cribbing the idea from Paris, Mayor Bloomberg has expressed interest in bringing a bike share program to Manhattan. The plan would make 10,000 public bikes available south of 59th Street, for a nominal fee that would be cheaper than hopping on the subway or a bus. The city has already undertaken a feasibility study and is currently looking into the possibility, a DOT spokesman said.
The bikes would be kept in docking stations along the curb that would replace parking spots and cycling advocates are pushing for hundreds of stations where any bike could be picked up or returned.
Banning Cars from Fulton and Nassau Streets
The Financial District's narrow shopping streets are already closed to traffic during the lunchtime pedestrian rush. But Zupan said that permanently banning cars from Fulton Street between East Broadway and Water Street, and transforming the busy stretch of Nassau Street between the Brooklyn Bridge and Wall Street into a pedestrian-only plaza, would make the catacomb streets more livable. "Drivers don't use those streets much anyway and there's a large density of foot traffic," said Zupan, pointing to the pedestrian-only segment of Broad Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange as a model. The permanent plazas would be re-paved and decorated with umbrellas, planters and room for restaurants to spill out on the sidewalk, in Zupan's plan. "People in lower Manhattan don't have a lot of parkland. Right now the only open space is the cemetery at Trinity Church. You have to sit with the dead if you want to sit outside."
Bus-Only Route Along 34th and 42nd Street
The city's Transportation Department is studying the feasibility of an express bus route along 34th Street -- the plan would close the crosstown thoroughfare to cars between Fifth and Sixth avenues. Doing the same thing along 42nd Street would help connect Grand Central and the Port Authority.
Pedestrian Plaza for TriBeCa
Advocates see an opportunity to create park space for the dense neighborhood of TriBeCa at the congested corner where West Broadway connects to Varick Street, also known as Finn Square. Converting that block of West Broadway into a car-free plaza would "help create a refuge in a neighborhood with little open space," White said. "A treatment like Times Square -- gravel, chairs, benches, umbrellas, would be a place to start."
Banning Cars on Astor Place between Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue
NYU-ridden Astor Place is another traffic snarl that could be turned into a pleasant park area, said Zupan. Banning cars on Astor Place between Lafayette and Fourth Avenue would open up a pedestrian plaza in front of Cooper Union. "There's no good place to sit there right now," said Zupan. "You'd open up a 200-by-40 foot parklet."
"Closing one direction of Broadway between Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle is a real possibility," said Zupan. Under the plan, Broadway traffic would be diverted to Ninth Avenue.
The current crosswalk in front of Lincoln Center is an accident waiting to happen, said Zupan: the short light often leaves pedestrians stranded in the middle of the wide street.
"You could also enlarge the park in front of Lincoln Center. It could be a more interesting and larger gathering place," Zupan added. A spokesman for the transportation department said there are currently no plans to close Broadway at Lincoln Center. But Zupan isn't giving up hope. "We have a mayor and a commissioner who are open to these ideas," he said. "Who knows what the next mayor will bring. Let's sneak it in at the end of the administration."
Changing the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph citywide
At 30 miles per hour -- the current speed limit in most of Manhattan -- there's a 45% chance of a fatal crash, according to Transportation Alternatives. When the speed limit is reduced to 20 miles per hour, that rate drops to 5%. The group is currently in conversations with the city about improving safety, a city spokesman said.
Crosstown Physically Protected Bike Lanes
The city instituted the first-ever physically protected bike lanes -- safe corridors for cyclists that are separated from the traffic flow by a barrier or a row of parked cars -- in 2007 on Ninth Avenue between 14th and 31st streets, Eighth Avenue between 14th and 23rd streets, and along Broadway between 25th Street and Columbus Circle. Plans are in the works to install the bike lanes along First and Second avenues later this year, transportation officials said.
Advocates are lobbying for safe cross-town travel as well. "We would like to see physically protected bike lanes across town: from river to river along 14th Street and 34th Street," White said.
PIE IN THE SKY
In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg announced that Manhattan would follow in the steps of London and start a three-year congestion pricing pilot program. The scheme would charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan south of 86th Street during peak hours. The money raised would go to fund mass transit. But the proposal was killed in 2008 by Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver.
But our stubborn mayor hasn't given up yet. "I don't think congestion pricing, or those kind of things, are dead," Bloomberg said in an interview from Copenhagen in December. "Come March, [the state is] going to have to balance a budget and I think any kind of revenue source will be on the table . . . if we had done congestion pricing two years ago, perhaps they wouldn't be in this situation."
Second Subway Station on the No. 7 Extension
The extension of the No. 7 subway line is under way -- tunnel boring machines have carved through 10 city blocks, extending the line to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, near the Javits Convention Center. The project is scheduled for completion in 2013.
But now the city's real estate interests are lobbying for a second station to be built at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.
42nd Street Light Rail
Some dreamers think the best way to reduce congestion on Manhattan's crowded streets is to replace car and bus lanes with light rail transit tracks--a throwback to the streetcars that used to run in Manhattan. Haikalis has long been advocating for an auto-free light rail boulevard that would run along 42nd Street and eventually be expanded to create a loop around the island. Haikalis estimates that the 61-mile light rail system, which would eventually stretch from lower Manhattan to the far West Side, would cost an estimated $12.2 billion -- about $200 million per mile to construct. The price tag might be unaffordable for a city facing a budget crisis, but Haikalis points out that a five-mile loop would cost $1 billion -- less than half the cost of the No. 7 subway extension that is currently under construction.
Submitted by volunteer on March 3, 2010 - 16:48. categories [ ]