Today's Los Angeles Times published a mostly glowing review of the crown jewel of New York's recent efforts to make the Big Apple a more-friendly city to cyclists and pedestrians by Tina Susman. While the story isn't a new one for regular readers of all the Streetsblogs, and perhaps an uninteresting one for those who's advocacy efforts don't extend outside of Los Angeles; there's a lot that can be learned from the piece.
First, Susman does give space to the minority of New Yorkers who don't support closing Times Square to vehicular traffic. After the NYCDOT announced their plans to close the square, the Car Culture warriors coined the term "Carmagedddon" to describe what would happen to New York's streets when a sliver of it was given over to people instead of cars. Today, all they can offer was that the car-free Times Square hasn't made traffic any better...as though that's the only reason to make changes in the transportation system. The only people that say car traffic is worse are cabbies who have to driver longer routes.
Speaking forcefully against the plan is a political rival of Mayor Bloomberg's who complains that it is " it was unfair to punish drivers" by taking away "their" road space. It's a shame that the councilman can't see of the car-free Times Square for what it is, the opening of public space to everyone to use; including the minority of New Yorkers that own private automobiles. That explains why New Yorkers overwhelmingly approve of a car-free Times Square.
The other complaint is that taking cars off the road and increasing pedestrian traffic is bad for business. Foot traffic is up over 50% on both weekends and weekdays in Times Square, and the business-friendly Times Square Alliance forcefully backs the plan.
The question that isn't addressed is that if car-free Times Square is such a hit in New York, why isn't a plan like this even on the radar for our Downtown? The closest the Times comes to an explanation is this:
There are about 6,375 miles of paved streets, including the sidewalks,in New York City, whose population is 8.9 million, according to thetransportation department. Los Angeles, with a population of 3.8million and far fewer walkers, has 10,000 miles.
Based on these figures there is somewhere over 8.8 million walkers in New York as opposed to nearly 3.8 million walkers in Los Angeles. With over 50% more streets serving less than half as many people; it shouldn't be such a challenge to turn over some of that car-only real estate for everyone to use.