PLAZAS & OBSTACLES

It’s often been said that “No one drives in Manhattan…there’s too much traffic.” This is a pretty fair assessment of NYC’s traffic-snarled state of affairs, where pedestrian traffic often moves faster than vehicular traffic.  A problem that has increased with the inexorable passage of time, the unrelenting influx of people, the preponderance of motor vehicles and the inadequacy of existing streets to cope with the situation. Nonetheless, many (residents and tourists alike) have come to grudgingly accept and perversely admire our traffic congestion as an intrinsic part of life in New York; indeed, an ambiance that’s evocative of art as well as neurosis.

However, our majestic Mayor Bloomberg has once again demonstrated that he doesn’t share our grudging acceptance and perverse admiration of traffic in the Big Apple. The Mayor now intends to transform Herald Square into yet another pedestrian plaza similar to the one in Times Square.

Cross-town traffic running between Herald Square and the Empire State Building on 34th Street will flow parallel to the pedestrian plaza on two one-way streets towards the East or Hudson Rivers. A two-way, two-lane bus zone, separated by concrete barriers, will bisect the plaza and (according to planners) will reduce transit time by 35 percent; it will be the only bus service below 42nd Street traveling cross-town. Hence, pedestrians (mostly tourists) will be allowed to casually stroll, lounge and sight-see along one of Manhattan’s most interesting vicinities without being inconvenienced by cars, trucks, etc.

On the surface, this all sounds great, right? Manhattan gets another European-style plaza full of chairs and cafes and busses will run faster. The problem is the plan will utterly screw car drivers throughout the city and residents who live along the street or nearby.

Our fear here is that, while a few midtown office workers will get a nice new place to have lunch and tourists visiting the Empire State Building will get shorter bus rides, the rest of the city will pay with heavier congestion and longer travel times into and out of town while area residents will be inconvenienced by the bus lanes. This is shaping up to be yet another case of Mayor Bloomberg screwing city residents and commuters while merely paying lip service to improving the city’s infrastructure. Jalopnik

While Mayor Bloomberg is eagerly accommodating the few he’s terribly disadvantaging the many. Traffic will be curtailed along Herald Square (as it is in Times Square), but that will only serve to heighten the existing traffic congestion throughout the rest of the city; the diverted traffic will have to go somewhere.  Visitors may find them attractive and convenient, but pedestrian plazas will only prove to be further obstacles to life in a (after all is said and done) commercial city.

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