New York: Pedestrian Plazas

The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) removed two of four vehicular lanes along Broadway between Columbus Circle and Union Square in Midtown Manhattan (a distance of 2 miles) and built a buffered bicycle lane and pedestrian plazas using temporary materials like textured paint and roadway markings in the newly freed roadway space. This reallocation of street space was one of many traffic-flow adjustments through Midtown Manhattan that included left- turn restrictions at specific intersections, new turn-only lanes, and the closing off of Broadway to traffic within Times Square, Herald Square, and Madison Square.

NYCDOT conducted a feasibility analysis that indicated these proposed changes would improve traffic flow on Sixth and Seventh Avenues and increase safety along Broadway. Closing sections of Broadway at these major avenues shortened crossing distances for pedestrians and helped streamline traffic into more predictable patterns to reduce crash rates and pedestrian-vehicular conflicts. NYCDOT collected extensive data on travel times, traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes, and traffic accidents in the months just prior and following project implementation—including data from GPS units in taxis.

According to this data, the project is delivering on its expectations. Findings show that travel speeds for northbound trips throughout West Midtown improved 17% while southbound trips fell by 2%. Travel speeds for eastbound trips increased by 5% and westbound trips by 9%. Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project area decreased by 63%, and pedestrian injuries fell by 35%. The number of people walking in Times Square grew by 11%, and pedestrian volumes increased by 6% in Herald Square. The number of pedestrians walking in the roadway on Seventh Ave. decreased by 80% in Times Square.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.