Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lounging in the Middle of Broadway

Posted by Bruce Miller
Phil and I flew up to NYC for auditions last week, and my family joined me for a too short weekend vacation. It was my first trip to the City in several months, and my first chance to experience firsthand Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to transition Broadway from a street of crowded taxis to a more relaxed pedestrian mall.

Since mid-May, Broadway has been closed to traffic from 42nd Street to 47th Street, and the five blocks of vehicle-free asphalt are now crowded with lawn chairs, work tables, benches etc., enabling both natives and tourists to move around freely, or sit and eat, work, relax and/or people watch.

Personally, I loved it. The sidewalks were getting so crowded that the extra elbow room made everything feel much more relaxed. People of all ages, shapes and sizes were spread out doing whatever they chose. Even the Naked Cowboy had more room to share his gifts with the masses.

It seems counterintuitive, but the main reason for the Mayor’s plan is to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown. Officials believe that this new design will actually improve overall traffic flow. Broadway slashes diagonally through the otherwise organized grid of rectangles made by 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Avenues and 42nd, 43rd, 44th, 45th and 46th Streets (etc). Traffic engineers believe that traffic will actually become more manageable once the diagonal slash is removed from the mix.

The one cabbie I encountered HATED it, and insisted that the engineers didn’t know their T-squares from telephone poles. Since the new traffic pattern has been in place since mid-May, his opinion must be informed. But from a pedestrian perspective, the new design felt very user friendly.

Have you been to the City this summer? What did you think?

--Bruce Miller

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