NYC businesses consider reducing car traffic
- A recent New York Times article referred to in the CoolTowns blog:
Business Groups Hear Plea: Do Something to Cut Traffic
By SEWELL CHAN
Published: November 18, 2005
Ideas for reducing car traffic - including the politically volatile
notion of charging drivers for entering the busiest Manhattan streets
- gained momentum yesterday during a meeting of leaders of the city's
business improvement districts.
Jan Gehl, a Danish architect whose fervent advocacy of bicycle lanes,
pedestrian walkways and restrictions on car use have made him
renowned among urban planners, addressed leaders of the districts,
and several city officials, on the need to reduce the automobile's
dominance of public spaces.
The talk, held at a Times Square theater, was attended by Iris
Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner, and Amanda M.
Burden, the chairwoman of the City Planning Commission. It occurred
as private groups have floated the notion of congestion pricing:
charging drivers who enter the city's busiest neighborhoods during
The Partnership for New York City, the city's largest chamber of
commerce, is completing a study of how congestion pricing might work,
but Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has distanced himself from that
effort. Neither Ms. Weinshall nor Ms. Burden spoke about congestion
charges at the meeting, and Mr. Gehl was careful to say only that the
idea should be studied in New York.
Several business development officials who attended said they felt
emboldened to urge the city to take a more aggressive approach to
"Downtown Brooklyn is small and fully developed, and we need to
continue bringing in downtown shoppers," said Jerry Armer, the
director of services at the MetroTech Business Improvement District.
"We need to make the ambience of the street more enjoyable and more
of a meeting space for people to socialize, so there's a feeling of
camaraderie and community."
Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance business
district, said he was intrigued by congestion pricing. "In the core
of Times Square, there is no doubt about the need to create more
space for pedestrians," he said. "In one October afternoon a couple
of years ago, between 3 and 7 p.m. we counted 4,000 people walking
literally in the street, in traffic lanes, because the sidewalks were
too crowded. It is clearly a safety issue as well as a quality-of-
Karen H. Shaw, the executive director of the Union Square
Partnership, said the surge in business and residential activity
south of 14th Street had been accompanied by constant congestion.
She said it was too soon to tell whether congestion pricing was
politically feasible. "Anybody who lives or works in or visits the
city knows the city is just bursting at the seams," she said, "but
it's a complicated topic, and I wouldn't presume to know the best way
to deal with it."
Mr. Gehl, a professor of urban planning in the School of Architecture
of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, is an advocate of
Copenhagen's decades-old strategy of discouraging driving by reducing
the number of parking spaces and designating traffic lanes for bus
and bicycle use.
He is also intimately involved in transportation planning in London,
which in 2003 began charging drivers a daily fee to enter the
financial district, and he has spoken provocatively about pedestrians
and cyclists' "reconquering" streets from motorists. His talk was
organized by the Times Square Alliance and by Transportation
Alternatives, an advocacy group for pedestrians and cyclists.
In an interview afterward, Mr. Gehl echoed the sentiments of the
business district leaders. "I have the feeling that not too much has
happened here with the aesthetic quality of the city - the feeling of
moving around it - as in other cities," he said. "Automobiles have
invaded our cities and squeezed everyone else to the side."
Montreal QC Canada