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NYC businesses consider reducing car traffic

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  • kiwehtin
    A recent New York Times article referred to in the CoolTowns blog: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/18/nyregion/18traffic.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3 9:41 AM
      A recent New York Times article referred to in the CoolTowns blog:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/18/nyregion/18traffic.html?
      ex=1289970000&en=a485a8a91cab8fdd&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

      Business Groups Hear Plea: Do Something to Cut Traffic


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      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
      peak hours.

      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
      reducing traffic.

      "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-
      life issue."

      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."



      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada
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