A sub-theme articulated in Traffic is the “slower is faster principle,” in which reductions in capacity or seeming performance can actually lead to no worse — and often better — outcomes vis a vis traffic flow.
I was thus intrigued to note, via the New York Times:
The city plans to close several blocks of Broadway to vehicle traffic through Times Square and Herald Square, an experiment that would turn swaths of the Great White Way into pedestrian malls and continue Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s effort to reduce traffic congestion in Midtown.
Broadway traffic would also be barred in Herald Square.
Although it seems counterintuitive, officials believe the move will actually improve the overall flow of traffic, because the diagonal path of Broadway tends to disrupt traffic where it intersects with other streets…
… [Jeff Zupan] said Broadway tended to foul up traffic at each intersection with an avenue. To allow for green lights on Broadway, the duration of the green lights on the avenues and cross streets had to be shortened, backing up traffic.
“The lower the volume is on Broadway — or if you eliminate it altogether — then traffic is going to move better,” Mr. Zupan said. “That’s one of the positive things that’s going to come out of this. The win-win is that the space that you’re freeing up will be used by pedestrians.”
What will be gained, depicted below via Streetsblog, is a rare pedestrian refuge (and a shorter, safer pedestrian crossing) in an unwelcoming area where foot-traffic seems to dwarf vehicular traffic. And while the results on traffic flow will certainly be worth following, that of course should not be the only consideration in judging the project’s success or failure. While not as radical perhaps as the early 1970s Madison Avenue pedestrianization, this one may have a better chance of succeeding.