CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Will ‘Less is More’ Work in New York City?

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.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 26th, 2009 at 4:23 pm and is filed under Cities, Traffic Engineering, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Will ‘Less is More’ Work in New York City?”

  1. Wes Says:

    Great to hear. That intersection did not impress me during my visit. Should make that plaza in the center of those two streets a bit more friendly with traffic noise coming from one less side.

  2. Kelley Says:

    As a New Yorker who avoids Times Square with a vengeance, this may make me go once in a while. The tourists’ image of Times Square may be one of idealized chaos, but the reality is a truly unpleasant mix of too many cars and people. The cars aren’t spending any money in the area, so get em’ off the street and make way for the people.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
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