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New York’s pedestrian improvements

Here’s a great video I came across explaining the improvements for pedestrians that have been made in Midtown Manhattan over the past few years.

A few things really stood out for me:

  • That reducing the roadspace didn’t lead to more congestion – in fact the simplified intersections meant less congestion and better flowing streets.
  • That there was a dramatic reduction in pedestrian injuries.
  • That foot traffic increased after the projects were completed, by more than 10% in Times Square (quite an achievement considering the massive numbers already).

What seems to have been the key to the project’s success is that the changes were put in place just temporarily at first – they were “given a go” to see how things went. After watching Campbell Live on Friday discuss pedestrian improvements to Auckland’s City Centre I’m convinced that the next step forwards for Auckland is to try something similar – trial out a few things like pedestrianising parts of Queen Street, perhaps on weekends, perhaps at lunch-times, perhaps permanently. But just give it a go and see what happens.

4 comments to New York’s pedestrian improvements

  • R Lin

    Lots of multi lane one-way streets in central New York – that’s one of the reasons you get ‘simplified intersections’. Unlikely such a change would have been successful if all those streets were two-way. But yes, definitely worth closing parts of Queen St to traffic as a trial, assuming it’s really well publicised, done consistently and regularly (so traffic can get used to the change – there’s bound to be chaos the first time, but drivers will figure it out if it happens regularly), and that activities – markets, food stalls, seating, public art etc. happen at the same time to encourage people to hang around and not just pass through. Although not the best season for it, it’d be great to trial it now and get something sorted for RWC time.

  • obi

    That’s a neat video. In London, Trafalgar Square has improved enormously since they closed and pedestrianised the roundabout sector between the Square and the National Gallery. However, I think that both Times Square and Trafalgar Square have the advantage of being inherently interesting places to want to walk around and hang out in. There is plenty to do and lots of visual interest. I think the closest equivalent space in Auckland is probably around the waterfront, and most of that is already pedestrianised.

  • Nicely shot too…. Obi’s got a point; there is an aspect to Queen St which will forever have something of the dreary covered-over ditch about it methinks….. however I am certain that traffic flow would actually one of the biggest benefits of closing the three blocks of Queen off to traffic. The four east-west routes: Customs, Vic, Wellesley and Mayoral, will all work so much better without the largely pointless turning into the destination free gully of Queen. There really is nowhere to go in a car on Queen, certainly north of Wellesley. Each of those intersections would have vastly improved cycles especially for vehicles crossing to and from the motorways and parking buildings. It should lead to an end to the Barnes’ Dance with NY style crossing with the traffic, assuming there still transit on Queen.

    • obi

      If Times Square is the center of New York and Trafalgar Square is the center of London, then the closest equivalent in Auckland is probably Aotea Square. There really just isn’t any comparison. I think some degree of pedestrianisation is necessary to make a great public space. It just isn’t sufficient on its own. And I’m not sure that you can create such a space by planning… I think a lot of the vibe is created spontaneously by people.

      Getting back to the waterfront… Auckland has a reasonable climate with a gorgeous harbour and I wonder if people will always naturally be drawn to it for day time recreation and socialising rather than to inner city areas.

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