http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/02/11/b ... ore-147631
Bloomberg, Sadik-Khan Commit to a World-Class, 21st Century Broadway
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and leaders from the Midtown business community announced this morning that the new public spaces along Broadway will become permanent features of the city's landscape now that an eight-month trial period has ended. The city will seek to build on the trial project's success by creating, in the mayor's words, "an enduring, world-class" street in the heart of Manhattan.
After weighing a dramatic decline in traffic injuries and data from millions of taxi trips showing an average seven percent increase in west Midtown traffic speeds, Bloomberg characterized the results of the trial as very encouraging. Safety improvements alone, he noted, were "reason enough to make this permanent."
In a rather extraordinary Q&A session that followed the announcement, Bloomberg fended off several questions from reporters who expressed skepticism that overall traffic speeds had improved. The mayor did not shy from the chance to frame pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements in a way that New Yorkers rarely hear from their elected officials.
“Are the roads for multiple uses -- everybody, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists,” he asked, “or are they just for motorists?”
With more space to walk and socialize and fewer pedestrian conflicts with streams of traffic, public opinion of the area has swung upwards by a large margin. Surveys conducted by the Times Square Alliance revealed that 74 percent of people who work in the area today are satisfied with the experience of Times Square, compared to 43 percent in 2007. Three-to-one majorities of respondents -- both New Yorkers and suburbanites -- said they wanted the changes to be made permanent.
The transformation was aptly summed up by Dan Biederman, director of the 34th Street Partnership. "This is a 21st century idea," he said. "The 20th century idea was three lanes of noisy, annoying traffic."
Sadik-Khan, who called the observed improvements "an example of the results we want to deliver on the streets of New York citywide," said DOT would "move immediately to transform the plazas into iconic spaces worthy of their iconic setting." The permanent design of the plazas will incorporate new pavements, new seating, and event spaces
At one point, the prevalence of reporters’ questions about traffic prompted Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins to step up to the microphone. "I just want to say that the overwhelming majority of people who come to Times Square are not driving,” he said.
The new Broadway has succeeded because it functions much better for that supermajority of walkers and transit-riders. And don’t think other neighborhoods haven’t noticed. “There are other parts of the city where we are getting lots of calls from merchants who want the same kind of thing,” Bloomberg said. The widespread embrace of the historic re-purposing of Broadway, he later added, “gives you confidence in Janette’s innovation. It’s also building acceptance among the public, when they see that something new has worked.”