by Dan Savage
on Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 11:23 AM
Broadway—New York City's Broadway—is a pretty wide street too. And the Bloomberg administration has reduced traffic capacity and closed closed some stretches to traffic entirely, instantly creating new parks and pedestrian zones. It's lovely:
In two years, roughly three and a half miles of the street’s moving lanes have vanished—nearly half of the total between Columbus Circle and Union Square—and in some spots automobile traffic has dropped by a third. Dozens of parking spaces are gone, replaced by bicycle lanes and pedestrian picnic areas. For the first time in New York’s modern era, Broadway no longer offers a continuous path from the Bronx to the Battery. The metamorphosis is set to continue after Labor Day, when the city will remove one of the two remaining driving lanes in the five blocks north of 18th Street by Union Square. By autumn, nearly all of once-bustling Broadway from 33rd to 17th Streets will be reduced to a single lane of moving traffic, save for an occasional stub for left turns.
And city officials are considering a further expansion of the pedestrian space along the corridor, although they say there is no current plan to close it to cars entirely.... Much of the public attention to the changes on Broadway has focused on one element: the pedestrian plazas that banned cars entirely from parts of Times and Herald Squares, creating open-air concrete parks in the center of Manhattan, complete with brightly hued beach furniture.
I realize that Seattle is a super special and totally unique alternate universe and things that work just fine elsewhere—mass transit, district elections, removing elevated urban highways, temporary street closures—can't work here. But arguing that a street is too wide to be closed to traffic is just ridiculous. London's Oxford Street is pretty damn wide too—and closing it to traffic was a hit and now they do it once a year. It works in New York—where chunks of Broadway have been closed permanently—and it works in Chicago. And it'll work here our super special total unique alternative universe.
Here's a proposal: if closing Pike is just too scawy, maybe the city can experiment by closing 10th and 11th between Pike and Pine and then we can see if this sort of thing can actually work here in our universe.
UPDATE: I should've been clearer: I'm not talking about—nor am I in favor of—closing Pike Street or 10th and 11th permanently, a la Westlake in the bad old days. Temporary closures, on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday nights too on three-day weekends. Let food trucks set up in the middle of the street, restaurants can set out tables—people who are drinking should eat—and the city would instantly create a destination nightlife amenity that cost is NOTHING to create besides the price of a few sawhorses at either end of Pike between 12th and Broadway.
Pike between Broadway and 12th is practically impassible now, with the traffic and the crowds on the weekends, and it would be far safer for all—including drivers—if two blocks of the street was closed on the weekends. It's a no-brainer—and just think of the additional taxes it would generate, Mr. Mayor.