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5 CHAPTER 2
INTRODUCTION Statement of the Issue Goals and Objectives of the Study Literature Review Methodology Organization of the Study HISTORICAL 42
PRECEDENTS REGARDING THE TRANSFORMATION OF
§2.1 §2.2 §2.3 §2.4
Regional Plan Association: Urban Design Study of Manhattan, 1969 New York Department of City Planning – Urban Design Group: 42nd Street Study Vision 42 Conclusion
CHAPTER 3 PROCESSES §3.1 §3.2 §3.3 Processes §3.4 CHAPTER 4 CHAPTER 5 §5.1 §5.2
NEW YORK: BENEFITS, ISSUES,
The Potential for Pedestrian Projects in New York City Pedestrian projects in New York: Precedent Studies Pedestrian Projects in New York: Recent Trends & Conclusion RECOMMENDATIONS CONCLUSION Summary of Findings Suggestions for Future Research 42
REGARDING THE PEDESTRIANIZATION OF
CHAPTER 1 || INTRODUCTION §1.1 Statement of the Issue Vision 42 was a proposal to implement a light rail transit system along an auto-free, landscaped 42nd street. It claims to enhance access to the many destinations along 42nd street, as well as to provide for an enhanced pedestrian experience. Its core idea was to have an auto-free light rail boulevard for 42nd Street. The proposal, set forth by the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc., offered a way of increasing the efficiency of the street’s transportation infrastructure. As a proposal that entails an elaborate form of pedestrianization, Vision 42 fits within the larger trend towards the pedestrianization of the public rightof-way in New York. Indeed, across the city, space currently designated to motorized traffic is being reallocated to pedestrians. Despite the benefits of Vision 42, it was not embraced by the city. This was mostly because of political and financial reasons. This is unfortunate, because the context –42nd street and its surroundings—could benefit greatly from having more space for pedestrians. Midtown Manhattan is a heavily congested area, and a major destination for commuters, 85 percent of whom commute to Midtown by train, bus, ferry. Most commuters proceed to their final destination on foot or by local transit. Especially congested is 42nd street, a corridor which connects major destinations and transportation hubs such as the UN, Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park, Times Square, and the P.A. Bus Center with the waterfronts, ferries and new developments at the riverfronts (Warren et al, 2008: p.5). Even though 500,000 pedestrians a day use 42nd street, the allocation of space along 42nd street is currently distributed very inequitably: pedestrians outnumber motorists by 5 to 1, yet travel lanes dedicated to vehicular traffic take up more space than the sidewalks that line them. Some 60 percent of street space allocated to motorists.
42nd Street has also been a very successful corridor in terms of new development—demand for pedestrian space grows with every new development. By 2012, pedestrian volumes in Times Square will have quadrupled compared to 1982. In addition, local (Crosstown) bus access in Midtown is characterized by extremely low travel speeds. The current local bus service on 42nd street is one of the MTA’s busiest lines, yet it is also amongst the slowest in the system. The growing needs for improved transit to either the far west and far east ends of 42nd street cannot be met by the extension of the #7 subway line and the existing subway shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Station (Warren et al, 2008: p.5). Summarizing, the corridor is in need of a more efficient transportation system in general, and more appropriate pedestrian facilities. Vision 42 proposed river-to-river light rail transit, along a 2.5 mile, low-floor light rail line. The total, river-to-river travel time would be 21 minutes with the proposed light rail line. The vision suggested that, ideally, vehicles would be arriving every 3.5 minutes. 16 pairs of stops were proposed, basically one stop at every block (Warren et al, 2008: p.5). The proposal also envisioned a significant expansion of space allocated to pedestrians. Precedents for this have been abundant in the recent history of New York City: the NYC South Street Seaport is a pedestrians-only street in Manhattan that predates the current proposal. Proponents of Vision 42 also pointed out that, today, Washington Square Park is a car-free park (compared to an autoaccessible park in the 1950s). The conversion of both places to car-free streets and parks has gone smooth and has not resulted in major traffic problems (Warren et al, 2008: p.47). Indeed, studies show that traffic is generally quite elastic—when streets are closed, much of the traffic disappears (Cairns, Hass-Klau et al, 1998). Furthermore, current volumes of traffic on 42nd St accounts for less than 5 percent of traffic in the 10-block area which surrounds 42nd street. Traffic
volumes appear to be high, but the volumes are actually lower than perceived. This is because of the inefficient flow of traffic along 42nd street—the corridor is heavily congested (Schwartz, 2005). However inefficient, traffic along 42nd predominantly consists of local traffic—this demonstrates that the corridor does not fulfill an integral role in the wider circulation patterns in Midtown Manhattan (Schwartz, 2005: p. 14). Proponents of Vision 42 point to other cities that have successfully planned auto-free streets which feature light rail. Strasbourg, Zurich, Amsterdam, Gothenburg, Bremen, Kassel, and Montpelier are amongst the cities where light rail transit is operating in the right-of-way of an auto-free environment. In these cities, this configuration has led to a more rapid transit and pedestrian circulation (Warren et al, 2008: p.5). Vision 42 was a widely debated proposal, especially between 2004 and 2007, when technical studies regarding the proposal’s construction, its impact on traffic, and its economic aspects were released. Amongst other findings, economic studies have cautiously estimated the increases in commercial property value along the 42nd street corridor to be around $1 billion (Warren et al, 2008: p.11). In addition, annual economic and fiscal benefits have been estimated to be around $880.1 million annually for the project. An elaborate discussion of the economic benefits of light rail along 42nd street is offered in chapter 3. This makes it that the economic aspects of the project is highly favorable; construction costs are far exceeded by the economic and fiscal benefits. The problem, however, is that none of these economic and fiscal benefits occur without making the significant expense that would be required for the construction of the light rail transit system along the 42nd street corridor. This is indeed a well-known issue in transportation planning; officials have struggled to balance the demands of building transit and stimulating development simultaneously (Clark-Madison, 2008: p.15). Light rail has been known to stimulate development, yet it difficult to pinpoint when developments have reached the extent at which investments in light rail
access to those developments is justified. This explains why Transit-Oriented development, the construction of transportation facilities in tandem with development, has been popular since the 1980s (Clark-Madison, 2008: p.15). Despite the economic study, which has shown that the proposal would have a minimal negative effect on traffic in the immediate area around 42nd street, as well as indicated its potential economic benefits to the area, the proposal has not been adopted by policymakers. The current, congested condition of the 42nd street remains, and alternative strategies of improving the efficiency of the transportation system along the 42nd street corridor must be investigated. The current trend towards the pedestrianization of select streets in New York City offers successful examples to study and emulate. §1.2 Goals and objectives of the study The purpose of this study, therefore, is to explore different approaches to pedestrianization in large cities, in order to make recommendations for a feasible approach to transforming 42nd street in Manhattan into a pedestrian friendly and efficient route. The specific objectives of this study are as follows:
Through a literature review, demonstrate the benefits of multimodal planning in general and pedestrianization in particular, as well as identify issues and benefits, and recent trends in pedestrianization of major streets
Review theory and practices in incremental planning, and tactical planning as a way to spark more permanent, large-scale transformations of the environment
Review previous proposals for transformation of 42nd street w/ a focus on Vision 42. Through secondary sources, review and assess the effectiveness of other pedestrianization projects in NYC
Develop recommendations about the design and implementation process for the pedestrianization of 42nd Street
§1.3 Literature Review The literature review will contain the following components:
The relevance of planning for pedestrians and for a multimodal transportation system Issues, benefits, and recent trends in the Pedestrianization of major streets The role of incremental planning
§1.3.1 The relevance of planning for pedestrians and for a multimodal transportation system It is a well known fact that there is a symbiotic relationship between transportation on one hand, and urban design and city planning on the other. Some form of relationship between the two has been implicit, if not explicitly recognized, in most cities (Cresswell, 1979: p.7). As cities have been trying to adapt to mechanized transportation (such as automobile transportation) during the 20th century, difficult situations often had to be negotiated. The increasing mobility which resulted when mechanized transportation became more widespread, has in turn resulted in a growing separation of activity areas, which has been further promoted by traditional zoning codes. Urban sprawl thus became more prominent, essentially. (Cresswell, 1979: p.2). The United States has been known to be one of the most automobiledependent societies in the world. The national love affair with the private automobile has affected city planning and urban development to an extent where many cities and urban areas are designed in an auto-centric manner. To the contrary, in many urbanized areas in the United States’ peer countries (countries such as Canada, Australia, and European Countries), streets have been designed in such a way as to provide pedestrians with more protection (Vuchic, 2005: p.1). Indeed, it is often true that the design of urban areas stimulates people to walk. High density development, for instance, improves
walkability for a variety of reasons. Higher density developments typically are characterized by a higher proximity of amenities, which is crucial in establishing a pedestrian friendly environment (Tilth et al, 2007: p. 376). Furthermore, density creates a concentration of people and places, making walking easier, attractive and accessible. Looking specifically at older adults, Fuhzong et al contend that residential density and employment density promote walkability (Fuhzong et al, 2005: p. 560). Also, mixed-use development patterns influence the likelihood someone will walk for transportation. Land use patterns, specifically mixed-use development, increase the likelihood of utility walking (Forsyth et al, 2009: p.47). Cities in Europe have been designed with the pedestrian experience in mind. European cities have countless pedestrian-only streets and public squares and plazas; these two combined compose the auto-free zones of European cities (particularly city centers) which frequently are being expanded (Vuchic, 2005: p.1). Indeed, pedestrianization advocates in the 1960s shared the notion that the salvation of the city center lies in the deterring of motorists and in ‘restoring’ streets and squares to pedestrians (Liebbrand, 1970: p.87). Vulkan Vuchic argues: “[…] the more an area relies on transit and walking, the greater is its advantage over suburbs with respect to transportation choices, convenience, and overall cost of travel. The more an urbanized area relies on the automobile and neglects its alternatives, the more likely it is that its central areas will deteriorate” (Vuchic, 2005: p.3) How to support, and plan for, automobile transportation has been a concern for cities since the early 20th century. As car ownership became more widespread during the 1920s and 1930s, public authorities in the United States primarily were occupied with accommodating highway traffic; the importance of pedestrian circulation to the livability of cities was virtually ignored (Vuchic, 2005: p. 9). Since the space requirements of the private automobile are rather great compared to the space requirements of travel by any other mode of transportation, the fact that planning was rather
automobile-centric has resulted in a situation where much land of the American metropolitan areas has been devoted to automobile transportation. The space requirements of the automobile also magnified the problem of congestion, particularly in mid-sized and large cities (Vuchic, 2005: p.6). This line of thinking in transportation planning contested by other paradigms in urban and regional planning. In effect, three different approaches to the relationship between cities, urban design and transportation can be distinguished (Vuchic, 2005: pp.11-14):
1. Restricting auto travel to fit the city: essentially, it entails the
preservation of the human scale and character of cities, whilst shielding it from the negative side effects of planning for motorized traffic.
2. Reconstructing the city to accommodate maximum automobile travel:
when planning for extensive automobile traffic, a city essentially attempts to build itself a way out of congestion. The impact of pursuing this policy on a city’s livability is considered secondary to the ability to travel by automobile. 3. Balance development: cities are considered as a complex system which supports a variety of activities and functions, including transportation. A city functions optimally when all its activities and functions are coordinated (Vuchic, 2005: pp. 11-14). In transportation planning practice, the United States has adhered to the second paradigm since the 1920s and 1930s. However, since the 1950s, the U.S. has pursued it with an ever-increasing intensity, largely due to the enactment of important legislation for highway construction (Vuchic, 2005: p.14). This legislation got passed because of pressure from the oil and auto industry. The infrastructure required to support massive automobile travel (such as highways, parking facilities, and fuel stations) required an ever-increasing amount of urban land. In the process, pedestrian circulation has been severely disregarded in the design and operation of streets, public spaces,
and plazas (Vuchic, 2005: p.14). Since the 1950s, “all other modes have been practically eliminated from consideration in designing new developments and towns” (Vuchic, 2005: p.16). Indeed, traditional street classification systems have been focused exclusively on two functions of streets: vehicular access to adjacent properties and vehicular movement. This paradigm in transportation planning and engineering has produced a traffic hierarchy of streets, consisting of arterials, collector roads and local streets. These classifications that are based on the volumes of vehicular traffic a street is designed for, however, neglects other travel needs such as access to transit, safe sidewalks and bikeways (Metro, 2002: p.1). An arterial street, for instance, reaches a congested state when the number of cars traveling on it carry between 700 and 1,400 persons per hour (Vuchic, 2005: p.35). Other negative impacts of automobile traffic in urban areas include the negative environmental impacts, as well as the social costs that are created by congestion (Vuchic, 2005: p.35). According to Vuchic (2005: pp.35-36), extensive reliance on the car has a negative, long-term effect on the character and the physical form of urban areas. This statement is echoed by Preston (2005, p.27) who states that the unbounded outward growth of cities was facilitated by the automobile. This, in turn, leads to a deterioration of human-oriented towns and cities, weakened social relationships, more pollution, greater segregation of social groups, and a higher impact on urban infrastructure (Vuchic ,2005: pp.35-36). Furthermore, the practice of automobile-centric transportation planning has resulted in a decrease in the livability of American cities. Indeed, “The more accommodations for the car are provided (highways, streets, parking), the less attractive the city is for people” (Vuchic, 2005, p.73). Rather than planning solely for one mode of transportation, it is desirable that multiple modes are taken into account. It is impossible for only one mode of transportation to meet the full spectrum of transportation demands of urban areas, especially larger urban areas. Hence why it is essential for metropolitan transportation systems to consist of a number of complimentary modes (Vuchic, 2005: p.88).
The environmental effects associated with automobile transportation are also problematic. The transportation sector uses around 70% of the petroleum consumption of the U.S. Automotive transportation drives the U.S. demand for petroleum; around 80% of the domestic consumption of petroleum is used by automobiles, light trucks, and heavy trucks (Garrison, 2000: p. 153). Securing a steady supply of petroleum for the domestic market has created bothersome political and military concerns (Garrison et al, 2000: p.150). Furthermore, the fragility of the supply of petroleum has resulted in scarcity, which breeds higher prices (Garrison, 2000: p.163). Indeed, in times of fuel scarcity, the limits of an automotive-based transportation system are exposed. Another bothersome aspect of energy consumption, or petroleum consumption, are the emissions that are tied to it. As the sunlight works on some of the aggregate of the emissions, smog is created. Not only does this smog have adverse health effects, the emissions themselves do too. Perhaps the most problematic aspect of automotive transportation, is the fact that it produces carbon dioxide. Worldwide, automotive transportation is responsible for one-third of the total carbon dioxide emissions. As a greenhouse gas, the emission of carbon dioxide contributes to global warming (Garrison et al, 2000: p.150). This has pressed transportation planners and policymakers alike to look for more sustainable transportation solutions for their cities. As the negative externalities of the automotive transportation system become ever-more exposed, awareness of the urgency of creating a well-balanced transportation system grows. Often neglected in urban planning and design in especially those cities which have been primarily concerned with highway transportation, walking (and providing facilities for walking) is an essential component of livable cities (Vuchic, 2005: p.88). Neglecting to plan for pedestrians in urban areas makes these places less safe (Vuchic, 2005: p.25). By contrast, cities that have been primarily concerned with enhancing livability have touted the importance of pedestrian activity. In combination with pedestrian traffic, public transit contributes to a city’s human character, as well as increases the city’s appeal and its overall efficiency. Transit is
particularly important in serving the transportation demands in mid-sized and larger cities (Vuchic, 2005: p.88). There are benefits to having a multimodal system vis-à-vis having a unimodal system. The investment and operating costs are lower with a multimodal system. In addition, they offer every person a means of mobility. Also, such metropolitan areas are generally characterized by a more human-scaled physical environment—vis-à-vis an auto-centric environment which can be rather unwalkable (Vuchic, 2005: p.89). Indeed, multimodal transportation planning – planning for auto transportation, transit systems, and pedestrians and bicycles in a balanced manner—has been recognized as a primary goal for urban areas, based on the experience of progressive cities including Zurich, Vancouver, Copenhagen and Melbourne (Vuchic, 2005: p.27). Cities that value multimodal transportation systems recognize the social equity aspects of transportation and the need to offer the complete population a means of mobility (Vuchic, 2005: p.27). Accordingly, planners have been asking themselves whether public transit for instance should be meeting the mobility requirements of the whole community or if it should merely provide minimum mobility for those individuals that are unable to provide themselves with private mobility; in providing adequate and more elaborate public transit, the equity aspects of transportation planning are acknowledged (Cresswell, 1979: p.9). Public transit’s low space requirement per passenger trip makes it that transit is ideally suited for transporting large volumes of passengers in metropolitan areas with a wide array of activities. The car, due to its high space consumption, is at a disadvantage in such areas (Vuchic, 2005: p.39). Indeed, “Transit represents the only transportation system that makes it possible to have large cities that both function efficiently and have human character” (Vuchic, 2005: p. 39). With the global rise of the urban sustainability movement, planners have, amongst other things, been providing new visions for transit-oriented urban villages, pedestrian-scaled developments, traffic calming, and bicycle
facilities. Neo-traditional planning principles that emphasize genuine streets where people meet and children play, and provide short distances to shops and schools from residences have been touted by planners across the U.S. (Newman and Kenworthy, 1991: pp. 291-292). This shift is confirmed by what Preston et al describe as the emergence of a sustainable transportation system. Comparing emergent sustainable transportation planning practices to what is defined as “business as usual”, Preston et al (2010) note that sustainable transportation emphasizes plurality (multi-modality), whereas “business as usual” emphasizes uni-modality, or automobility. Multimodal streets are sometimes referred to as “complete streets”: “A complete street is defined as a street that works for motorists, for bus riders, for bicyclists, and for pedestrians, including people with disabilities” (McCann, 2005: p.1). Following the passage of the Transportation Equity Act of 1998, the federal department of transportation issued a design guidance document titled “Accomodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel”. The guidance document states that facilities for bicycling and walking will have to be incorporated into all transportation projects, unless there are exceptional circumstances (McCann, 2005: p.2). This indicates a growing shift towards multimodal streets. Hamilton-Baillie (2008: p.130) states that this new tendency to reconcile the relationship between the public realm (including sidewalks) and traffic, which is also often labeled as the “shared streets” movement, represents a significant shift from traditional policy and practice. In order for shared streets to come about, the principles of conventional traffic engineering must be abandoned. Only then are multiple usages of streets fostered and do streets become spaces for social activity as well as for movement (Hamilton-Baillie, 2008: p.137). A well-balanced transportation system is especially important given the fact that, in recent years, both transit ridership and bicycling trips have increased significantly in the United States. A 2009 study on the integration of bicycling
and public transport in North America indicates that public transport trips rose by 38% since 1995 and bicycle commute trips to work increased by 32 percent since 1990 in the United States (Pucher and Buehler, 2009: pp. 79103). Now that the shortcomings of automobile-oriented planning, the relevance of planning for pedestrians, as well as the merits of multimodal transportation systems have been discussed, the following paragraphs identify issues and benefits, and recent trends in pedestrianization of major streets. Since Vision 42 is essentially a vision of a multimodal transportation system for 42nd street (and 34th street as well in its more elaborate proposal) centered around the concept of an auto-free boulevard, a discussion of similar pedestrian facilities is relevant. Furthermore, design solutions which integrate multiple alternative modes, such as the transit mall which integrates transit in an auto-free corridor, will also be discussed. Transit malls are particularly relevant since they are essentially the category of planning interventions that Vision 42 falls into: auto-free corridors with rapid transit. §1.3.2. Issues, benefits, and recent trends in the Pedestrianization of major streets Pedestrian traffic is an essential component of a balanced transportation system. According to Vuchic (2005, p.31), “walking, or pedestrian traffic, represents the basic, ubiquitous mode of travel that is by far the most efficient means of transport for shortdistance trips”. People tend to walk more and longer distances in attractive urban areas, and in areas which are characterized by transportation terminals, major building complexes, public squares and shopping streets (areas such as Midtown Manhattan) (Vuchic, 2005: 31). Walking typically still is faster than driving for any trip of up to 1,300 feet. Due to its superiority for short trips in highdensity areas, it is imperative that pedestrian facilities are designed for the
utmost convenience, safety, and attraction to pedestrians in order for these facilities to attract users and to function efficiently. Pedestrian facilities in such areas deserve preferential treatment over vehicular traffic (Vuchic, 2005: p.31). Pedestrian malls are a primary example of a high-quality facility for pedestrian traffic. At its core, a pedestrian mall is a busy corridor or primary street that has been pedestrianized to a lesser or a greater extent. In the years after world war 2, an increased urban growth, affluence, large numbers of motor vehicles, and a dense urban fabric with a fairly large residential population caused pedestrian-only areas to be developed in western European cities (Rubenstein, 1992: p. 14). Cities, such as Cologne, set early examples and paved the way for an exponential growth in the number of pedestrian malls in Germany alone. The number of pedestrian-only areas (typically starting out as pedestrian malls and sometimes extended to include surrounding streets) went from over 60 in 1966 to 800 by 1980 (Rubenstein, 1992: p.14). Rubenstein (1992: p. 21) distinguishes three different types of pedestrian mall; the pedestrian mall, the semi-mall and the transit mall. For the purpose of this study, only the pedestrian mall and the transit mall will be discussed, as the semi-mall is simply a less elaborate form of a full mall or a transit mall which incorporates vehicular access. the Full Mall, obtained by closing a street to vehicular traffic, and improving the street with street trees, new paving, street furniture and other improvements. The Full Mall should provide visual unity along its entire length, and create an image and sense of place for its respective downtown area the Transit Mall, developed by removing vehicular traffic on an existing principal retail street and allowing only public transit such as light rail or busses in the area. The transit mall functions as a core retail street of the downtown area. On-site parking is prohibited, sidewalks are widened, and a specially designed streetscape is provided to create a unique image for the area.
Many American cities were experimenting with the pedestrianization of streets in their CBDs as well (Freemark, 2010). The most common experiment was the instigation of the full mall, which essentially is a street lined with storefronts and closed off to most automobile traffic (Waller, 1998). As the unpleasantness of automobile exhaust fumes and the danger that vehicular traffic posed to bicyclists and pedestrians became widely recognized from the mid-1950s into the 1970s, the time became ripe for experimentation with car-free streets as well as centrally-located commercial zones, which were deemed to be an appropriate setting for such experiments (Waller, 1998). The assumption was that retail would thrive by forcing motor vehicles off the downtown business corridors, just as it was thriving in new, large-scale indoor shopping malls that were being built in suburban areas. Evidence from large cities Europe demonstrated that fully pedestrianized streets can, in fact, be very successful. In Copenhagen, shopkeepers along the Stroget (a full pedestrian mall in the city center of Copenhagen) initially opposed to closing the street to motor vehicles, later reported a 25-40% increase in sales (Waller, 1998). In Essen, Germany, where the first street renovation occurred in 1962, merchants noted that bad weather does not keep people from going out; even on rainy days, pedestrian streets were frequented by strollers. Furthermore, the cities of Bonn, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich all reported visitor increases of up to 50% following the creation of pedestrian-only areas in their center cities (Waller, 1998 and Rubenstein, 1992: p.14). Eventually, pedestrian malls had demonstrated their success to such an extent that, even in some cities, storekeepers largely withdrew their opposition to them, at times even supporting the idea of a pedestrian mall. In Minneapolis, for instance, shopkeepers along a proposed pedestrian mall even picked up on construction and maintenance costs (Waller, 1998). Yet, improving retail conditions was not the sole reason for the creation of pedestrian-only areas in European cities. Planners cited the need to improve traffic flow as a another reason. In Copenhagen, only 72% of the traffic that was displaced from Stroget appeared on adjacent streets; during the peak
traffic hours, this percentage dropped to 38%. In Norwich, United Kingdom, only 40% of the traffic that had been displaced from London Street after its closure to vehicular traffic, had reappeared on adjacent streets (Waller, 1998). This evidence highlights that creating pedestrian-only zones in central areas does not come with a dramatic increase in traffic congestion, as is often feared. Pedestrian malls have been found to increase property values of those buildings that line them, as well as increase the sales volumes that occur on such streets. In Bonn, Germany, the number of consumers increased along a pedestrianonly street after motor vehicles had been banned; in addition, property values and the amount of retail trade went up as well (Waller, 1998). Other reasons for the instigation of pedestrian malls (cited by German planners) include: preserving central city functions, facilitating access for shoppers, enhancing the city’s image, reducing noise and air pollution, and improving a city’s appearance. Over time, as suburban malls had proven to be more successful than downtown areas (with or without pedestrian malls). Indeed, there was a lack of interest in shopping downtown that plagued cities nationwide. Cities which eventually re-opened their pedestrianized corridors to motor vehicles include Kalamazoo, Michigan (a city which had formerly inspired other cities to instigate a pedestrian mall downtown), Sacramento, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The 2000s in fact saw many formerly pedestrian streets reopened to vehicular traffic (Freemark, 2010). Transit malls or transitways are developed by removing automobile and truck traffic from primary retail streets, whilst transit (such as busses, taxis and light rail) is still allowed on the street. Transit malls pose a unique combination of multimodal transportation, combining pedestrian facilities with transit such as light rail or BRT. The transit mall functions as a retail spine or as a primary pedestrian corridor through a downtown area or Central Business District. The transit mall is often designed to have a distinct image and serves to integrate functions
found along it such as retail, entertainment, offices and hotels. Core design features include widened sidewalks, pedestrian amenities such as benches, and visual amenities such as fountains and a distinct type of paving (Rubenstein, 1992: p.21). One example of a successfully developed transit mall is the 16th street mall in Denver, Colorado. The downtown portion of the street encompasses an entertainment-business corridor that stretches out 16 city blocks, or 1.25 mile. Along the transit mall, shops, restaurants, as well as skyscrapers housing finance, advertising and law firms can be found, making it a largely similar context to many CBDs in the United States. The 16th Street Mall is the result of a 1982 redevelopment of the area in downtown Denver, and features a free shuttle which runs along the full length of the mall. The shuttle, which attracts over 60,000 passengers a day, uses hybrid busses. The mall is the number one tourist destination in the city of Denver. Prior to the development of the transit mall, downtown Denver already was a yearround tourist destination. Denver’s downtown-focused developers intended to build on Denver’s reputation as a destination for winter and summer outdoor activities by providing a cultural and shopping destination (Jones et al, 2008: p.3). Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, with its transit mall which permitted city busses running through the street, demonstrates that there can be a synergy between transportation investments in transit and the instigation of pedestrian-only streets (Waller, 1998).
Fig. 1: The 16th Street Mall in Denver’s CBD features a separated guideway for the bus shuttles. Image: DenverInfill.com. Essentially, synchronizing transit investments and the instigation of pedestrian-only streets in time and space leads to the development of multimodal streets. §1.3.3. The role of incremental planning interventions Public leaders and city planners frequently are preoccupied with making a transformative, comprehensive large-scale change in the built environment. Vision 42 is no exception to this. This project requires a substantial investment of time, as well as financial, social and political capital. In a planning study titled “The science of muddling through”, Charles Lindblom (1959) holds that:
“Limits on human intellectual capacities and on available information set definite limits to man’s capacity to be comprehensive” (Lindblom, 1959: p.202). Rejecting a comprehensive approach to decision making, policymaking and planning, Lindblom instead praises an incremental approach. He argues that simplification is necessary in decision making, and that this can be achieved by applying a compare-and-contrast approach in decision making. In such an approach, policy comparisons would be limited to only those policies that differ from policies that are presently in effect in a minor degree. Effectively, only those aspects of the proposed alternative (and its consequences) which differ from the status quo need to be studied (Lindblom, 1959: p.203). In Western democracies, public administration and policymakers typically limit their analyses to incremental differences between policies. Indeed, democracies change their policies nearly entirely through incremental adjustments (Lindblom, 1959: p.203). Lindblom defends the incremental approach to planning and decision-making by pointing to the fact that nonincremental policy proposals not only typically are irrelevant, but also unpredictable in their consequences (Lindblom, 1959: p.203). Furthermore, Lindblom acknowledges that policymaking is an interactive process. Stating that “policy is made and remade endlessly”, he highlights the fact that policy is always under consideration for revision. Not only is that what is desired by policy changed and reconsidered, the policy which is crafted to approximate the desired objective is, in fact, the product of a succession of incremental changes, revisions and policy choices. This process seeks to avoid serious and lasting mistakes, which might result from more comprehensive policy and planning. Knowledge about past consequences of policy steps informs decision-makers about the probable consequences of further, similar steps (Lindblom, 1959: p.205). Accordingly, if initial steps have proven to be successful, they can quickly be followed by another one. Using an incremental approach, planners and decision-makers are able to test their predictions as they move ahead to each successive step. Another benefit is that past errors can be remedied relatively quickly compared to a
context in which policy steps are more comprehensive and more widely spaced in time (Lindblom, 1959: p.205). The incremental approach holds great potential for transportation planning. The purpose of this study is to research whether it might be feasible to consider the Vision 42 proposal from an incremental planning perspective. Rather than aiming to achieve an all-at-once implementation of the project, a phased approach with a built-in feedback mechanism on the effectiveness of the individual, incremental planning interventions could potentially offer a more effective method of getting closer to the goals stated in the Vision 42 proposal. On a related note, a group of Dutch and international authors maintain that contemporary culture demands flexibility, sustainability, participation, and surprise. To this end, the concept of the “Spontaneous city”, as being a city which has transcended the post-war emphasis on urban coherence and safety, was coined (McGetrick, 2010: p.3). This concept states that, in order to remain pertinent in an era of methodological inadequacy and continual change, urban designers must develop new relationships with the public, government, technology, and the media. It builds on the skill of developing the courage to initiate processes with unknown outcomes that urban designers and planners posses (McGetrick, 2010: p.3). The development economics scholar William Easterly in this context would refer to “searchers”, rather than urban designers or planners. “Searchers” admit they don’t have answers ready and accept responsibility for the decisions taken. More importantly, searchers conforms to local conditions, and searches for local solutions (Ernsten, 2010: p.9). A group of urban designers who subscribe to the “Spontaneous city” concept hold that: “The city develops at various places, in all kinds of directions. What’s more, the Spontaneous City is occupied by producers and limitless future projections. The producers work closely together with residents and businesses, operating in districts and quarters of the city. Users of the Spontaneous City are innovative and enterprising. They operate from within
the ranks of social groups where community, custom, and tradition are important values” (Urhahn Urban Design, 2010: p.11). The economic crisis points to the necessity of new forms of city development. In the spontaneous city, urban planners reinvent themselves, as a flexible form of urban planning that is grafted onto the power of private initiatives emerges (Urhahn Urban Design, 2010: p.11). Indeed, the spontaneous city is shaped by its inhabitants in a constant process of adaptation, growth, and transformation. Spaces in apartment blocks, workplaces, parks and streets are re-used and re-organized by groups and individuals, compromising both residents and business people. Urban planners work with project initiators as they forge a path between individual choice and the public interest (Urhahn Urban Design, 2010: p.11). The market and the government work together closely, focusing on the initiatives, creative energy, and investment capital of the end user. When every city user’s creativity and energy is harnessed, coproduction and co-design becomes an accepted form of urban development. Essentially, the spontaneous city acknowledges the merit of planning processes that crystallize collective power into a tangible form, involving local entrepreneurs, residents and local institutions (Urhahn urban design, 2010: p. 12). There are four urban design principles which form the pillars of the spontaneous city: 1. Zooming in: mapping out local needs, relevant actors, and the prospects and obstructions they face. Zooming in means accepting a development process which is simultaneously at the disposal of various initiators. 2. Supervise open developments: simultaneous supervision of project initiators, in varying directions and frequencies, is of essential importance. Urban plans should inspire a wide range of participants, yet they should also be able to adapt to the rules of the game as they are being played.
3. Create collective values: an integral part of the planning process is to
define shared ambitions. Defining shared ambitions is a political
process that must develop both publicly and expertly. Common values enable the urban planner to work on developing an area’s quality, unique character and coherence.
4. Be user-oriented: The urban planner’s design should be custom-made
and tailored to the resources of the user. The capacity, energy, and investment capacity of all involved actors and parties must be embraced to meet challenges head on. New approaches and resources are needed, varying from micro-financing of local projects to creating digital platforms. Innovations must be intensified in order to reach as many potential project initiators as possible (Urhahn Urban Design, 2010: pp. 11-18). By the same token, Tess Broekmans (2010, p.74) offers three propositions for dealing with areas that are undergoing regeneration: 1. Space must be created for allowing an area’s current residents to come up with their own ideas. This will entice new residents to follow with their ideas, after they have seen that there are opportunities to implement their ideas. 2. A livable, vital city needs entrepreneurship. 3. Urban regeneration should not take on entire neighborhoods; rather, regeneration should occur on the scale of the individual building or a single plot of land. Differentiation should be sought at the scale of the street. As a contemporary of Broekmans, Denise Vrolijk (2010, p. 42) also suggests that organic growth, and flexibility, are pertinent to the regeneration of innercity areas. Using planning instruments that supply small-scale, staged development with flexibility and growth, mono-functional sites can be converted to high-grade urban areas. Accordingly, Vrolijks advocates that urban designers start with the property owners and users of an area, working on a small scale and creating new urban forms collectively. Gert Joost Peek elaborates upon this approach:
“Trying to establish or anticipate an end result in advance no longer works. After five years, a master plan is very often outdated by political and economic reality. What’s now far more relevant is developing a common language. This requires a cultural shift to be made by the authorities, so they instill confidence in other parties who ten come with individual plans suggesting design direction instead of a final vision” (Gert Joost Peek, cited in Vrolijk, 2010, p. 43). Concluding, the spontaneous city is shaped when planners play the role of negotiator or contractor, supervising active collaboration, whilst challenging and engaging various relevant parties (Urhahn Urban Design, 2010: p.18). At the same time as Urhahn Urban Design has put forth their thesis on the spontaneous city, North American urban planners and planning scholars are embracing the type of planning methodology typical of the spontaneous cityconcept. This has merit for the following reason. Typically, in projects that are of the scale of the Vision 42 proposal, communities are asked to react to a proposal that was conceived for interests other than their own. Also, such projects are often conceived at a scale over which the community concerned has little control. In the pursuit of resilient neighborhoods and communities, overcoming the challenges inherent in the typical “public” process continues to prove difficult. Yet, an alternative exists: asking communities, neighborhoods and cities to contribute to incremental change at the neighborhood level. Enhancing the vitality of our communities and neighborhoods often starts at the scale of the building, the block or the street. Whilst larger scale planning interventions do have a role, incremental improvements and piecemeal planning interventions are “increasingly seen as a way to stage more substantial investments” (Lydon et al, 2011: p.1). This more incremental approach enables policymakers to test new concepts prior to making significant financial and political commitments. This approach, described as “D.I.Y. Urbanism”, “Guerilla Urbanism”, “Pop-up Urbanism” or “City Repair”, is best referred to as “Tactical Urbanism”, according to Lydon et al (2011, p. 1).
Lydon et al (2011, p.1) argue that tactical urbanism is a distinct planning strategy, which “features the following characteristics: • • • • • A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change; The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges; Short-term commitment and realistic expectations; Low-risk, with a possibly high reward; and The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents” Evidently, tactical urbanism is about using small-scale planning interventions as a vehicle for experimentation. As a planning tactic that is widely used in North America today, it is an incremental approach to the process of city building that acknowledges that long-term change often starts with something small. It is a trial-and-error approach, where results may be observed after implementation and can be measured in real-time. This allows for adjustments to be made before moving forward. If the improvement does not perform as anticipated, the budget will not be drained, and the planning intervention or design can be changed to better suit its dynamic planning context. According to Lydon et al (2011, p. 2), tactical urbanism “is most effective when used in conjunction with long term planning efforts.” Indeed, if successful, incremental changes can be considered the first steps towards realizing a more permanent change. David Reid (2011) of Urban Milwaukee has said the following about planning initiatives which fit the description of tactical urbanism: “To some extent these put the planning behind and the people in front, allowing quality of life improvements to happen at a far greater speed” (Reid, 2011).
One example of successful tactical urbanism is PARK(ING) DAY, an initiative where parking spots are temporarily reclaimed from their usual function and become parks. Enhancing the vitality of streets, the parking spots are programmed with activities one usually associates with parks. PARK(ING) DAY encourages local citizens to collaborate in order to create meaningful, but temporary additions to the public realm. §1.4 Methodology This section describes the core research effort of this study, as well as its process. The attitudes about, and support for pedestrianization projects amongst the local stakeholders must be investigated. Specifically, representatives of the merchants, shop keepers, offices and residents of the 42nd street corridor will be asked about their support for a variety of pedestrianization efforts, ranging from pop-up café’s to pedestrian plazas through in-depth interviews. This is relevant especially because recent attempts for the pedestrianization of 34th street have been greeted with skepticism from the local stakeholders. The plan for 34th street, which called for a pedestrian boulevard which featured BRT guideways, has been strongly opposed by the local merchants, shop keepers, and other stakeholders. Acknowledging that the large-scale transformation of 42nd street to a pedestrian-only boulevard with light rail requires a strong political will which is currently not in place, any progress towards a more pedestrian-friendly 42nd street must come from citizen initiatives, or otherwise from incremental planning interventions. In other words, a step-by-step approach must now receive priority in the (arguably piecemeal and incremental) transformation of 42nd street. The political and financial support of the local community will be the subject of this study, which results in a series of recommendations on the pedestrianization of 42nd street. Via a series of interviews, reoresentatives of the local community will be asked about:
The community’s support for piecemeal pedestrianization projects;
the community’s own role in instigating these projects; the community’s own contribution to maintaining newly converted spaces; the community’s support for more permanent, city-led changes, such as the implementation of a pedestrian boulevard along 42nd street, as well as other traffic-calming measures
the stakeholder’s opinion of light rail transit along 42nd street
The study is relevant, since there has not been any effort to ask local stakeholders about their opinion on “vision 42” since the mid-2000s. More importantly, it is unknown how these stakeholders feel about more incremental change— and, specifically, about community-led initiatives that will make 42nd street a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Potentially, the study is expanded to include the stakeholders along 34th street. It is important to research the attitudes of stakeholders along 34th street, since the vision 42 plan proposes a potential light rail loop, which would run along 34th and 42nd streets, and connect the two on the waterfronts along the Hudson river and East River. Also, recent skepticism from local stakeholders regarding the DOT’s proposal for the pedestrianization of 34th street warrants further research into the attitudes of the local stakeholders and the reasons for their opposition to the pedestrianization proposal. The potential extension of the research effort to 34th street would essentially duplicate the methodologies applied at 42nd street; that is, a series of in-depth interviews with stakeholders from different sections of the 34th street corridor, in addition to a widely distributed series of surveys. A more complex review of the proposed methods that are to be used for each section of the study can be found in Appendix A (Matrix of the Methodology). §1.5 Organization of the study This study is organized as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Historical precedents regarding the transformation of 42nd street Chapter 3: Pedestrian projects in New York: issues, benefits and trends Chapter 4: Recommendations regarding the pedestrianization of 42nd street Chapter 5: Conclusion In chapter 2, an overview of proposals for the transformation of 42nd street will be given. This overview includes a 1969 proposal for the transformation put forth by the Regional Plan Association, as well as more recent proposals. A prime proposal that is of central importance to this study is the “Vision 42” proposal, put forth by the Institute for Rational Mobility in the early 2000s, with extensive refinement of their proposal occurring in the mid-2000s. This chapter has the purpose of providing background information on 42nd street, and considering how it has historically been envisioned by urban planners, urban designers, and society at large. Chapter 3 provides a survey of the recent history of pedestrianization projects, specifically located in New York City. With an analysis of recent pedestrianization processes of a similar scope, the background study will be completed. This section will also include empirical findings of research that has been conducted regarding the actual transformation of streets into pedestrian plazas in recent years. Specifically, the role of the local community (as defined by community boards, BIDs, and other local stakeholders and actors) in such transformations. Chapter 4 is the essence of the study and deals with the potential pedestrianization of 42nd street. Again, the role of the local community in this transformation, as well as the local community’s opinon regarding pedestrianization, will be discussed. The findings of empirical research conducted will be discussed in this chapter. The final purpose of the study, which is to answer the central research question (below), will be covered in this chapter. Given the complexities of the local context, how can a pedestrianization of 42nd street realistically be furthered in a way that engages the local community?
Chapter 5, finally, will summarize the entire study, make recommendations regarding the pedestrianization of 42nd street, and explore the potential for future research on the subject of pedestrianization in midtown and in New York City in general.
CHAPTER 2|| HISTORICAL
PRECEDENTS REGARDING THE TRANSFORMATION OF
§2.1 Regional Plan Association: Urban Design Study of Manhattan, 1969 The Regional Plan Association published a studio book in 1969 titled “Urban Design Manhattan”. It is important to note that, in 1969, Manhattan’s CBD already occupied a prominent position within the larger metropolitan area. Whilst at 550,000 inhabitants the region housed 3% of the region’s 19 million inhabitants, the 2 million jobs located here composed 26% of the region’s total (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 7). Prepared by Rai Y. Okamoto and Frank E. Williams, urban design consultants to the RPA, the book uses Midtown Manhattan to illustrate the application of urban design concepts. Urban design concepts discussed in the study include the “Access Tree” principle, which calls for an integration of vertical and horizontal movement in urban centers. The physical consequence of this integration corresponds to a form of “highs and lows”, applied at many different scales. Veritably, all facilities for urban movement (subways, trains, sidewalks, building lobbies, elevators) were conceived as one integrated system to which individual buildings were attached—reflecting the zeitgeist of the 1960s. The study notes that the primary problem with urban redesign is, in fact, a problem related to the process of planning. The main shortcoming of urban redesign is thus not the lack of imaginative designs of architects, but rather that of finding “a practical method of harnessing the unrivaled vitality of private developers and investors to work with the city authorities and thus to concert their energies to create the new centers which fit modern needs”. This statement precedes today’s difficulties, encountered with large-scale pedestrianization efforts, especially in New York City in recent years. Also, this statement highlights the need for an inclusive approach to the planning process, which engages all actors, including investors, developers, designers, city authorities and local communities.
The study analyzes the shortcomings and problems of Midtown Manhattan from an urban design perspective, as well as proposes several design principles and prototypes which could be applied to Midtown. Subsequently, 42nd street is used as a case study to illustrate the application of these urban design principles. The study has retained its relevance to this day.
§2.1.1 Midtown Manhattan: shortcomings from an urban design perspective, 1969 The 1969 study by the RPA defined three major shortcomings in the functioning of Midtown Manhattan. These deficiencies, the study claims, were the result of the disjointed and single-purpose planning of the past. This planning had failed to shape the CBD as a functional and visual entity. The resulting urban environment they create is one of “growing inconvenience, discomfort, formlessness, confusion, and, often, unsafe circulation” (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 19). The first issue highlighted by the RPA study is the internal circulation in Midtown Manhattan, which is described as “slow, inconvenient, crowded, and chaotic.” As early as 1969, 830,000 people entered the CBD between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., 82% of whom entered the area underground, by subway or by rail (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 9). According to the study, the commuters lose an incommensurate portion of their time in their journey from the train doors to the elevator doors in their offices. On the streets, they compete with taxis, trucks, busses, hand-carts and private automobiles for space, leading to an overwhelming frustration experienced by the commuters (Okamoto et al, 1969: p.9). This is condition, which persists to this day, is unfortunate because it is precisely the internal circulation which has led to the close concentration of activities which has traditionally been found in Midtown Manhattan. Secondly, the iconic visual form of Midtown Manhattan –formerly defined by concentrated peaks which signify Midtown to the outside world—was said to
diminish in its distinctiveness. Rows of barely distinguishable surfaces, lined up along identical city blocks, each measuring between 30 and 50 stories, were replacing the traditional form. Indeed, the study refers to “nearly uniform office buildings running in slab formation like dominos up midtown avenues” (Mc Kim Norton, 1969: p. 5). This form complicated navigation. In an increasingly homogeneous urban fabric, marked by the absence of identifiable landmarks, it became increasingly challenging to gage one’s location by means other than street signs. The fact that no new iconic open spaces, such as Bryant Park, were being constructed contributed to this condition (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 9). Third, pedestrians were become forgotten in the CBD. This is remarkable, because the CBD was initially created for pedestrians (even motorists would eventually become pedestrians in the CBD after they parked their car). In Midtown Manhattan, pedestrians were denied protection from the elements, separation from motor vehicles, and a sense of place, whilst being deprived of chances to stroll leisurely and places to sit and to relax. At the sidewalk level, the pedestrian is denied a right to walk in dignity. As store windows and restaurants were increasingly giving way to anonymous showrooms, glassedin banks, and marble lobbies, places of interest along the pedestrian’s route were fast disappearing, making any walk through the area far less engaging (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 9). As no provisions were made for places where trees could grow, or where the snow could accumulate for a few days to remind the pedestrian of the seasons, the environment increasingly was one of concrete and glass. §2.1.2. Midtown Manhattan: Urban Design Principles and Prototypes The 1969 study proposed a series of urban design principles for Midtown Manhattan. The three core design principles highlight the importance of open space and adequate pedestrian facilities at the street level, and are as follows:
1. The highest buildings should intentionally be clustered around the
point of highest accessibility, such as at the intersection of transit
systems. Buildings further away from these points should be kept comparatively low. This configuration yields a minimized walking distance from the “train door” to the “elevator door”, and lets the highest buildings be seen and allows them to be identified as landmarks, giving the city an expressive image;
2. The open spaces accompanying the higher buildings (as mandated by
the zoning code) should be “pooled” in the middle, and should be pooled there where pedestrian volumes are the highest and near points of transit access. This principle contributes to the creation of a “sense of place” by creating large, visual, and memorable public spaces, whilst relating pedestrian space directly to the density of pedestrian volumes.
3. The public square is to be located below street level, where the bulk of
pedestrians emerge from the subways and underground trains. This principle reflects 1960s thinking in city planning that held that a vertical separation of different transportation modalities was desirable. Though not as relevant today as the other two principles, this was put forth to bring building entrances and elevator lobbies directly to the underground for the emerging commuter, and to break through the street surface “membrane” and integrate the spaces below ground with the spaces above ground in order to express and use the threedimensional nature of Midtown Manhattan (Okamoto et al, 1969: p.9).
The first principle can be read as a predecessor to more recent concepts of Transit-Oriented Development, whereby the highest buildings which attract the most commuters are clustered around the intersection of various transit lines. Such a condition exists on various location in Midtown Manhattan, including around Times Square and around Grand Central Station. The second principle, which emphasizes the notion that open spaces should be “pooled” and located where pedestrian volumes are the highest, could be read as a predecessor to the Vision 42 proposal, which is discussed later. It has paved
the way for future visions of Midtown Manhattan whereby the full length of 42nd street is transformed into a “pooled” pedestrian-only public space, precisely because pedestrian volumes on 42nd street are amongst the densest in the area. The study also recommended certain urban design amenities. These fall under three main types of amenities:
1. Enhanced landscaping and access to nature, including continuous
pedestrian access to the Hudson and East rivers, and an extension of waterfront parks into Midtown; spaces for trees and fountains; and outdoor seating and eating places.
2. Enhanced protection from the elements and from severe weather,
including heated sidewalks in the winter, and shaded pedestrian passageways in the summer.
3. A clearer articulation of surface transportation, including more
pedestrian space on sidewalks and mid-block pedestrian walkways; the creation of vehicle-free pedestrian enclaves; streets (or sections of streets) closed to vehicular traffic, which was to be diverted around them; more differentiation of street traffic (i.e., separating local streets from through streets); strict controls on garage locations to prevent pedestrian-garage conflicts and to prevent increased motorized traffic on streets which cannot accommodate it (Okamoto et al, 1969: p.10).
§2.1.3. 42nd Street: A Case Study The RPA study utilizes 42nd street in Midtown Manhattan as a single, distinctive street that has the scale for illustrating the application of urban design principles at a scale smaller than that of Midtown Manhattan. At the time, 42nd street displayed the relationship between the highs and the lows, or, the diversity of clusters of lower or higher buildings that make up Midtown Manhattan. As a linear street, 42nd street (as well as certain other “special” streets such as 5th avenue) posed a significant exception to the cluster
concept. Clusters of low or high buildings, considered to be the basic physical module of
Figure 2.1: 42nd street and adjacent area, Midtown Manhattan.
Figure 2.2: 42nd street and adjacent area, Midtown Manhattan.
Midtown Manhattan by the 1969 RPA study, are crossed, or linked by linear elements such as 42nd street. 42nd street, as an important linear element, linked several separated areas of Midtown Manhattan, each with strong distinct trait (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 86). At its point of origin at the East River, the United Nations district houses the headquarters of a variety of international institutions. Slightly to the west is the Grand Central area, containing the headquarters of a multitude of major international corporations. At the center of 42nd street is the entertainment and commercial center known as Times Square, which includes the theater district, and many hotels, restaurants, movie theatres, bars, etcetera. The area is an international symbol of New York City. Slightly due south of this area lies the Garment District, a center for the design, display and sale of fashion. At the western terminus of 42nd street, warehousing and light manufacturing was found at the time of the RPA study, along with a passenger liner terminal along the waterfront along the Hudson River (Okamoto et al, 1969: p. 86). The entire street, from the East River to the Hudson River, is defined by continuity of movement, the interdependency of its activities, as well as the street’s popular impression as one unit. Essentially, 42nd street is likened to a “linear spine” by the 1969 RPA study; as such, it links various nodes of activity and connects several spaces which function like large urban outdoor rooms (such as Bryant Park, Times Square or the UN Plaza). Labeled as a “Prototype of the cross-town pedestrian axes”, the 1969 study advocated for a further reinforcement of the street as a pedestrian corridor (Okamoto, 1969: p. 88).
Fig. 3: Pedestrian space along the 42nd street corridor (orange). Source: Regional Plan Association, 1969.
The position the RPA took in the 1969 study to advocate for 42nd street as a cross-town pedestrian corridor, is understandable given the large pedestrian volumes in Midtown Manhattan (as documented in the study). Images from the study highlight the scarcity of pedestrian space along 42nd street (fig. 3 and 4; pedestrian space indicated with orange shading). As figure 4 shows, the scarcity of pedestrian space along 42nd street and on the streets surrounding Grand Central station has driven developers to create pedestrian passageways at-grade, in the interior of nearly all buildings in the area.
Fig. 4: Pedestrian space along the 42nd street corridor (orange), close-up of the area around Grand Central station.. Source: Regional Plan Association, 1969.
Fig. 5: Possible vertical and horizontal movement systems along 42nd street. Source: Regional Plan Association, 1969. Figure 5 illustrates the urban design proposal for 42nd street put forth by the RPA in 1969. The design aims to integrate vertical movement systems (elevators) with horizontal movement systems (rapid transit and pedestrian movement). The design also proposes a fundamentally different 42nd street, as can be seen in a detailed section of the plan of 42nd street between 8th and 6th avenues (figure 6). The dotted line that runs along 42nd street represents the proposed rapid transit line, whilst orange spaces depict areas which contain a pedestrian mezzanine level (red dots represent elevators). The rapid transit line accentuates the role of 42nd street as a linear street with interconnected centers; it also reflects the continuity of movement which characterizes 42nd street. Furthermore, it is an predecessor to the light rail line proposed by the Institute for Rational Mobility under the “Vision 42” banner (below). Concluding, The RPA study was amongst the first to call attention to the needs of pedestrians and to advocate more pedestrian amenities in Midtown Manhattan, including 42nd street. Furthermore, it was ahead of its time in terms of its urban design principles. Concepts such as pooling the area’s open space in the middle of that area and where pedestrian volumes are the highest, have preceded more recent proposals for increasing open spaces at
key sites in the area. Furthermore, in advising in favor of enhanced pedestrian amenities in Midtown (such as landscaping along streets, street furniture such as benches and seating, and wider sidewalks) predate modern calls for a public realm that is more hospitable to pedestrians. Lastly, the proposals for 42nd street in the RPA study, which emphasize the continuity of movement along the street as well as its role as a pedestrian cross-town corridor, predate highly similar proposals put forth later, amongst others the Vision 42 proposal put forth by the Institute for Rational Mobility.
Fig. 6: Possible vertical and horizontal movement systems along 42nd street. Source: Regional Plan Association, 1969.
§2.2 New York Department of City Planning – Urban Design Group: 42nd Street Study In January of 1978, nearly a decade after the Regional Plan Association’s urban design study of Manhattan and of 42nd street, the Urban Design Group of the Department of City Planning published a study specifically focusing on 42nd street. Supported by the 42nd street redevelopment corporation, the study was initiated by the former planning director, Victor Marrero. The study area was determined by the study to be midtown Manhattan, riverto-river, between 39th and 50th streets. It claimed that the study area was one of the most congested areas of New York City. The area generated two million pedestrian trips per day at the time , whilst one million people entered and left the area by mass transit per day. At the time was around 500,000 private automobiles, taxis, and trucks passed through the area. The congested circulation conditions, together with the location of curb cuts, caused relentless conflicts between pedestrians and motorists, particularly delivery vehicles. The study found that several areas within the study area required wider sidewalks (Urban Design Group, 1978: p. 44). Furthermore, the following facts were presented in the study:
The residential population of the study area, measuring 23,000 people at the time of the study, generated 100,000 pedestrian trips daily.
Approximately 99,000 people worked in major office buildings in the area at the time of the study. The total number office workers in the area generated 450,000 pedestrian trips daily.
Along 42nd street alone, 4,200 workers were employed in at the time at various commercial uses
The many (movie) theatres in the area, with a combined seating capacity of 75,000, generated 130,000 pedestrian trips on a daily basis
The Port Authority Bus Terminal generated 200,000 passenger trips per day; of this number, 160,000 passengers left the Terminal by foot, whilst 40,000 directly continued their journey into the subway system.
The subway stations in the area generated another 418,000 pedestrian trips on a daily basis. The most frequently used stations were Times Square (which generated 154,000 pedestrian trips on a daily basis), Rockefeller Center (110,000 pedestrian trips), 42nd street and 8th avenue (86,000 pedestrian trips) and 42nd street and 6th avenue (68,000 pedestrian trips) (Urban Design Group, 1978: pp. 44-47).
Figure 7: Daily Pedestrian Trips Generated in the 42nd Street study area. Source: Urban Design Group, 1978. The large circulation volumes cause severe pedestrian congestion in the 42nd street area (Urban Design Group, 1978: p. 48). Pedestrian congestion is caused, amongst other reasons, by sidewalk obstructions. Trash receptacles, planters, newsstands, and subway entrances significantly hinder pedestrian
flow in much of the 42nd street study area. Indeed, pedestrian space along the 42nd street corridor is deficient; this is particularly the case where there are major concentrations of pedestrians, which is around subway entrances and around Times Square (Urban Design Group, 1978: p.88). The Regional Plan Association maintains a standard of 75 square feet per pedestrian as the lowest limit of unimpeded flow; this standard is used in an 1974 Department of City Planning Second Avenue Study as well. The Urban Design Group (1978: p. 48) used this standard to measure pedestrian flow in the 42nd street study area; and found that the then-existing pedestrian volumes demanded additional sidewalk width. Along 42nd street, additional sidewalk width was found to be necessary between 5th and 8th avenues; generally, the study found that the area around Times Square demanded wider sidewalks in particular (figure 8). It should comes as no surprise that the study concluded that efforts should be made to increase open space along 42nd street. This could be done by adding additional plazas, arcades, and by increasing sidewalk amenities, the study proposes (Urban Design Group, 1978: p.89).
Figure 8: 42nd Street study area: sidewalk width needed. Source: Urban Design Group, 1978: p. 49. Furthermore, the parking facilities along 42nd street, which were predominantly concentrated between 8th avenue and 11th avenue, had required a great number of curb cuts, which were needed for the entrances to these parking facilities. This in turn impeded the pedestrian access to the waterfront, as the curb cuts disrupted the continuity of the sidewalks (Urban Design Group, 1978: p.86). However, conflicts between vehicular traffic and pedestrians existed at curb cuts along the entire street. In addition to an inefficient pedestrian circulation, the 1978 study also found that other types of circulation could greatly be improved upon. The 42nd street area functions as a central node of major mass transit systems which
serve the entire metropolitan region of New York. As early as 1978, 19 subway lines passed through the area; some of which were linked to the major commuter railroad hubs located at Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station. Additionally, the Port Authority Bus Terminal services both commuter busses as well as long-distance bus lines. The subway stations in the area generated 500,000 passenger trips daily; the Port Authority Bus Terminal generated 200,000 passenger trips daily. River-to-river transportation, including the crosstown bus that runs along 42nd street, was found to be both inefficient and slow (Urban Design Group, 1978: p. 50). Furthermore, vehicular traffic was also found to be inefficient/ Most streets in the area were operating near capacity; with certain streets and intersections in the area operating above capacity during peak periods. This causes congestion and significantly restricts the efficient usage of street space (figure 9). Congestion limited the operating levels of streets in the area to as little as 55% of their potential capacity (Urban Design Group, 1978: p. 52). Following the above considerations, the Urban Design Group (1978: p. 96) put forth a series of preliminary recommendations which could benefit 42nd street, and which should be integrated into a plan for the area. Amongst their recommendations are the following:
• • •
Street improvements along 42nd street The development of a plan for pedestrian and vehicular circulation Conducting a feasibility study of a light rail system for 42nd street, as well as the modernization of mass transit in the area
Each of these recommendations will be discussed in greater detail below.
Figure 9: existing traffic conditions in the 42nd street study area. Source: Urban Design Group, 1978: p.53. §2.2.1. Street Improvements along 42nd street The Urban Design Group (1978: p. 100), in a study of 42nd street, proposed a three-part improvement program for the street. The first section was concerned with an improvement program for building façades and proposed façade cleaning and painting, the restoration of architecturally significant buildings, the design of signage at the street level, the design of billboards, marquee renovation and storefront renovation. The second section entailed a program for the analysis of potential sidewalk improvements. This section advocated for the analysis of local street conditions and for the analysis of
proposals for enhanced sidewalk design and street furniture along 42nd street. The third section proposed researching the physical conditions of buildings along 42nd street, as well as their possible renovation. Tools for implementing preservation also were suggested as worthy of further research, as was the economic feasibility of the re-use of (disused) buildings (Urban Design Group. 1978: p.100). §2.2.2. The development of a plan for pedestrian and vehicular circulation This recommendation proposed that a study be made to which streets would be best suited for pedestrian traffic and which streets would be best suited for vehicular traffic. Implicit here is the notion that not all streets should be devoted primarily to vehicular traffic, and that certain streets should be primarily assigned to handle pedestrian traffic. In such streets, the number of curb cuts should be limited (Urban Design Group, 1978: p.101). §2.2.3. Conducting a feasibility study of a light rail system for 42nd street As a part of the study of 42nd street by the Urban Design Group, a recommendation was made to study options of implementing a light rail system along the 42nd street corridor. In retrospect, this recommendation appears to be ahead of its time, as it preceded the proposal for light rail along the 42nd street corridor put forth by the Institute for Rational Mobility in the 2000s by nearly three decades. 42nd street, named one of the major transportation corridors in Manhattan by the study, was already plagued by inefficient river-to-river transportation in the 1970s. Though transit access to other areas of the city and region was excellent, bus travel along 42nd street is described as “another matter” (Urban Design Group, 1978: p.114). At the time, as today, bus travel was the only mode for river-to-river transportation, other than walking. Traffic congestion was cited as the reason the bus service encountered difficulties maintaining operating schedules, particularly during peak hours. Due to congestion, travel along 42nd street was often characterized as slow and
uncomfortable; additionally, the environmental quality of the 42nd street corridor suffered because of it as noise and air pollution are generated. The environmental quality of the corridor could be improved by replacing the existing bus service with light rail transit, the Urban Design Group (1978: p.115) holds. Light rail transit would also improve the general potential for the redevelopment of the area. Other benefits of light rail transit along 42nd street cited by the Urban Design Group include:
Passengers travelling crosstown would be serviced with a comparatively reliable, fast, and comfortable mode of travel;
Communities surrounding the 42nd street corridor would benefit from an improvement in the air quality after pollutants omitted by busses would be cut;
Light rail transit would provide the corridor with a special, “branded” identity;
As an economic system, the implementation of a light rail system along 42nd street would serve to greatly reduce the cost of crosstown transit.
The Urban Design Group’s call to further study the feasibility of a light rail system along 42nd street in greater detail was heeded in the early 2000s by the Institute for Rational Mobility, who put forth the Vision 42 proposal (which is elaborated upon below). §2.3 Vision 42 42nd street continued to be a congested corridor into the 2000s. 500,000 pedestrians a day are generated by the Grand Central Terminal alone (Schwartz, 2005: p.15). Additionally, the many curb cuts that continue to exist today still impede pedestrian circulation much as it has done in the past. Vehicular circulation, which consists of three lanes each-way, is also impeded given the fact that the two curbside lanes are often occupied by delivery trucks, taxis, or police vehicles.
Given the fact that congestion issues persisted, proposals for 42nd street have continued to be developed in more recent times. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Vision 42 proposal was put forth by the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility. §2.3.1 The feasibility of an auto-free light rail boulevard along 42nd street Turning 42nd street into an auto-free boulevard, transportation engineering firm Sam Schwartz concluded, is feasible (Schwartz et al, 2005: p4). This is largely the case due to the fact that traffic on 42nd street mostly consists of local traffic , much of which in the form of taxis (Schwartz, 2005: p.20). The local nature of traffic traveling along the 42nd street corridor is highlighted by the fact that very few vehicles travel from river-to-river along the entirety of 42nd street (Schwartz, 2005: p.33). Furthermore, the feasibility of an auto-free 42nd street is supported by the fact that most larger buildings along 42nd street have loading docks that are either accessed from the avenues (which run perpendicular to 42nd street), and/or from 41st or 43rd street. Storefront retail, and miscellaneous commercial establishments along the street, typically do not have loading bays and rely on delivery trucks for their supplies. In the event that 42nd street were to be converted to an auto-free boulevard, loading bays would be provided on the corners of 42nd street, which would serve these smaller commercial establishments. Studies have demonstrated that road closings have never resulted in longterm traffic problems, provide further support for the closing of 42nd street to vehicular traffic (Schwartz, 2005: p.40). When roads are closed, traffic shrinkage occurs. As travel switches to other modes, overall traffic is reduced where road closures occur; a 1998 study of over 60 road closures around the world holds that reductions in road capacity yield, on average, a 24% reduction in overall vehicular traffic (Schwartz, 2005: p.40).
§2.3.2 The light rail system proposal vis-à-vis the extension of the #7 subway line Traditionally, the Vision 42 proposal has focused on light rail transit, rather than Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), because it offers profound advantages. Some of these advantages are: • • • • The image of light rail: it is attractive, reliable and comfortable Light rail has more than three times the capacity of local busses Self-propelled streetcars using fuel cells or other advanced technologies can achieve a maximum environmental benefit Light rail tracks are a self-enforcing path, bus lanes can be intruded more easily
The permanent character of light rail transit reinforces new development (Warren et al, 2008: p.5).
Light rail transit offers clear benefits over BRT. However, another debated alternative transportation investment strategy is the extension of the heavy rail system in the area, particularly the extension of the #7 subway line. Accessibility improvements, however, are larger with a light rail line: more destinations can be reached, with light rail cars stopping at each avenue and transit line along the way. Light rail will also reach massive new development planned at the rivers, including the Javits Center. Light rail along 42nd street would be easily extendable. A continuous, two-way 42nd/ 34th St loop can link all major midtown transportation hubs and ferries with the Javits Center, the UN, important tourism venues, etc. Time savings if you travel from anywhere near the river to a transit hub are significant. The tradeoff is that the speed along the corridor is not as great as with a subway; the light rail won’t operate at the same speed, as the subway would (Schwartz et al, 2005).
Fig. 10.1: Vision 42: River-to-river, auto-free light rail boulevard. Phase 1: light rail along the 42nd street corridor. Source: Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, 2011.
Fig. 10.2: Vision 42: River-to-river, auto-free light rail boulevard. Phase 2: a light rail loop, connecting 34th street and 42nd street. Source: Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, 2011.
Fig. 11.1: Vision 42: rendering. Source: Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, 2011.
Fig. 11.2: Vision 42: rendering. Source: Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, 2011. §2.3.3 The effects of the implementation of an auto-free boulevard along 42nd street If 42nd street were to be closed off to vehicular traffic, the traffic patterns in the immediate area would be not diverted to streets that are already operating above-capacity; rather, the traffic patterns would be re-routed to streets which operate below capacity (Schwartz, 2005: p.33). Furthermore, the general number of taxi trips in the ten-block wide area surrounding 42nd street to the north and to the south would decrease by 13% if the light rail system along 42nd street would be in place (Schwartz, 2005: p.39). Commuters who arrive on the 42nd street corridor at the Grand Central Terminal from Westchester, as well as commuters from New Jersey who arrive at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, would be highly likely to continue their journey via light rail instead of taking the taxi or walking, which is how they currently complete their commutes (Schwartz, 2005: p.39). The conversion of 42nd street to an auto-free boulevard with light rail, when realized, will yield increased City and State tax revenues of $175.4 million per annum (including a $55.1 million gain in NYC property tax, a $54.0 million on other NYC taxes and another $66.3 million in New York State tax revenue). This is the result of upgraded property values (Warren et al, 2008: p.13). Reduced travel time— which results in rent and occupancy increases, increases in ground-floor businesses revenues and ground-floor workers earnings contributes to a further annual gain of $789 million (Warren et al, 2008: p.13). In other reports, the gains in office property values have been estimated to add up to $3.56 billion for 419 hi-value properties, an average increase of $575 per square feet of lot area (15%) (Urbanomics, 2005: p.6). Furthermore, the aggregate, annual time savings for the users of 42nd street (workers, tourists, shoppers, theatergoers) is predicted to amount to $152 million (Urbanomics, 2005: p. 6). Additionally, increases in rent and and occupancy
of the office buildings along 42nd street attributable to transit amounts to $181 annually (Urbanomics, 2005: p.6). Remarkably, Urbanomics (2005: p.6) predicts that reductions in health care costs, as well as vehicular repair costs which can be attributed to fewer accidents occurring on 42nd street after the conversion, amounts to $1 million annually. Whilst the economic and fiscal gains associated with the proposal are relatively modest. The cost of diverting traffic and the increased costs of deliveries contributed to a reduction in the predicted gains of $84.1 million. This brings the total economic gains which would follow the construction of an auto-free light rail corridor at $880.3 million annually (Urbanomics, 2005: p.6). The increased costs of deliveries to buildings on 42nd street is expected to amount to $275,000 annually (Urbanomics, 2005: p.6). An additional study conducted by the RPA claimed that retail shops and businesses on 42nd street would see business increase by 35% as a consequence of the conversion of 42nd street to an auto-free light rail boulevard (Warren et al, 2008: p.15). The increase in sales for ground floor businesses can be ascribed to more foot traffic along the car-free street. The economic benefits of light rail transit in other cities where it has been built are remarkable. Examples of development stimulated by new light rail lines tops $1 billion in Dallas and $1.2 in Portland. Also, the newly completed Goldman Sachs building, tallest in Jersey City, is said to have been spurred by the newly constructed Hudson Bergen light rail line (Warren et al, 2008: p.42). It follows that it is reasonable to expect that a light rail system along 42nd street will similarly improve the overall framework for (re-)development along 42nd street. Indeed, economic gains of light rail transit along the 42nd street corridor can be expected across the board- dollars spent at retail, nights spent at hotels, theatre shows attended, gains in property values – all are likely to increase.
§2.4 Conclusion As a street which contains and connects many nodes of intense activities, 42nd street has historically been characterized by issues of congestion. The street has, for decades, captured the attention of urban planners and designers. A variety of actors, representing the public and private sectors, has put forth proposals for the transformation of this corridor to improve and enhance the integral role it plays in the transportation system of Midtown Manhattan. The proposals discussed here, though put forth by a set of very distinct authoring organizations, are strongly intertwined. As new proposals were put forth, old ideas and concepts evolved and were updated and adapted to recent conditions. The core principles, however, remained consistent across all proposals discussed: a more efficient, convenient, and pedestrian-friendly street design for 42nd street, with more efficient transit along the full length of the corridor has characterized all proposals discussed. CHAPTER 3 PROCESSES §3.1 The Potential for Pedestrian Projects in New York City Pedestrianization efforts come in many forms. As spaces are repurposed to cater to pedestrians and other modes of active transportation, rather than to motorized traffic, a variety of types of spaces have emerged that assign priority to pedestrians. The pedestrian-only street, a particular variation of which is the pedestrian mall, is likely to be the most appropriate type of pedestrian-priority space for 42nd street in Midtown Manhattan. However, other types of pedestrian projects, including the recent tactical conversion of space that had formerly been devoted to motorized traffic to pedestrian spaces, are also relevant. Given the fact that pedestrian malls, and transit malls in particular, are such an essential component of livable cities, it must be investigated how they have been surfacing recently in New York City, as well as in other cities. PEDESTRIAN
NEW YORK: BENEFITS, ISSUES,
As stated in the literature review, many cities considered the pedestrian malls in their downtown to be a failure and re-opened them to vehicular traffic, beginning in the 2000s. At this time, New York City is leaning more towards the closing of streets to vehicular traffic. This is especially remarkable given the fact that they do so when most other cities have just reinstituted car access to business corridors in their downtown areas (Freemark, 2010). One experimental street closure on Madison Avenue was found to be particularly successful. The temporary street closure resulted in pedestrian volumes that were more than double the pre-closure volumes. Yet, the increase of pedestrians on Madison Avenue did not detract from traditionally high pedestrian volumes on nearby Fifth Avenue (Waller, 1998). In addition to the temporary conversion of Madison Avenue to a temporary pedestrian-only street, there are many incremental, strategic conversions occurring around New York City today. These tactical interventions, which range from the conversion of travel lanes to bike lanes to pop-up cafés to new pedestrian plazas, are short-term changes in the surroundings, are intended as a spark for a bigger transformation of the environment. Getting a process of change in motion through small, piecemeal planning interventions could be a way building momentum for the instigation of pedestrian-priority spaces on 42nd street, as envisioned by the Vision 42 advocates. One great example is perhaps the “Pavement-to-Plazas” program of the City of New York. The purpose of the program, according to Lydon et al (2011, p.7) , is “to reclaim underutilized and inefficiently used asphalt as public space without large outlay of capital”. Indeed, at its core, the program temporarily uses inexpensive materials to reassign space used by motor vehicles for pedestrian and bicycle usage. Not requiring a large investment, this program has been able to provide new and vibrant public spaces in locations such as Times Square, Madison Square, and the Broadway corridor virtually overnight (Lydon et al, 2011: p.7). By focusing on a rapidly implementable planning intervention, attention is drawn to the inequitable design of the right-of-way in New York City, and an
alternative design is proposed, tested and displayed, albeit temporary. The popularity of the newly converted pedestrian plazas in challenging locations such as Times Square has shown that, when provided with ample public space, pedestrians will use it. More importantly, the conversion of the pedestrian plaza at Times Square (initially conceived as a temporary project) to a pedestrian-only space with a more permanent character suggests that the power of tactical interventions to instigate change on the longer-term is real. In addition to the potential merits of a tactical approach, success of pedestrian plazas and malls in New York City is more or less guaranteed in New York City, given its dense urban form and its high population density. One author claims that the context, and its density, might be the crucial factor that determines the success of pedestrian malls. If that is the case, then New York City is in a good position for opening up pedestrian malls: California’s capital may have suffered from a density problem: it didn’t have enough residents and office workers in the immediate surrounding area to keep its streets active during off-hours, so the pedestrian mall often felt too quiet to be comfortable. The fact that many consumers visiting the street arrived by automobile made the situation worse. In New York, where there are hundreds of people on virtually every block, there’s little to fear, and most people visiting businesses likely come on foot anyway, so getting rid of car access won’t change much. (Freemark, 2010) Having said that, pedestrian traffic often contributes greatly to a city’s vitality. In the words of Jane Jacobs: "Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they may appear, sidewalk contracts are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life may grow." (Jacobs, 1961, cited in Waller, 1998). Even as cities around the United States have abandoned the pedestrian mall, New York City remains in a good position to re-experiment with the concept.
Today, when only 15 percent of the 200 pedestrian malls once built in the United States remain, two factors appear to be crucial to the success of the pedestrian mall: a largely existing supply of pedestrians, and a unique presence in the regional retail and urban landscape (Staley, 2009). Accordingly, Sam Staley has estimated the potential for success of Herald Square and Times Square as pedestrian-only plazas is significant (Sam Staley, 2009). Indeed, as with 42nd street, Herald Square and Times Square are key destinations for tourists, day-trippers, office workers and city residents. The extraordinary high density of Manhattan, as well as its exceptional mix of land uses, only add to the possible success of pedestrianpriority streets in this area. The crucial element is to use the proposed pedestrian mall to reinforce pre-existing shopping, walking and travel patterns (Staley, 2009). However, Staley warns not to use the instigation of the pedestrian mall as a way to “re-engineer” the retail market or pedestrian travel patterns in an area (Staley, 2009). Given the fact that the walking and travel patterns on 42nd street are very well-established, as documented in chapter 2, it would presumably be the case that a pedestrian mall along 42nd street would only reinforce the pre-existing, crosstown travel patterns. Garvin, a former member of New York City’s Planning Commission, has said the following of Times Square’s conversion to a more pedestrian-friendly public space: By reclaiming Broadway (especially in Times Square) from trucks, buses and automobiles, they will provide more room for all of us to get to our destinations, meet people, move around, shop, do business, play or just wander. No other place is as crowded and, thus, nowhere else can the public realm be so easily reclaimed and improved (Garvin, 2009). Given the fact that Broadway at Times Square is in a largely similar context as 42nd street, it might be expected that the same positive effects would apply to a possible conversion of 42nd street into a pedestrian mall;
particularly the accessibility benefits to pedestrians. Further research is needed to determine the local stakeholders’ opinion of such a conversion. However, given the fact that, there has been strong local opposition to a proposed pedestrianization project along 34th street, local sentiment about any possible pedestrianization projects along that street must also be researched (Smerd, 2011). Now that the potential merits and benefits of pedestrianization in New York City in general, and along 42nd street in particular have been discussed, the issues of the implementation of pedestrian-priority spaces comes to mind. If the desirable ambition is to turn 42nd street into a pedestrian-priority street, the process (and the issues associated with it) are pertinent and will be discussed in the subsequent paragraph. § 3.2 Pedestrian projects in New York: Precedent Studies Pedestrian projects, or proposals for pedestrianization, have been common place in New York City since the 1960s, as Chapter 2 has demonstrated. A variety of authors, ranging from the Regional Plan Association, to various municipal agencies, to advocacy groups such as the Institute for Rational Mobility, have put forth elaborate proposals for pedestrianization of the city’s streets. This paragraph will explore the more recent (as in, post-1990) plans, trends, and associated processes with regards to pedestrianization in New York. §3.2.1. Lower Manhattan Pedestrianization Study In a 1997 study put forth by a collaboration of various city agencies, including the Department of City Planning and the Department of Transportation, the possibilities of far-reaching pedestrianization in Lower Manhattan were explored (City of New York, 1997). The area the study focused on, Lower Manhattan, is similar to the 42nd street area in Midtown Manhattan in many aspects. In addition to accommodating tens of thousands of office workers, the area functions as a major tourist attraction, as well as a prominent civic
center. Walking, as it is in the 42nd street area, is the predominant mode of travel. Furthermore, as along 42nd street, the pedestrian volumes are amongst the highest in the city; in both locations, the high pedestrian volumes are generated and supported by excellent mass transit access, a compact street system, clusters of intense activities, and short walking distances (City of New York, 1997: p.3). For instance, 80% of commuters reach Lower Manhattan by mass transit; in the 42nd street area, this percentage lies at 85% (City of New York, 1997: p.7). The high volumes of pedestrian traffic, however, has resulted in a fierce competition between cars, trucks, and pedestrians for a limited amount of space. As along 42nd street, walking in Lower Manhattan is frequently uncomfortable and slow; movement along the congested sidewalks is further hampered by obstructions. These obstructions include street lighting, traffic control devices, parking meters, signs, public safety elements (fire hydrants and alarm boxes), public telephones, mailboxes, newsstands and other types of street furniture. Vendors, operating where pedestrian volumes are the highest, further contribute to clutter and congestion (City of New York, 1997: p.14). In addition, the “spill-over” of pedestrians into the travel lanes increases the risk of pedestrian-vehicular conflicts. Pedestrian-vehicular conflict is also exacerbated by the multiple turning movements that occur at intersections where two-way streets meet one- or two-way streets (a condition that also is prevalent along 42nd street). Delays to turning vehicles especially occur when pedestrian volumes are high. In such circumstances, friction is created because of traffic that is slowing down along the curb lanes and because of through traffic that attempts to bypass this blocked lane (City of New York, 1997: p.24). Discerningly, improving selected streets for pedestrians would not only make walking in the area safer, more comfortable, and more efficient, it would also improve the economic vitality of the area (City of New York, 1997: p.3). In this respect, Lower Manhattan has as much to gain from pedestrianization as does the 42nd street corridor. The 1997 City of New York study claim that making pedestrian improvements and implementing traffic calming proposals enhances the economic vitality of the Lower Manhattan area by boosting commercial activity, retailing, and tourism. Air quality would also be
improved in such a scenario, as more attractive, safe and efficient pedestrian circulation would further entice people to walk in the area, instead of drive (City of New York, 1997: p.3). Accordingly, the 1997 study aspired to the following goals: • enhancing the efficiency and the speed of pedestrian movement by improving pedestrian access to mass transit and to nodes of intense activity; • • • • promoting public access to the waterfronts and improving links to public open spaces; increasing effective sidewalk widths; improving pedestrian levels-of-service by reducing obstacles and/or widening sidewalks; upgrade the quality of Lower Manhattan’s streets by working with local BIDs to coordinate and enhance physical elements such as signage, landscaping, lighting, pavement, and (other types of) street furniture; • Improve pedestrian safety by reducing pedestrian-vehicular conflicts and/or reducing vehicle speeds and the number of vehicular trips on major pedestrian streets; • Improving air quality by reducing the number of vehicular trips; Develop a range of design proposals, varying in their scope, cost and complexity, and to test various proposed interventions and improvements (City of New York, 1997: p.5) Given the similarity of the context, it is feasible to suggest that the recommendations that were put forth by the City of New York (1997) also are relevant for the 42nd street corridor. §3.2.2. Midtown Manhattan Pedestrian Network Development Project A similar study to the 1997 study of Lower Manhattan is the “Midtown Manhattan Pedestrian Network Development Project”, dating back to June 2000. As with the 1997 study, this study was jointly produced by the
Department of City Planning and the Department of Transportation (City of New York, 2000). The study area was defined as the West Midtown area, bounded by West 38th street on the South, West 53rd street on the North, Sixth Avenue on the East and Eighth Avenue on the West. The rationale for the study, which includes an evaluation of pedestrian and vehicular circulation in the study area, was to address the pedestrian-vehicular conflicts in the area, and to improve safety, access, convenience, and the urban environment in general (City of New York, 2000: p.iii). In the study’s introductory chapter, the study is placed in a wider context of ongoing commitment to improving the pedestrian circulation in Midtown Manhattan. As piecemeal improvements that have occurred in the 1990s are discussed, stakeholders who are addressing circulation are identified. Amongst others, the Times Square BID, Grand Central Partnership, 34th Street Partnership, Bryant Park Restoration Corporation, Fifth Avenue Association, Rockefeller Association, Fashion Center BID, and the Cityscape Institute are cited as community organizations that have addressed circulation in Midtown (City of New York, 2000: p.3). Specifically, the following improvements had already been made by these community organizations at the time the study had been initiatied:
The Grand Central Partnership, the 34th Street Partnership, and the Fifth Avenue Association have contributed to a reduction in (pedestrian) congestion and sidewalk clutter by creating “clear corner zones”, distinct crosswalks, and by providing new trash cans, news boxes, planters, banners, and new street lighting;
The Cityscape Institute had launched a demonstration project focused on redesigning the streetscape along 55th street (between Fifth and Eighth Avenues);
The Times Square BID, in the face of the increasing popularity of the Times Square area, recommended improvements to mid-block pedestrian connections and provided the area with street maps and banners (City of New York, 2000: p.3).
Additionally, the Department of City Planning had been identified by the study as an organization concerned with the improvement of the pedestrian environment in the study area. In a rezoning proposal that would expand the boundaries of the Theater subdistrict, land use and urban design controls were put forth that would, amongst other things, institute an improved pedestrian environment and an augmented streetscape (City of New York, 2000: p.5). The study included an overview of pedestrian volumes in the area, as documented by various actors. These figures recorded are displayed below (Table X). Publishing entity Location Time Pedestri an Grand Central Partnership & 34th Street Partnership Grand Central Partnership & 34th Street Partnership Philip Habib & Associates Philip Habib & Associates 1992 42nd Street Light Rail Transit Line Final Environmental Impact Statement 1992 42nd Street Light Rail Transit Line Final Environmental Impact Statement 1992 42nd Street Light Rail Transit Line Final 5th Avenue & East 42nd Street 7th Avenue & West 34th Street 7th Ave & B’way betw.42
Average of AM, MD, and PM peak hour volumes Average of AM, MD, and PM peak hour volumes Hourly volumes from noon onwards on a Wednesday Saturday at midnight (hourly volume) AM Peak Hour
3,700 7,000 5,000
44 Times Square: W 42
St & 7
Ave 42nd Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue 42nd Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue 42nd Street between
MD Peak Hour
PM Peak Hour
Statement 7th Avenue Table 1: Pedestrian Volumes in Midtown Manhattan. Source: City of New York, 2000: p.11 Generally speaking, the highest pedestrian volumes were recorded near transportation terminals and near major nodes of activity, such as streets and blocks with high concentrations of hotels and theatres. Related to these high volumes were the high numbers of pedestrian accidents; during the five years between 1989 and 1994, there were 4,840 pedestrian accidents in the study area (3,583 at intersections and 1,257 at mid-block locations) (City of New York, 2000: p.12). The locations were these accidents occurred are mapped in figure 12. There are a very limited number of high-visibility crosswalks east of Eighth Avenue in the study area, however, their locations do not correspond to the high-accident intersections displayed in Fig. 12. (City of New York, 2000: p. 16). Another traffic issue identified by the study is the underutilization of designated taxi stands in the area; taxis instead conduct drop offs and pickups in congested and/or unsafe locations. This further jeopardizes pedestrians in the study area, and exacerbates the pedestrian-vehicular conflicts in particular. Fig. 13 indicates where pedestrian-vehicular conflicts are most prevalent; it follows that this corresponds to the locations where pedestrian accidents are most common, as documented in Fix. 12.
Fig. 12: Pedestrian Accidents in Midtown Manhattan. Source: City of New York, 2000: p.13
Fig. 13: Pedestrian Corridors in Midtown Manhattan. Source: City of New York, 2000: p.22
Based on the findings discussed above, the authors of the study have determined that four different types of problems plague traffic in the study area (City of New York, 2000: p.24). Of these, pedestrian safety, pedestrian congestion, and quality of the pedestrian environment (or rather, the lack thereof) will be discussed below. It must be noted that these three issues are strongly interrelated. Pedestrian Safety Primarily, pedestrian safety is compromised by conflicts with moving vehicles; these conflicts usually occur at intersections or at curb cuts. This is caused by insufficient queuing space (intersections) or by encroaching vehicles (curb cuts and intersections). Protruding signs, as well as uneven walk surfaces, jeopardize pedestrians on the sidewalks between the intersections. The congested situation, and particularly illegally parked vehicles, contributed to a situation where busses let people on and off on the street instead of curbside. Narrow, obstructed sidewalks are prevalent areawide problem. A lack of street markings as well as shabbily designed subway ventilation grates further contribute to the compromised pedestrian safety (City of New York, 2000: p.24). Pedestrian Congestion Whilst most pronounced in the immediate Times Square area, pedestrian congestion occurs around transit stops and along streets and avenues which connect major transportation hubs to important nodes and activity centers in the area, such as 42nd street. At Times Square, pedestrians spill off the streets frequently, contributing to pedestrian-vehicular conflict, delays, and more congestion (City of New York, 2005: p.24). Quality of the Pedestrian Environment The lack of signage complicates pedestrians’ movement to the many destinations in the area. Other elements such as seating, landscaping, lighting, and public restrooms are also inadequate. The lack of these amenities was particularly pronounced around the Times square area. The general “look and feel” of an area to pedestrians significantly influences their
experiences in that area. The condition of the sidewalks, particularly those which contain subway ventilation grates (which are highly prevalent in this transit-rich area) detracts from the appeal of the study area (City of New York, 2005: p.25). Finally, then, the study put forth a series of recommendations regarding the development of a pedestrian network in the area. These recommendations were based on the considerations discussed above. General recommendations include the improvement of sidewalk conditions and paving, the improvement of crosswalk paving surfaces, and the further implementation of wide, high-visibility crosswalks. Sidewalk conditions, the study suggest, can be improved by changing the curb lines to widen sidewalks and street corners. A further implementation of high-visibility paving crosswalks is particularly needed at accident locations (City of New York, 2000: p.29). More specific, localized recommendations were oriented towards operational and physical improvements, such as wider sidewalks, sidewalk and roadbed management, and better enforcement of curb and moving regulations. Sidewalk management is recommended because of its potential to mitigate pedestrian congestion and inconvenience, and includes clearing corners of clutter, locating commercial activities (vendors) and street furniture there where they allow for uninterrupted pedestrian movement, and cooperating with property owners to keep the sidewalks in front of their building’s entrances unobstructed. Additionally, the recommendations called for acknowledgement of the heavy volumes of pedestrians and the integration of their needs in the larger design of the right-of-way (City of New York, 2000: p.28). Against the background of these recommendations, it is understandable that several significant pedestrian improvements occurred in the Midtown Manhattan area under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Kahn in the late 2000s. The precedent studies of pedestrianization in Lower Manhattan and in Midtown Manhattan paved the way, and provided the rationale for, an elaborate program of pedestrian improvements which have been
implemented from 2006 onwards. These improvements, which were implemented under a number of policy measures put forth by the New York City Department of Transportation, are discussed in the next paragraph.
§3.3 Pedestrian Projects in New York: Recent Trends & Processes The long range sustainability plan for New York City, PlaNYC2030, was put forth by the office of Mayor Bloomberg in 2007. The plan stated the goal that every New Yorker should live within a 10-minute walk of public space. In an attempt to meet that goal, the New York City Department of Transportation has begun creating pedestrian plazas and repurposing spaces to be more pedestrian friendly across New York City. Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn initiated this trend as a way to get people thinking about streets as public spaces. Since 2006 the Department of Transportation has added over 20 acres of new public space to the city (Department of Transportation, 2011a). The New York City Department of Transportation has a tactical approach to instigating new pedestrian plazas, including temporary and permanent projects that may be proposed by the community or come from within the Department, or come about though combined effort by the community and agency. Whilst the Department spearheads the construction of the plaza space, it partners with a nonprofit or BID from the community where the space is located to manage the space. Most partners have formal contracts with DOT that detail the responsibilities of the partner group in managing the space (Department of Transportation, 2011a). The “Plaza Program” is the policy measure enacted by the Department of Transportation to facilitate the instigation of new pedestrian plazas. Under this program, pedestrian plazas are proposed by a local non for profit group from the community where the prospective pedestrian plaza is located. According to the Department of Transportation, “A "plaza" is considered to be an area located on city-owned property, which may vary in size and shape, that is designed for pedestrian use, generally incorporating seating, decorative paving, trees, appropriate lighting, and public art.” (Department of Transportation, 2011b: p.2)
Applications to the Plaza Program are de facto requests to have the City invest capital funds into a community in the shape of a plaza; additionally, when the applications are submitted, the community non for profit agrees to maintain, operate, and program the plaza once it is constructed. The applying organization must have 501(c) status, provide financial documentation, demonstrate support for the prospective plaza, and obtain enough points in a complex evaluation process in which their application is reviewed and weighed against other applications (Department of Transportation, 2011: pp. 3-6). Once granted the plaza, the organization has certain responsibilities. Amongst these are the maintenance and the insurance of the plaza. Also, the applying organization must guide the design process of the plaza, conduct public outreach, spearhead the programming of the plaza, and provide a funding plan that details how the plaza will be maintained and operated in the long run (Department of Transportation, 2011: pp. 7-8). In addition to the Plaza Program, there are so-called “Non-Capital” pedestrianization projects. These projects are typically in-house projects of the Department of Transportation, and are initially temporary in nature (even though they may be destined for more permanent conversion in the future). Using construction materials that allow for rapid construction, these types of pedestrianization projects are more akin to a trial-and-error approach. This suits well with the Bloomberg administration’s tactic of using pilot projects as a means of implementing planning interventions (Chen, 2011: p.1). Using the “pilot” label, the administration has the capability to execute projects first, and ask questions second. Indeed, the city’s pedestrian plazas, as well as countless new bike lanes, have typically been implemented using this strategy. Indeed, Chen notes: “The pilot has emerged as the mayor’s signature policy weapon. Admirers see an innovative way around red tape.” (Chen, 2011: p.1). Pilots, or trial programs, are strategic planning tools in New York City because there is no requirement for review, be it in a public hearing or in a City
Council committee. For instance, the city’s Design Commission does not review projects which have been labeled as pilot projects. Furthermore, if pilots are expanded, there still is no requirement for review. Certain pilots have been expanded, yet they have never been made permanent, suggesting their usefulness as intermediary phases in a longer planning process (Chen, 2011: p.1). The use of private funds to implement a number of trail programs allows the city administration to “throw the weight of government behind a project without the accountability that comes with the use of taxpayers’ money.” (Chen, 2011: p.1). The widespread usage of trial programs recognizes the fact that, in a city that is as large as New York, not all policy measures can, or indeed should be implemented on a city-wide scale from the start. As a planning tool that falls into the tactical urbanism paradigm of planning, trial programs allow the planner to collect data on a new intervention, and to use those data to analyze and evaluate the intervention before significant resources are invested into a program that might not prove to be effective (Chen, 2011: p.1). The most successful trial program in recent New York City history has been the conversion of Times Square and Herald Square into pedestrian plazas. This trial program has later been made permanent, based on the success of the initial intervention (Chen, 2011: p.2). §3.4 Conclusion The discussion offered in this chapter has served to illustrate that New York City has the right conditions in place to make pedestrianization efforts succeed. The city’s density and abundant pedestrian traffic make pedestrian improvements likely to be successful. The need for such improvements, in various parts of the city, has been documented in studies put forth by various municipal agencies around the turn of the century. Finally, then, the city’s Transportation Department has developed policy mechanisms to implement these pedestrian improvements. Facilitated by these mechanisms, the city has recently witnessed a surge in pedestrianization projects. It is against this background that this thesis will further research the merits, pitfalls, and other
considerations pertaining to implement pedestrian improvements along 42nd street, focusing on the interest and considerations of the local stakeholders, and their potential role in any pedestrianization efforts that might occur along the 42nd street corridor.
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Appendix A: Matrix of Methodology
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