Times Square is better known for its often-chaotic mass of traffic jams and hoards of sightseers than as a place to lounge and relax, but a new program to close Broadway to traffic has changed that – at least temporarily. Instead of tourists and natives elbowing each other on narrow sidewalks, pedestrians are spread out throughout the entire square. Some even sun themselves and leisurely eat lunch in the 350 beach chairs provided by the local business owners’ association.
Five blocks in all have been closed off to vehicles along iconic Broadway in an effort to increase safety, boost business and reduce air pollution from the 50,000 cars, trucks and buses that pass through each intersection on a daily basis. The city is rerouting traffic from two stretches of Broadway, allowing pedestrians nearly full run of a large swath of Midtown.
Traffic along Broadway has always been awkward, as the road slices through Manhattan diagonally on what is otherwise a grid pattern of streets. That leaves lots of clumsy little intersections that become a nightmare of traffic congestion, not just during rush hour but at practically all hours of the day. Combine that with the flow of more than 356,000 pedestrians through Times Square every day, and you’ve got quite a mess. Pedestrian overcrowding has always been a major complaint of locals.
For all of these reasons, the temporary transformation of Times Square into a pedestrian plaza may prove to be a precursor to bigger, better and greener things.
Janette Sadik-Khan, the DOT commissioner who came up with the idea, is taking a wait-and-see approach to deciding whether the project will expand in the future.
"We're trying it," Sadik-Khan said. "Nobody can argue that Times Square wasn't broken."