New York's Pedestrian Malls: Architects and Planners Weigh In

Six architects, planners, public intellectuals and authors give their differing opinions on Bloomberg's plan to turn Broadway into a pedestrian-only space.
March 2, 2009, 2pm PST | franny.ritchie
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"This week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that cars would be barred from several blocks of Broadway, including Herald Square and Times Square. He said the changes would relieve traffic congestion and crowded sidewalks - far different problems from what led to the pedestrian malls of the 70s. And it's not just New York that's rethinking this old idea. San Francisco is considering restrictions on private cars on Market Street, the city's main artery."

Robert Sullivan of Vogue magazine writes, "Broadway is perhaps New York's original public space. It is a line that existed before the creation of cars, before the Manhattan street grid, even the Dutch and English versions of it. Thus, we are not counterintuitively taking away cars from Broadway. We are intuitively reviving Broadway as a place to walk, to be publicly car-free."

On the other hand, Randall O'Toole of the Cato Institute suggests that pedestrian malls actually have a dismal record, and that Americans should learn from the lessons of Kalamazoo, MI and the other 200+ cities that installed malls, only to close them decades later. "Far from helping retail districts, most of these pedestrian malls killed them. Vacancy rates soared, and any pedestrians using the malls found themselves walking among boarded up shops or former department stores that had been downgraded to thrift shops or other low-rent operations."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

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Published on Friday, February 27, 2009 in Freakonomics - NY Times Blog
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