Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Mayor Michael Bloomberg will implement his plan to reduce traffic in Times Square beginning in mid August.
The Broadway Boulevard concept is not only controversial but it is also not original. Others have tried and failed. Traffic congestion is as old as the Romans with their abundance of ox carts and chariots at the Coliseum. As long as the trains continue to be congested. As long as the buses continue to be late, people will drive.

And as the traffic begins to funnel in this midtown artery, one has to wonder how emergency vehicles will be able to navigate the buildup in the back up. In 2003, Randy Kennedy wrote an interesting article for the New York Times. Here is an excerpt.

"The gigantic problem is political. Since at least the end of World War II, the battle between cars and cities, a battle over the shape of the city itself, has been an epic mismatch. An oversimplified chronology would read something like this: the car helps to create sprawl; sprawl siphons people and political power away from the hearts of cities; the car returns to attack the city, which was never designed to accommodate so many; the city is forced to transform itself, ceding sidewalks to streets, trolley tracks to traffic lanes, parks to parking lots, whole neighborhoods to expressways.

In the United States, the critic Lewis Mumford foresaw a grim end to the whole process: ''a tomb of concrete roads and ramps covering the dead corpse of a city.'' While the effects have not been quite that dire yet, the imbalance remains tremendous. On a purely human level, it can be witnessed any weekday in Times Square, where armies of angry pedestrians crowd around S.U.V.'s pinioned in crosswalks, the drivers inside easily outnumbered 100 to 1.

But those drivers and the people who profit from them in cities -- principally garage owners, automobile clubs and road builders -- have had tremendous political influence over the years. They have portrayed unfettered access to public tax-supported roads as something like a modern amendment to the rights of man. And while it may be in the long-term interests of drivers to pay for using some roads in order to make them passable again, to put that money into subsidizing more efficient conveyances like trains and buses, city leaders have long viewed administering that corrective as something close to electoral suicide.

Even the most crusading anti-car mayors -- like John V. Lindsay in New York, who came within weeks of ordering a Midtown traffic ban in the early 1970's, and Edward I. Koch after him, who came almost as close to imposing tolls on the free East River bridges -- have ultimately backed down or lost their battles"
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