New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, annoyed by “costumed menaces” in Times Square, are considering removing the pedestrian plazas altogether. Here are six reasons why that’s a bad idea:
1. Because it runs counter to Vision Zero. Traffic injuries in Times Square fell by 39 percent since the pedestrian plazas were implemented, and that’s not because fewer people are walking there. In fact, pedestrian traffic has gone up dramatically from about 350,000 each day before the plazas, to 480,000 today. Removing the plazas would make sidewalks more crowded, and in turn, force people to walk in the street.
2. Because it would make Midtown congestion even worse. Midtown traffic actually moved more quickly after the Times Square (and Herald Square) plazas were installed. The Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas wrote in 2012:
The change hasn’t, as many drivers have fretted, made traffic worse in Midtown; in fact, it has sped things up by reducing confusion. Back in 2008, drivers averaged only 6.7 miles per hour in Midtown West, where Broadway is. In just one year, the closure improved speeds overall to 7.2 miles per hour, a 7 percent increase.
3. Because it would be bad for the economy. Street features like bike lanes and pedestrian plazas are good for business, and commercial rents in Times Square have skyrocketed since the plazas were installed.
4. Because it’s a slippery slope. If the City decides to deal with annoyances like aggressive Sesame Street characters by removing the pedestrian plazas, where will they stop? Shut down the subways to get rid of the “It’s showtime” dancers? Close Central Park because there are too many squirrels?
5. Because just about everyone else thinks it’s a bad idea. A majority of New Yorkers approve of the Times Square plazas, and we don’t need a scientific poll to know tourists love them, too. But there’s a handful of folks in support of removing the plazas, including a couple of failed Republican candidates for mayor and AAA.
6. Because when it comes to the city’s streets and sidewalks, there are much bigger problems. In New York City, drivers jump curbs with regularity, killing and injuring people walking on sidewalks, sitting on benches and waiting at bus stops. During the first half of 2015, 62 people were killed by drivers on New York City streets and over 6,000 were injured. But somehow the City’s mayor and police commissioner have turned their attention to topless street performers.