A New Great White Way: Times Square Pedestrian Mall Will Become Permanent

News   A New Great White Way: Times Square Pedestrian Mall Will Become Permanent
 
The temporary pedestrian mall created in Times Square in summer 2009 is a Broadway hit, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has green-lighted construction of a permanent plaza.
An aerial shot of the Times Square pedestrian mall
An aerial shot of the Times Square pedestrian mall

The city's Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) first announced the Green Light for Midtown initiative in February 2009. It was the city's test effort "to improve mobility and safety." Implementation began Memorial Day weekend in 2009 at various major intersections in Manhattan, including Herald Square and Times Square between 42nd and 47th Streets.

NYCDOT "will begin a capital project to design and build the plazas and corridor treatments with permanent, high quality materials," according to a Feb. 11 statement. No completion date was announced; the existing pilot areas will stay in place until they are refurbished as permanent.

Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, responded to the news by telling Playbill.com, "For theatregoers, the Broadway plazas are a new stage in the world's premier theatre district. Times Square is hallowed ground for theatre lovers and a point of pride for New Yorkers. By making these spaces permanent, the city helps improve traffic flow to the area, and ensures that this iconic neighborhood remains vibrant and welcoming for future generations to come."

Beginning in late May 2009, pedestrians and theatregoers were able to move more freely in the Times Square area under the pilot plan to close five blocks of Broadway to automobile traffic. (View Playbill.com's Photo Gallery of the changes by clicking here.)

Broadway between 42nd Street and 47th Street became a pedestrian mall, with café tables, umbrellas, planters and room for cyclists and foot traffic. Seventh Avenue runs (somewhat) parallel to Broadway at Times Square and took on the major southbound traffic burden. Cross streets remained open, feeding the theatre district. The northern part of Times Square is where Duffy Square sits, and where Theatre Development Fund's TKTS discount ticket booth is located. The newly closed Broadway and Duffy Square are separated only by a curb, and the area became a wide safe zone for lounging, picture-taking and meeting.

Victoria Bailey, executive director of Theatre Development Fund, said on Feb. 11, "We believe that increased pedestrian traffic in Times Square and on the red steps leads to increased attendance in the Broadway and Off Broadway theatres in the area."

The estimated cost of the program was $1.5 million.

According to a Feb. 11 statement, "Both before and after implementing Green Light for Midtown as a pilot, NYCDOT collected extensive data on travel times, traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes and traffic accidents in the months just prior and just following project implementation. According to this data, the project is delivering on its expectations."

Here is some of what NYCDOT found:

  • Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project area are down 63 percent, pedestrian injuries are down 35 percent and 80 percent fewer pedestrians are walking in the roadway in Times Square.
  • 74 percent of New Yorkers surveyed by the Times Square Alliance agree that Times Square has improved dramatically over the last year.
  • The number of people walking along Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Times Square is up 11 percent and pedestrian volume is up six percent in Herald Square. Read the NYCDOT findings here.

  • Before and after shots of Times Square and the pedestrian mall.
    Before and after shots of Times Square and the pedestrian mall.
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