April 18, 2013 Leave a comment
Jeff Speck has spent a bit more time in the planning and urban design limelight recently, in large part due to his new book, Walkable City. In this article for the New York Daily News, Speck makes a bold proposal: since the pedestrianizing of Times Square has gone so well, why don’t we turn the whole of Broadway into a greenway?
He makes some interesting points. Broadway is largely a redundant street in the street grid of New York. The regularity of streets allow for multiple routes to get anywhere, and eliminating Broadway as a vehicular route would inconvenience very few people (relatively). Manhattan is one of the few places in America that is dense enough to support a long pedestrian mall, and shop owners have proved that they don’t need to rely on car traffic for business, as is the case in so many other cities.
It would be a challenge though. As Speck notes, many of the pedestrian malls in the United States have failed. Chestnut Street in Philadelphia is still recovering, and K Street in Sacramento gave up and allowed cars back a few years ago. Broadway is also such a long street that it would be impossible to come up with one unified design, and you would need a variety of treatments every few blocks at least. Originally when I read this article I was very skeptical: I don’t think you want grassy fields in Times Square, the pedestrian traffic would turn it to mud in a matter of hours. But while Times Square and areas south may need to focus on hardscape with some trees, areas further north could be greener. I don’t know if this is something that could really ever be implemented, but it’s a great idea for a graduate level urban design studio.