In Appreciation of the NEW Times Square
Mayor Bloomberg is expected to announce his verdict on Times Square's new pedestrian spaces very soon. Will the changes be permanent? This morning Bloomberg told radio host John Gambling that we'll find out sometime next week. In the meantime, it seems like the media has decided to fixate on rumorsthat Midtown traffic speeds may not have increased across the board, without paying much attention to the tremendous difference this project has made for hundreds of thousands of pedestrians every day.
It's been eight months since this part of Broadway went car-free, and maybe it's hard to recall just how bad Times Square used to be for everyone walking around. To really appreciate what we have today, you've got to take a trip back in time to see the crowded, dangerous mess that used to fester at the crossroads of the world. Naturally, the moment calls for a Streetfilms retrospective.
Man 1: [0:30] It's like a beach. It's like an urban beach. It's very nice oasis. It's just really nice. It's just the way it's supposed to be. It just makes a lot of sense.
Man 2: [0:38] It works a lot better without all the cars here. It's easier for the people and safer for walking. [0:45] Man three I worked here before all this happened. There were cars everywhere.
[0:50] Woman one I feel like Times Square should just be an area that we should be able to sit down and relax and enjoy ourselves.
Mark Gorton: [1:00] I mean Soo-Yan you've done work all around the world helping cities make themselves more friendly to people and pedestrians. Just standing here in Times Square, what are some of your obvious thoughts about what we could do here to make Times Square a little less overbearing for pedestrians? Soo-Yan: [1:17] If you look at the people who are milling around on the sidewalks or trying to get across, each of them has a rather unpleasant situation. They are being pushed. And we'll see very few children, very few handicapped people, very few elderly people under conditions as chaotic as they are here. We have a typical conflict: It's a very popular place, there are hundreds of thousands of people and there are many, many cars, and there is not room enough.
Tim Tompkins: [1:51] The number one complaint in Times Square has been the pedestrian congestion, what it's like just to walk through Times Square, the need for more pedestrian space and how that intersects with cars. Michael Bloomberg: [2:03] Our pilot traffic improvements will also open more space to pedestrians. The affected blocks around Broadway and Times Square and Herald Square will be made pedestrian only accesses. Right now, if you go out and look, an enormous number of people can't fit on the sidewalks. We're going to have out of all this, some pedestrian-only areas and about two and a half acres of new public space will be created in the process.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [2:27] E plan that we're unveiling today is a new solution to the traffic and safety problems in midtown that have bedeviled traffic engineers probably for about as long as there have been traffic engineers. [music] Man 4: [2:59] was traffic commissioner in the 1980.s. We would propose public areas. People said "No, you've got to have viewing gardens with big spiked fences. We can't have open space." If we had suggested that you can have moveable chairs? They would say that everybody will steal the chairs. By morning, there wouldn't be a chair left. We have proven; we've done it in Bryant Park, we've done it on 9th Avenue, we've done it in the meatpacking district and now in Times Square. People are going to absolutely enjoy coming out, sitting in the middle of one of the greatest locations in the world.
Janette Sadik-Khan: [3:36] It's good for traffic, it's good for pedestrians, it's good for safety, and it's good for business. So what we did was we decided, wow, if we took Broadway out of the system, we could make it much easier for the half a million people that walk through this part of town everyday, and for the cars that go through this part of town everyday. They get stuck. Because Broadway cuts on a diagonal through the heart of midtown Manhattan and it complicates how the street network needs to work.
Tim Tompkins: [4:02] Everybody knows about the wonders of an urban natural or peaceful place like a park in the middle of city life and how great that is. But this was kind of a variation which was this is a place where you can be still but you're still in the city. You're experiencing the city, but you don't have to just stand or walk through it the way you did before. [music]
Man 7: [4:44] It's better. The seating is cool. It's better at night, too. If you just sit down and relax. There's a carefree atmosphere now.
Woman 4: [4:51] It's better because we don't have to wait. Because traffic as you can see is real bad. So it's a little better.
Man 7: [4:56] It's nice, it's nice. We enjoy sitting in the seats, listening to music. Yeah, it's something, I'll keep coming down.
Man 8: [5:03] I didn't imagine we were going to have so many people out here and so many people playing music, enjoying themselves in places that used to be just traffic jams.
WoTim Tompkins: [5:11] You get to hang out in the middle of Times Square and not have to worry about getting hit by a car. Yes.
Jan Gehl: [5:17] Oh yes, I have been down to Times Square again. I have many memories of Times Square over the years. All of them are memories of being squeezed absolutely flat. And it's completely amazing to see the transformation now. With all these people who everyday visit that small place, it was obvious that more space and more comfort was needed and also some opportunity to rest for a while. So I think it's a fantastic improvement from the time when you were squeezed as a sardine in a tin to this present situation where you have some space and you can sit down and you can enjoy. [music] Man 10: [6:14] Folks, you are watching history. History is being made. Broadway is now closed.