This image shows a transformed public space in New York City: Times Square, then and now. If you’ve ever wondered what a city would look like with cars removed, this is it. Pedestrians flock! Happiness ensues!
Historically, change occurs painfully slowly in New York. I’m not sure how, but somehow former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan succeeded with a series of dramatic improvements for pedestrians. Over at A|N Blog you can see a selection of 25 before/after shots from around the city. They also have a nice article on urban planning and how to get involved:
New York City is the great example of public space reclamation. Using very temporary materials in plazas and public spaces built literally overnight, [those plazas] became these placeholders that are very highly used. Now we’re seeing some of them up for permanent design and construction. … A lot of these efforts are not expensive. Really, $2,000 can help people envision change. What’s difficult about the traditional planning process is that it’s behind closed doors. It can be intimidating for people to get involved, but if you’re experimenting with change in real time on the street, on your block, or on your sidewalk, people get a real understanding of what that means. (Mike Lydon)
I used to live in the city back when Times Square looked like it did in Taxi Driver, and I can’t really get used to this new New York – but I like it. Bring on the car ban.