Light Rail
Regional Rail
Penn Station
Livable City Plan
Serving NYC since 1989!

pedestrians first!

A movement aimed at exploring and achieving the upper limit of "devehicularization" of our nation's largest city. Get cars out of our parks. Curb the reckless motorists who dominate our streets. Cut noise, smog and traffic costs. Increase pedestrian space and safety. Invest in new transit options and expansion -- not just baby steps -- and make bicycling better. A livable city is possible!

Auto-Free NY has been holding FREE monthly meetings, featuring a wide variety of guest speakers, since its founding in February, 1989. Usually held in Manhattan, they are open to the public, and no reservations are needed.
The Livable City Transport Plan
is an affordable, comprehensive vision of our city, designed to be achievable in just one four-year mayoral term. Using innovations now common in more sophisticated and democratically run cities here and abroad, this plan would raise New Yorkers' quality of life through better functioning public transit, a noticeable reduction in car use and much more auto-free space in the core of NYC, the most densely populated city in the nation. As always, we look forward to your thoughtful review and comments.

• The City's plaNYC 2030
Lower Manhattan
Light Rail in NYC
Regional Rail Working Group

Light Rail: perfect for cities (photo courtesy, based in Austin, Texas)

How the NY Times Covers NYC
42nd St. Trolleys - Recent History
What's so Great about Streetcars?
Light Rail in the Lincoln Tunnel!
New York Streetcar News Index
East River Bridges
Rockaway Beach Line (Qns)
Life's a Beach for Paris Mayor
Berlin: Transport Politics
How to Join/Donate
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The Five-Minute Activist
Previous "Letters from George"
Remembering Steve Dobrow

Auto-Free NY operates under the aegis of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc. (IRUM), a not-for-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status.
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If Car Names Were Honest:
Audi My-Way
Chevy Fistfight
Chrysler Criminal
Dodge Tumor
Ford Poluta XS
GMC Denial
Honda Discord
Hyundai Enslava
Lamborghini OINK
Lexus Segregator
Lincoln Alienator
Mazda MeFirstLastOnly
Mercury Dioxin
Saab Flatus
Saturn UrFaddas
Subaru Deforester
Toyota Runovia
VW Smoggia

Be a patriot - use mass transit!

Inbound traffic over the free East River bridges; the vast majority of these cars carry only one person - the driver. May 2010.

Above: Inbound traffic over one of the untolled East River bridges, showing the city's success in incentivizing private car commuting; the vast majority of these cars only carry one person - the driver. May 2010.

 Letter from George
June 1, 2015      

Roxanne's New Book "Rail and the City"

Dear Friends of Auto-Free New York:

Rail and the City: these two four letter words are inseparable!

Find out at the June 16 meeting of the Auto-Free NY/vision42 working group, when architect and author - and our vision42 Chair, Roxanne Warren - will present some highlights from her recently published book from MIT Press, Rail and the City: Shrinking Our Carbon Footprint While Reimagining Urban Space. Roxanne will discuss the need for cities to become less auto-dependent by retaining and expanding their rail systems:

     a. The role of the automobile in climate change, current and foreseen. As populations grow worldwide, there are basic ecological benefits in the migration toward cities. There is, however, an inherent conflict between high densities (cities) and the space required by private motoring.
     b. Need for a dual focus on cities - enhancing the walking environments of cities, and simultaneously assuring their fluid functioning. The unique features of rail will allow both. There are technical features of rail that are key to its safety, high capacities and comfort, and which uniquely qualify it to serve as essential infrastructure both within and between cities.
     c. Perspectives on the development, demise, and resurgence of streetcars in American cities. The 1832 invention of railroads was a major breakthrough in the capacity, speed, comfort and reliability of transportation – all qualities that rail still retains to a significantly greater degree than most other modes. In particular, French cities of all sizes have been successfully revitalized with light rail tram networks over the past three decades.
     d. Perspectives on intercity rail in the US, and on high-speed rail (HSR) abroad and potentially in the US. Varying densities of development in the US as a gauge for determining the need for rail, including HSR. Some political contrapositions in the US which often confuse these decisions.

For an interesting essay on the politics of rail transport see this recent New Yorker column.

Also, at the close of last month’s meeting Christine Berthet, chair of Manhattan Community Board 4, stopped by to discuss regional rail issues, particularly as they affect the Port Authority’s expensive plan to greatly expand the 42nd Street Bus Terminal. We sent her our Regional Rail Plan. Christine thought that a more focused presentation on West side issues would be helpful, including how to use the existing connection to the Jets games. Time permitting, at our June meeting we will discuss a response to her concerns.

For our June AFNY meeting, an RSVP is not required but is recommended, at As always, the meeting is free and open to the public and will be at the Transportation Alternatives office at 127 West 26th Street, 10th Floor in Manhattan. Also, you may find of interest the Brooking Institute blog piece on closing La Guardia Airport and my response. My initial May 8 op-ed piece in the NY Times aruged that regional rail can make LaGuardia, a large city-owned waterfront site, available for affordable housing while greatly improving rail access to the region’s airports and reducing aviation noise.
George Haikalis, Chair          

P.S.      GEORGE IN TV DEBATE, NOW ON YOUTUBE: I invite you to watch on youtube a lively TV panel debate I was on, on the Brian Lehrer cable TV show (April 2, 2014). The debate, "Rail or Trail (or both) for the disused Rockaway Beach Line in central Queens" featured myself, as president of IRUM, arguing for restoration of the rail right-of-way, and Travis Terry, of the Friends of Queensway, arguing to convert it into a linear park. The youtube address:

(or use youtube's search function). Note: skip forward around 40 minutes into Lehrer's show, when the debate portion, around 15 minutes long, begins. Enjoy!!
     NYC SMOG ALERT UPDATES:Despite propaganda about how clean cars are these days, NYC's air quality continues to be the worst on the East Coast -- practically every day here is an Air Quality Alert Day, meaning you shouldn't breath when outdoors. For updates, call the state Dept of Environmental Conservation at 1-800 535-1345.
     Regional Rail Group Update: Our Regional Rail Working Group also meets monthly. This group showcases the efforts of individuals from a variety of transit advocacy groups to awaken our region's sleeping giant, its commuter rail system. Note that because of the damage from Hurricane Sandy done to Hoboken in fall 2012, we cannot hold our regular monthly meetings at the Hoboken City Hall.) Until further notice, we urge those who can make it to attend our regular Auto-Free NY/vision42 working group meetings. Information on a restored meeting time and place will be announced as soon as possible.


The car plague is still with us. Illustration dates from the early 1990s.

EarthDay NY 2015: Brought to you by Toyota

New York Times: Filler vs. Reporting
on 'Vision Zero'

New tracking technology in our neighborhoods
Recognize these gray boxes? EZ-Pass and Big Brother have joined op to invade our privacy, using taxpayer money. Location: Atlantic Avenue at Boerum Street, Brooklyn. Read more
Remarkable (& Free)
Long Island Bike & Hike Map


The Inexorable Logic of Urban Auto Use Reduction

Auto-Free NY Meetings, 2015:

Tuesday, June 16, 6-8pm
Highlights of Roxanne Warren's Book Rail and the City
Speaker: Roxanne Warren
TA Office, 127 West 26th Street, 10th Fl.

Tuesday, July 21, 6-8pm
topic to be announced
Speaker to be announced
time and location to be announced

Wrecked SUV at Canal Street; 2010. Note parking ticket on ground. Photo by Wayne Fields.

Another SUV smashed by its reckless driver (Canal Street, Feb 2011): The bulk of these top-heavy, inadequately braked "bloatmobiles" makes their driver feel invulnerable, and so they drive worse, and crash more. Big business, attuned to wasteful and overdesigned products in principle, embraced SUVs as prime subjects beginning in the mid-90s, for one of the most intensive marketing and indoctrination campaigns in US car company history. But inexorably, American price supports for lower cost gasoline are going to end, while the realities of declining world oil production, and increasing political, military and climate chaos will grow more stark. Once the true costs of our national gasoline orgy start being paid by US motorists themselves rather than everyone else, these gas guzzling giants will quickly end up more worthless junk - and we may just get the quality public transportation -- and the sustainable economy -- we deserve.

Car Hugger as seen in yet another 'NY Times' car promotion, April 16, 2003.

Above: This car-hugger illustration appeared in the New York Times, which has a longstanding grudge against doing serious transit journalism.

Auto-Free New York George Haikalis, Chairman  |  One Washington Sq. Village, #5D, NYC 10012  |  Phone: (212) 475-3394  |
© Copyright 2014, 2015. All rights reserved. Auto-Free New York. This page last updated June 14, 2015.