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!

NEXT MEETING: December 16
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
Visit These Links
Recent Books
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.
Note: this website is best viewed with Text Size set to "Smaller" or "Medium."
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
Scion Boxian Smeli-Pootr
Subaru Deforester
Toyota Runovia
VW Smoggia

Be a patriot - use mass transit!

42nd Street Design Competition -Geo Haikalis
Above, George Haikalis at the opening reception in November 2014, for the 42nd Street design competition at the Conde Nast building in Times Square.

 Letter from George
December 1, 2014     

Paul Gawkowski,Transport Planner,
Presents 20 Light Rail Line Candidates for NYC

Dear Friends of Auto-Free New York:

Just 11 months into Mayor Bill De Blasio's new term of office, New Yorkers and AFNY heartily celebrated the first leg of Vision Zero, the passing of new 25 mph speed limits in NYC, something his two Republican predecessors, for all their hand-wringing and crowing about public safety and health, were incapable of achieving, over their combined twenty years in office.

Now comes the hard part: traffic light retiming, enforcement and cultural change. Anecdotal evidence (and your own eyes, viewing motorists' behavior in the city) indicates speeding everywhere is still a way of life (and death) for NYC's most privileged travelers. Perhaps the city's media and Transportation Alternatives should do a major write-up on the first person killed by a reckless motorist ignoring the new rule.

This decades-overdue speed limit reduction is a critical first step in making the nationís most crowded city a safer, more livable place. But, of course, more is needed. City Hall has to recognize that reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in our city is an essential second step. IRUMís longstanding livable city transport plan does just that - calling for a twenty percent reduction in VMT in the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD) and five percent citywide by implementing a package of "carrot and stick" strategies that could be put into place in just one four-year Mayoral term. (see for more details.)

Besides cutting VMT, the city would greatly benefit from new light rail. Paul Gawkowski, our December speaker, and a former director, NYC Transit Operations Planning, Brooklyn & Queens Surface Transit, will present an illustrated talk on "Light Rail at Home and Abroad plus 20 Candidate Light Rail Lines for NYC." IRUM has long called for closing Manhattanís 42nd Street to motor vehicles and remaking it into an auto-free light rail boulevard. At present, some sixty percent of its street space is given to motor vehicles, even though 80 to 90 percent of the street users are pedestrians.

Light rail, implemented in cities worldwide, can transform not just the streetscape but the whole nature of transport. Light rail's competitor, buses, remain an important surface transit mode in these cities, but city residents are demanding something better - the smooth, comfortable ride of surface rail, with its self-enforcing path that repels motorists, calms streets and provides the permanence that supports new development in dense locations.

Unfortunately, NYC continues to lag far behind more sophisticated cities worldwide in building relatively inexpensive light rail. Instead, we see recent efforts to expand NYCís subway system characterised by extreme cost and disruption, as well as being ill-planned, ill-managed and ill-financed. Light rail offers a middle ground, at only a 10th or 20th the cost per mile (and a fraction of the installation time) of NYC subway additions. Light rail provides a refreshing improvement over the marginal gains of the city's baby steps on bus enhancements.

Plan to attend our next meeting of Auto-Free NY/vision42 working group, to hear our guest Paul Gawkowski. The meeting will be on Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 6-8pm at Transportation Alternatives office at 127 West 26th St, in Midtown. An rsvp is not required but highly recommended, at

Also, we urge you to make the trip to or revisit the Conde Nast building lobby, located at Four Times Square (7th Avenue and 43rd Street) in Manhattan, to view an exhibit of the four winners of a global digital design competition for vision42, fostered by the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility (IRUM), the parent agency for Auto-Free New York. A distinguished panel of jurors sifted through nearly 200 entries and selected some outstanding design concepts for a modern, river-to-river light rail line, without cars, in the heart of NYC. The exhibit will be on display in the lobby through January 5, 2015, and the hours are MONDAY-FRIDAY, 8AM - 7PM. [The opening reception was Tuesday, November 18.]
George Haikalis, Chair          

P.S. THE LATE JOHN ROZANKOWSKI: On a sad note: a longtime champion for better public transit, John Rozankowski, who was a guest speaker at one of our Auto-Free NY meetings a few years ago, passed away late in September. Details about John can be found at: We will miss him.
     LETTER IN CRAIN'S NEW YORK: On another note, a letter to the editor of mine was published in the Sept. 28 Crains New York, a business newsletter, in which I suggested how LaGuardia Airport could be closed and the land converted to affordable housing. The letter can be found by searching the Crain's New York website or opening this link: Goodbye LGA, Hello Quieter Skies and Affordable Housing.
     ROXANNE'S FORTHCOMING BOOK: Also upcoming sometime this fall will be the publication of vision42 principal Roxanne Warren's new book, "Rail and the City: Shrinking Our Carbon Footprint While Reimagining Urban Space" (MIT Press).
     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.
New York Times: Filler vs. Reporting
on 'Vision Zero'

Peter Freund, 1940-2014<br>AFNY co-founder and Professor Emeritus
Peter Freund, 1940-2014
Professor Emeritus, AFNY co-founder

New tracking technology in our neighborhoods
Recognize this Grey Box?
EZ-Pass and Big Brother Join Up

Remarkable (& Free)
Long Island Bike & Hike Map


The Inexorable Logic of Urban Auto Use Reduction

Auto-Free NY Meetings, 2014:

Ongoing, through Jan. 2, 2015:
Exhibit of Winners of vision42 Design Competition
Conde Nast Bldg., Ground Floor Lobby, 4 Times Square (7th Ave. at 43rd Street)
Hours: Mon-Fri, 8AM-7PM, Nov 17 thru Jan 2, 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 6-8pm
20 Candidate Light Rail Lines for NYC
Speaker: Paul Gawkowski, transportation planner; former director, NYC Transit Operations Planning, Brooklyn & Queens Surface Transit
TA Office, 127 West 26th Street, 10th Fl.

Tuesday, January 20, 6-8pm
topic to be announced
Speaker to be announced
TA Office, 127 West 26th Street, 10th Fl.

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 2013, 2014. All rights reserved. Auto-Free New York. This page last updated Dec 7, 2014.