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"New Yorkers love to walk. But funneling them underground
and saving the streets for autos is not
a positive vision for Lower Manhattan."

The following Statement was presented by George Haikalis on May 23, 2002 at the Public Hearing sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ):

Statement on Transportation for Lower Manhattan
The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc. (IRUM) supports measures to reduce motor vehicle use, improve public transportation and enhance the walking environment. The rebuilding of Lower Manhattan provides an important opportunity to advance these concepts in one of the most densely-developed business districts in the U.S. IRUM commends LMDC and PANYNJ for considering steps in this direction, in its draft Principles and Preliminary Blueprint. But these agencies, together with the NYCDOT and the MTA, must go much further, if Lower Manhattan is to become a truly exemplary model for future urban development.

1. Measures needed to reduce car use
In the wake of the attack of September 11, 2001, NYC placed stringent restrictions on the use of motor vehicles in Lower Manhattan. These temporary measures succeeded in facilitating the movement of essential motor vehicular traffic in this stricken area. They also increased the livability of the area for residents, workers and visitors, by eliminating the near chaotic congestion levels that existed before the attack.

Clearly, the amount of traffic entering Lower Manhattan should be limited to the amount of road space available. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's call for congestion pricing on the approaches to Manhattan Central Business District should be reflected in LMDC's Blueprint. Another step in reducing car use would be to rebuild only a small fraction of the 2,000 parking spaces lost in the destruction of the WTC. Consideration should be given to replacing other publicly-owned parking facilities in Lower Manhattan, like MTA's Battery Park Garage, to make way for residences and office buildings.

On-street parking spaces set aside for government workers and other permit holders should be eliminated. MetroCard Mayor Bloomberg's example should be followed by all public employees.

No new road space should be added in Lower Manhattan. The costly plan to depress West Street is a traffic-inducing roadway enhancement that the city can ill afford. Dedicating one tube of the Brooklyn Battery tunnels exclusively for public transit -- either rail or bus -- would reduce road space and cut traffic in Lower Manhattan. A rail solution in this corridor would greatly diminish the need for a bus terminal at the WTC site.

2. Public Transit Improvements
The busiest of three Trans-Hudson rail crossings, the Downtown PATH line, was lost on September 11. Many New York City residents who worked in the WTC area must now take a subway to the Uptown PATH to access relocated job sites in Jersey City. Similarly, residents of Jersey City and Newark who work in Lower Manhattan must now take the Uptown PATH and transfer to the subway. Not only are these trips time consuming and inconvenient, but users must pay a double fare. MTA and the PANYNJ should move quickly to install MetroCard technology at all PATH stations and offer a free transfer between the two systems.

NYC Transit is moving quickly to restore its 1/9 subway line. The PANYNJ must take extraordinary measures to speed the reconstruction of its PATH WTC terminal. While a full interim terminal may require 18 to 24 months to complete, a scaled-down temporary terminal could be completed much more quickly. With the debris removed, track can be quickly installed on the floor of the bathtub. The PANYNJ should put into place a transparent tracking system to assure public officials and downtown business interests that it is doing everything possible to restore service as quickly as possible.

A variety of options for constructing a permanent WTC PATH terminal should be given careful review with full public involvement. Linking PATH to the #6 Lexington Avenue local line would permit a direct ride to many more destinations. Alternatively, the existing PATH terminal could be modified to handle longer trains or wider cars, greatly increasing its capacity.

Plans for direct rail service from the suburbs to Lower Manhattan merit careful consideration. The key to advancing these proposals is to convert the existing commuter rail lines into a "regional rail" system with frequent service and integrated fares, modeled after successful systems in Paris and Berlin. The lines would serve the outer parts of the city, as well as the suburbs. Planning should not be restricted to the New York suburbs since opportunities exist to serve both sides of the Hudson River with direct links to Lower Manhattan. One such plan -- the "Liberty Links," would convert the Broadway BMT subway in Manhattan into a regional rail distributor. New tunnels under the East and Hudson Rivers would link the subway to railheads in Downtown Brooklyn and Hoboken. Though this plan might cost five to six billion dollars, it has the potential of attracting national attention as a serious measure to restore the world's financial center in New York City.

3. Improving the walking environment
The dominant mode for local travel in Lower Manhattan, one of the world's densest workplaces, is by foot. Yet the walking experience is unpleasant. Even before the attack, a disproportionate amount of street space was given to motor vehicles. Vehicle counts on Broadway or Water Street are surprisingly low. Accommodating a small number of vehicles greatly degrades walking.

Beginning with an experiment in the late 1960s, a few streets in Lower Manhattan have been closed to all motor vehicles. Pedestrian response has been immediate and positive. It would be unthinkable to restore lunch hour car traffic on the Nassau Mall. The core of the South Street Seaport is an auto-free Fulton Street, complete with attractive paving and well-managed street vendors and public space. More recently, Fulton Street between Gold Street and Broadway was made auto-free during lunchtime. And as a security measure Wall Street and Broad Street near the New York Stock Exchange are barricaded.

Needed is a coherent plan to create a grid of pedestrian streets in Lower Manhattan. The busiest crosstown streets, like Rector/Wall, Fulton and Chambers Streets, which bring pedestrians to key subway stations, are likely candidates for closing. Broadway is especially crowded since the #4/5 subway line, Lower Manhattan's busiest, is just below the street, and most subway users must cross the street in at least one direction. Well-designed security measures, such as bollards and planters, can be installed on auto-free streets creating a more pleasant walking environment.

Essential motor vehicle traffic can circle Lower Manhattan using a ring road fashioned from West Street and South Street and the Battery Park Tunnel. Local circulator loops can lead from this ring road into the interior to reach loading docks and the handful of parking garages that are not served by the ring road. Checkpoints at the approaches to the service loops would be an important security measure.

Finally, a surface light rail transit line -- the Liberty Loop -- can provide a useful transit substitute for longer walking trips in Lower Manhattan. The two-way loop would link most of the major waterfront tourist attractions, like the South Street Seaport and the Statue of Liberty ferry, while serving as distributor for commuter ferries. The line would use an auto-free Fulton Street for its east-west routing, continuing on a new extension of this street, proposed to be reconstructed through the WTC site to the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center. Many European cities have surface light rail lines traversing auto-free streets in their cores, and the concept is surprisingly effective. The key is to use predictably channeled, electrically-propelled, low-floor light rail vehicles.

New Yorkers love to walk. But funneling them underground and saving the streets for autos is not a positive vision for Lower Manhattan.

George Haikalis is President of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc. (IRUM), and Chairman of Auto-Free New York.

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