Partial Car-Free Trial in Central Park

On Monday, one day before the City Council’s Transportation Committee was to hear testimony from Transportation Alternatives on a car-free summer in Central Park, Mayor Bloomberg announced a six month partial car-free trial in Central Park.

Transportation Alternatives has reason to be happy and reason to be displeased with today’s announcement. The trial will last for about two months more time than the group had been asking for, but will cover about half the roadway. It had been asking for a complete ban on all traffic (except emergency vehicles, police cars and Parks Dept. vehicles). But what they got was something a little more watered-down. Under the plan announced on Monday, cars will continue to use the park’s loop drive in the peak direction during rush hours (downtown in the mornings, uptown in the afternoons and evenings), as seen in these maps, where dark red indicates the places* where traffic will still be permitted.

AM Rush PM Rush
7 – 10 a.m. 3 – 7 p.m.

I wonder what Transportation Alternatives will say about this closure. Certainly, it’s great to be restricting cars from a park, which after all is a place to recreate, not a place to disruptively speed through in a car. But the timing of the announcement seems designed to undercut its ability to spread its message about a complete car ban, which was gathering support in the City Council. One Starts & Fits e-mail correspondent wrote in Monday afternoon to suggest that the timing was solely a way to give transportation advocates enough of what they wanted to dampen the movement before the City Council had the chance to assert its authority over the DOT’s management of traffic flow in the City, which perhaps would have had little or no precedent.

What do you think?

*Note: The wording in the press release is a little unclear about a few entrances. I’ve tried to map this as best as I could with a little guess work on what I assume the DOT will do.

Update: 11:51 p.m. Transportation Alternatives has issued a media advisory praising the move as “a step in the right direction” but stating that it will continue ahead with its push for a City Council-sponsored complete ban on traffic for the summer, as it had been asking. It also seems that the City Council’s Transportation Committee will still consider the full summertime ban. I hope that passes.

Update: 12:17 a.m. PeakGuy over at The Oil Drum is way ahead of me on this, already posting on this issue.

- Mayor Bloomberg Announces More Car-Free Hours in Central and Prospect Parks [NYC.gov]
- Media Advisory: Statement on City’s Fractional Closure Plan for Park Loops [TransAlt]

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2 Responses to Partial Car-Free Trial in Central Park

  1. Anonymous says:

    They’ll be keeping cars in the park at exactly the times and in exactly the direction that I would use it to commute (by skate), so from my point of view this is no improvement at all.

    On the other hand, I think we need to let them run cars through for at few hours during the day, or else the city will let the pavement deteriorate to the point it becomes dangerous.

  2. AD says:

    Interest points. Thanks.

    In the event of a full car prohibition, I think they’d keep the pavement in good shape for the police, park and sanitation vehicles and paramedics. I’ve never been in there and not been passed by at least two huge, smokey parks vehicles.