Banning Cars From Manhattan

Banning Cars From Manhattan

This article first appeared in our Summer 1961 issue. We are republishing it following the New York state legislature’s recent approval of a congestion pricing plan for New York City.

We propose the banning of all cars from Manhattan Island, except buses, small taxis, vehicles for essential services (doctor, police, sanitation, vans, etc.), and the trucking used in light industry.

The present situation is intolerable and all other proposed solutions of it are uneconomic, disruptive, unhealthy, non-urban or impractical.

With this diminution of traffic, we can, except in certain areas, close off nearly four out of five cross-town streets and every second north-south avenue. These closed roads plus the space now used for off-street parking will give us a great fund of land for neighborhood planning and relocation. (At present over 35 per cent of the area of Manhattan is taken up by the roads.) Instead of the present grid, we can aim at various kinds of enclosed neighborhoods, in approximately 1200 to 1600-foot superblocks. However, it would be convenient to leave the existing street-pattern in the main downtown shopping and business area, in the financial district, and wherever the access for trucks and service cars is imperative. Our aim is to enhance immensely the quality of our city life, with the minimum of disruption of the existing pattern.

The disadvantages of our radical proposal are small. At present, the cars are simply not worth the nuisance they cause. Less than 15 per cent of those daily entering Manhattan south of 61st Street come by private car. The traffic is congested, speed is slow, parking is difficult and increasingly expensive. It is estimated that the cost of new garaging is $20,000 per car; and parking lots are a poor use of land in the heart of a metropolis as well as disruptive of the urban cityscape.

The advantages of our proposal are very great. Important, and immediate, are the relief of tension, noise and anxiety; purifying the air of fumes and smog; alleviating the crowding of pedestrians; the safety of children. Subsequently, and no less importantly, we gain the opportunity of diversifying the gridiron, beautifying the city and designing a more integrated community life. (The expense of an onerous requirement of the Building Code for off-street parking could, of course, be dropped.)

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