Envisioning a More Livable Columbus Avenue

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As a candidate for a livable streets makeover, Columbus Avenue is a no-brainer. A block from Central Park, it is home to the American Museum of Natural History and sports a string of active ground floor businesses, but the street itself is a classically car-oriented corridor: three moving lanes sandwiched between two parking lanes. The Columbus Avenue BID has been working with Project for Public Spaces to make the street itself more of a destination -- to create a walkable, transit-oriented "spine" running from the museum to Lincoln Center on Broadway.

The photo-simulation you see above, produced by the Open Planning Project, depicts the re-envisioned Columbus Avenue at the corner of 72nd Street (download the whole report). The main feature, on the left side of the street, is a physically separated bike-and-bus lane, which is accompanied by textured crosswalks, corner bump outs, and additional bike parking. Here's how this intersection looks today:

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"We hope to become a model district for the city of New York," said Barbara Adler, executive director of the BID. "We've been trying to make Columbus Ave as environmentally-friendly and pedestrian-, worker-, and resident-friendly as possible. This report is a compendium of ideas that could happen if we lived in a perfect world."

How many of these ideas will actually happen? In the immediate future, generating higher parking turnover seems like a safe bet. "The first thing we'll see is parking meters switched out for Muni meters that accept credit cards," said Adler. "I think we'll see the cost of parking rise on Columbus Avenue, and on Broadway and Amsterdam as well."

Also fairly likely in the short-term, she said, are painted neckdowns, more bike racks, and leading pedestrian intervals.

As for the more ambitious infrastructure changes, Adler said her hopes for the immediate future have been "scaled back," even though she believes the BID's report fits well with the goals of PlaNYC. "We're waiting to hear from DOT," she said. "We had hoped to get a traffic-protected bike lane, but it doesn't appear that that's going to happen anytime soon. I do think that all of these things will eventually have to be implemented in New York City, but not as fast as we had hoped."

The BID will present the report to the transportation committee and green committee of Community Board 7 on Monday night. They will be seeking a letter of support, not a vote.

You can voice your support for a more livable Columbus Avenue to CB7, Monday the 24th at 7 p.m. The meeting is at 250 W 87th Street, on the second floor.

Photo and simulation: Carly Clark