T.A.: Car-Free Central Park Would Ease Neighborhood Congestion

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A study released this week by Transportation Alternatives undercuts the claim that closing Central Park's loop drive to cars would increase traffic on the streets of Harlem. To the contrary, findings indicate that loop entrances on 110th street at Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevards "act as traffic magnets," drawing vehicles onto neighborhood streets from more appropriate routes like the FDR, Harlem River Drive and the West Side Highway.

During a series of driver interviews conducted in the spring of 2007, T.A. found that 57% of private car trips into the park through Harlem originate outside Manhattan, and that private cars -- not taxis -- make up the majority of traffic (two-thirds) on the loop drive. Reads a T.A. media release:

Much of the traffic clogging Harlem streets only enters the neighborhood because the Park drive is open to cars. This is consistent with NYC DOT's own findings that predict at least 3,107 private vehicles would be removed from Harlem streets each week during the morning commute if the drive was closed to car traffic. Armed with this information, T.A. and more than 100,000 Car-Free Central Park Campaign supporters call on the Mayor and City Hall to support a three month car-free trial in the park this summer.

T.A. initially presented its data privately to city decision-makers, hoping it would confirm the city's own analysis and provide the final impetus for a three-month trial closure. That didn't happen, so T.A. is publicly releasing the report [PDF] in hopes that New Yorkers will take up the issue with their electeds -- Mayor Bloomberg in particular -- and urge them to make good on this long-overdue improvement.

T.A. and other car-free park advocates are joined by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in pushing for a summer trial. Says Stringer: "This action has the potential to achieve real and immediate benefits for our city, and to send an unequivocal message that New York City is serious about achieving its green priorities."

Photo: Frodrig / Flickr