New York City may ban cars from a major thoroughfare for over a year

Union square
Union Square at 14th Street in Manhattan.

To the dismay of many New Yorkers, the L train will shut down for repairs starting in 2019.

The MTA is exploring alternative options for commuters during the 18-month-long hiatus of the subway line, which runs from Brooklyn to Manhattan and east to west down 14th Street. As one of the few subways that travel between the two boroughs, the L Train serves 300,000 people daily.

One idea is banning cars from 14th Street, transforming it into a zone only for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses.

The street, which goes through Union Square, is a major thoroughfare in the city. Temporarily banning cars would open up more space for people who don’t commute by car — in other words, about 70% of New Yorkers.

New York City is now conducting a study to see if the ban would be viable, according to The Daily News. The MTA has also mentioned other options to ease public transit during the shutdown, like adding shuttle buses and ramping up service on other nearby trains.

It’s not certain yet whether the ban will actually happen or to what extent. If it did, it would follow on existing efforts to make the city more pedestrian-friendly. During Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, cars were permanently banned from streets in Times Square, Herald Square, and Union Square in 2010. The city also temporarily bans cars from certain streets every year on Earth Day.

Other major cities around the world are also instituting car-free zones, mainly in efforts to curb pollution. Madrid, for example, plans to kick cars out from its city center — an area that covers about 500 acres — by 2020. Paris banned cars from the streets surrounding its major landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, in 2015; and as of July 2016, all Parisian drivers with cars made before 1997 are not permitted to drive in the city center on weekdays. Copenhagen introduced pedestrian zones in the 1960s, and car-free zones slowly followed over the last half-century.

If even for just 18 months, the ban in NYC would certainly prioritise people over cars.

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