Saturday, May 22, 2004

carless manhattan

What if Manhattan were a place with no passenger automobiles? What if, for the most part, trucks were also banned? It seems to me that because of its density, the borough is one of the most amenable places for getting around without cars or motor taxis or the like. We could have an extensive networks of electric trams, a fleet of pedicabs, people on bicycles and on foot. The subway system's capacity and extent could be increased. Cargo could be brought in via train and carried to centralized points of the borough using a tram-like system, which could possibly be all underground. Small electric vehicles or pedicabs could then be used to take goods from distribution points to stores and institutions. Many streets could be either wholly or partly converted away from vehicular use into parks, gardens, outdoor shopping, play areas, and the like. Emergency vehicles such as fire engines and ambulances, as well as certain service vehicles, might need to have the same flexibility of movement they do now, along with their current sizes. But police could patrol more on foot, on bikes, or in smaller electric vehicles similar to what the meter cops use now. With a reduction in asphalt, the city would become less of a heat sink it is now. With less fossil-fuel burning vehicles, air would be cleaner. As a pedestrian-oriented city, even more tourists would be attracted. And vehicle-related stresses would be reduced. These are a few initial thoughts, and I would welcome comments, additions to this narrative, and the like. I would love to see someone come up with visual sketches of what this all could look like. One group that is working at moving New York City away from the automobile is Transportation Alternatives.


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