Unclogging Manhattan

A big thing happened this past week in my part of lower Manhattan where I live and work.

Fourteenth Street was closed to cars between 6am and 10pm except for “local traffic.” Basically if you are in a car during those hours, you can go for up to a block, but no more than that.

It is remarkable to see the transformation of Fourteenth Street, a street I walk down multiple times a day going to and from work.

I took that photo around 11am today. The street is empty. The only thing you notice is the buses going from the East River to the Hudson in something like ten minutes, a trip that used to take more than thirty minutes.

This only happened because the L train subway line, which goes under Fourteenth Street, was supposed to close for 18 months for tunnel repairs. They figured out how to keep the L train running but on a reduced schedule. But they went ahead with the Fourteenth Street closure anyway.

It is my hope that this will turn out to be a massive success and will lead to closure of other cross streets like 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 79th, 86th, and 96th.

It could be transformative for the cross town buses and a lot more too.

We need to find ways of getting around our city that don’t require cars. The closure of Fourteenth Street is a big step in that direction.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Tom Labus

    Walking in a great city should be a pleasure. It completely changes how people move around and mingle. Florence and other cities have no cars, trucks or buses in the center city.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Not to mention the health benefits: less vehicles is less pollution to inhale, less noise pollution that stresses your body; any sound that is 30 decibels or above causes a stress response on your body – which of course cascades throughout your body and mind.

      1. Tom Labus

        You see everyone wearing a mask in a lot of Chinese and Japanese cities because of the pollution. I wonder how they’ll deal with issue now in Hong Kong?

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Except as others note either on Reddit or HN – “Hong Kong” (China’s tyrants) will just ban all of these technologies, so they can “legally” arrest dissidents.I am praying that democracies around the world are working together readying a drastic response in case China’s controllers openly go too far – I’m afraid however they’re trying their best to keep things as subtle as they can; when in reality the actions of police, how protestors are being treated – is already shocking.

    2. Richard

      We also need to make our streets safer for Women and Kids by clamping down on San Francisco type of vagrancy. Separately, I would go even further and make odd number streets nonsmoking.

      1. pointsnfigures


      2. curtissumpter

        Non-smoking streets????Nanny state much????And no vagrancy?So no poor people.Noted.

        1. Richard

          Fact. People on the streets aren’t poor as much as the are on Drugs / mentally ill. 78% in LA. There are thousands of small towns in the US where living is affordable – but no ….we created a world where the dolly operator piling up the soylent shake crate isn’t respected. Keep creating and living in a world where the middle income demographic gets less and less respect and where you trip over the homeless, because it’s working out so well.

  2. awaldstein

    Yup witnessed this.One of the more dramatic unnoticed changes to the city was the narrowing of the streets building sitting parks, many triangles, with tables, wifi, vendors, citibike racks and the like.Every time I find myself sitting in one of these, it hits home.I should make a Holy Shit list of great stuff that has changed this city that rise to the top of the list from smoking to pooper scooper to the Hudson Green Way to Citibike to street triangle parks and on and on.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, me to. i love those spaces. they are amazing

    2. Richard

      I’d go for some type of ban on dogs in cities as well

      1. Chris Phenner

        ‘Some type of ban on dogs…’I had to retype it to believe I read it.

        1. Richard

          Keeping a dog locked up in a 450 sq ft apartment is soo caring! Moreover, the streets of LA are covered with Dog Feces and the stench of Dog Urine permeates. Cities are simply not designed for dogs. Calculate the number of pounds of feces being dumped into the ecosystem. Don’t just read it, try to get outside of your comfort zone and understand it.

  3. Mike Zamansky

    I’d love to see Broadway from Columbus Circle down for bikes / peds only (two directions)

  4. Salt Shaker

    Traveling crosstown, particularly downtown, has always been a nightmare. As much as I think the subway system is a marvel, even w/ all its flaws, the designers kind of blew it w/ crosstown travel (other than w/ the “newly” expanded 7 train).

  5. Evan Powell

    Inspirational. Too many cities prioritized cars over people and place – here in San Mateo in the SF Bay Area our city manager for many years was a former traffic engineer who hated anything that slowed down the cars, w/ predictable impacts on quality of life….

  6. Richard

    Great! – I’d like to see a walkers tax credit. TAX incentives work and need to trickle down. And it would be good for IOT, Healthcare and the Helium Network.

    1. Salt Shaker

      Expedia just finished a new downtown campus in Seattle right on the water. To reduce downtown traffic, the company is gonna charge employees $15 a day to park on campus, and conversely pay employees who take company provided van service $5 a day. (I may be slightly off on the details). Pretty novel approach to a big problem.

      1. Richard

        If the federal government and the 1990+ successful tech companies would relocate to the smaller cites across the United States, between the new smart infrastructure and home ownership we would have a 50 year economic expansion that the county has never seen.

  7. Ushir Shah

    Been walking along 14th St from Union Square to Betaworks in meatpacking for a quite a while now and it was always a shit show. To see it this past week clean and clear was amazing! Totally agree we need to bring down the number of cars in Manhattan! Hoping congestion pricing helps too.

  8. jason wright

    A nice vanishing point. How long is this street?I wonder how long it would take for Manhattanites (is that it?) to adapt to life without cars, and thereafter how fiercely they would campaign against their reintroduction if it were to be proposed?Not long, and very fiercely i suspect. Quality of life.

  9. Rob Koyfman

    In additionp to the streets you mentioned, let’s include 1st ave and 10th ave. Segment off a 2-way bike and scooter lane as well. This not only unclogs the city but makes it safer as well.

  10. Mike

    Grew up in the NYC metro area. Nobody drove into the city. Great subway system and local commuter rail.

  11. jason wright

    In 2018 49.1 % of all new cars sold in Norway were electric.

    1. JLM

      .Norway has done a fabulous job of embracing EVs. But, the biggest thing is that 98% of all their energy is generated by hyrdo power, so they don’t have the pollution and carbon footprint transference problem.They have an odd quirk — they encourage families to own a second car to reduce the amount of bus service. This is antithetical to “normal” thinking. They allow EVs to use bus lanes of which they have a lot.There has been a huge benefit from the Norway adoption — all the theoretical projected numbers of the magnitude of the benefit of EVs now are useful real numbers. The actual benefit is really about 40% of what was projected.The Nissan Leaf is the big winner. Norwegians are also the longest car owners in the world, something never known until they began to keep the numbers. Norwegians own their cars for, on average, 18 years. Every time I see that number, I am put off, but every time I research it, it is right.There are a huge number of free benefits to owning an EV: parking, ferries, taxes.In all this hoopla, we are still talking about 100,000 vehicles in a population of 5.3MM. Still, they are the highest per capita EV owners in the world.In a former life, I spent a lot of time in Stavanger. The Norwegians are very nice people.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Gina Hurteau Shoen

        The problem in the US that Big Oil owns the government and is trying to shut down the tax benefits of owning an EV. In NYS they are complaining that those owning EVs dont pay the gas taxes that help maintain roads, therefore shouldnt be allowed to drive on them… Does this make sense?

        1. JLM

          .The road tax issue of the gasoline tax is one of those unintended consequences that life throws at you.They will have to change their road building cost plan.Several states are exploring road mileage taxes.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. pointsnfigures

    The Stent Project

  13. Kirsten Lambertsen

    This is amazing. I’m amazed it actually happened. Can’t wait to experience it for myself next time I’m in the city.

  14. curtissumpter

    I’d love it if they closed two avenues, one on the East side and one on the west so that bikers and everyone else could get around easily and safely. It’d be fun too. Think of the increased foot traffic. It would help local businesses. But do you think there should be an additional tax associated with these closures? After all walkable car-free neighborhoods will lead to increased property values. Since this is purely a function of governmental action shouldn’t there be an additional tax associated with it to help the government and the people capitalize on this marked improvement to quality of life in high property value areas?

  15. el toro

    Next should be the mentally ill homeless who are very dangerous to the public

    1. curtissumpter

      What is wrong with you?What is this idea that I’ve seen twice which is basically a war on poor people.I swear sometimes the things I read on this blog make me sick.

  16. sigmaalgebra

    If I were in NYC and NYC made cars next to impossible to use, then I’d get a light motorcycle, one big enough for some storage space in the back. Use the storage space for a full suit of rain gear, basic business brief case, and small purchases, e.g., lunch. And for really cold days in the winter, have a suitable winter suit such as emergency snowmobile riders use in -40 F with 40 MPH winds (the situation one Christmas in NE Indiana). The gloves alone that they use are impressive!Walking, bicycles, electric scooters, etc. — to heck with those — just get a light motorcycle. Then, sure, would have to permit rolling the motorcycle inside buildings and elevators — getting rid of cars will have some costs!Likely we’d be borrowing from the streets in the centers of the larger cities in Asia, Viet Nam, Thailand, etc. Ah, NYC getting caught up, right up to date, with Hanoi and Bangkok!

  17. Noah Sobel-Pressman

    A good lesson for startups. Sometimes small, simple innovations can have a huge impact, and for free!

  18. David Pethick

    Ummmm, where did the cars go? I assume they did not evaporate.