Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pedestrian Plazas Cause Midtown Air Pollution to Plummet

Midtown Pedestrian Plazaimage by Loozrboy used under Creative Commons license

A few weeks ago, in honor of United Nations Day, we looked at how two international cities were addressing the issue of air pollution. New York has implemented some great programs of its own recently, so today we wanted to share with you one way we are reducing pollution here.

During the summer of 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg turned sections of Broadway near Times Square and Herald Square into pedestrian plazas to help ease congestion and to improve the flow of traffic through Midtown Manhattan; other benefits, such as reduced air pollution and increased pedestrian safety, were highlighted as part of the plan. After reviewing the program’s results, Mayor Bloomberg announced on February 11, 2010, that the pedestrian plazas would become a permanent part of the Midtown landscape.

While the project’s primary goal was to improve traffic flow through Midtown, whenever vehicle travel is reduced, that usually brings a decline in air pollution. This time was no different. Nitrogen oxide (NO) pollution fell by 61 percent after the pedestrian plazas were introduced, while nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution dropped by 41 percent. Now the approximately 250,000 people who visit Times Square every day can breathe easier, knowing that air quality has improved significantly in one of the city’s most populated areas.

For a complete summary of the project’s results, see the official press release.

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