Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
It's time to ban cars from Manhattan? (curbed.com)
328 points by Reedx 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 315 comments

I think cars should be banned from most densely populated city centers in general. There is a word describing it "Pedestrianization"

Reasoning: Cars pollute the air which makes the people living and walking in the city centers sick. Cars pollute with noise. Cars cause pedestrian and bicycle accidents.

Its nice for peoples health to be able to walk and run in open areas.

Streets which previously was used by cars can be converted to public green areas and you can also plant trees there. It would open up new green areas for cafes and restaurants.

Public transport should replace cars in such dense environments. You will thus ride to the outer part of the city park your car there and take public / electric bike transport from there.

Here is story about Spanish city Pontevedra which banned cars https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/sep/18/paradise-life...

Wikipedia article about Pontevedra, "Pedestrianization" section "As a result, 65% of trips in the city centre are made on foot. Pontevedra was recognized in 2016 as one of the 15 best cycling cities in the world" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontevedra

My home city (capital of the country) did exactly that and it brought a huge amount of life and new businesses to the city center. Not to mention that tourism exploded as well - the city center is now a very pleasant place to go out and grab a coffee next to a river or on a street with no loud and smelly traffic to be seen (picture during summer: https://files.stocky.ai/uploads/2019/01/image-Preseren-squar... )

Of course, the locals were throwing an absolute fit when the change came: "We won't be able to move furniture!", "What will the emergency vehicles do?", "How will old people cope?", "It will ruin the real-estate market!", "OH the humanity, who will WALK all the way from a parking spot?!"

Turns out - it worked exceedingly well. We need more of this.

It is exactly the same story each and every time. The same old objections, the same old fears and the same old success.

You would have thought by now the pattern was well recognized and we could skip the middle part, but no, it seems like we have to go through the same ride over and over again.

All politics is local. Nobody ever believes that experiences elsewhere apply to their polity, which is different and special.

Having lived in a few places I've seen it again and again.

Unfortunately in the US most of the major cities have essentially been designed (or redesigned) around private vehicles, so banning them is not going to happen. However you are absolutely correct - walking through Times Square in NYC is a pleasure (aside from all the guys in Batman costumes) with traffic removed compared to turn of the millennia. I don’t care to bike but the bike lanes squeezing out all the auto traffic have been a benefit also. But would it work in Houston or Denver? Not unless they built a massive public transportation infrastructure and moved the businesses and housing closer together, essentially rebuilding the cities.

The most recent part of Manhattan to be designed was still over two centuries ago in 1811, so we're not going to have that problem at least.

But I think you're over-estimating how hard it would be to get rid of traffic in many other urban cores in the US. You don't need to do the entire city; you can just do the densest parts. It's not that hard to beef up a city's existing bus services and use them to totally replace cars.

There are many old, great US cities that have been converted from dense, manhattan-like landscape into 90% parking lots.


They had to really look hard to find a part of downtown that looks like that. If you zoom out a bit you can see how all that parking came to be - the nearby stadiums / conference centers.


Atlanta's pretty run down in parts, but downtown really isn't that bad.

But you can compare to, say, Baltimore, where there's barely any surface parking around the convention center there, despite the fact that it's right next to a major sports stadium.

Sure, you can make that comparison, I just don't know what useful conclusion you'd get from it. Maybe property rights are stronger there. Maybe nobody offered enough money. Land in Atlanta has historically been relatively cheap compared to New England.

I have a pet theory that states that land values are higher on the coast mainly because sprawl doesn't have as many places to go, so it concentrates in smaller areas. Atlanta was historically a rail hub, exacerbating sprawl because transport could always move people farther outward. Picture pouring money onto a map, and walls are anywhere it's infeasible to develop the land. The money will spread out where there's no natural barriers. It will pile up if there's a lot of them. Money piling up means increased property values.

I've seen this image before (and many more like it), and it's truly sad what we've done to our cities.

But the good thing is, parking lots are huge opportunities for developers. I'm from DC, and the city has radically developed itself over the past few decades in turning what used to be entire blocks of surface parking lots into massive apartment and office buildings up to ten floors tall. It's very easy to develop a parking lot; that land tends to be relatively cheap to acquire and demolition costs basically nothing.

>"The most recent part of Manhattan to be designed was still over two centuries ago in 1811."

That's not correct. Battery Park City was developed in the mid 1970's.[1] And that development is particularly significant here as it includes a car-free green space in the form of Hudson River Park which begins there. Hudson River Park itself also being significant in that it won out over the proposed Westway Project which would have placed an interstate highway there instead.[2] The extension of Hudson River Park all the way up to the 72nd St Boat Basin is also a very recent and significant development.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_Park_City

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Side_Highway#Westway

FYI, Battery Park City is part of Manhattan and was designed in the 1960s to 1980s, with the land created during excavation for the World Trade Center.

To be fair, BPC, at 92 acres, is 0.4% of the total land area of Manhattan. It's a rounding error.

There's been a lot more reclaimed land than that added to Manhattan since 1811, but they mostly slotted into the pre-existing established grid system.

How are they moving furniture, though? No joke, really curious how they coped with the downsides.

The area can still be accessed with vehicles that have permits and a remote that opens it. Those are mostly:

1.) Delivery vehicles early in the morning (~6am) and late at night (~1am+) can come through to supply businesses in the closed area. They have a remote that opens the street blockages.

2.) If an oversized personal delivery needs to be made to a resident, it's possible to get a onetime permit that allows a truck to access the area.

3.) For people who have trouble walking the city has provided a few free electric powered golf carts/taxis that you can call and they come pick you up and deliver you to a destination (picture: https://www.visitljubljana.com/assets/Ljubljana-in-regija/Ka...). Since they're small and quiet they don't bother pedestrian traffic. I wonder if Uber/Lyft could provide such service in US - they're already doing electric scooters, so why not electric transport for car-free areas?

Note that this is strictly old town center which has relatively small amount of residents but it's mostly dominated by businesses, hotels and airbnbs these days. The area is small enough to walk across in ~15minutes by foot. Near the edges there are underground parking garages so you can reach it via car (since public transport in the city isn't that great).

You just ban the most common forms of car throughput. Moving vans would be allowed.

You can also move most, if not all, furniture that fits through a house’s door or elevator on a small electric van or even a (three-wheeled) bicycle.

Electric vans also could be the preferred method of supplying shops with goods. That need not be much more expensive if containers can be moved from larger vans onto such smaller vans at city boundaries.

If you have furniture that’s so large that you have to hoist it up and get it into the building through a window, you likely already need a permit to use the device that hoists up the furniture.

Can confirm, have moved king-sized mattresses, large dressers and cabinets, etc via a trailer on an ordinary bicycle. It’s really easy!

Where I’m from there’s a tradition in the bike community called a “bike move”. When you’re moving, you invite everybody to show up on a certain day with their trailers and cargo bikes. Everybody packs and moves you in a distributed manner! All you have to do is provide coffee and donuts in the morning and pizza and beer for after. Fun, community-building way to move.

How? I can't feasibly imagine balancing my UK queen in a bicycle.

If you strap the mattress to the box spring to stiffen the mattress you can set it on its edge and it won't sag. Then just set the box spring and the mattress on a flat bed bike trailer and you are good to go.

They make trailers like this for big and heavy stuff: https://www.bikesatwork.com/bike-trailers

Okay, I would consider transporting a mattress on a bike (with a trailer) easy, not just a bike!

That sounds awesome. Are you in Oregon?

Edit: Ah, I see your username now =)

> "We won't be able to move furniture!"

Also frequently used to justify buying a big SUV, just to learn that the average piece of furniture doesn't fit in the average SUV.

SUVs waste interior space on ground clearance and tend to have rather short trunks. They are not very suitable for transporting things.

The average SUV is a fastback car with a few extra inches of ground clearance. Just modernized versions of the Tercel 4WD.

There's a big difference between "the average SUV" that you're talking about and "a big SUV" that the other person is talking about. A Ford Escape is just a taller hatchback, but a Ford Explorer or Expedition are a different story.

Body on frame SUVs are vastly outnumbered by the unibody models.

A Ford Explorer is unibody and is also definitely not a slightly taller car.

Besides, the statement was "big SUVs".

Just for my own curiosity, since I don’t recognize the city from the photo, where is it? I’m wondering how it compares in size (both area and population) to Manhattan.

It doesn't and the closed-off area is relatively small. And yet the benefits are very clear - there's pretty much no reason why you can't create several such closed off areas in Manhattan and leave traffic/public transport flowing between them.

This pattern has started showing up in several European capitals these years - I know for certain of Vienna, Berlin, Zurich, London and I've seen some in Barcelona as well.

It doesn't have to be 100% closure obviously and it doesn't have to be a dumb implementation that just closes off full traffic to an area with 1.7mil people without addressing major downsides. There IS a place for nuance in this world ;)

The URL gives you a hint...


How do they move furniture though? Was there some kind of exception made for delivery vehicles?

And the emergency vehicles? How do they get where they're going?

I could see something like this working out well if appropriate provisions were made for these things.

State St. in Madison WI is paved, but only allows mass transit, emergency, and local deliveries.

I was recently in Rostock Germany and I saw plenty of pedestrian areas closed to traffic but with signs saying "feuerwehrzufahrt" which means "fire truck access road". The pedestrian area was protected with bollards or fences that could be unlocked by emergency vehicles who needed access.

So many problems that we Americans fight about have been solved ages ago in other countries around the world with far less drama. We're not as unique as we think we are.

Yeah, presumably the same way they solve it everywhere, which is that police, ambulance, fire, and city all have the same keys to the same bollards. And when they don't, they just use their bolt cutters or drive up over the sidewalk. No biggie.

Even if you ban regular cars you're still gonna have to deal with commercial/emergency vehicles (ambulances, moving vans, delivery trucks for local businesses.

Of which there are orders of magnitude fewer, though.

Yes, but they still need roads. Lots of these plans seem to include re-purposing the roadways, without considering the remaining vehicles that still need roads.

No, not at least what I have seen. Even in the thread you are now answering in, there is examples (https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/sep/18/paradise-life...) where a mostly-car street turned into a mostly-pedestrian street, with still the option for vehicle to travel if they must.

Same if you take a look at the Superilles (Superblocks) in Barcelona (http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/superilles/es/), they still have a way for vehicles to navigate, but the space for them is much smaller and has a lower limit of speed.

Many streets in Japanese cities fit this. There is only one loosely defined car lane and no sidewalks. So it's a pain to drive because if someone is driving the opposite way, someone has to pull over and yield.

The lack of sidewalks makes it so that the road's primary users are pedestrians, so cars are forced to drive carefully (slow) at all times, making these roads even less desirable for drivers.

The "soft pressure" leads to cars mostly using car-friendly roads unless they absolutely have to use the pedestrian ones.

Manhattan is different in that it connects New Jersey and Brooklyn into a super region, they are dependent on each other to thrive. Banning cars would be an absurd nightmare at least in this situation.

I work in Manhattan and live in Brooklyn, and my office overlooks the Holland Tunnel (connection to New Jersey). Roads are a backlogged mess every evening, where "evening" on Friday seems to start at noon. Traffic cops are in a half-dozen intersections around the Holland Tunnel entrance manually restricting flow and more importantly rerouting cars to keep all the possible entrance routes roughly balanced.

The vast majority of this traffic is from Manhattan - otherwise it wouldn't be spread across so many routes. If you want to designate a cars-ok route in Manhattan between the Battery Tunnel (to Brooklyn) and the Holland Tunnel and let that back up, you could do that and it would be less of a mess than the status quo: it would stay on West Side Highway out of the way and it would have less traffic.

One time I took a taxi from Newark to my home in Brooklyn, and the taxi driver dropped me off right after getting out of the Holland Tunnel (next to a subway stop) saying he didn't want to deal with more traffic. There is no effective vehicular link between New Jersey and Brooklyn right now. There is a moderately effective link between each of those and Manhattan, that's it.

It’s mind boggling how much affordable parking there is in Manhattan. I was doing some work in Staten Island and had an appointment in Manhattan later in the day, leaving via NJ, so I drove and was able to find parking for less than $50 in the financial district.

This should have been impossible, and I should have been forced to leave my car where it was, take a bus to St. George, and get on the ferry.

If you convert to monthly at that daily rate, parking costs $1550/month. If you figure your car’s share of the space in the garage is on the order of ~250 sq ft (the space itself plus a portion of the lanes in the garage), that seems about inline with what studio apartment housing goes for (quick google search turned up 500 sf studios in the $2500-$3000 range)

I’m just loosely estimating here but $50/day for vehicle storage seems like about what I would expect it to cost based on other land use in Manhattan. But of course none of it would be possible without a massive subsidy in the form of public road access.

$50 for parking is affordable?

Yes, because when you factor in the cost of transit and the schedules its either cheaper or the same to drive in dollar terms or way cheaper in terms of time.

Everyone gushes about how awesome transit is, but that’s only true for a few areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you need to take a trip that isn’t in the happy path, a car is way better.

Uber gets me from the Upper East Side to LGA in 20-25 minutes. Public transit takes over an hour, requires changing from bus to train to train to train.

It's a steal. We're talking about Manhattan, there aren't many corners of the world where rents and land values are higher.

I used to pay $200 for my car per month at a garage. Not bad considering that a NJ monthly pass for me would have been over $400.

Lots of Holland tunnel traffic comes from Long Islanders avoiding the hefty toll on the Verrazano. It is also backed up because of poor traffic controls on the New Jersey side and ongoing construction projects.

We need a lot more subways. And they need to extend into NJ.


And more of them should be accessible by wheelchair. Currently it's only around one in five stations.

Any new ones would be. The inaccessible ones are all old... as is most of the subway system.

Sounds fine too me. I’m not saying there should be no wheelchair accessible stations, but seeing that they are a miniscule minority, I don’t think that my tax dollars be paying to make everything accessible to them. It’s not possible, anyways, without incurring massive costs. Imagine what would happen to rents if the government mandated that all apartments and houses to be wheelchair accessible. It would be a total disaster.

Subway stations in many systems around the world are accessible. It doesn't take much for a minimum viable product - drop a 5m diameter tube for a single elevator from street level down to platform level, put separate ticket gates on it. Impact on surface infrastructure is much less than that 5m. Retrofit it in a few stations a year over the next couple decades.

Your take seems rather shallow. Accessible infrastructure includes curb cuts (originally designed for wheelchairs, also make sidewalks useable by the elderly, strollers, etc who have issues with a 6" step), audible crossing signals (meant for visually impaired, also alert those who are looking at their phones), bike lanes (meant for cyclists, improve the conditions for pedestrians and residents too), .... The list goes on and on where minor improvements in infrastructure design create massive improvements in public spaces.

The "miniscule minority" served by ramps includes pregnant women, the elderly, anyone with so much as a twisted ankle or pushing a stroller.

I'm raising this in the context of the elimination of cars. The current infrastructure pushes a lot of people into taxis. So if you eliminate cars you either have to expand accommodations or just declare the island inhospitable to anyone that doesn't pass a fitness test.

You can support effectively restricting the wealthiest hub of our largest city to just people who are like you and in your life situation, but it's not going to be a widely held position.

What’s wrong with NJ Transit? Besides everything of course, but at least most of NJ is connected to NYC through Secaucus. I can’t even imagine what people did before that station.

You are confusing anecdotes with the bigger system. Holland tunnel is a problem once in a while not all the time.

Holland Tunnel is a problem every day. I can see it every day.

My taxi story is an anecdote, sure, but it goes to show there isn't reliable NJ/Brooklyn transportation via Manhattan streets. If I had been going towards the airport I would have missed my flight. Or put another way - right now on Google Maps, getting from where I am in Brooklyn to EWR would be faster via Staten Island than via Manhattan. If the argument is that X is reliable, examples of X being unreliable once in a while are in fact evidence against it and not just anecdotes.

Your own definition of a problem perhaps not mine or the millions who use it every year. Its faster to go around now because manhattan takes some of the traffic, if it didnt do that what do you think will happen with that traffic.

This isn't an actual argument against severely limiting cars. Most of the people traveling the super-region already use the subway or buses. That will become easier and more efficient without private cars.

> Most of the people traveling the super-region already use the subway or buses.

That only works well if your origin or destination is in Manhattan. To go from Union City NJ to Belmont Park on a weekend is a 45 minute drive or > 90 minutes on transit consisting of bus, subway, LIRR, another bus.

There are similar examples even within NYC, like Red Hook to Jackson Heights.

How will it become more efficient to force more people onto the trains? You haven't traveled with the L train recently.

There will still be roads. They are needed for pedestrians and bicyclists. But they are not commonly open for car traffic. Here in Munich, there are large pure pedestrian zones. But some of them a free for bicyclists after 9pm in the evening and in the morning hours (like 8-10) delivery traffic is allowed. And the police and ambulance cars can drive it any time it is needed.

Pedestrian and bicycle roads aren't necessarily built to support 25000 kilo trucks, e.g. a concrete mixer truck on the way to a construction site.

Well, the roads still could be built to support the load of an occasional heavy truck, whatever the traffic limitations on that road are. And in most places, there are existing roads which carry the necessary loads. The repurposing would at most affect the topmost layer.

You need a way to reach your goal by car this must not necessarily look like a traditional road.

It is essentially a inversion of priorities: instead of having roads with pedestrians and cyclists allowed, you make it a pedestrian area with cyclists and cars allowed.

Throw in taxis, Uber, lyft and you have all your cars again.

A city like Manhattan would not make it without taxis

No, you definitely don't have exceptions for taxis.

Why are you saying that we wouldn't survive without taxis?? I almost never take them except to the airport, and I'm easily willing to give that up if it means I don't have to tangle with horrible congested car traffic on a daily basis.

Do you live in Manhattan? What makes you so sure we couldn't survive without taxis, given that we have the densest subway network in the United States, even more bus lines than that, and Citibike?

> What makes you so sure we couldn't survive without taxis, given that we have the densest subway network in the United States, even more bus lines than that, and Citibike?

lmao imagine high paid consultants politicians and tv celebrities on Citibike.

Plenty of them already take the subway, and the rest of them will too once cars aren't an option.

Am I supposed to feel sorry for them for having to take the subway with the rest of us plebes? They don't deserve any better than the rest of us.

They take the subway, tho

> I almost never take them except to the airport...

And you probably have functioning limbs, respiratory system, eyes, etc.

> ...the densest subway network in the United States...

Manhattan is not very accessible. The stations do not have elevators in most cases. The platforms are narrow and often dangerously crowded at peak hours.

As an experiment, I suggest you push a bad of flour around in a stroller for a week or two. Be sure to have a bag with at least a diaper, wipes, and a bottle with you.

After the experiment, imagine doing it after recovering from a recent surgery.

Most people have functioning limbs, respiratory systems, etc. We shouldn't design a system that allows everyone to drive just because a much smaller minority has a harder time taking alternatives. We already have paratransit for the elderly and handicapped in NYC. My 97-year-old great aunt uses it. And those people will benefit from getting rid of most of the rest of the vehicles, as it will reduce congestion (and thus travel times) for them, and increase the availability of curb-side pickup/dropoff, which is currently severely choked by private cars parked everywhere, typically for free!

So if you truly care about helping the disabled, then it definitely makes sense to get rid of most of the rest of the vehicles off the road.

As for kids, yeah, lots of people without cars in NYC have them. Given how rare/expensive parking is, it's definitely more hassle to try to use a car for those trips than to not use one.

> ...a much smaller minority has a harder time taking alternatives

At any given time it's a minority. But everyone is a baby, has a baby, or is elderly at some point.

You keep insisting that it's essentially impossible to raise a kid without having a car. This is flat out untrue, especially in New York City or any other place with good mass transit. Many, many people who don't own cars raise kids.

I didn't say it was completely impossible. I am insisting removing access to cars makes a hardship even worse in general and, yes, impossible in some cases. Keep in mind that some people get special license plates because doctors do not believe they are capable of walking across parking lots to get to their destinations.

At any rate, people with babies and mobility problems don't take elevators to the subway platforms because generally they don't exist or they double as outhouses.

In Manhattan, these people spend a lot of money on delivery services or rent for walkable neighborhoods (because the subway won't cut it, as I explained). It is a luxury to live this way. People with these concerns generally move out of places like this.

In outer borroughs, there is bus service, but one doesn't wait 10-30 minutes each way (not an exaggeration) in freezing weather for a bus with a baby or a heart condition. And the bus stop that probably wasn't accessible to stroller or walker due to unshoveled sidewalks and berms of trash-pepoered ice.

I am not saying it's impossible to live this way. People somehow do it, though I suspect they are shut in for large portions of the winter. I am saying it takes various forms or privilege or hardship to make it work. It's flippant for able bodied and financially well off people to hand wave about how walkable New York is without trying it out with their own canes and wallets.

It's a bit like saying, "let them eat cake" to be honest. It's just lacking a sense of experience and practicality.

Aren't you assuming that they would be replaced by nothing? As an example you can then add more buses with more predictable timelines, electric bycicles, etc...

Why not? Aren't people capable of walking for a few blocks?

Not all people.

>99% of vehicle traffic is people who can walk. If we truly limit cars to just those who need them for reasons of accessibility then we've basically solved the problem.

Sure, but in my city that was supplemented by (free) electric vehicles for people who can't walk. Why isn't that possible in rich US hosting companies like Uber and Lyft? Aren't they capable of providing zero EV transport in closed enclaves?


You say that like electric wheelchairs and scooters don't exist. People too disabled to even use those already require assistance anyway, so they're no worse off requiring assistance in a (nearly) car-free environment.

As someone who suffers one of the above and uses taxi services on a daily basis, that's a load of crap and such a change would make my life significantly worse. I'm not n=1, I'm a member of an entire demographic that clearly know nothing about but feel confident enough to make broad sweeping nonsense claims.

I don't see why, I can get by there just fine without taxis...

All benefits above are still true if you allow this. Actually they did just this in several busy streets in vienna where i live. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than before.

Those are much fewer than cars and without them blocking the road emergency vehicles can move much faster and without a thick layer of parking lining every street, commercial vehicles can have designated spots.

I suppose there's nothing saying the city has to be accessible to the housebound, as destroying car transit would surely destroy home delivery.


I have two words for you: mobility scooters.

If you want more words, let's look into "public transportation", "paratransit", "vehicles that are not cars", "walking canes", and "false dichotomy".

In other words, the answer to your question is "no", and the proposed solution is friendlier towards people who are old enough to have difficulty walking (and some of whom maybe shouldn't drive anyway).

So you're going to allow people to run delivery services in busses? Because how else can you deliver to the housebound? Bikes are out: They're not allowed on pedestrian areas, and you can't haul much on one anyway. Electric scooters are out for the same reasons, as are "mobility" scooters.

I suppose there's no law saying you have to allow the housebound to live in a region.

> you can't haul much on [a bike] anyway.

I'm gonna have to disagree with you there. Here's someone moving a fridge (!) on a bike trailer.[1] And that's on a regular bike, not an e-bike.

1. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/06/23/how-to-carry-majo...

Why would we allow trailers in a pedestrian area?

We wouldn't. We wouldn't even allow bikes in a pedestrian area.

Why wouldn't bikes be allowed in a car-free zone?

FWIW those people are poorly served indeed by a car-only city when they are no longer fit to drive & lose their license.

There was an allowance for public transport (busses, trams etc)

What does someone do if they twist their ankle badly and are on crutches for a month?

What everyone who has done this and does not have a car does. Why do people pretend there are situations they can't live without a car, when most people in the world do it, and even a lot of people in your city do it.

my theory is its rooted in this: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/13/science/when-the-brain-sa...

people who spend an hour+ a day for years on end in their car have mentally expanded their subconscious definition of themselves, their corporal being, with the skin of the car. this is a necessary mental process to prevent them from clipping mailboxes and 'rubbing paint' with other drivers that they then can't really "turn off". its why road-rage reactions are on a par with being physically assaulted or threatened, and its why whenever we talk about shifting public space and roads from cars to anything else they feel personally threatened and attacked.

There's an interesting related study which was looking for causes of road rage, and found a correlation with the number of bumper stickers [1]. The content of the bumper stickers didn't matter, just whether or not there were bumper stickers. The conclusion was in how people interpreted the space of a car. More bumper stickers indicated that somebody viewed the car and the space that it occupied as personal space, rather than as transportation, or as a way to use a shared resource.

[1] https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080613/full/news.2008.889.h...

That is an absolutely brilliant explanation of the "personal attack" feeling of road rage. After commuting by foot/subway/bike/scooter for a few years its shocking to see the reactions of my own (educated, professional) friends when someone dares to walk through a sidewalk! Don't even get them started about "those damn bikers".

u/cagenut's theory reminds me of Marshall McLuhan's potentially complementary "autoamputation" thesis. His attempt to example how a car (for example) feels like an extension of ourselves.

IIRC: Overstimulation of some senses simultaneously shuts down those senses (autoamputation) and makes us hyper aware of other senses.

I live without a car and prefer living without a car. I can easily do this because I’m an able bodied person in London. I’m a Software Engineer, so my wife can afford to take Uber and cabs to/from public transport in a pinch.

The thing that I like about this particular change they implemented in manhattan is that it notably increases the bus-accessibility of the city. But if we’re widening the conversation to “just ban cars”, we really should look at what impact that would have on plumbers, drummers, and the elderly.

You haven't answered the question, you've merely attacked the questioner.

> Why do people pretend there are situations they can't live without a car,

Because 95% of Americans truly can't live without a car.

If you banned cars today, I could never get to work, never see my family, my child could never attend school, we could never get groceries, and within two weeks we would all become broke and homeless. This situation described 94% of the people in my city (population around 1 million)

> even a lot of people in your city do it.

Yep. ~3% of the population of my city take public bus transit instead of the public car transit everyone else uses. The bus folks spend 2+ more hours commuting every day, and have access to only about 15% of the MSA (by population), or 10% of the MSA (by land). They also pay higher rent than everyone else, for this privilege. And the cost to provide this service to them, has a TCO higher than just providing them a 'free' car in the first place.

(And, to clarify, I don't even consider this a bad thing. I get it, for kids, or elderly folks, disabled people, people who just don't want a car or whatever. It's good that the general public makes sure everyone has transportation, and it's good to spend tax money to ensure this happens. But it is by no means more "efficient" or "greener" than driving is)


Could we "fix" this? Sure! If everyone was a super wealthy millionaire, like in Manhattan, it would be no problem. Build a whole bunch of luxury condo buildings, make everyone live in them, ban all existing public car transportation and make everyone take some LRT train/bus that only goes to the few places you allowed, is often late or broken or screwed up in some way (at the same rate that MTA is, for example). Soft-ban parenting and children while you are at it, everyone will be so busy paying off their rent they won't be able to afford kids anyway. Force everyone to re-wire their whole lives to live in your box.

And we have that in my city too. About 3% of people here are wealthy enough that they can judiciously rewire their entire life to support "car-free" living. They are hyper wealthy, so they can afford to live in the heart of downtown, in a glass condo, living right on top of their satellite office, where they pretend "banning cars is so amazing and eco-friendly" as they pay to get their shopping delivered (by a poor person in a car), get their groceries delivered (by a poor person in a car), eat at restaurants (staffed by poor people driving in via cars), and drink at bars (staffed by poor people driving in via cars).


This is why most Americans are looking to renewable energy and EV vehicles. It's realistically the only shot non-wealthy Americans have at living any sort of sustainable lifestyle. The financial pollution from cities is just too much to handle, and has no functional workaround for real people.

> Because 95% of Americans truly can't live without a car.

I'm calling bullshit on this. Way more than 5% of Americans are already living without cars. You don't have a great read on how many people actually get around. Most cities of any size have buses, and people actually do take those buses.

Also, the median household income in Manhattan is ~$70k/year. I have no idea where you're getting this idea that everyone who lives here must be "super wealthy millionaires", but it's not remotely true.

You're making the typical false claim that rich people can afford to not drive and poor people are dependent on cars, when it's actually precisely the opposite; richer people are more likely to have cars, whereas poor people are more likely to not have them, and be dependent on public transportation. The poor people aren't driving into Manhattan each day for work, that's for damn sure! They can't afford the $60/day parking cost! And this is true in all cities, not just NYC.

> You don't have a great read on how many people actually get around.

I'm reading the numbers direct from my local bus authority. I'm sure transit ridership in Manhattan is higher (since they actually have a real subway system and such). But of course, most Americans don't have any access to LRT / subways, so...

> You're making the typical false claim that rich people can afford to not drive and poor people are dependent on cars.

Because it's mostly true? Especially for all the Americans who don't live in Manhattan, the literal wealthiest place in the nation.

I know this is going to sound odd, but most Americans don't live in NYC. Hell, most NY metro residents themselves don't even live in NYC (only about ~43% of them do, according to the census estimates)

Approximately 8.6% of US households do not own a single car, as of 2017. Only 76.4% of commuters commute via single-occupancy vehicles; another 8.9% commute via carpool. These statistics are nationwide. Your claim that "95% of Americans truly can't live without a car" is contradicted by the fact that more than 5% do not own a car in the first place.

It's true that living in, say, Rantoul, Illinois is going to be difficult without a car. But the list of cities that have at least some form of bus service does go down to some pretty small cities (<100,000), and most of the country anyways lives in large cities or their suburbs, where transit is viable.

You were talking about all Americans, and now you're talking about just your one city. Your one city isn't representative of all of America.

How are you defining wealthiest place in the nation? There are many cities with much higher median incomes than Manhattan. The median income of Palo Alto, for example, is $137,000/yr, which is about double Manhattan's. And there's plenty more cities like Palo Alto across the country with high congregations of wealth. And Manhattan, of course, isn't a city in its own right; the median income across all of NYC is only $50k/yr. Manhattan is much more diverse class-wise than you seem to realize. I think you're conflating all of Manhattan with just a few of the most tony neighborhoods. Here's another source; no county in NYC comes close to the list of top-earning counties in the country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-income_countie...

Please, show some figures supporting your claims about Manhattan.

And it's literally not true that rich people tend to drive the most and poor people the least. Here's a source (one of many) on that: https://nhts.ornl.gov/briefs/PovertyBrief.pdf Here's a quote from the abstract: "Households in poverty are limited to a shorter radius of travel compared to higher income households. They have the lowest rates of single occupancy vehicle use and the highest usage of less costly travel modes: carpool, transit, bike and walk. Households in poverty have lower vehicle ownership rates, which has led to an increased use of alternative modes of transportation and higher vehicle occupancy rates."

Please try not to respond with personal attacks.

Which personal attacks?

"And we have that in my city too. About 3% of people here are wealthy enough that they can judiciously rewire their entire life to support "car-free" living."

Genuinely curious - what city do you live in ?

Thank you.

You could use "electric mobility scooter"; In Netherlands they are widely available for people with the need.


We see the same thing in Oslo, Norway where the local government is trying to reduce car use in the city. The main concern is from people with disabilities who fear for their disability parking. I believe it is because the main mobility device they have been provided is a car, so they have been used to moving about with a car. That they can use electric mobility scooters, electric trikes and a number of other mobility devices and also public transportation like everyone else doesn't seem to cross any ones mind.

I saw these all the time when I lived in Copenhagen as well. NYC needs to make its subway be more accessible for this to be a proper solution, though. In Copenhagen it's easy to take your scooter on the Metro or S-Train for longer distances, and then drive in the bike-lane network for shorter distances. But many NYC subway stations are ancient and don't have accessible entrances, so you can't get a mobility scooter from the street onto the train and back up to the street.

I’ve heard from a dwarven friend in SF that the SFBART elevators are also frequently used as toilets. Is this also true of the existing subway elevators?

It might work if NYC got better at hauling garbage, clearing snow, and ticketing people for blocking sidewalks in other ways (tables, signs, delivery trucks, etc.).

I live and work in Manhattan and I broke my ankle in a bike accident for about 4 years ago, and I was hobbling around on crutches for about two months in total before I could start (gingerly) biking again.

I've never owned a car here, so I made it work. Fortunately there's buses, and buses are quite accessible.

I don't really understand your question? People who live here generally don't own cars anyway, so what alternative besides public transportation exactly are you expecting? Keep in mind that traffic is so congested during commuting hours that the subway is typically faster, and also, two taxi/Lyft rides per day is quite expensive and beyond the reach of most people.

It is true that the MTA needs to do a better job of retrofitting elevators onto the stations that don't have them yet.

I know this sounds like a killer argument, and I don't know Manhattan, but in most of the cities I've been to you can't take a private car direct to a destination, park it nearby, and walk a short distance. The streets are already no-parking zones.

I see you're getting downvoted but I don't understand why - pretty much exactly this happened to me recently, I had severely reduced mobility in my leg for about 2 months, but I was told that I don't qualify for a blue badge. So while I luckily could drive(left leg affected, automatic car), this was one time in my life where I could actually benefit from being able to 1) get closer to where I need to be 2) park close to the entrance, but because it wasn't a permanent or long term disability I couldn't get the right permit.

The same thing they do in Europe, where cars are banned from almost every city center. We manage just fine.

> cars are banned from almost every city center.

In which utopia is this?

Almost every one of those is a tiny part of a city on order if a few streets or part of a tiny city.

Do you have anything substantial, say affecting on order of a million people? Or even an area of 100k people?

That list is wildly inaccurate.

> where cars are banned from almost every city center

I wish that was true.

This seems to ignore freight.

First, since there are no freight railroads into Manhattan; everything consumed by the residents and the much larger daytime population has to arrive by truck. Most freight into Manhattan comes via the Hudson River bridges and tunnels since the container port is in New Jersey and the rail yards are also there. There is little barge traffic, although I think that garbage is barged out via an East River pier. Given the density of population in Manhattan, which doubles to 4 million during the daytime hours, the freight requirements are large and trucks and vans are a considerable part of the existing traffic bringing goods to Manhattan and then distributing them around the borough.

Second, Brooklyn, Queens and the rest of Long Island are also supplied mainly by trucking crossing Manhattan from the same Hudson River bridges and tunnels, as well as via the Goethals and Verrazzano bridge or via the Tappan Zee bridge. Rail freight goes north to near Albany and then back south with only very limited connections for freight on the Long Island Railroad. Eliminating truck traffic across Manhattan would substantially increase costs for Brooklyn, Queens, and the rest of Long Island.

There have been proposals to put a rail freight tunnel under New York Harbor from roughly Bayonne to Bay Ridge, but there is no perceptible progress. Even with a tunnel, the LIRR third rail system is incompatible with modern container well cars and clearances are not adequate without a great deal of replacement of bridges, etc.

Worth mentioning that the NYPD does absolutely nothing (in my view) to enforce existing laws. 53’ trucks routinely barrel down non-truck routes at the same time as my kids’ school bus. They routinely attempt to turn down the same street and get stuck, blocking traffic for 15-30 minutes, and no one cares.

POV from someone that lives here: Leave an exception for electric trucks no bigger than a Sprinter between the hours of 4am (when bars close) - 8am. Force delivery fleets to innovate and rely more on dispatch software and small vehicles to get the job done more quickly and efficiently.

We have this simplistic idea that if we put a huge roadblock in front of small businesses that they'll innovate around the problem, when in reality they'll just go out of business, and it will take the market a year or more to figure out how to deal with the problem - all the while, more small businesses shut down because they cannot stock their shelves.

I agree with the motivation, but the execution cannot be "simply" banning how these businesses operate.

These aren't high margin businesses that can handle disruptions like this. Small business owners have mortgages to pay, and they'll just close-up shop or "simply" choose to service a different area.

I forget where I saw it, but I think the 14th street closure allows local deliveries. Trucks find it easier to deliver because they no longer have to double park.

Not sure what the actual statistics would be, but using Google streetview, it seems that trucks/vans are maybe 20% of traffic. Taxis, limos, Uber, etc. probably make up another 30%.

Private autos are probably on the order of half. It would be interesting to know what percentages are trips NJ to LI/outer boroughs, LI/outer boroughs to Manhattan, and NJ to Manhattan.

I personally would not drive in Manhattan unless absolutely necessary (not for decades!) and have only crossed it in the dead of night or from the GWB to the Bronx.

The article is about banning cars (it's right there in the title). Cars don't carry freight they carry people. Still fine to bring in freight to Manhattan in small trucks & vans but we should make them all have to be zero emission and limit their speed to 30 km/h.

Banning cars, congestion pricing, Uber and taxi surchages, taxing parking spots and rental cars ... under the current NYC political consensus, personal motor vehicles are in the cross-hairs.

I actually would support this if it was part of an honest effort to improve transportation and livability in the city, but most of these proposals make it harder to live here, not easier. I suspect the real motivation is a mix of environmentalism (cars contribute to global warming) and classicism (only the rich drive cars in NYC).

NYC politicians should be focused on how to move the most amount of people, the safest and quickest way, for the cheapest cost. If they want to ban cars due to effects on the environment, they should say that maybe promote electric vehicles. If they want to tax the rich, they can simply impose a more progressive income tax structure.

The current muddled response is actually making transportation in the city more expensive, often causes more emissions due to longer rides, and has an insignificant effect on the rich while hitting the pocket-books of everyone else much harder.

The thing that kicked off this week's controversy about NYC in particular is a geniune attempt to improve transit by focusing on how to move the most people as fast as possible. What is angering drivers is that the city turned much of 14th St into bus-only lanes, and removed some street parking in the process as well.

And, it seems to have worked, at least from early indications! Buses now move much faster! If that holds up, it would ideally allow for even more improvements, like running more buses, speeding up official bus schedules to account for the lowered congestion, which hopefully will in turn result in more ridership, etc. https://www.wsj.com/articles/buses-cruise-through-manhattan-...

> And, it seems to have worked, at least from early indications! Buses now move much faster!

The speed of buses is not the appropriate metric by which we should be evaluating policy. Speedy empty buses are not exactly a win. Instead, we should be asking how much time and money does it take to get from point A to B.

I agree in general, though bus route in question (The M14) has around 26,000 riders per day on an average weekday, making it one the busiest in the city. It doesn’t lack for people using it — it’s just been really slow until now.


I agree, though weighted by actual people moved, not per-vehicle.

A guess: I'd be very surprised if speeding up the buses doesn't end up a net win here, given the density. In fact I believe that was evaluated in the proposal to make this change, but I haven't read it. I have been reading some preliminary proposals for new bus lanes in Washington, DC, and on the 16th St corridor there (which is less dense than Manhattan by a large margin), buses already, without dedicated bus lanes, account for 50% of passenger throughput during rushhour, despite being only about 3% of vehicles. At those kinds of ratios, it becomes fairly easy to come up with bus-prioritization schemes that end up as a net-win for commuting hours saved, even if you completely discount environmental impacts.

> I'd be very surprised if speeding up the buses doesn't end up a net win here, given the density.

I'm not so sure, especially on 14th street. 14th Street is one of the few east-west streets that has decent crosstown subway service, the L train. Even with faster buses, I suspect it's still faster to hop on the train to get across 14th than to take a bus.

But this doesn't have to be an rhetorical argument, it can be clearly backed by data. If, in 6 months, the MTA shows that more people are moving more quickly across 14th St than before the car ban, I'd support it. If it can't show that, I'll be against it. If it just says that its buses are moving faster without citing the number of people moved, I'd be very suspicious.

The restrictions on 14th Street were literally proposed as a mitigation to the L train upgrade. Have you seen an L platform recently? It's currently struggling to move as many people as it needs to.

The M14 buses are packed though. It's hard to imagine how you could have a speedy bus line in Manhattan that wouldn't be packed. If it's a good option people will definitely take it.

Another metric to optimize for would be safety. Having the occasional bus driven by a rules-abiding, professional driver is much safer than having constant cars whizzing by.

Do you think there are less people on those buses than there was before the ban?

> Do you think there are less people on those buses than there was before the ban?

There probably are more people on buses, but that's the incorrect question to ask. You should be asking whether the additional people on buses is greater than the decreased people on cars. If before the policy, there were 3,000 bus riders and 10,000 car drivers, and after the policy there were 10,000 bus riders and 0 car drivers, that's still a net loss.

This was discussed yesterday, but I wonder if there is any economic analysis for how much a bus ticket should cost if they are operating on dedicated roads.

Whatever it costs to maintain 14th St between 9th and 3rd Ave, if it’s restricted to mainly buses, bus fares should pay to maintain it, like fuel tax and excise taxes from personal vehicles pay to maintain roads.

The idea that bus/subway fares should pay for X crumbles in the face of facts. They're not luxury, they're not useless, they being people to work and remove cars from the streets. The better and faster they are, the easier it is for a city to thrive. In fact, plenty of studies suggest that public transportation in big cities should be _free_, because when we'll managed, the benefits they bring far outweigh their cost.

> * I actually would support this if it was part of an honest effort to improve transportation and livability in the city, but most of these proposals make it harder to live here, not easier.*

My experience as a resident is that the fewer cars on the street, the easier it is to live here. (Sometimes in a strictly literal sense of fewer things that could run you over, less clogged road for emergency vehicles - I wouldn't want to have a heart attack in Manhattan at 5 PM - and so forth, but more generally in a quality-of-life sense.)

Can you expand on how it makes it harder?

Cars are also a huge safety issue. Cars are killing New Yorkers in record numbers and the average car is less safe for surrounding pedestrians and cyclists with every year (because they're being made bigger and with higher grilles).

There are a huge amount of people organizing here, me included, because cars are outright dangerous, and are driven by asshole drivers who are never held to account by the police. The safest thing to do for everyone is to just start getting rid of the cars, since it doesn't seem like there's any other way to make them safe.

I’ve lived in NYC for many years now and whenever a discussion about cars come up someone invokes class and “the rich”. It never ends up being a barback living seven to an apartment in Corona, much less someone picking up cans and living in a shelter in Vinegar Hill. Rather it’s invariably someone from Middle Village or Bay Ridge, often with a job in the trades or working a uniform job for the city, and not actually poor at all.

The idea that they’re banning cars for environmentalist reasons is a straw man argument.

Compared to all other forms of transportation in the city, cars transport the smallest number of people and take up a lot of space. Removing cars would free up space for other means of transportation that transport more people and use less space, such as buses, bikes, scooters, etc...

> If they want to ban cars due to effects on the environment, they should say that maybe promote electric vehicles.

Electric vehicules are usually better than thermal ones, but they're still a big carbon emitter. Except if they're shared. No individual vehicule heavier than 50kg can be considered good in terms of climate impact.

>>Electric vehicules are usually better than thermal ones, but they're still a big carbon emitter

My argument here is always that even if all electricity was produced from coal power plants(it isn't) surely it's much better to have one big carbon emitter far outside of the city, than thousands of smaller carbon emitters in the middle of the city. Yes, it is just externalising the emissions, but I think it's important to improve the air quality where people actually live, no?

Sure, but it's even more important to make a dent in how severe the incoming climate apocalypse will be.

(I'm not against electric vehicles, I'm for aiming most subsidies towards mass transit and cycling infrastructure & most externalities taxation at carbon emitters).

If you have a large single source you can go to work on carbon reduction and carbon capture schemes that make more sense at scale.

You are correct in a harm reduction and progress sense. Unfortunately harm reduction and general progress were something we could have spent the 200X's or 201X's doing. The remaining carbon budget does not afford for such marginal optimization anymore. We need to reduce total vehicle-miles-traveled by something like 50 maybe even 80%, while making those remaining miles EV/ZEV driven with 90 to 99% less co2 per mile.

So yes, even powered by a coal plant, EVs are better than cars. But no longer better-enough for that to be ok on its own. It is more important to figure out ways to de-car lifestyles than it is to foster EV adoption. They're both important, just de-car'ing is more.

That would make sense if all things are equal, but there are efficiency issues here. Having to take the extra step to convert the fossil fuels into electricity first (plus the later battery storage) means the same fossil fuels don't deliver as much power to the vehicles. That said, it's probably a wise move to move to electricity powered vehicles anyway because of the slow shift to reusables.

That's not the argument I'm making. I'm saying that it's better to have a pollution-spewing plant outside of the city than drive thousands(millions?) Of vehicles right next to the areas where people walk and live and work and eat. A taxi driver idling their shitty diesel outside of my window at 2am wouldn't be an issue if their vehicle was electric. A major throughway next to a kindergarten wouldn't be an issue if those vehicles were electric. At least not due to pollution, there are still other problems regardless of the fuel used.

Note, internal combustion engines are only about 20% efficient. Coal plants are ~37% efficient, natural gas plants are 55-60%, the grid is maybe 90% efficient, and an EV is about 60% efficient. So 20-32% efficiency.

I've glossed over many factors to be sure, but the point is while a lot is lost powering an EV, internal combustion engines are just as bad or worse.

Where the carbon is emitted is important for city residents. Electric cars are better for the local environment.

> No individual vehicule heavier than 50kg can be considered good in terms of climate impact.

Such an argument requires citing a source, or I'll just believe it is cheap hearsay. What is your source?

> NYC politicians should be focused on how to move the most amount of people, the safest and quickest way, for the cheapest cost.

And the way to do this is with trains and buses, not cars.

And bikes. The reason London built its two major Cycle Superhighways (East-West and North-South) is because their modelling showed more people were going to need to cross the city, but a new tube line was unaffordable in comparison.

> how to move the most amount of people, the safest and quickest way, for the cheapest cost.

Cars are not known for being cheap[1], safe[2], or space-efficient[3].

1. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/total-cost-owning-car/

2. https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2018/12/21/child-dea...

3. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/oct/17/bikes-cars-cy...

> NYC politicians should be focused on how to move the most amount of people, the safest and quickest way, for the cheapest cost.

This is a great example of "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." Expending vast resources to move people quickly is really something we should avoid. We should be working to locate people within easy walking distance of everything they want, minimizing the number of miles they have to travel using any vehicle.

Ultimately, maximizing the distance traveled on foot might be a good goal (since humans are pretty picky and will actively work to minimize this number.) Also, for most people failing to minimize this number has health benefits, while failing to minimize vehicle travel has health costs.

If you accept "reducing average trip distance" as one method of increasing the bandwidth & speed of your travel network, then your stated considerations are really already part of your parent's goal.

I suspect the real motivation is ... and classicism (only the rich drive cars in NYC)

Well, then banning cars is certainly one way to get the rich to care about making transit better...

Removing cars and adding bus lanes seems obviously designed to improve transportation and livability? Why do you think it's not?

While I like the idea of pedestrian areas, it does feel like this is another angle for our elites to prepare the lower classes for austerity. Owning your own home, eating meat, being able to raise a family; all of these are things that our parents and grandparents took for granted but are looking less and less likely to be affordable in the coming decades. Rather than fix our economic issues, the solution seems to be to frame them as unnecessary or even "bad".

On the other hand, available public transportation also increases economic mobility and decreases overall costs of the working poor. The ability to own, park, maintain a car is a large cliff, even in the cheapest of states. The ability to get to most jobs without a car in a reasonable time drastically decreases hurdles to economic mobility.

(and also of the middle class, whether that's the underinsured or carrying insurance against under insured divers.

NYC needs to dump a lot of work into their rail system, and not slack off in the good times. They keep flipping from having one of the best systems in the US to being plagued by terrible issues, every decade.

Chicago hasn't expanded in a while, but they maintain their tracks, buy new stock and renovate stations. I don't think people appreciate how incredibly important all that maintenance is to the city. I hope Chicago can get enough funding one day to expand and start on the outer loop project, but not at the expense of keeping what's there in good condition.

Do not mix subway with rail. NYC has a subway system, it more or less functions independent from NYC's rail network.

NYC's rail network covers 4 boroughs and goes all the way to the end of Long Island. They are spending $100 million just this year alone building additional freight transfer points in Brooklyn & Queens and adding more marine barge terminals explicitly to remove more trucks entering NYC.

NYC's subway network is not owned by NYC but by NYS which is operated by the MTA, they can't really run it themselves and it's a point of political fighting.

However, there is tons being done by the MTA while people bitch and moan while dedicating no effort to educating themselves.

Over 1k new subway cars are on order (and honestly, there hasnt been a time in the last 2 decades they haven't been, the subway just requires a shit-ton of them).

There are track geometry scanning trains that run and down the lines at least once a week per line to scan rails for defects. And they recently acquired another train to do so as well. This helps reduce unexpected failures.

They have been replacing all wooden ties with concrete ties as they can. They are also switching out for continuous welded rail as they go as well.

Signal work is disastrous because the amount of track (>700 miles) AND multiple subway lines intermix meaning every mixed line needs to be replaced at the same time. All while maintaining 24/7 service, AND DONT YOU DARE DISCUSS HALTING A TRAIN LINE AT NIGHT TO EXPEDITE WORK LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD, you'll be voted out of office.

Significant sections of train lines are selectively closed at night and modified on weekends all the time for maintenance and improvements.

Don't you dare suggest that it was hyperbole.

Will I be voted out of office?

I ride the L most days, and mostly think it's great, but the systems are not really comparable. The subway has over 10x the ridership and is vastly more important to New York's economy than the L is to Chicago's. The "hard" decisions CTA made to shut down whole branches for months at a time to do rehab would be politically impossible in New York.

The problem is terrible governance. That can’t be fixed by throwing money at it.

It's cute to talk about banning cars from Manhattan, but the Second Ave. line only has three stations uptown. And like parent said, ongoing maintenance. How's the L doing, these days?

I was once riding in a cab, ranting about how private cars should be banned in NYC, and the driver spoke up and said that no one who drives in the city wants to drive there—they do it because they have to. They do it because many neighbors within the greater metro area aren’t severed by any form of public transportation.

I'd be interested to see numbers on that (e.g. what percentage of cars are coming from which locations). There are people poorly served by transit, but Manhattan also has a lot of fairly wealthy people driving, or even being chauffeured, on routes that have perfectly usable transit that they'd just rather not use. Car ownership in NYC (45% overall) is much higher among wealthier than poorer people, and especially so in Manhattan (22%). Those 22% of Manhattanites who own cars are also the ones who lobby hardest for pro-car policies, get angry when street parking is removed to make room for bus lanes or bike lanes, etc.

Because someone in Manhattan owns a car does not mean they use it on a daily basis. From what I see the biggest contributors to parking and congestion in manhattan are people commuting in from outer boroughs and suburbs, then there are the visitors in for lunch and a museum or dinner and a show from the suburbs, Uber or Lyft drivers, and tradesmen/deliveries

People that own cars in Manhattan use them to escape on the weekends...not drive around during the week

> Manhattan also has a lot of fairly wealthy people driving, or even being chauffeured, on routes that have perfectly usable transit that they'd just rather not use.

The classicist subtext you allude to above has no place in NYC transportation policy, and will likely make inequality worse. If you want to make the rich pay their fair share, then raise income or wealth taxes. A multi-millionaire won't be fazed by a $10 congestion surcharge, they'll keep driving their Hummer directly through midtown. But the commuters from Queens or Staten Island, the senior citizens that can't easily walk down subway steps, the families car-pooling their children to different activities, and the countless businesses that need to lug equipment and supplies around the city will feel the pain.

Perversely, congestion pricing will probably benefit the rich. It will clear the streets of folks that can no longer afford to drive, making their Hummer joy ride through mid-town much more pleasurable.

1. The word is "classist," not "classicist," someone who studies the classics. (I wouldn't comment except you've used it twice in this thread.)

2. The proposal has neither classist subtext nor text. It isn't "The rich need to stop driving because the rich suck," it's "The rich need to stop driving because they have perfectly reasonable alternatives, people who live and work in less affluent areas underserved by transit often don't have a perfectly reasonable alternative." Nobody would care if the rich want to drive their cars in Staten Island all day, as long they're not causing congestion. Nobody is trying to hurt the rich. They're trying to solve congestion without hurting people, and those who drive private vehicles in Manhattan are, it is believed, least hurt by this proposal.

And your own argument demonstrates this: obviously congestion pricing is more affordable to the rich, but people still think it's a good idea. If three billionaires want to drive Hummers around midtown all day but in exchange there are protected bike and bus lanes, I am all for that.

If you think the rich are actually being hurt by this proposal, it would be worth arguing that claim. But it is not an injury in my opinion that the rich could previously do something from their richness and now have to do what everyone else does.

Meanwhile, taxing the rich simply because we don't like them (as opposed to because we think that they disproportionately benefit from government resources, or that setting this tax policy has particular benefits to the economy, or whatever) would in fact be a gratuitous injury to them, so I'm not sure why you think that's a kinder alternative.

(Disclosure: I work for a hedge fund, I take the subway, and I think taxes at my bracket and above are too low.)

The proposal in the linked article isn't a congestion charge, but to just pedestrianize many roads in Manhattan. I agree with you that congestion charges aren't an ideal solution for a bunch of reasons, one being that affluent people can just pay their $10 and drive through, as you note. Another problem with them is that congestion charges don't really make roads safe for non-automobile road users, in the way that pedestrianization does.

What annoys me personally about rich Manhattan types with cars is mostly their political influence. Fewer than a quarter of Manhattanites own cars, but the ones that do have historically been disproportionately well connected in local Democratic machine politics.

> What annoys me personally about rich Manhattan types with cars is mostly their political influence. Fewer than a quarter of Manhattanites own cars, but the ones that do have historically been disproportionately well connected in local Democratic machine politics.

I've lived in Manhattan pretty much forever and don't own a car. Most "rich" people I know in this borough are rich because they bought an apartment in the 1970s and are now millionaires on paper based on their apartments current value. They may have outsized influence, but they've also lived here for a long time. While I can understand your irritation, they are not exactly an insignificant constituency (22% of a population is not trivial).

The super rich have always been in NYC, and will be able to get around however they want. Transportation policy should not mix with classicism on either side.

Unfortunately you get to a point where no-one _does_ have to drive in a city, yet still people do. Oxford (UK) is a case in point. There are park-and-rides at every entrance to the city, good bus and train services, and conversely, awful congestion and exorbitant car parking costs. Yet I still know people from my town (15 miles outside) who choose to drive into Oxford even though there's an express train that takes under half the time.

Eventually you can't offer any more carrots and you have to start using a stick.

> Eventually you can't offer any more carrots and you have to start using a stick.

At least you're open that you want to force them to do what you prefer, instead of what's best for them. Most people who want to force their preferences on others are not so clear-eyed.

And at least you're open that you care little about anything else apart from your personal comfort. All the externalities associated with you driving while having perfectly good alternatives should be suffered by the rest of us.

I live in NYC and do not typically drive, nor do I want to drive in NYC. Of course, that has nothing to do with the carrot/stick dichotomy to which I was responding, as you know.

Believe it or not, not everyone on HN is a libertarian.

That's such a cop-out.

Either people will shift, moving or working someplace else. Or buses can be added (and more effective not being stuck behind thousands of cars).

Removing cars doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Paris is an interesting example. Car trips have a < 15% share. You can often hear this saying "Parisian drivers drive by need". This "need" can be :

- listening to the radio

- smoke freely

- don't share a ride with "the poors" in the bus or metro

This need, this "have to" must be defined. It hides serious things and ridiculous ones.

This sounds like it would suck big time for musicians and the like who have to transport gear to bars and whatnot, which I've done plenty of times since high school (I live just outside the city in NJ). Having to carry all my gear like 10 NYC blocks (or more) after having to pay tens of dollars to park in a garage (what would availability even be?) would definitely make me think twice about trying to get gigs there. My girlfriend's an artist and does shows there occasionally, and she'd be in the same boat.

Obviously I'm not saying "there'll be no art or live music in NYC if this happens!" I have a car and unless I have a damn good reason I don't drive into the city, especially during the crazy traffic hours (the PATH trains run all night). I think we need to consider what other damn good reasons people have for driving into Manhattan before we consider something as radical as this.

“No street would need to be completely cut off from vehicular traffic; emergency services could get through and transport for the disabled, just as they do in places like Ghent, Belgium, where the city center has been car-free since 2017.”

Every street is still accessible by car. You simply wouldn’t want to go on the pedestrian streets until you absolutely have to because like in car free European cities today, you’d be intermingling with pedestrians with a speed limit of like 5mph.

You’d simply drive the vast majority of the way on the car streets, and then the last 20-30m on the 5mph street so you can take your stuff up to your doorstep.

If that's what you're proposing, there's no need to use clickbait words like "ban cars from Manhattan". You're just shifting the incentive structure so that people will be less inclined to use a car.

Yes, the article is horribly misnamed.

I did read that before I posted that comment, and the explanation isn't what I got from it. Things like productions (catering services come to mind too) fall into a very different category than emergency or humanitarian services. I could support something that allows exceptions for reasonable needs.

I think focusing on the history as justification perhaps results in an incomplete argument. What people care about is how is this going to affect my life, so to really convince people who currently rely on cars to do business and make stuff happen in NYC, one needs to explain the implementation and how it won't make their lives way harder. That being said, I love history, especially the history of the places my life is intertwined with, and I enjoyed the article in that regard.

Amusingly, I'm a bassist, and the subject of transporting a double bass in NYC emerges on the web forums from time to time. One thing I've learned is that jazz is performed at much lower volume levels in NYC. For instance, many NYC bassists insist that a bassist shouldn't ever need an amplifier. I wonder if the hassle of hauling gear has simply caused a shift towards less gear-intensive music.

In contrast, out here in the midwest, it's easy to throw a mountain of gear into a minivan, and parking is abundant. Venues also have more square footage and are designed to be louder -- big rooms with high ceilings and no materials to absorb sound.

I have a hunch that volume levels are killing live music.

Overall I'd give up my car and hump my bass on the subway, in return for a more pleasant performing environment.

Are you saying high or low volume levels are killing live music?

High volume levels. Performances are too loud, and venues are too loud to host performances at sane volume levels.

I lug around about 6/7 bags of video equipment around from time to time for interviews I do. I could never manage it on the subway. It would otherwise be awesome to have less cars on the roads.

Pedestrian zones in German cities habe exceptions for transportation to or from locations inside them. Otherwise, stores in these areas couldn't get their wares etc. This just prevents regular car traffic and creates a safe space for walking. I don't know if the concept can scale tonan area the size of Manhattan. Just the necessary level of traffic would probably add up to to a lot of vehicles entering and leaving.

I would assume that the solution would be to ban traffic on most steets, but leave a coarse grid of open roads for passing traffic. This should still cut down on commuter car traffic on these.

The assumption that cars are the only publicly available cargo carriers would also be ridiculous if cars weren’t so abundant that all other solutions are floored. There’s everything from cargo bicycles to autonomous delivery vehicles that could fill this role.

Well, let's get back to first priniples. You need to be able to transport goods, that is, put them on wheels. Beyond a certain mass, you also need some kind of drive train to move it. Muscles can't produce enough force. And you need the flexibility to reach any address. These are fundamental preconditions without which large cities cannot exist. You need all of this for construction, maintainance and providing basic supplies for people living there and removing their waste. These requirements lead to a system of streets and cars/trucks of some sort.

Modern society uses the same system for individual transportation, which makes it inefficient in densely populated areas. Banning individual car traffic works in cities works because alternatives can be more efficient and they are practical because of the short distances involved.

Autonomous delivery vehicles in a pedestrian-filled area sounds like sci-fi given the current state of technology.

The amount of gear required for even a small production can be significant. I also do sound for a wedding DJ, and the rig that we bring to any event even if they have their own PA requires multiple trips with a large folding cart to bring from the vehicle to where it's going. We currently handle this by finding the closest place possible to pull up, throw our hazards on, get all the stuff inside, and then go find parking. Requiring another mode of transportation to and from the venue would add a bunch of time and difficulty, no matter how convenient it is.

This isn't a hypothetical; we did a gig in Atlantic City last December that was at the end of a long pier into the ocean, and the closest we could get was a no-parking zone on the other side of the board walk (the venue actually told us this was SOP). After unloading we put the cars in a garage a few blocks down (when you're using muscle power to move hundreds of pounds of gear, you get as close as possible, it's a safety concern). Not only did it take hours in freezing temperatures, but we had to bring an extra person with us to stay with the cars to make sure they didn't get tickets. It sucked. Hard.

It would make a ton of sense for park-and-ride like garages to have rental stations for cargo bikes or small electric delivery platforms (more like golf cart than car, e.g. Gator 6x6 though electric would be nicer). That way someone coming in would have a last mile solution that wouldn't present a huge danger to pedestrians. Or every few roads could be set to allow limited vehicle access for deliveries in normal hours and all roads allow nighttime deliveries. This wouldn't be a substantial burden while providing all the benefits of a carless space.

The Velove Armadillo is a containerised last mile delivery cargo bicycle especially appropriate for dense city centers.

Its use is being expanded in Germany and the Netherlands, by DHL, the big German carrier.


This is certainly a nice idea. But this is only usable for transporting smaller goods in small or medium amounts. This would not suffice to stock a busy grocery store, for example.

Indeed. It won't replace the need for inner city car based transportation infrastructure, but it can shave off expensive peak car load.

Isn't delivery traffic in German pedestrian zones mostly limited to certain hours? I recall seeing trucks in the early morning, but almost never during the day. Not sure if that was due to regulation or because that's when most deliveries naturally happen.

I see plenty of musicians humping their instruments on the subway. It's not that hard to carry a guitar or two, some pedals, a pack of cymbals, etc. The venues are already equipped with the big stuff (pianos/drum kits/PAs) because it would be absurd to expect every band to lug in an entire PA setup or drum kit when they know damn well that most musicians are taking the subway and using roughly the same kinda stuff.

What specific equipment would you be carrying in that the venue wouldn't already be providing?

Depends on the venue; I've played things like coffee shops that required us and the people putting the show on to bring everything inc. drums and a PA system.

That's also specific to musicians, like I said there's a bunch of things that have these same types of requirements. Catering comes to mind off the top of my head, and they have to worry about temperature control for their products as a safety concern. I've never seen a caterer on a subway lol.

That sucks about that coffee shop. It frankly doesn't sound like a good music venue if it provides no accommodations for musicians. I hope they paid you a lot for the hassle of having to bring in all that equipment. If they didn't, I'd say don't take those gigs in the future. That may be the reason they had to get out-of-towners to play it.

The catering example falls into the general delivery use case. Yes, there's still going to be a need for delivery vehicles. But they need to be made much safer (right now they're the #1 cause of death for cyclists, and they kill a lot of pedestrians too). And when we get rid of most of the cars, at least that'll free up a lot of on-street space for loading zones so you won't constantly see trucks that are illegally double parked or blocking bike lanes.

Specifically on the truck safety issue, we need trucks that adhere to pedestrian/cyclist safety standards, i.e. smaller, non-articulated ones that have full skirts all the way around that prevent people from being driven over in the event of a crash. Right now we have all the way up to full semi-trailers driving through the city (which are illegal but the cops don't enforce), which make super wide turns and can easily sweep people under the wheels and crush them to death.

I believe our governments should designate a new class of Urban car, similar to the Japanese "Kei cars".

The "Urban EV" would have to meet strict requirements: Electric Vehicles only, within a small size of footprint (smart car sized) and have pedestrian anti collision safety features.

The EVs could have cargo trays as well for deliveries.

Pedestrian zones with Urban EV access (scooters, ebikes included) could utilise a small bike lane sized road down the middle of the pedestrian areas with dotted lines to keep the EV traffic moving efficiently. Despite this, pedestrians and vehicles will be maneuvering around each other. Of course, EV's would be expected to give way to pedestrians by law.

Urban EV zones could eventually also be linked together with bike lanes and tunnels.

This would simultaneously make for more cyclist friendly cities while accommodating and making far more modern, social and interesting urban environments.

Freeing road space with smaller cars are equivalent to adding roads. You wind up with the same induced demand problems and it is still stupendously less efficient than buses, trains and pedestrian space. The same goes for folks waving self-driving cars as a magical talisman that will "fix" car traffic. You can't fix car traffic. You can only replace it with different modes of transport.

You make good points but its not ‘all or nothing’. Small, efficient modes of transport like bicycles, ebikes and scooters attached to sharing apps is a correct step forward in urban mobility.

If we zoned cities pedestrians first with smart public transport we have plenty of room for ‘ev bike lanes’ for small personal mobility vehicles across huge areas (think 14 x 14 city blocks) it would look vastly different to the congestion you are describing from cars owning the spaces

Yes!! There is no one-size-fits-all transportation method.

And some people - notably, those with disabilities - are at a disadvantage with most options. It shouldn't be a requirement, for example, to spend multiple hours on buses just to run one errand because it's the only accessible solution.

Cars are designed for high speed, multi-use, multi-environment, safety-critical use cases, that are a byproduct of the environment cars have to drive in, and how they are operated. Take out most of those requirements and we'd have lightweight, cheap, tiny contraptions that fit cities better. You can even build cars that fit in bike lanes!

Future citizens will look back at objections to banning cars from Manhattan like we look back at objections to smoking in New York bars and restaurants -- like throwbacks to a dirty, barbaric era we would be horrified to return to.

I remember showering after getting home from bars and the smell of smoke coming out of my hair. People claimed we'd lose business to Hoboken bars where people could still smoke.

Within a couple years, Hoboken had to ban smoking in bars and restaurants to stop losing business to Manhattan.

For months after 9/11/01, everywhere below Canal St was closed to most vehicles. It was wonderful to wander around there.

there were a couple days after sandy like that too, it was lovely.

I agree in concept. But it’s time to whip MTA into shape and get an efficient, punctual subway and bus system before it’s time to ban cars.

Give me European style efficiency and punctuality in public transit before telling me about European-style plans that make me use public transit.

Can the title be amended to reflect that of the linked article? That is, please drop the nonsensical question mark.

The American worldview on (the necessity of) cars is going to be hard to shift, but boy oh boy would it change your country for the better.


A European.

When you go to the US you will see that apart from very dense city centers there are a lot of people living pretty far away from the next town with nothing in between. There is no practical way, right now, to live without a car if you are in such a situation.

That doesn't excuse doing nothing in the cities.

Sure, but it will not solve the problem that most people will need cars to get around.

This would necessitate shifting the American worldview on having a quarter acre of land to yourself as opposed to living in a buildings adjacent to one another.

Get cars out of all city centers, not just the big ones. I live in a small town pop. 15,000. Our little main street is clogged with parking spaces and cars. For 15,000 people! Instead they could rip out the asphalt and make it a pedestrian zone with lots of green space...and the downtown business owners would probably reap the benefits. But nobody is willing to do anything drastic.

I freaking love public/pedestrian streets. Wish there were more of them at least.

Has anyone calculated how fast you could go from downtown to uptown with a bicycle and no traffic? Maybe the best way to galvanize public opinion is with hope: show them things can be much better, and they will want it.

You could plan a day to shut down some street for 100 blocks and do a series of stunts. Mock up bus and bike lanes, and do trial runs all day of bikes and buses moving up and down the corridor. Then run the results in the paper with the title "the future is here".

There are a lot of elderly people living in the city that cannot ride a bicycle. ...and what about when there's a foot of snow on the ground? Or pouring rain? Should everyone resign themselves to suffering?

Please do ban cars from Manhattan. Went in to have dinner the other night on the lower east side, and yes we drove and it's craziness. I stress out like mad every time I have to contemplate doing it. I'd rather never do it again, but if they really want to ban cars from the island the transit lines from NJ and CT would need to add a lot of capacity, especially on weekends.

Cars work because they solve for the first and last mile (50yards) problem. Public transport is great - but it is coarser than private cars. Even timetabled buses cannot drive down every road

The "right" solution is presumably "sharing" car stack (no not Uber style sharing).

But boy I am not sure the politics or even economics stack up.

Cars don't really work in Manhattan to solve the last mile problem. There's physically not remotely enough space for everyone to use cars to do so, nor would it even make sense to knock down apartment and office buildings and replace them with the massive number of parking garages that would be required to be able to do so.

Plus there's not enough space on the streets themselves, so the cars just crawl. Anything is better than driving. There's plenty of areas that are so congested during commutes that a brisk walk is faster than driving. Bikes, scooters, etc. are way faster than driving.

Cars might be a good last-mile solution out in Podunk, but they don't work here. The city is too dense for them.

Your legs also solve the first and last mile problem.

Most of the comments mentioned very good reasons were legs were an unsuitable solution - carrying art, cameras or other equipment. All of this produces economic value and cannot realistically be carried 5 blocks.

If you are an able bodied 20-something then public transport already solves the transport of your body.

But it's not just for transporting an adult - it's for children, economics and more

I have a funny idea that, folks cannot carry a camera for 5 blocks may be because cars. Folks used to do things like this all the time.

My Dad used to carry a bushel basket of corn on his shoulder, from the bin to the troughs in the barnyard, with no apparent effort.

I see children on the subway every day. I see folks with camera or audio equipment on the subway every week.

Not everyone has a fit and healthy pair of legs

No, but if we drove less with cars, the amount of people with fit and healthy legs would increase. Also, there are plenty of other vehicles for those, who can't walk, which are allowed in pedestrian zones. As well as exceptions for people being dropped off, who qualify as handicapped.

What percentage of people do not? 1%?

Probably 10%+ if you include the elderly and others who can’t comfortably walk a mile or two

So 1 percent minorities don't matter to you? Good to know.

Motorized wheelchairs? No offense

"Last mile" refers to actual miles of distance which usually requires cars. 50 yards is very walkable. Nobody would have a problem with public transit if it was that close.

A nice writeup about the recent NYC 14th street closure by Signal Problems https://signalproblems.substack.com/p/miracle-on-14th-street

You still need ambulance access everywhere and delivery access almost everywhere. So you need a lot of vehicle infrastructure even though it’s mostly unused, and vehicles must suddenly share the space with pedestrians instead of pedestrians having sidewalks and designated crossings. Pedestrian streets exist in most cities but the problem of making each street a safe place for pedestrians while ambulances and delivery trucks can still access them isn’t a solved problem. A couple of vehicle terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years highlighted this issue.

The common solution found in European cities is to have one street reserved entirely for pedestrians, and to allow delivery access from the two adjacent, parallel streets. But of course this requires a certain amount of infrastructure within the buildings.

Yes, and obviously it only makes it possible to make half the streets pedestrian streets in an area. To make every street in an area pedestrian-only you’d need a different solution. Deliveries can often be handled in early mornings for example.

As real not snarky rhetorical questions - how does an aging populace get around a city without cabs? When I injured my leg last year I found just how unviable it was to commute by crowded subway during rush hours on crutches. It gave me sympathy for the disabled and elderly. For all their faults, Uber and Lyft were the lifeline which let me get my kids to school and get myself to work until I healed.

To interested readers: the title references a few paragraphs in the beginning and end of the article. The article mostly concerns itself with a history of NYC and streets, which I personally found irrelevant and boring.

I work a few blocks from 14th St and, man, the place was eerie this week. I really liked it and support the concept of banning cars, even as I own one because I live in the far reaches of an outer borough.

Yes, it is time to ban personal transport vehicles from Manhattan. Leave buses and delivery vehicles since everything is stocked by them, and work vehicles like police perhaps. The problem is this will never get implemented on any non geologic timescale. We need a clear vision like this, but also a non-racist version of Robert Moses to just make it all happen.

> vehicles like police perhaps

Policing itself changes significantly when much of the population isn't in a car. And police may be able to see crime in action rather than reaction.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact