New York, NY (2006-2007)

Client: Times Square Alliance

Broadway at Times Square at the start of the project.

Broadway at Times Square at the start of the project.

The Times Square Alliance hired Project for Public Spaces (PPS), from May 2006 to June 2007, to better understand and re-imagine how Times Square performs as a public space.

PPS began by gaining a better understanding of the district through systematic observation techniques such as time-lapse film analysis, activity mapping, tracking and user surveys. (See our User Analysis Summary and Findings)

The general issues and opportunities that emerged from the analysis included:

  • Ground floors – Most building bases in the district do not support sidewalk activity, gathering and smaller destinations.
  • “No square there” – Demand for use and activity in median is very high yet there are no amenities in square to support this activity.
  • Tracking diagrams were developed from time-lapse film analysis show that Broadway’s roadway was already in demand by pedestrians.

    Movement and circulation – Street design does not support pedestrian movement – there is a lack of sidewalk space and crosswalks and crossing times are inadequate.

  • Flexible spaces – District needs flexibility to close side streets and even Broadway at various times to facilitate planned events.
  • Reach out like an octopus – Not perceived as a district. Side streets (especially theater blocks) are underperforming as destinations in their own right.

With these issues in mind, PPS also conducted comprehensive research of international best practices, drawing specific lessons from how other places have addressed similar challenges.

Early concept of potential pedestrian uses for Broadway if closed to traffic.

Working with the client PPS then developed key programmatic recommendations and conceptual plans. Recommendations included reconfiguration of streets to better accommodate foot traffic and reduce the negative impacts of traffic; architectural treatments and amenities to improve the pedestrian experience; retail strategies to diversify the district’s attraction; and new public space programming such as performances and markets.

To help the alliance sell this vision to its partners and constituents and take it into a design stage, PPS developed a series of photo-simulations depicting the vision. PPS also presented its observations, best practices research and programmatic recommendations to a selection of leading designers to explore ways that they could creatively respond to and build on PPS findings and recommendations.

The iconic transformation of Broadway at Times Square has inspired people to look differently at how street sapce is used.

Shortly after the completion of the study, there was a major shift in the NYC Department of Transportation administration towards the goals of our NYC Streets Renaissance Campaign. The new administration hired our 10-year staffer, and director of our transportation initiative, Andrew Wiley-Schwartz to oversee public space projects including Times Square.

At NYCDOT, Wiley-Schwartz, helped lead “Green Light for Midtown,” which the DOT called “a major initiative in the City’s efforts to improve mobility and safety…the work created new pedestrian areas on Broadway in Times Square (47th to 42nd Streets) and Herald Square (35th to 33rd Streets). Extensive safety improvements were also made along the Broadway corridor between Columbus Circle and Madison Square.  The improvements in safety and traffic flow were so successful that Mayor Bloomberg decided to make these changes permanent.