Flickr/Jack Zalium

One of New York City's most traffic-plagued neighborhoods gets a remake

All sorts of forces align to make Hell's Kitchen a tough place to navigate. The Lincoln Tunnel ensures a steady stream of traffic, much of it big trucks and buses, heading down Ninth Avenue throughout the day. The Port Authority bus terminal, Times Square and Penn Station produce a fountain of foot traffic, largely funneled onto eighth and ninth by a bevy of stores and restaurants and the relative retail scarcity of 10th. A lack of bike lanes forces riders to squeeze between cars on the street or people on the sidewalk. The planned extension of the 7 train only stands to make the crowds worse.

But there's hope in Hell after all. It comes in the form of a thorough study of neighborhood traffic conducted by the New York City Department of Transportation. Over the past four years the department has examined the congestion situation — from the perspectives of pedestrians, riders, and drivers alike — in an area stretching north-south from West 29th Street to West 55th Street and east-west from Eighth Avenue to the West Side Highway. Last Monday, it presented many of its recommended improvements in a public meeting. The upgrades, driven by community feedback, should go a long way toward raising quality of life in the neighborhood. 

Many of the changes have been implemented already. Officials have relocated bus layovers to less busy streets, increased "Don't Block the Box" signage at major crossings (we're looking at you, bridge-and-tunnel drivers), "feathered down" green lights from 50th to 43rd Street to decrease congestion, and extended crossing times as part of a focus on safety for seniors. They also have adjusted the pedestrian signals at six intersections to provide lead time for those walking across the street — a sensible move, considering that many pedestrians begin to cross once auto traffic is stopped regardless of whether or not they have the immediate right, as we've pointed out before.

But those are just the start. Other plans include nudging truck traffic onto 11th and 12th avenues, adding curb space to shorten crossing distances, and expanding protected bike lanes. The department also intends three specific efforts that should bring joy to those who know the area best. One will open the west side of 36th Street and Ninth to pedestrians; at present, a low fence forces walkers to cross the avenue, at best, or join cars heading toward the tunnel in the street, at worst. Another will create a "mini-plaza" at 41st Street and Ninth, where a current misalignment slows traffic and confuses walkers. A third will turn a stretch of 21 diagonal parking spots on 36th Street between Ninth and Tenth into a micro-park:

The mirco-park will become something of a trend in Chelsea-Hell's Kitchen, if some residents have their way. The genesis is a six-by-six foot Thumbelina Park and Community Garden, trapped between the sidewalk and a bike lane at West 25th Street and Eighth Avenue. The amusing persona of Arnold Bob presides over Thumbelina and hopes to bring a hundred or so similar parks to the area. "Most gardens grow plants," Ranger Bob recently told  DNA Info, "But at a community garden, what we grow is community."

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jack Zalium.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Graduates react near the end of commencement exercises at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
    Life

    Where Do College Grads Live? The Top and Bottom U.S. Cities

    Even though superstar hubs top the list of the most educated cities, other cities are growing their share at a much faster rate.

  2. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  3. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  4. A man sleeps in his car.
    Equity

    Finding Home in a Parking Lot

    The number of unsheltered homeless living in their cars is growing. Safe Parking programs from San Diego to King County are here to help them.

  5. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

×