Times Square was once a seedy place that many New Yorkers avoided, except for brief forays to a Broadway show. Today, many New Yorkers still avoid it, but for the opposite reason - it is really, really crowded. According to the Times Square Alliance, streets in Times Square burst with up to 16,817 people per hour on the busiest sidewalks, plus 1,279 people who can’t fit on the sidewalks and walk in the street.

Meanwhile, most of the public space in the area is devoted to cars, even though those hardly move. Two groups have developed detailed proposals to reclaim some of the street space for pedestrians.

The Times Square Alliance recommends cutting the connection between Seventh Avenue and Broadway and creating new sidewalk space in that area. There is a very narrow median right now, which many people walk on, even though transportation officials have placed obstacles to discourage it. Their plan would create a pedestrian area between Seventh and Broadway as well as expanding many of the surrounding sidewalks. You can read a summary (PDF) or the detailed plan (PDF).

Another group, Vision 42, goes one step further, advocating for turning all of 42nd Street into a pedestrian boulevard with a light rail line running the length. 42nd Street has very wide sidewalks which are nevertheless always extremely packed. But traffic on 42nd crawls at best, and the M42 crosstown bus, connecting such important sites as the United Nations, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Javits Center, and until recently The Tank, moves no slower than a walk. I once walked all the way from Grand Central to 9th Avenue with a bus about half a block behind me, waiting for it to catch me so I could board, but it never did. Light rail could allow people to finally get from one side of Manhattan to the other just a little bit faster.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.