Solving Cities

Times Square's pedestrian plaza improves air quality

Times Square's pedestrian plaza improves air quality

Posting in Cities

Since the addition of a pedestrian plaza in Times Square, New York City is seeing big improvements in air quality.

It should come as no surprise that when cities reduce the amount of cars it improves air quality.

But to further prove that point, New York City released a study that measures the air quality of Times Square before and after installation of its pedestrian plaza in 2009.

The findings? Substantially improved air quality.

The just-released NYCCAS report confirms that major sources of air pollution generated in New York City are vehicle traffic and buildings burning high-sulfur heating oils. Additionally, in Times Square, concentrations of Nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), two pollutants closely associated with traffic, were among the highest in the city. After the conversion to a pedestrian plaza, NO pollution levels in Times Square went down by 63 percent while, NO2 levels went down by 41 percent.

And it has a big impact on health as an estimated quarter-million pedestrians enter Times Square everyday. But it wasn't just Times Square, benefits can be seen throughout the city.

Check out the graph below, via the New York City Community Air Survey (.pdf):

"The new Times Square is a showcase for New York’s vitality and energy, rather than for congestion and pollution," said Commissioner Sadik-Khan in a statement. "The changes here have been big wins for safety, mobility and business.  Now we can see that they have delivered great environmental gains as well."

Photo: Ed Yourdon/Flickr

[Via Grist]

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure