Bloomberg on Car-Free Central Park: Banning Cars Wouldn't Make Much of a Difference

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (photo by Spencer T. Tucker)

Legislation banning cars from Central Park's loop drives has not exactly won full-throated support from the Bloomberg Administration since being introduced earlier this year. While a number of local community boards have endorsed the idea of a pilot ban this summer, an article in today's New York Times said City Hall was resisting the idea, as Transportation Nation previously reported.  And at a press conference today, the mayor was asked about it. Here's a transcript of the exchange:

Reporter: about banning cars in Central Park for the summer - (inaudible -- the agency) said there are no immediate plans. Can you comment?

Mayor Bloomberg: Miss, I think you're just totally ill-informed. The roads where they're talking about we have banned cars for ninety percent of the time already. So we're really only talking about ten percent. We are doing studies, I've talked to the commissioner, yesterday I think it was, she's doing a study. Until we can really understand the traffic patterns and the effect it will have we're just not going to go and rush to do it. I understand why you don't want to have traffic in front of your house, or where you're bicycling, or where you're walking, but there are other people who need the roads to get where they're going to go, and you just can't willy-nilly say 'oh, let's just ban them without doing the real scientific research.' We have data in this day and age, particularly  because of taxis with GPS, to do some real studies. But in the end, we've already -- and we've done it a long time ago -- banned ninety percent of the cars from the roads that are in question. And so we're really talking about -- this is something, it's much of an issue would not make that big a difference.  And we're not going to do it unless it turns out to be a good thing. I don't think anybody should question our Department of Transportation's or this administration's willingness to to try new things with cars, bicycles, pedestrians, we've tried to be very innovative, creative, and run risks. But every one of those things we did with real data. Sometimes the data can be misleading, in the end, and you go back. But the responsible thing is to do exactly what our transportation commissioner is doing.

Question: some people say it's hypocritical for a mayor who calls himself "bike Mike" to not ban cars from all of Central Park.

Mayor Bloomberg: By that argument we should ban cars from coming into the city totally. I don't think you can do that. Yes, I'm in favor of multiple ways to get around - bicycles are one of them, walking is one of them, taking mass transit is a very important one - and driving cars. What we really need to do is have a disincentive to bring your car into the city and enhance the monies available for improving mass transit. And if somebody could come up with a plan that could do that, like maybe charging people to come in the city and using the money to help the MTA - you have to go to Albany. Maybe they've heard that before.