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N.Y.C. | Not Your Car—Why we the people must “dominate the streets.”

New York, NY


Transit Proposal


The New York Times


Transportation: BuroHappold Engineering


New York City-Wide


Ongoing Advocacy Project

Following the Covid crisis of 2020-2022 and the eventual development of a seemingly viable vaccine, New Yorkers along with a fellow urban citizenry the world over returned to the same polluted, congested, and unequal cities they had in the past. The question remains, as it did before the crisis: can we collectively envision a more just urban future in which we the people “dominate the streets?”

During quarantine and months of remote work, from New York to New Delhi, brilliant blue skies hovered above our cities, an ephemeral side effect of our global pandemic. With traffic worldwide drastically reduced in response to the painful economic shutdowns, our streets were largely devoid of their usual vehicular congestion; global carbon emissions were reduced substantially. Such a dramatic transformation of our streets—the building block of any city’s public realm—demands more debate on their true purpose given both the pre-COVID pedestrianization measures implemented along thoroughfares like New York’s 14th Street and the riverfront of Paris, as well as the protester drumbeat of “Whose Streets? Our Streets,” a question that demands answers in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and countless other black citizens on streets that are so ruthlessly patrolled. In N.Y.C. (“Not Your Car”), PAU, in collaboration with Farhad Manjoo and the Op Ed desk of the New York Times, explored the potential of our streets in a unique moment of political upheaval and environmental crisis to consider the inequities and predation caused by private cars in our supposedly public realm.

Building on the work of similar past proposals listed below, PAU in conjunction with the New York Times and our transportation planning partners at BuroHappold propose a singular, sweeping change—to ban all private vehicles in Manhattan other than taxis, buses, emergency and freight vehicles, Access-A-Ride, and ride share services—in order to transform not only Manhattan but all of the boroughs that are forced to bear its traffic. We believe such a change would usher forward a vastly more equitable, ecological, and enjoyable city that would recover faster from its current economic and inequity crises because as our proposal illustrates, our streets would engender fairer health outcomes, better climate resilience, responsible waste management, and faster, more pleasant commutes for essential workers who today must compete for invaluable space on our clogged regional arterials with those wealthy enough to drive into and within Manhattan.

In crafting such a provocation in the service of public debate, we eschew the image of a techno-futurist bourgeoisie utopia that is often associated with such proposals; instead, PAU sees this proposal in the service of everyday New Yorkers and achievable in the near term, using existing infrastructures, technologies, landscapes, and NYCDOT street furniture templates. Beyond the transportation and air quality benefits, which are legion, of particular focus for this study are the spatial potentials of freeing up traffic lanes and curbside parking for public use.

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Manhattan Bridge

West 46th Street

Park Avenue

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd at 125th St

FDR Drive

46th St.

125th St.

Park Ave.


Banning private cars from Manhattan could decrease traffic by 60% in the borough and 8% in surrounding areas, making bus commutes from the surrounding boroughs and counties much quicker.