Winter 1999-2000, p.12

Transportation Alternatives Commemorates 100 Years of Automobiles in Central Park

"[Thoroughfares] have nothing in common with the park proper . . . [and] those agreeable sentiments that we should wish the park to inspire." -Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, ca. 1859.

As cabs speed by in the background, speakers address 100 years of cars inOn Tuesday November 16, 1999, representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Harlem Environmental Impact Project, the Empire Skate Association, and the Central Park Track Club, joined T.A. to mark 100 years of cars in Central Park, and renew their calls for a Car-Free Central Park.
Central Park is the world's most renowned urban park and, at times, a beautiful oasis from the hectic pace of city streets. But since the first car was allowed into the park 100 years ago, thousands of daily park users have been forced to endure an escalating level of pollution, noise, and personal danger. Currently, cars are allowed on the Park's loop drive 16 hours each weekday, and 24 hours on weekends from Thanksgiving to January 1st.

At the ceremony, speakers addressed the century of intrusion by the automobile into New York's crown jewel and urged a return to park designer Frederick Law Olmsted's vision of Central Park as a refuge and retreat from the city.
For 10 years, Transportation Alternatives has been fighting to restore Central Park to Olmsted's ideal. Citizens have staged more than 20 demonstrations, and written more than 15,000 letters and postcards asking for a car-free Central Park. With the passage of this sad anniversary, T.A. is confident that the end of cars in the park is near. Cars have had their century - it is time for the people of New York to have theirs.

In the coming months, T.A.'s Car-Free Central Park Committee will be doing outreach to park users, community groups, and elected officials to spread the word about a car-free park. If you'd like to help, contact Neel Scott at 212-629-8080, or ped@transalt.org.

Central Park Facts

  • 75% of the cars using Central Park have only one passenger.
  • All of the motorists driving in the Park each hour could easily fit into one subway train.
  • 45% of Manhattan's surface is devoted to moving or storing cars; 13% to its parks.
  • 77% of Manhattan's households do not own cars.
  • A 1996 NYCDOT study found that nearly 65% of cars exceed the Loop Drive speed limit of 30 mph. On the East Drive between East 85th and East 96th Streets, and on the West Drive between West 81st and West 72nd Streets, 94% and 82% of motorists, respectively, exceeded the 30 mph speed limit.
  • Every year there are approximately 250 motor vehicle accidents on park roads.

Read the latest news on this subject.