Blast from the past: proposed conveyor belt transit for NY in 1954 | 511 Contra Costa

Blast from the past: proposed conveyor belt transit for NY in 1954

In recent years New York City has been experimenting with innovative transportation solutions to a notorious traffic problem. The city has been creating bike lanes, bus lanes and pedestrian plazas from space formerly used to accommodate private motor vehicle traffic. The most famous of these changes has been the transformation of Times Square from a traffic choked intersection to a vast pedestrian plaza in 2009.
Times Square plaza
The Times Square plaza. (Photo credit: Payton Chung)
However, transportation innovations are not new to the Big Apple. Moving people has always been a major issue for New York City, but of all proposed transportation solutions, one the sticks out from the rest.
In 1954 the idea of removing all wheeled traffic – buses, trucks, and cars – and converting 5th Avenue into a giant conveyor belt to move people along the Avenue was contemplated. The Gothamist recently covered this odd idea in an article titled What if 5th Avenue Had No Cars, But Conveyor Belt Transportation Instead?. The article beings:

What if parts of Manhattan didn’t have vehicular traffic, but instead conveyor-belt transportation? We’ve visited the idea of moving sidewalks as it was proposed in the late 1800s, but here’s a later proposal, from 1954, which would have eliminated all wheeled traffic (and thus “roaring motors and noxious fumes”) as well as “nervous pedestrians scurrying back and forth at dangerous intersections.”

The conveyor belts were supposed to “beautify the street, reduce noise and help shoppers”. Read the full story and see pictures of what these conveyor belts would look like over at The Gothamist.

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