This article from Streetsblog shows how simple changes along a street, including bike lanes, bus line improvements and pedestrian safety enhancements, can have dramatic impacts. In fact, the results were synergistic: vehicular incidents fell, buses moved faster, more bikers came, and on Second Avenue, cars actually moved more quickly than before the changes.
Across town at Times Square, air quality is way up (40% decrease in pollutants!) with the Broadway plaza project. Turns out idling cars are bad for humans - who knew????
These images from nearby Herald Square tell the story:
(via here, which provides an excellent analysis, and originally from the NYC DOT)
The change is drastic. On the left, about twenty vehicles occupy the entire space. They hold probably 30-50 occupants. On the right, I'm guessing about two hundred people are actively using the space. And they're spewing out a lot less toxic gases (hopefully... unless they ate at the Burger King at the corner of 34th and Broadway).
Yet even with news articles and spectacular results like these, New York decision makers continue to bend over backwards for cars in Manhattan at the expense of everyone else.