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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
January 10, 1900

How Business Wagons Interfere with Pleasure Carriages.

Proportion of One to the Other Shown by Actual Count at Various Points.

Anent the agitation aroused by President Guggenheimer's proposed ordinance restricting heavy traffic on Fifth Avenue, the extent of the business traffic on the avenue from Madison Square to Central Park has been made the subject of some study.

As at present worded the ordinance would bar heavy traffic between the hours of 2 o'clock and 7 o'clock in the afternoon from that section of the avenue lying between Twenty-fifth and Fifty-ninth Streets, and would entirely bar heavy traffic from the section of the avenue skirting Central Park between Fifty-ninth and One Hundred and Tenth Streets. Residents of lower Fifth Avenue would like to have their section, below Twenty-fifth Street, included in the restrictions.

Observations were made yesterday by reporters of The New York Times of the conditions of traffic on the avenue between Madison Square and Central Park for the purpose of determining its extent and the proportion of vehicles used respectively for merchandise and for passengers.

The observations were made between 3:15 P. M. and 5:15 P. M., and show the number of both classes of vehicles bound both north and south during fifteen-minute periods, at different points on the avenue, at different times. At Twenty-fifth Street 184 vehicles of all kinds passed in both directions between 3:30 P. M. and 3:45 P. M. Of these 78 were bound north and 106 south. There were 67 business wagons as compared with 117 carriages. Of the carriages, 41 were bound north and 76 south. Of the business wagons 37 were bound north and 30 south.

At Thirty-third Street, from 4:15 P. M. to 4:30 P. M., 374 vehicles passed in both directions, of which 327 were carriages and 47 were business wagons, trucks, &c. Two hundred of the carriages were bound north and 127 south. Twenty-seven of the wagons were bound north and 20 south.

General conditions in the section of the avenue between Madison Square and Thirty-fourth Street, as found, may be summed up as follows: The Dewey arch serves to break up the crowding at the juncture of the various thoroughfares meeting there, and to lessen confusion. The blocks immediately above Madison Square show less traffic than those further up the avenue, and with greater proportion of it of a business character.

Most of the business wagons were delivery wagons of retail houses. Above Thirtieth Street the proportion of business wagons falls off, and between 4 and 5 o'clock, below the Waldorf-Astoria, as many as ten carriages would pass to one business wagon. Traffic was somewhat retarded along the section near Thirtieth Street because of the number of cabs standing at the curbs.

Again at Thirty-fourth Street there was congestion because of cross-town traffic. The character of the passenger-carrying travel was more uniform here, also, private carriages being in great majority; cabs coming next, while automobiles ranked low in the scale with trucks, and there was but an occasional truck.

A count of the traffic at Thirty-seventh Street between 3:15 P. M. and 3:30 P. M. showed 275 vehicles of all kinds bound both ways, of which 217 were carriages and 61 business wagons. Of 128 vehicles bound north 95 were carriages and 33 business wagons, and of 150 bound south 122 were carriages and 28 were business.

At Forty-first Street, between 5:15 P. M. and 5:30 P. M., 176 conveyances of all kinds passed, of which 130 were carriages and 46 business wagons or trucks. Of the 141 bound north 120 were carriages and 21 business vehicles, and of 135 bound south 110 were carriages and 25 business wagons, &c.

In a random fifteen minutes during the hour between 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock there were counted between Thirty-fourth Street and Forty-second Street 23 light wagons, 4 heavy wagons, 12 trucks, and 3 vans.

At Forty-second Street, where a number of changes are being made, the immense traffic on that street causes a slow down which extends from two to three blocks on each side of the street. The traffic between Thirty-fourth and Forty-second Streets was so great that a very slow trot was the best speed that could be maintained.

A large truck, laden with a number of lengthy beams, and a small wagon, with a number of large window frames, which extended three feet over its side made trouble as they went slowly down the avenue between 3 and 4 o'clock. A small colored boy in charge of a very dirty gray horse that was pulling a cart loaded with dirt, occasioned a great deal of amusement between Forty-second and Fortieth Streets by his efforts to keep out of the way of the pleasure and business vehicles. He gave up the job in disgust when he reached Fortieth Street, and turned down that street.

In the section between Forty-second and Fifty-ninth Streets figures were taken at three points. Here tha carriage traffic is found at its height, the stream being fed from a larger part of the residential section. During the 15 minutes before 5 o'clock, in a walk from Fifty-ninth Street south, it was noted that there were generally eight to twelve moving vehicles on a block at one time, with one or two business vehicles among them. Pleasure traffic was little interfered with.

There were some exceptions to the averages of the numbers of moving vehicles on blocks. In one there were only six teams, with two business wagons in the number, while in another there were fifteen, and in still another, twenty with three and four business wagons in the throng respectively.

There were observed at this time within fifteen minutes two ice carts, two empty flour trucks, one kindling wood wagon, one feed truck, two moving vans, one piano van, two ash carts, several express wagons, one heaped-up load of empty flour barrels, and many small light delivery wagons, some of which were the fancy variety affected by florists, confectioners, caterers, milliners, jewelers, and fancy goods stores, besides a good many retail dry goods delivery wagons.

There were counted at Forty-fifth Street during the time between 3:30 P. M. and 3:45 P. M., 469 vehicles of all kinds, moving both north and south. Of these 408 were carriages and 61 were business wagons, trucks, &c. The teams bound north included 196 carriages and 30 wagons, and the southward tide was made up of 212 carriages and 31 wagons, &c.

A count was made at Fifty-ninth Street, between 4:30 and 4:35 P. M. Here there were 327 conveyances moving both ways in the time given. Of these 265 were carriages and 62 business wagons. Those bound north numbered 180, of which 147 were carriages and 33 business wagons, &c. Those bound south, numbering 147, included 118 carriages and 29 business vehicles.

Figures were taken at Fiftieth Street during the fifteen minutes following 5 o'clock. Here 311 teams passed, of which 249 were carriages and 62 wagons. Bound north, of this number there were 144, of which 121 were carriages and 23 wagons, and bound south there were 128 carriages and 39 wagons, &c.

An examination of the figures shows that near Madison Square the carriages compared with the business wagons were about two to one, while further north, but south of Thirty-fourth Street, they were as seven to one, with a general average of about four to one. In the section between Thirty-fourth and Forty-second Streets, the proportion was three to one, while above that, in the earliest count, at Forty-fifth Street, it was seven to one. At Fifty-ninth Street a little later, it was as four to one, and still later, at Fiftieth Street, as five to one, with a general average of five to one for that section.

Yet as shown in a walk of several blocks, it was observed that with from eight to twelve vehicles moving at one time each block, there was at that particular time not more than one or two business wagons to ten carriages. Later in the afternoon, when, at between 5:15 and 5:30 P. M., side lamps had been lighted, there was a marked falling off in the number of vehicles moving. Between Forty-ninth and Fifty-ninth Streets not more than five was an average number to be found moving one block at a time, and the proportion of business vehicles to carriages was one to five.

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