Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ketcham: Traffic/transit analysis so bad a Supplemental EIS needed

How bad would the traffic be? The Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) suggests it would be a challenge, but not unmanageable, by the time the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is issued.

Yes, 68 of 93 intersections analyzed would be “significantly adversely impacted,” according to DEIS Chapter 12, on traffic, but proposed traffic mitigations would take care of 29 of them, leaving 39 intersections with unmitigated impacts at certain hours by 2016. Moreover, “Additional measures to further address all unmitigated significant adverse traffic impacts will be explored between the DEIS and the FEIS.”

DEIS myopia

To transportation engineer Brian Ketcham of Community Consulting Services, that’s balderdash. “With Atlantic Yards, the entire Downtown Brooklyn area and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in 2016 will be at a standstill, radiating problems across the region,” he wrote in a recent unpublished letter to the New York Times. “It nearly is now and will be more so with completion of development in the pipeline by 2016, when Atlantic Yards is expected to be fully built.” (Ketcham has pointed out that the DEIS accounts for only about half of the planned development.)

Wrong model

Ketcham pointed out that the traffic model CCS used “graphically simulates the ripple effect throughout the area of delays of more than 10 minutes at intersections along major routes revealed in fine print in the DEIS.” Meanwhile, the intersections in the DEIS are examined “as if they were entirely unconnected.”

Many critics have pointed out that the state review ignores the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; Ketcham noted that the crowded BQE will push other traffic through local streets. One solution: congestion-based tolls to deter some traffic over the East River bridges.

Ketcham scoffed at Forest City Ratner’s proposal for half-price MetroCards as well as remote parking. “No savvy New Yorker would be believe that a $2 Metrocard discount would get enough $100+ Nets ticket buyers out of their cars to reduce auto use on game nights by 20% (even 2% based on the DEIS logic is optimistic), that the transit pass would do anything for non-game traffic and that it should be subsidized by MTA riders. Discount satellite parking would require a caravan of a shuttle bus a minute (not every 10 minutes as in the DEIS) to get fans to the game on time, add to the drop-off chaos, and necessitate nearby lay-over space and further tax-payer subsidies.”

Supplemental EIS

What to do about “this mockery of State environmental law"? Ketcham proposed a Draft Supplemental EIS (DSEIS) to deal with the problem more accurately, just as a DSEIS was issued to account for the effect of the proposed Atlantic Yards project on the Downtown Brooklyn Development DEIS.

Further warnings

CCS also issued a paper with further warnings. By 2016, with realistic growth, six of 10 subway lines will be over capacity, three with severe “crush loads.” Also, seven of 10 bus lines will be over capacity. The DEIS, doesn’t assess the probability that affluent Brooklynites use autos more than their counterparts in Manhattan.

Despite parking management strategies to divert drivers to more distant parking facilities, some drivers will try to find free on-street parking, and they are not accounted for. The only effective safeguard, CCS says, is a resident parking permit program, not mentioned in the DEIS (but part of the push-poll likely from Forest City Ratner).

Subway stresses?

DEIS Chapter 13, covering Transit and Pedestrians, acknowledges that there could be crowding on platforms, but argues that it would be resolved by additional subway service:
During the weekday 10-11 PM and Saturday 4-5 PM post-game periods, when surges of subway trips generated by an event at the arena would be arriving on the subway platforms, the potential may exist for crowding on the platforms at the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station complex under certain post-game conditions. Such crowding, if it were to occur, could constitute a significant adverse impact, which could be addressed by providing additional subway service (i.e., more trains) during post-game periods.

The DEIS continues:
Subway trips generated by the proposed project would be distributed among the numerous subway routes serving Downtown Brooklyn... All subway routes through Downtown Brooklyn are expected to continue to operate below their practical capacity in the peak direction in the 8-9 AM and 5-6 PM commuter peak periods with development of Phase I of the proposed project in 2010, and at completion of the proposed project in 2016. The proposed project is therefore not expected to result in significant adverse impacts to subway line haul conditions in Downtown Brooklyn under CEQR criteria.

At CB2, disbelief

At the Community Board 2 Atlantic Yards hearing on August 3, former CB 2 member Kenn Lowy, representing Friends of Brooklyn Bridge Park, didn't buy the subway claims. He said:
The Atlantic Yards project is massive, and even when it is scaled back, it will drastically change this part of Brooklyn. In 2004, the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 2 looked at the Downtown rezoning plan, that plan had already been approved, and it’s basically next to where the Atlantic Yards project is... But the vehicular traffic is only part of the problem. The mass transit area is actually even worse. What [Forest City Ratner consultant] Sam Schwartz didn’t tell you earlier is that, in 2004, MTA officials told the Traffic and Transportation committee that Downtown Brooklyn subway stations, and this was in 2004, were currently at saturation. The Downtown rezoning plan is going to add an additional 5000 riders in the morning and 7000 in the evening. If the MTA has no way of addressing those riders, then how will they be able to accommodate the new riders from the arena and the 16 new buildings? This will make a bad situation much worse. I think we all agree a certain amount of growth is welcome in Brooklyn. The question is: how much is too much?

Lowy had in 2004 reported the anecdote on his web site:
At a meeting several months ago MTA officials told The Traffic & Transportation Committee of CB2 that the downtown Brooklyn subway stations were currently at “saturation”. Yet the DEIS ignores this.

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