Thursday, January 26, 2012

Transportation Demand Management plan for arena, originally due in December, then pushed to February, now expected in May; state official: "I think we're going to be OK"

The long-awaited Transportation Demand Management plan for the Barclays Center arena has been pushed back a second time, marking a delay of at least five months, officials revealed today at the bimonthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting.

So the expected release in May leaves a much shorter window of opportunity for area residents and other stakeholders to offer constructive criticism before the arena opens in late September.

Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, acknowledged that her agency, responding to a question at a public meeting last June about the TDM plan, "anticipated" that developer Forest City Ratner would present the plan "to the public for comment in about six months."

The plan involves incentives to reduce use of cars, free MetroCards, cross-marketing with local businesses, remote parking, and more.

Second delay

At a December 2011 meeting on transportation issues, we learned that the plan was more likely coming in February, provoking Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris to comment  that “we should be be very careful” because of the tight time frame.

Today, none of the elected and agency officials at the Borough Hall meeting brought up the new delay, though it's sure to be raised tonight at a community meeting on traffic/transportation issues.

Why the delay?

I asked Hankin about the cause of the delay. "It’s a very complicated plan," she said. "The delay of the NBA season [because of labor strife] created a lot of problems."

For example, she said, it was harder to collect data from fans about transportation choices. "They have to deal with hiring a research firm to do a much more thorough analysis," she said.

Reason for concern?

How worrisome is the delay, I asked Hankin.

She pointed out that staffers from consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE), the firm Forest City hired to work on the plan, had described how they put together a successful plan for the new arena in Newark, the Prudential Center, in ten weeks. "I think we’re going to be OK," she said.

SSE also did successful plans for the new Mets stadium, CitiField, and the Ikea in Red Hook, ensuring a greater than expected use of mass transit.

Clearly they have expertise in this field, but, I'd observe, Brooklyn is not Newark. For one thing, the challenge in Newark was to get an existing fan base, heavily dependent on private automobiles to reach the Nets' previous home at the Meadowlands, to use more public transit. The fan base in Brooklyn will be different.

Also, Newark offers a far less fine-grained urban texture immediately around the arena--there's more of a buffer zone from a residential district. Also, the city possesses a significant number of nearby parking lots, built for the business district, that are available at night.

More from the meeting

I'll have more on the presentation by SSE, which described the scope of their work, not their findings, in a later post. And I'll write about several other issues raised at the meeting.

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