Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Arena transportation plan released, emphasizes additional transit service after events; BrooklynSpeaks calls it "too little too late," as drivers will seek free parking on residential streets

(Here's coverage from the evening meeting, with Q&A.)

Sam Schwartz
While the MTA and LIRR will add transit service after Barclays Center events to encourage use of the adjacent transit hub, and arena operators are trying hard to educated and encourrage event-goers to use such transit, the long-delayed Transportation Demand Management plan released today by developer Forest City Ratner still left arena neighbors worried.

Without residential parking permits or other disincentives to drive, “I think the risk to the community has been elevated,” commented Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association after the bimonthly meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which involves agency stakeholders.

While the reduction in the on-site surface parking lot--to 565 spaces (including 24 for the NYPD) from a potential 1100 spaces (with stackers)--”is a good thing,” Krashes said, there’s no “insurance” that the reduction won’t lead to more people seeing free parking. (The reduction, announced early this month, was driven significantly by the surface capacity and the inability to use stackers.) He pointed to construction workers who tear down “No Standing” signs and police vehicles parked on sidewalks.

How can the plan be held accountable, asked Council Member Steve Levin. “Are there any penalties if offsite lots are underutilized?”

Forest City executive Jane Marshall pointed to required follow-up studies that should improve the plan, but sidestepped the issue of penalties.

Forest City consultant Sam Schwartz (aka “Gridlock Sam”) said he’d personally warn people not to drive.

Letitia James
Still, Council Member Letitia James warned, “I just don't think there's enough disincentives, I believe cars will flood our residential streets.”

At another point, Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, pronounced himself “cautiously optimistic.”

Near the end of the meeting, held at Borough Hall, Rob Witherwax of Community Board 8 suggested a significant contrast between the Barclays Center area and Madison Square Garden and Newark’s Prudential Center. “There are still residential streets with parking” in Brooklyn he said.

Who's paying, and BrooklynSpeaks dismay

Also unclear is whether the increased service--which in many cases will be used by people who already have unlimited ride MetroCards--will cost the public coffers or not.

Indeed, BrooklynSpeaks, which has called for a balanced transportation plan, issued a statement calling today's announcement "too little too late."

Effective demand management is a lot more than advertising,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “But the plan released today doesn’t even include the free subway fare for Nets ticketholders promised in 2009. The TDM assumes the public will bear the cost of adding transit capacity after arena events. Instead, the developer should be paying for service enhancements.”

Danae Oratowski, Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council asked, “Why isn’t a reduction in parking being analyzed as part of the supplemental environmental impact study ordered by the State Supreme Court? It’s now clear that changes to the Atlantic Yards project approved in 2009 didn’t provide for on-site parking requirements that were part of the project’s original plan. ”

Michael Cairl, President of the Park Slope Civic Council added, “Fewer mandated HOV [high-occupancy vehicle] spaces than promised, together with the lack of residential parking permits during arena events, is a recipe for congestion on local streets.” (Note that the HOV spaces are supposed to be in area garages, though no specifics were offered.)

(See video coverage here.)

Meeting tonight

The process for public input begins today, with a public meeting at 6 pm tonight at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. The slide show is posted on the ESD web site (and embedded at bottom).

The public will have until June 22 to submit questions and comments, and ESD will have 30 days to respond. (James asked that there way be for people who don’t have Internet access to comment.) So, during the week of July 23, the final TDM presentation will be posted on the agency website, along with responses to questions and comments.

After that, there will be ongoing monitoring of the plan by Forest City and involved agencies, leading to tweaks, as well as a formalized analysis conducted by FCR required by the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which will be done in 2013. Another post-arena traffic study will be done in spring of 2013 in coordination with the DOT.

(Here's coverage in The Local.)

FCR’s take


Jane Marshall, and Dan Schack of SSE
Not providing parking is the number one disincentive to driving,” Marshall said. “Information about transit is the second.” Beyond that, Forest City is establishing a coordinated parking system for drivers to pre-pay for spaces, and to develop event-day operations that coordinate with transit agencies.

Tickets to the arena will contain information about transit, not parking. The Barclays Center website will focus on mass transit and discourage driving--though it also must be configured to allow people to pre-pay for spaces.

Enter Schwartz

Going through a PowerPoint presentation that should be posted on the ESD’s web site, Schwartz said Forest City “gave us the green light to do what we thought was best,” citing his firm’s record in doubling the transit share at CitiField and getting hockey fans in Newark to take public transit

The missing, he said, is to reduce driving and maximize transit, as well as alternative forms of transportation such as bicycling and walking.

In a “a superb location for transit,” he said, some 20 minutes from Times Square and 22 from Grand Central Station. “For the majority of people taking the subway, it will be a one seat ride.”

After interviewing 2200 people, including 1500 going to a Nets game, and conducting focus groups. “Information is influence,” he said, noting that, after talking with those 2200 people, the number who planned to drive dropped.

Specifically, initially, the expected mode split was: subway: 35%, LIRR: 7.5%, bus: 2.7%; nearly 39% car.

After education about the transit options, the split was: subway, nearly 40%; LIRR 10.5%; bus: 4.2%.

Thus, said Schwartz, they already expect to reduce the weekday auto share below the 28% goal in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and are close to the 32% goal on Saturdays. And the TDM efforts, including marketing and education, should drive more transit use.

Post-game service

Some 162 subway trains stop nearby between 7-8 pm weekdays, while 135 buses stop nearby and five Long Island Rail Road trains arrive during that time frame.

Post-game service, he acknowledged is more of a challenge. Not only is there peak level service before evening events, people arrive at different times. After a game, you have a surge of people leaving and a decrease in level of service.”

“Post-game transit service is key for retaining ridership,” he said.

So the MTA’s Judy McClain described plans to provide “gap trains”-- empty trains staged on unused tracks, or on a southbound express track.

Though the 5 and B trains may have stopped, they’re planning additional post-event service on the 4 train going toward Manhattan, and on the Q line both ways.

Existing bus service is ample, but the MTA will provide extra “wildcat” buses staged in the vicinity of the arena to help out with surges surges in ridership.

The Long Island Rail Road’s Hector Garcia said that, currently, four trains leave Brooklyn between 10 pm and midnight. On event nights, the number will double, and the arrival times will be coordinated with service from Jamaica.

Parking

The most contentious issue regarded parking strategy. Parking will be absent from marketing materials, Schwartz said, and “we will keep lowering expectation for drivers to find parking.”

Still, some people will drive. “We want to intercept drivers as soon as they get off the BQE,” directed to satellite lots with at least 612 spaces (at LI College Hospital etc.), with rates half the market rate closer to the arena. The lots will be served by shuttle buses that run along Atlantic Avenue.

Those driving closer to the arena will be directed to prepaid spaces in multiple facilities, via the Click and Park system, used at more than 100 event venues, That software will be integrated into the Barclays Center web site, he said, raising a question about how exactly parking will be both discouraged even as presale of spaces is promoted.

“We are entering into agreements with the parking facilities within a half mile, so we can distribute parking,” Schwartz said, so people driving from the north, for example, could find spaces north of the arena.

“One of the reasons we focused on Atlantic Avenue is we wanted people to have an alternative if they decided” to leave during an event; they could take public buses. (A shuttle to Staten Island lots was dropped as being too complicated.)

Where are HOV [high-occupancy vehicles] going? They “will be reserved at several facilities near the arena,” he said, not offering specifics.

As for the surface parking lot, the main access/egress point will be (privatized) Pacific Street, with secondary access/egress on Dean Street and and egress on Vanderbilt Avenue.

The 400 bike parking spaces will be guarded by security staff during all Nets games and other large events, but not sheltered, as originally promised.

Pedestrian way-finding will be included on the arena block, and in materials produced by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

A cross-marketing program with area businesses, aimed to spread arrivals and departures, is “currently under development,” so no specifics were offered.

James suggested that cross-marketing include the Heart of Brooklyn, as well as several Business Improvement Districts in her district.

What it will look like

The curbside around the arena block will be dedicated to either “no standing” or arena uses. City bus stops will go to the arena “front door” on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.

Taxis and limos should be able to wait curbside on Atlantic Avenue adjacent to the the Atlantic Center, though the plan has not been finalized with the TLC.

Questions

“Do you anticipate closing any streets?” asked Council Member James.

“At this point, we don't,” Schwartz responded, leaving open the possibility.

If local parking lots are not expected to reduce their rates, won’t drivers aim to park on the street?

Schwartz, not quite answering the question, said that remote parking would be half the cost of market rate.

Who will be hired to handle pedestrian traffic?

FCR’s Marshall said that both traffic managers and off-duty police officers (aka paid detail) will be hired.

“What’s the incentive for using mass transit?

Convenience, Schwartz responded, including direct access.

What about RPP?

“What can you do to prevent parking on residential blocks?” James asked.

“We're not doing anything to change the parking regulations,” Schwartz responded.

James asked about the status of her residential permit parking (RPP) proposal, which seems stymied in Albany.

Chris Hrones
The DOT’s Chris Hrones said he couldn’t speak to the politics of it, but said the agency is preparing a report, which should be released “in the next few weeks” regarding the possibility for RPP in the areas around both the Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium.

“Even if the legislature were to pass enabling legislation to allow an RPP program to go forward,” Hrones said, it would take at least 9-12 months to set up a program.”

In the interim, he said, “We'll have a chance to see how incentives and disincentives are working.”

What happened to the “NetroCard”?


James asked about a free MetroCard for arena-goers.

Marshall said such a plan, mentioned in the Final EIS, “was actually not effective and not possible,” since you can’t put a MetroCard on a game ticket and couldn’t track who'd be using a free MetroCard.

Moreover, it’s not enough money to motivate them, she said. Rather, improved subway access and public education are key.

“Do we really anticipate that people paying $250 to see Barbra Streisand are going to take the subway?” James asked.

Schwartz said that a lot of the people who bought All-Access passes will take the subway. (The subset going to Streisand, I’d suggest, may be a little older.)

How many cars?

Steve Levin
Council Member Levin asked how many cars were expected.

About 2500 in a worst-case scenario, and that’s without this TDM plan, Marshall responded.

Levin noted that the onsite lot and the remote lot meant more than 1100 spaces. Where are the rest?

Within a half mile, Schwartz responded, there are 20 parking facilities, with available capacity. (No details were given on the exact number of spaces.)

“We hope every one of those garages will be part of that [prepaid] system,” Marshall said, implying that the roster has not been set.

The arena employees, maximum 800 per event, are expected to take mass transit, Marshall said,

Disincentives to drive?


What are the disincentives to drive?

The market rate for parking, the difficulty in getting directions, and the lack of onsite parking, responded Schwartz and Marshall.

The convenience of mass transit, added the MTA’s Andy Inglesby. Given that most straphangers have MetroCards with unlimited service, ”basically if they come by mass transit, it’s free.”

Jim Vogel at right; Luke DePalma and Arana Hankin
Jim Vogel, an aide to Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, later asked if “we are actually looking at an additional subsidy” to support transit service.

Regarding CitiField, Schwartz said, the additional ridership was a net fiscal gain for the transit agency. “So it might not cost more, because we'll have more patrons,” he said, not referencing Inglesby’s “free” statement.

“Prove it to me,” Vogel said.

What next?

If goals are not being met, how hold this plan accountable, asked Levin. “Are there any penalties if offsite lots are underutilized?”

Marshall pointed to follow up studies, but sidestepped the issue of penalties.

Will TDM be used for all events?

For large events, Schwartz said, though no one specified a threshold.

Has MTA platform capacity been increased?

Larry Gould
The new entrance to the arena plaza actually connects to underutilized platform space, said the MTA’s Larry Gould.

Hammerman asked that Forest City and the state post specific numbers from previous studies about the number of projected trips.

Arena manager introduced

Also introduced was John Sparks, the general manager of the Barclays Center, who’s been here about a year and previously ran the AT&T Center in San Antonio and worked at other sports facilities. “Our goal for the Barclays Center is pretty simple,” he said. “We want to be partners with the community.”

Time, apparently, will tell.

Barclays TDM Presentation Revised Notes

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