Friday, May 18, 2012

What to expect from big Barclays Center transportation meeting next Tuesday--and what's missing (and why the first year may be a risky experiment)

Coming Tuesday, May 22,  as noted in the announcement at right, is the belated meeting on the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, at 6 pm at Borough Hall.

Beyond consultant Sam Schwartz, who works for developer Forest City Ratner, representatives of several government agencies will be present, including the Metropolitan Transportation, Long Island Rail Road, and Department of Transportation. The meeting should focus on incentives to use public transit or at least to not drive to the arena area.

We should learn how the MTA and LIRR will increase service, how Forest City Ratner will use incentives (like a free MetroCard with ticket and remote parking lots with shuttles) to encourage use of public transportation, cross-marketing with area businesses, how bike parking will be run, perhaps even how they rationalized cutting the surface parking lot to fewer than 550 spaces, and whether the incentives will be used for other large events beyond Nets games.

The plan was supposed to be released last December, and the delay--let's hope for a clear explanation why--is seen by elected officials like Council Member Steve Levin as precluding effective public input. (Maybe we'll also get a straight answer about the likelihood of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reopening before the arena opens, given that the current schedule puts it about a week late, portending traffic chaos.)

The missing disincentives to drive, and the risks

Indeed, what we apparently won't learn, as representatives of Atlantic Yards Watch have pointed out, are any plans for parking disincentives, such as a surcharge on area parking lots (as in Newark) and residential permit parking (as in several other cities with sports facilities).

And that runs the risk of a rough first year of operation, before policies are revised. "I have always been concerned that a purely incentive-driven program runs the risk of failure through non-interest," observed Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris, speaking personally. (The board has not weighed in) "If it is not successful, I do hope everybody finds the will to fix what's not working."

In recent comments on The Local, several area residents expressed dismay about the future. One asked if there would be permit parking, given that some streets are already jammed. Perris replied in the comments:
There are no immediate plans for residential parking permits. The City Council passed a “home rule message,” seeking authorization from Albany to implement “RPP” in New York. However, the necessary state legislation, schedule for a vote a couple months ago, is bottled up in committee.
What we already know

Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented that the outline of the TDM has been available since December 2009, in section L of the Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (also reproduced below).
The measures described are all incentives to use mass transit. The issue is that effective demand management requires disincentives (like the residential parking permits mentioned above.), and disincentives generally require action by government to implement. The focus on next weeks’ Sam Schwartz meeting seems to have created the impression something big is going to be announced, but without a joint effort with legislative leaders, little that’s meaningful is likely to emerge. The one exception would have been information about the capacity of the on-site surface parking lot, but that news was broken by Kenneth Adams at a 5/2 Borough Hall meeting.
Below is the "Transportation Progress Report" issued by Schwartz's office in January, which described effective measures at other sports facilities. It frustrated some observers because it essentially described what had been discussed for years.

2012 01 26 Transportation Progress Report

Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments for The

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