Saturday, June 02, 2012

Transportation Demand Management documents released: nothing about Wrigley; HOV parking questions; the effectiveness of free MetroCard and other giveaways (that would cost Forest City Ratner) as incentives

Late Friday afternoon, some ten days after public meetings regarding the Atlantic Yards Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, the Empire State Development Corporation released documents behind the plan.

It's notable that the draft of the plan, from Sam Schwartz Engineering, rely on best practices from CitiField in Queens, the Prudential Center in Newark, and CenturyLink Field in Seattle, but make no mention of the significant example of Wrigley Field in Chicago, which has been an inspiration for the proposed Neighborhood Protection Plan, which aims to fill in gaps in the TDM plan.

I'll point to a few lingering questions.

HOV parking

The Schwartz draft notes that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) recommended that 600 of the 1,100 parking spaces provided on-site for Nets game attendees be reserved for HOV vehicles (with three or more persons). But that's impossible now. What's the solution?
However, the number of spaces in the interim, on-site facility has since been reduced to 541 for arena patrons, 150 of which will be attended VIP spaces. This would mean that the 600 spaces cannot be provided for HOV parking on-site at arena opening. Therefore, the arena will work with Click and Park (the arena parking system coordinator) to  design and implement the HOV parking plan described previously in this memorandum. This plan will encourage patrons to travel with three or more people in their cars if they are driving to the arena by holding a number of spaces at the on-site facility and certain off-site facilities up to and including event days and by offering those spaces to HOV drivers at a discounted rate. The goal is to have HOV parking available at multiple parking facilities in the area. If successful, this program could have the potential to offer HOV spaces at more locations and could meet or exceed the 600 space requirement from the FEIS. 
(Emphasis added)

That's a rather large question mark. If it "could meet or exceed" the requirement, that suggests it also might not.

Missing, for example, is whether off-site HOV parking will be subsidized by Forest City Ratner, a feature that presumably would have been easier to incorporate on-site.

Free MetroCards

The draft explains the reasoning, which "Gridlock Sam" explained at length, behind the decision to drop the free MetroCards:
Free Round-Trip MetroCards to Those Who Would Otherwise Drive
The FEIS recommended providing free round-trip MetroCards (currently valued at $4.50) to Nets game attendees who would otherwise drive to the arena.  This strategy is not included in the proposed TDM plan because free subway fare is not expected to be a significant enough incentive to shift drivers to transit.  This element of the program is not recommended because of the reasons described below.
First, it is not possible to distribute MetroCards and ensure that they could only be used for arena event trips.  We have met with the MTA and the agency does not currently have the technology to incorporate transit fare directly into an event ticket, nor is it possible to activate or deactivate a MetroCard at specific times (e.g., in the hours prior to and following event times) or to program it for use only at an arena subway station.  Were the program to be implemented, the round-trip fare would have to be dispersed to fans via standard MetroCards with $4.50 preloaded onto them.  Should this occur, it would not be possible to guarantee that the MetroCards  could only be used by event-ticket holders and a substantial portion of them are likely to be used for non-arena transit trips, which would not meet the goals of the program.
This is supported by the fact that 73% of Barclays Center Transportation Survey respondents who reported regularly purchasing unlimited ride MetroCards (and would therefore not benefit from  free subway fare) also responded on the survey that a free round-trip MetroCard would make them more likely to take transit (see Appendix A).  Free subway fare would be of no value to those who already purchase unlimited ride cards and, although a majority responded that it would make them more likely to take transit, it is not likely that the fares would, in fact, be utilized by the event ticket-holder.
OK, the technology isn't quite there.

And yes, if those who get unlimited ride MetroCards mistakenly thought a free MetroCard would help, that's not a real incentive.

But it's not quite true that the incentive would not be effective.

Looking more closely

Let's look at the results from the survey. As noted in the slide below, 58% of respondents said they would be much more likely or somewhat more likely to take public transit with a free MetroCard.

Subtract the 73% of unlimited ride MetroCard holders and the percentage dips only to 51%, a statistic unmentioned in the text of the report.

That 51%, according to the survey, is the same incentive as more frequent subway service.

And, in general, other incentives, notably a $5 concession voucher, would be nearly as effective. The difference, of course, is that giveaways would cost Forest City Ratner money, while more frequent subway service would be on the public dime. (Stepped-up security could cost the developer as well.)

More reasons from the report

The draft plan also offered other reasons against the free MetroCard:
Second, considering the robust transit options available at Barclays Center, fans who still choose to drive are likely motivated by factors other than cost.  Conservatively assuming that each vehicle has at least two occupants, the cost of round-trip subway fare would be $9. The cost of parking at the arena is expected to be approximately $30 based on the cost of parking at Madison Square Garden.
Putting aside the expense of fuel and vehicle wear and tear, this means that inveterate drivers are already willing to pay more than three times the cost of taking the subway, or an additional $21 ($10.50 per person), to drive their own vehicle to the arena. It is unlikely that saving an additional $9 ($4.50 per person) in transportation costs, via a free MetroCard, would be a substantial enough incentive shift many drivers to transit.
The assumption that those who choose to drive base their decisions on factors other than cost is supported by the Barclays Center Transportation Survey (see Appendix A).  In the survey, 65% of respondents who stated they would likely drive to the arena chose convenience/ease as the most important factor in deciding their travel mode.  Of all survey respondents, a majority (56%) also ranked convenience/east as the most important factor of their decision making.
Third, based on the results of the Barclays Center Transportation Survey, it is likely that the arena will meet the FEIS auto share goals for Nets games by educating fans about the robust transit and limited parking in the area around the arena. The goal of the other elements of the TDM plan are to maintain and/or improve upon this expected auto share through enhancements to existing transit services, reducing on-site parking, and promoting biking and walking to the arena.   
Parking reduction

Also see the second memo, On-Site Parking Reduction Analysis:
This memorandum concludes that there would be sufficient parking available to accommodate all arena-generated demand at arena opening; that shifting a portion of arena autos from on-site to off-site facilities is not likely to result in significant changes in vehicle volumes at most study intersections; and that changes in pedestrian routing caused by the shift in parking locations is not likely to result in any significant effect on pedestrian operations. There are, however, certain intersections where operations could be adversely affected by an increase in vehicle volume; these locations would be monitored during arena events and improvement measures recommended, as needed.
What's the new inventory?

The memo reports:
The 2006 Atlantic Yards Arena and Redevelopment Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (Atlantic Yards FEIS) contained a detailed survey of all public, off-street parking facilities located within ½ mile of the arena block (bounded by Atlantic Avenue to the north, Sixth Avenue to the east, Dean Street to the south, and Flatbush Avenue to the west-southwest) The survey, conducted in 2006, collected the licensed capacity of each facility and typical occupancy/utilization for various time periods throughout the day. In October 2011, SSE updated the parking facility inventory for the same study area and obtained typical occupancies on weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons based on operator estimates. Twenty existing off-street parking facilities were found within the study area, shown in Figure 1. Capacity and utilization data for all off-street parking facilities within the study area are shown in Table 1.
Now, it seems, there's more parking:
These 20 public parking facilities have a total licensed capacity of 3,461 spaces and a combined typical utilization of approximately 49% on weekday evenings and 41% on Saturday afternoons. According to the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) Technical Manual (January 2012), parking facilities are to be considered full when they reach 98% of their licensed capacity; therefore, the estimated total availability of parking spaces is 1,685 on weekday evenings and 1,986 on Saturday afternoons.


From the Final EIS


Barclays Center TDM Plan

Barclays Center on-SiteParkingReduction

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