Thursday, July 12, 2012

NYC DOT recommends no residential permit parking for Barclays Center, based on Yankee Stadium patterns; some Brooklynites question analysis, comparison


Graphics from DOT's "Analysis of Parking Conditions
Around Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards" 
The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has released its study (also embedded below) of the potential for residential permit parking (RPP) around Yankee Stadium and the Barclays Center, concluding that the available parking spaces around the arena, as well as the pattern of use in the Bronx, suggest that such permits would not work--though the agency will revisit the issue after real-time usage figures are available.

The findings provoked dismay from Council Member Letitia James, who said the impact on parking is the most frequent fear/complaint she hears from constituents. And they provoked pushback from some locals at the bimonthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet Meeting, who questioned the DOT’s methodology.

For example, if only 10% of those driving to Yankee Stadium try on-street parking, that doesn’t necessarily apply to the area near the arena, pointed out Rob Witherwax, 2nd Vice Chair of Community Board 8, because drivers are more likely to walk relatively long distances from parking garages if the weather’s warm and the event’s during the day. (Chair Nizjoni Granville reminded me that a parking garage near Yankee Stadium has actually failed.)

For night games and event in colder weather, he suggested, drivers would seek spots on the blocks closer to the arena site. RPP would preserve on-street free parking for local residents, though they'd have to pay a fee. (With a Community Benefits Agreement in Los Angeles, the developer helped pay for five years.)

Witherwax also suggested that the study should be more granular, assessing parking use not only by neighborhood, as indicated in the graphic above, but also by block, especially those blocks nearest the arena.

Warning that we shouldn't put "all our eggs in the RPP basket," Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6, suggested an expansion of the PARK Smart system, which increases rates on meters to encourage turnover. The DOT's Chris Hrones seemed amenable to that.

Hrones, presenting the report, noted that, even if it were approved, RPP would require state legislation, not yet passed, and then would take six to 12 months to implement.

“DOT missed the boat,” Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, told the New York Post. “The permits aren’t about entitlement or guaranteeing parking for residents. They’re about discouraging people from driving to games.

Study findings

The study examined areas within a half-mile of each venue, and compiled the total available on-street parking, both metered and free: 9,395 spaces.

By analyzing cars parked overnight, the study attempted to assess how many of those with out of state plates were actually local residents.

“It’s not demonstrably clear to us that an RPP program would be an effective tool,” said Hrones, who quickly added that, once the arena opens, there will be a transportation study.

“Given that the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management [TDM] plan heavily promotes transit, and that prearranged parking is part of that mix,” Hrones said, “we feel there's a good possibility these will yield similar numbers [to Yankee Stadium].”

He acknowledged there were differences. “At the end of the day, we'll see what the differences are.”

Some people have suggested that, even if the benefits were fuzzy, the experiment would be worth it.

“We feel it can have benefits, but remain concerned,” Hronest said, about the impact on nonresidents, such as workers, shoppers, churchgoers, and visitors.

While there are some strategies, such as visitor passes, “ultimately it becomes very difficult to completely sort of accommodate their needs.”

While 61% of Yankee Stadium spectators arrived by car, only about 30% are expected to drive to the arena. There are 9395 spaces within a half-mile radius of the arena,with an average of 76% spaces filled.

“If Nets’ fans do park off-street at same rate as Yankees fans,” Hrones said, “that would be about 215 vehicles parking off-street.” With 9395 spaces, now at 80% occupancy, he said (rounding up), “no one's denying the occupancy will go up, but we think occupancy will not go up to levels were it's completely impossible for residents to park.”

James objects

James said she’d visited the area around a casino in Westchester--presumably Yonkers Raceway---where there’s RPP, “and it's worked well.”

“People are very much concern and have a sense of unease about the opening of the arena and its effects on their streets,” she said.

She asked Hrones if DOT compared the proximity of parking garages to Yankee Stadium vs. the arena.

“All the off-street parking may not be immediately adjacent to the Barclays Center," he replied, "but the garages identified [in the TDM plan] are all within half a mile... the same area we looked at in terms of on street parking, I think we're comparing apples and apples.”

“Don't you think parking garages around the arena are going to take advantage of market forces and raise rates?” James asked.

“With Yankee Stadium, people are willing to park further away, in off-street garages, if the price is competitive,” he said. “Obviously, if you're solely concerned about price, you're going to spend lots of time looking for on-street free parking.” But he noted that people would be encouraged to buy parking when they bought a ticket.

James also noted that, during a meeting when the study was unveiled, a representative of Bronx Council Member Helen Foster “challenged DOT as to whether there's sufficient on-street parking.”
She asked if DOT would consider weekend permit programs.

“I can't say for sure what the solutions would be,” Hrones said. “We're hopeful that based on TDM program, based on fact that this is near the biggest transit hub in Brooklyn, maybe we're not the majority on this, in terms of popular opinion, we think there might be less impact on the neighborhoods than you might expect.”

“Let me state, there really needs to be a Neighborhood Protection Plan,” James said, citing an announced package of proposals, based in part on efforts around Wrigley Field in Chicago. “I believe we will be overridden by cars.”

Another solution: PARK Smart

Hammerman noted that RPP isn't the only parking strategy to control congestion and demand. The PARK Smart system, with a variable meter rate structure, has been successful in Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue, and now will be tried on sections of Atlantic Avenue.

Is the DOT looking at PARK Smart near the arena?

Hrones said that it would be tried on most of Atlantic Avenue west of Fourth Avenue, and might be tested on major arteries like Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues. “If the community's interested, we're happy to work with them,” he said.

Beyond variable pricing, he said DOT would be open to extending the times on meters past 7 pm. “That said, we'd have to look at it closely,” he said. “To the extent that a meter continues to be short term only after 7 pm, that may have an impact on residents who use those commercial corridors to park as an alternative.”

CB 8 worry

Witherwax agreed with Hammerman that multiple solutions were welcome. He noted that, if meters stopped at 7 pm, an arena goer could, for example, buy 45 minutes, then leave the car there all night, depriving not only residents but merchants.

In response to Witherwax’s question, Hrones said, ‘we only looked at unmetered spots,” which provoked his questioner to say, “Interesting.”

Hrones later corrected himself to say that all spots were analyzed. (The report does indicate that.)

Witherwax asked why DOT would assume that roughly 10% of drivers at an event would park on the street.

“That's the best number we have now,” Hrones said a bit sharply.

In a few months, we'll have some more numbers.

NYC DOT Parking Conditions Study: Yankee Stadium & Atlantic Yards

All text below is from the report

In the fall of 2011, NYCDOT undertook a study of current parking capacity and conditions in the neighborhoods surrounding Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards. The study included a comprehensive data collection program on parking characteristics and patterns in each area)... In the Atlantic Yards area, data collection took place on October 1 and 5, 2011. Data was collected on these dates and the early the following morning to capture overnight parking conditions.

For the purposes of data collection, study areas encompassing approximately ½ mile around each of the facilities were identified, taking into account both distance from the facility and natural boundaries. For data collection and reporting purposes, each study area was divided into sub-areas as shown in Figures 1 and 2. NYCDOT implemented a data collection plan to capture parking conditions in both study areas. The plan comprised of:

1) Parking capacity inventory -- NYCDOT conducted site visits to every blockface within the study area to observe existing parking capacity. Capacity was based on the number of cars parked during peak times and linear feet of legal parking on each blockface.

2) Parking occupancy survey – to determine the supply of on-street parking and levels of on-street parking use. The survey required a recording of license plates on all blockfaces within the study area that had available legal parking, including metered and unmetered spaces. Survey results show occupancy of each sub-area for different times of the day. The license plate data was used to estimate the percentage of “resident” vs. “non-resident” parkers.

Data was collected for the following time periods in order to determine overall occupancy, as well as the changes in occupancy during game times vs. non-game times. There are 9,395 legal on-street spaces (metered and unmetered) in the area around Atlantic Yards.

The capacity for each sub-area is listed below: Overall, parking occupancies averaged 76%, indicating that there are available parking spaces in all time periods. However, a detailed look at individual sub-areas (neighborhoods) shows a wide range in parking occupancy.

As at Yankee Stadium, NYCDOT recorded license plates for vehicles parked on-street in both study areas to estimate resident and non-resident parkers. An overnight survey was also conducted to take into account residents who may register their vehicles outside their neighborhood. For Atlantic Yards, the adjustment factor was 2.4, based on observations showing that 42% of cars parked overnight in the area are registered to a local zip code. Using the adjusted figures, Table 6 shows that non-residents account for 7% to 34% of all parked cars, depending on the day of the week and time of day.

ANALYSIS OF RESULTS

Results from the parking study yield four main findings that directly inform the discussion of curb management and RPP in the neighborhoods surrounding Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards:

1. Most of the demand for parking is absorbed by off-street garages. The Yankee Stadium intercept survey found that 90% of fans parked in off-street lots. Given the expectation that the Barclays Center will generate 2,150 driving trips,1 if Nets fans park on-street at the same rate as Yankee fans, Nets fans would park 215 vehicles on-street during games.

2. The on-street impact of fans is primarily felt in the immediate area around the stadium. An increase in occupancy of on-street parking spaces during Yankee games was seen only in the area immediately south and east of the stadium. This is consistent with the intercept survey finding that those parking on-street were primarily within a 10-minute walk of the stadium.

3. Fans parking on-street do not necessarily prevent residents and others from finding on-street spaces. In the Yankee Stadium results, even though parking space occupancies were higher during Yankee games than on non-game days, there were still spaces available for on-street parkers during the weekend game throughout the study area, and during the weeknight game except in the area immediately around the stadium.

4. Most non-residents parking near these two facilities are visiting for reasons unrelated to the stadium. At Yankee Stadium, on non-game days an estimated 31% to 45% of on-street parkers are non-residents, compared with 49% to 55% on game days. This suggests that most non-residents who park on-street during games are there for work, shopping, personal errands and so forth, and that only 18% are parking to attend the game. In the area around Atlantic Yards, 17% of parking spaces on both weekday evening and Saturday evening, and 34% on a Saturday afternoon, were occupied by non-residents. For the area within a 10-minute walk of the arena, non-residents filled approximately 900 spaces on weekday evenings and 1,900 spaces on Saturday afternoons.2

BARCLAYS CENTER OPENING

With Barclays Center opening in September 2012, a number of steps are being taken to manage the parking and traffic situation around the arena. Forest City Ratner Corporation, the arena developer, recently released its Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan as required under the FEIS. The TDM plan promotes the use of mass transit to reach the arena, and for those who drive, encourages fans to pre-pay for parking in off-street garages. To further encourage transit usage, the plan also includes additional MTA subway and Long Island Railroad service for fans leaving the game.

These TDM measures will be implemented when the arena opens in September. Continued monitoring of traffic and parking conditions as the arena opens is highly important in order to assess traffic and parking conditions and take appropriate actions to minimize negative neighborhood impacts. Forest City Ratner Corporation will collect extensive traffic, transit and pedestrian data prior to the arena opening and during Nets games and other events. These data will be monitored over the course of the season and reported to the City and released publicly. In addition, NYCDOT will conduct an additional study of parking conditions around the arena to assess how arena events affect on-street parking occupancy and use.

CONCLUSION

Most fans who drive to games at Yankee Stadium park off-street. Of the 10% of fans who park on-street, most park in an area within a few blocks of the stadium. Throughout most of the area around Yankee Stadium, parking occupancies remain low enough that residents generally have spaces available to them during Yankee games. Both during games and at other times, there are far more non-residents parking on-street for non-game-related activities than for the game itself.

The Barclays Center will have a smaller seating capacity and even better transit accessibility than Yankee Stadium. As in the Bronx, on-street spaces serve many visitors who are in the area to work, shop, visit residents, and conduct personal business. Drivers coming to the area for other reasons are likely to outnumber Barclays Center event-goers who park on-street.

The data collected in this report suggest that a Residential Parking Permit (RPP) Program would be problematic for residents, drivers, and city government. Given the city’s population and vehicular density, RPP would be little more than a “hunting license,” continuing to allow residents to compete with one another for parking but without guaranteeing availability. While some residents may be willing to pay for RPP under these conditions, many residents are likely to question why they should be required to register their vehicles, obtain permits, and pay at least $50 a year with no guarantee that their ability to find parking would improve.

In addition, an RPP program would be a complicated administrative undertaking for the City – while the $50-to-$100 annual cost could support the printing and issuance of permits, the large enforcement costs would be borne by all taxpayers, whether they qualify for RPP or not. This is consistent with the experience of other large cities, none of whose RPP programs cover the cost. Finally, RPP will inevitably inconvenience and reduce access for some of the non-residents who drive to the area and contribute to the neighborhood’s economic and social vitality. Importantly, such non-resident drivers take up far more on-street parking than Yankee fans on event days near Yankee Stadium, and constitute a significant portion of on-street parkers near Atlantic Yards.

Other cities’ RPP programs have only partially addressed these concerns, and in ways that may not work in New York – for instance, through time-consuming visitor pass schemes that require residents to obtain passes from local police precincts, or through complex and overlapping rules about which non-residents are exempt from RPP restrictions and which are not. Taken together, these concerns would be barriers to the effective implementation of RPP anywhere in New York City.

In the near term, there is no legislative authority for the City to implement an RPP program, so it is clear that RPP cannot be part of the parking management strategy when the Barclays Center opens in September 2012. Instead, parking management strategies will focus on the objectives of ensuring safety and limiting quality of life impacts of game day parking in the immediately nearby area, and on steering as many fans as possible into mass transit and non-automobile modes. The primary tools to meet these objectives are curb regulations and game and event day traffic management.

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