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Obscured in the Barclays Center transportation report: likely 1000+ cars seek free parking on neighborhood streets; of arena-goers spending money locally, many likely come from Brooklyn

Now that Empire State Development ESD), the state agency overseeing/enabling Atlantic Yards, has belatedly made available documents regarding the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, a glaring gap in the public presentation June 13 becomes clear. The gist is:

For Nets games at the Barclays Center, fewer visitors drive than expected, but most--well over 1000 cars--seek free parking on streets in neighborhoods near the arena. Such free parking is a neighborhood subsidy for drivers unwilling to pay for parking in available garages.

That's an argument for residential permit parking to deter such driving. Note that even if fewer than 1000 cars actually get free parking, and some wind up paying for parking, that still means those cars are cruising the streets rather than pre-paying and going directly to a lot.

Two other issues come clear.

First, facts in the Wall Street Journal exclusive that emerged the morning of the public presentation--that some 2,675 arena-goers spend money at local businesses before or after Nets games--deserves a significant asterisk, because it's likely a good chunk of those people are Brooklynites.

Second, though the Times reported that "[o]nly about 8 percent of fans came from New Jersey," that figure (8.3%) more precisely refers to the number whose trips to the arena began in New Jersey. On weekdays, 9.8% of Nets fans returned to New Jersey, though presumably some arrived at the arena from jobs in Manhattan.

That percentage is still far lower than predicted by a consultant hired by developer Forest City Ratner to argue that New York City and State would benefit from money spent by visitors from out-of-state.

What made TDM plan a success

Arena consultant Sam Schwartz, during his public presentation, danced around the parking issue, because his charge was getting fewer people to drive, rather than caring what happens when those come to the neighborhood.

Though backing documents were supposed to be released Friday, they weren't posted on the ESD web site until yesterday. According to a memo (below) from Schwartz deputy Dan Schack:
The overall goal of the TDM program described in the FEIS was to reduce peak hour auto traffic within 1/2 mile of the arena projected in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement] 2010 Build Condition by approximately 30%, by reducing the overall auto mode share and diverting 250 total autos to remote parking. The volume of peak hour autos generated by the arena were found to meet these goals, with approximately 40% fewer autos in the pre-game peak hour and approximately 20% fewer in the post-game peak hour than projected in the FEIS 2010 Mitigated Condition.
Although surveys found that remote parking facilities are minimally used, the combination of lower than projected auto mode share, lower overall attendance than assumed in the FEIS (which conservatively assumed an attendance of 18,000), higher vehicle occupancy, and lower peak hour percentages results in surpassing the auto trip reduction goals described in the FEIS.
As indidcated in the final slide (right) of Schwartz's presentation, the opportunity to take transit and promotion thereof contributed significantly to getting fewer people to drive.

The goal was 28.3% for weekday auto share for Nets games, but the actual statistic was 25.7%.

For weekend games, the FEIS goal was 32%, the actual figure 31.9%.

Do most drivers "pay" for parking?

However, Schwartz's statement that "Reduction of parking spaces" and "Lowered expectations for drivers" were key to reducing auto share deserve significant caveats.

There's murky evidence that the reduced spaces in the barely used on-site parking lot--and average of 160 of 541 spaces were filled for Nets games--deterred drivers. After all, those drivers didn't use the less-expensive pre-paid and remote parking either.

Moreover, his presentation provided no evidence that "Most Drivers Purchase Parking Upon Arrival," as Schwartz said in his presentation.

Though there's an online parking reservation system for 12 nearby facilities an average of only 75 drivers buy parking passes. Moreover, only a handful of drivers--averaging maybe fours bought parking at remote facilities.

"Most drivers prefer to pay for parking when they arrive at the facility," Schwartz's presentation states. I highly doubt that's true. Most drivers surely prefer free parking on Brooklyn streets.

Rather, it may be true that "Most drivers (who pay for parking) prefer to pay for parking when they arrive at the facility."

I queried seven people yesterday--Schwartz and Schack, three from Forest City Ratner, three from ESD--to ask how many people paid for parking when they arrive at a facility. All ignored my query. Forest City of course was happy to present exclusives last week to unskeptical New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporters.

Calculating free parking

With no statistics in the memo about how many drivers seek free parking, I tried to apply the figures in the documents to come up with a number. With an average of 17,200 tickets sold and 10% no-shows, that means average attendance for Nets games is 15,480 people.

So if 25.7% of weekday spectators come by auto, that's 3978 people. If weekday auto occupancy is 2.75 people/car, that means 1447 cars.

Subtract 239 cars that pre-pay for parking or have that parking bundled into a VIP ticket: 160 parking in the onsite lot, 75 buying pre-paid parking, and 4 using remote parking.

That leaves 1208 cars driving to Brooklyn to look for free on-street parking or maybe buy parking once they arrive. Even in the best interpretation of this, there are a lot of drivers cruising the streets of Brooklyn.

How many pay for parking once they get to Brooklyn? If "most drivers" pay, that means 75-plus, because only 75 pre-pay. So there could be 76, or 100, or 200.

I bet that the number is less than 208. If so, that means some 1208 seek free, on-street parking and more then 1000 get it.  Even if fewer than 1000 cars actually get free parking, and some wind up paying for parking, that still means those cars are cruising the streets rather than pre-paying and going directly to a lot.

The backing data would be very useful, but Schwartz's report did not provide such data.

How many spending money locally? 

The Wall Street Journal article stated:
According to the results of fan surveys commissioned by arena developer Forest City Ratner Cos., an average of 2,675 arena-goers are spending money at local businesses before or after weekday Nets games. For weekend games, that number rises to 3,470.
Those numbers are based on the pre- and post-game location statistics in the chart below, but they are slightly overstated, because they include the percentage coming from "other nearby location" rather than restaurant/bar/shopping.

How many come from Brooklyn?

More importantly, a significant percentage of those spending money locally are likely Brooklynites. Consider that 31.6% of Nets fans arrive at weekday games from Brooklyn and 36.9% return to Brooklyn. On weekends, the figure is evenly 34.5% coming and going.

Also consider that, as stated in Schwartz's presentation, "A Quarter of Nets Fans from Brooklyn Walk to Games.

That means that nearly 8% of Nets attendees walk to weekday games and more than 9% of walk home.

Surely they make up a decent chunk of those spending money in area businesses.

Yes, some of them probably "pre-game" at home, and others arriving early have a meal or drink, but locals must be factored in.

The backing data would be very useful, but Schwartz's report did not provide such data.

How many from Jersey: 1517 vs. higher estimates

As noted in the charts above, some 9.8% of Nets attendees return to New Jersey on weekdays, and 9.6% on weekends. Of the average 15,480 attendance, that's 1517 people from New Jersey.

As I wrote last week, Forest City consultant Andrew Zimbalist in 2005 estimated that 67.9% of Nets season-ticketholders lived in New Jersey, and that 51% of the rest of attendees were from New Jersey. So that makes a blended total of 55-57%.

Zimbalist then assumed that 30% of then-Nets fans would go to Brooklyn. So, apply 30% to that 55-57% to get 16.5% to 17.1%. Apply those percentages to the then-average attendance of 14,765, and that means 2436 to 2525 people.

That suggests a deficit of nearly 1000 New Jersey fans. Then again, Zimbalist's totals deserve an asterisk, as well. He was using official attendance, I'm certain, rather than average attendance. If we factor in at least 10% no-shows, the expected New Jersey range would instead be 2192 to 2272. So the deficit instead would be 675 to 755.

Getting to concerts--transit vs. driving

As the charts below indicate, there was a wide variety in mode share depending on the concert--a majority of attendees at Mumford & Sons took the subway, while most going to Marc Anthony drove.

Disney on Ice: driving

As indicated below, a majority of those going to Disney on Ice drove, given that most were bringing children, though the overall attendance was much lower than for Nets games.

From the memo: methodology
The TDM program includes a focus on marketing the robust transit service at the arena and strongly communicating the message that there is limited parking in the area. In addition, a host of other measures were implemented to minimize the number of vehicles traveling to the arena.
In order to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, travel data for arena events was collected for comparison with FEIS project goals. The methodology and findings for the data collection and evaluation process are described in the following section.
At least 600 attendees, age 16 and over, were interviewed at each event to provide a robust, statistically significant sample that reflects as accurate a picture as possible of the travel patterns of the entire audience. This sample size provides a margin of error that is +/-4% per event. Survey results were then weighted to account for the actual distribution of attendees by broad seating sections based on ticket scan data and to account for children attending events, who were not eligible for the survey.


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