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Questions to ask about Barclays Center's Transportation Demand Management Plan

On Tuesday, May 22nd FCRC and their traffic consultant Sam Schwartz Engineering will present their long-delayed Transportation Demand Management program (TDM).  PHNDC (an Atlantic Yards Watch sponsor) has developed some questions we'd like to hear answered during the presentation.

FCRC is required to implement a TDM as part of the 2009 Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC) between FCRC and ESDC.  The specific TDM actions required by the MEC are reprinted at the end of this article.

Robust TDM plans include both incentives and disincentives to discourage driving and parking. (AYW has already written about the need for disincentives.) The known details of FCRC’s TDM plan only include incentives.  Disincentives such as Residential Parking Permits and an arena parking surcharge can only be implemented with the assistance of the City and State.

The parameters of the TDM, as laid out in the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, are carefully worded  in a way that limits FCRC's ongoing responsibility to provide meaningful relief from the large volume of traffic generated by a 19,000 seat venue.  Before the opening of the arena, FCRC is required to  "implement incentives to reduce traffic demand associated with the operation of the Project to reduce the overall number of vehicles coming to the arena for a Nets game within one-half mile of the arena by 30% of the initially projected demand." (Italics added.) As we discuss further below, the plan's goal isn't actually to reduce the number of arena patrons driving, but the number of patrons driving within a certain radius and at certain times to the arena.  We may see less gridlock at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, but the bridges and local streets - one-half mile removed from the Barclays Center - may still be flooded with traffic.

Unlike most arenas and stadiums in the country, Barclays Center operations are tightly squeezed into residential neighborhoods.  Capacity shortfalls in the vicinity of the arena from fewer on-site parking spaces, travel lanes and lay-by lanes than anticipated in the FEIS, should be a meaningful incentive for the TDM to exceed the original performance goals.  Even if Forest City claims it will be able to do better than what's required of them, there's no way to verify this: the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments does not require any oversight to evaluate TDM measures beyond the first six-months after the arena opening.

Here are some questions we'd like to have answered by Forest City and Sam Schwartz:

 

1.  Does the TDM program apply to all arena events at all times of day?

The required TDM only covers Nets Games, (less than 20% of the 225 projected arena events), and the HOV requirement is in effect only after 5 PM.

  • What is FCRC doing to implement an effective TDM Program for all Barclays Center events?  Example: a remote lot in Staten Island may not be used during an event that does not attract patrons originating in New Jersey.
  • Why should the HOV requirement not also apply to daytime events, especially on Saturdays and Sundays?

 

2.  Setting of real performance goals.

The required TDM does not aim to reduce the number of vehicles driving to the arena, but instead aims for at least a 30% reduction in the number of arena patrons the 2006 FEIS projected would drive within a 1/2 mile radius of the arena.  The 2006 FEIS projected that 35-36% of Barclays Center patrons would arrive by private vehicle and 3% would arrive by taxi. In contrast, a March 2009 paper prepared by planners from Sam Schwartz Engineering stated that 23%-30% of Madison Square Garden weeknight patrons arrive by private vehicle and another 7%-9% arrive by taxi, based on a 2004 survey. Forest City Ratner may achieve its goal just because it overestimated the number of drivers in the 2006 FEIS.  Since the FEIS, the State has authorized the City TLC to offer 18,000 additional medallions for livery cars to pickup in Brooklyn and the other outer boroughs, which could translated into a higher share of taxi usage than predicated.

  • What goals has FCRC established for the percentage of arena patrons who will (a) use private vehicles or taxis to get to Barclays Center and (b) use satellite parking lots?
  • How does the TDM address taxi usage?
  • How does the TDM deal with displacement of vehicles beyond the 1/2 mile radius to parking garages in downtown Brooklyn, potentially resulting in congestion in that area while not reducing the number of vehicles on the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the BQE, or north Flatbush Avenue.

 

3.  Parking controlled by FCRC.

There will be less than 50% of the 1100 parking spaces FCRC is required to provide for arena patrons in the project footprint at the time of the arena opening. The surface parking lot being created may not meet NYC DCP landscaping requirements.

  • What are the opening and closing times for Block 1129 parking and the satellite lots?
  • What are the plans for the Block 1129 lot: access/egress routes, location of curb cuts, landscaping, screening etc?
  • Will the number of HOV reserved spaces, an incentive to carpool, be reduced?
  • What type of users (such as HOV and VIP) will have access to the Block 1129 parking spaces?
  • Will they all be pre-reserved to eliminate queuing upon entering?
  • What measures will be in place on the lot to prevent queuing on adjacent residential streets?
  • What type of users have been displaced from Block 1129 parking and where are they going to park?

 

4.  Protection of local streets.

The reduction in arena patron parking spaces on site and the ambitious multi-tasking of those parking spaces raise concerns that competition on local streets will be increased beyond what was anticipated.  The January 2012 presentation on TDM scope included no parking or pricing disincentives for driving to arena events. We recognize that FCRC has no direct control over street parking regulations or private parking garage prices and that the state legislature must authorize the City to implement any RPP program. But FCRC, ESDC and NYC DOT could work with the community to achieve RPP.

  • The FEIS is six years old.  Has ESDC or FCRC recently studied the number of available on-street parking spaces during arena event times?
  • Bruce Ratner recently announced 800 employees may work some events.  How many are expected to drive to work and where will they park?
  • Will FCRC, ESDC and NYC DOT support establishment of an arena parking tax surcharge, with the tax revenues flowing to The City of New York?
  • What will FCRC, ESDC and NYCDOT do to restrict arena patrons from parking on residential and commercial streets near the arena?
  • Will FCRC, ESDC and NYC DOT support the creation of a Residential Parking Permit program in the neighborhoods near the arena?

 

5.  On-going monitoring and enforcement.

The MEC includes few performance goals and no penalties if goals are not met. The only required evaluation of the TDM is to occur mid-way through the first season and there are no penalties if it is determined at that time that the TDM does not meet performance goals. In contrast, the Chicago Cubs provide an annual report on their TDM activities and the City requires the Cubs to pay a penalty if the satellite parking facility is underutilized.

  • Will FCRC monitor and report on its TDM activities at least annually?
  • Will ESDC require that FCRC establish on-going performance goals?
  • Will ESDC require TDM evaluation and adjustments on an ongoing basis?
  • Will ESDC impose penalties for the failure to meet goals?

 

6.  Stronger data collection.

The required TDM provides for FCRC’s collection of transportation data only from Nets patrons and self-reporting can be inaccurate.

  • Will FCRC agree to additional data collection including but not limited to: the number of cars parking on local streets; the level of service at intersections, crosswalks and sidewalks; the number of riders on transit; and number of users of satellite parking lots?

 

7.  Effective transit incentives.

A simple $4.50 savings on subway fare will not draw many people out of cars, given the amount of money they’re spending to go to arena events and the convenience of using a car late at night for the return trip home.

  • What is FCRC doing to “bundle” free transit fares with arena tickets so that the transit swipes are not available to persons other than arena ticketholders and not available except for travel to and from the ticketed event?
  • What discounts will be extended to LIRR and Metro-North fares?
  • What transit and commuter rail service enhancements are being implemented?
  • Will LIRR operate trains out of Atlantic Terminal after 12 midnight?
  • Who is paying for the transit incentives?

 

8.  Utilization of shuttle and other buses.

The MEC requires FCRC to establish at least 500 parking spaces near the Atlantic Avenue/BQE interchange and 2 park-and-ride lots in Staten Island.

  • Where will these or other remote lots being established?
  • Will these operate for all events?
  • How many shuttle and other buses will be arriving on the arena block in the pre and post event hour?
  • Where are the bus drop-off and pick-up locations on the arena block?
  • Where will shuttle buses and other buses be parked during events?

 

9.  Bicycle incentives.

It has been reported that FCRC will not establish indoor parking for 400 bikes, as required in the MEC.

  • Why should FCRC not establish an attended, covered bike parking facility on the arena block?
  • Will security personnel monitor the outdoor bike parking FCRC is proposing? Will security coverage apply to all events? 
  • How will FCRC protect cyclists who are riding adjacent to the Dean Street lay-by lane?
  • What is the recommended north/south route to the bicycle parking area?

 

10.  Cross-marketing plan.
The MEC requires FCRC to develop a plan to "cross-market with area businesses to encourage ticketholders to patronize local restaurants and stores before and after games.” However, cross-marketing efforts might induce people to drive to the arena if they end up arriving or leaving the neighborhood when shuttle buses are not running or public transit is less frequent at night.

  • What is the scope of the cross-marketing plan with respect to its geographic range and time frame?
  • How will the planners ensure that cross-marketing efforts don't undermine other TDM measures - such as the use of transit, shuttles or satellite parking? 
  • How will marketing opportunities be priced to ensure that a wide array of businesses are included?
  • Will additional shuttle or public transit service be provided along Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in the post-event hours?

 

From the MEC, pages 11-13:

 

“1. …In connection with this requirement FCRC shall:

 

  1. provide remote parking facilities (e.g., facilities located at MetroTech, Long Island Hospital or other appropriate facilities at the western end of Atlantic Avenue near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) containing an aggregate of at least 500 spaces at a 50 percent discount from rates for FCRC-controlled parking at or near the arena;
  2. arrange for free shuttle bus service between the remote parking facilities described above and the arena;
  3. impose high-occupancy-vehicle (“HOV”) parking requirements for at least 600 arena parking spaces at the Project site, requiring vehicles utilizing such HOV spaces to be occupied by three or more persons after 5 PM on Nets game days;
  4. provide a free round-trip subway fare to Nets basketball game ticketholders who would otherwise drive. The final design of this fare-incentive program shall be developed with and subject to the review and approval of NYCT.
  5. provide free round-trip charter bus service between two Staten Island park-and-ride facilities (Outerbridge Park & Ride and Father Capodanno Park & Ride) providing an aggregate capacity accommodating approximately 264 persons. The park-and-ride facilities selected for this service may be modified after implementation, upon the approval of NYCDOT, to maximize the effectiveness of this measure.
  6. cross-market with area businesses to encourage ticketholders to patronize local restaurants and stores before and after games;
  7. provide any ticketholder traveling to the arena by bicycle with free indoor bicycle storage in a secure, manned facility designed to accommodate at least 400 bicycles on the arena block; and
  8. provide expected attendance data to, and otherwise cooperate with, NYCT as necessary to assist NYCT in determining the appropriate increase in subway service to the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station on selected subway lines immediately following basketball games and other major arena events as necessary to alleviate potential platform crowding at that subway station.”

 

“2.   FCRC shall collect data midway through the first basketball season from Nets patrons documenting the travel mode of such patrons to evaluate the effectiveness of the demand management program, and shall provide such data to NYCT and ESDC. Subject to ESDC approval, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld, FCRC may adjust the elements of the program to achieve the goal of reducing the auto share by a minimum of 30% of the number of vehicle trips projected for the Build Condition in the FEIS (i.e., to approximately 800 arena inbound auto trips during the pre-game peak hour) within one-half mile of the arena, provided that all practicable and effective demand management measures are maintained.”

 

“3.   For major arena events other than Nets games, FCRC shall make available to event promoters practicable demand management measures (such as the reduced rate remote parking and shuttle bus mitigation described above) and encourage such promoters to implement such measures."

 

Contributing:  Tom Boast, Danae Oratowski, Peter Krashes, Gib Veconi

Photo:  Tracy Collins

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