Forest City’s Atlantic Yards “transportation demand management” plan delayed again
January 27, 2012 - BrooklynSpeaks sponsors reacted to a presentation yesterday of Forest City Ratner’s planned “transportation demand management” measures meant to reduce the volume of cars traveling to events at the Barclays Center arena, scheduled to open in September 2012. The presentation was given at Brooklyn Borough Hall by representatives of Sam Schwartz Engineering, traffic consultants to the Atlantic Yards project, to a group of elected officials, city agency employees, and community leaders.
The outline of the “transportation demand management” plan (or TDM) was first disclosed in Atlantic Yards’ Final Environmental Impact Statement, published in the fall of 2006, and reiterated in project documents executed in December 2009. Among the measures mentioned in the 2009 documents are remote parking facilities near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with shuttle bus service to the arena; an HOV requirement for use of 600 of the 1,100 planned parking spaces at the on-site parking lot; free charter bus service from park-and-ride lots in Staten Island; and free roundtrip subway fare to Nets ticketholders.
The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) stated in June 2011 that the TDM would be released in December 2011. At a meeting with community leaders in December, ESDC stated that a draft TDM would be released in February. Yesterday, FCR stated it expected to release a draft TDM in May, four months before the arena opening. No new details of the TDM were presented.
Although Barclays Center is expected to host more than 220 events per year, most provisions of the TDM disclosed to date represent incentives for patrons to use mass transit instead of cars to travel to the arena, and may apply only to the 41 anticipated Nets basketball games. For other events, Forest City need only “encourage” event promoters to use the measures.
Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said, “The limited measures offered by Forest City won’t do the trick.” She added, “Studies have shown the most effective tactics to reduce traffic involve disincentives like reducing availability of parking and increasing its cost. But these are nowhere in the plan.”
The stated goal of the TDM is to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to a Nets game by 30% of the 2,400 initially projected. However, the zone for which the effectiveness of the plan will be measured extends only one-half mile around the arena—meaning that the final TDM may have limited impact in reducing traffic on highways and arterial roads leading to the arena.
The unrealistically short radius of the TDM’s focus is a recipe for congested residential streets in nearby neighborhoods,” said Michael Cairl, president of the Park Slope Civic Council. “Simply shifting the problem a few blocks away from the arena isn’t a solution, when traffic volume upstream from the arena, and congestion in the area, are already high.”
Other cities have implemented residential parking permit (RPP) zones around sports facilities, have extended parking meter hours to prevent patrons from taking on-street spaces just as metered parking ends, and have fined venue operators when utilization goals for remote parking are not met. Atlantic Yards’ TDM thus far contains none of these measures. Agreements between Forest City Ratner and the ESDC require only one review of the effectiveness of the TDM, midway through the first basketball season. No further oversight of the program by the State or City has been agreed.
“In the five years since Atlantic Yards was approved, the developer and the State have figured out how to change the project’s architecture, rework its construction schedule, delay delivery of its affordable housing and jobs, and reduce its labor expense,” said Danae Oratowski, chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council. “But they don’t appear to have given any further thought to how to lessen the impact of Atlantic Yards’ traffic on central Brooklyn. The City and the State have to deliver the comprehensive plan Brooklyn needs before it’s really too late.”