Thursday, May 24, 2012

Worth follow-up from the transportation meeting: disincentives, penalties, missing parking data, impact of tower construction, security, and truck routes

Sam Schwartz photo and set by Tracy Collins
Following up my coverage of the May 22 public meeting on the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, I want to focus on some exchanges that deserve more analysis, given that the questions didn't quite get full answers.

I already wrote this morning about one seemingly inadequate answer: whether the halving of on-site parking, and other changes, should have triggered revision of project documents. The answer was no, but the evidence seems otherwise.

Below, the embedded video (shot by Jonathan Barkey) is keyed to the specific questions.

Disincentives

One of the biggest issues looming: What disincentives will prevent people from circling neighborhood streets to look for free, on-street parking? When Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman read the question, there were some titters from the crowd.



Forest City Ratner consultant Sam ("Gridlock Sam") Schwartz answered incompletely, stressing incentives: to use the parking reservation system that will direct them to nearby garages, and to “intercept drivers” so they use remote lots--at 50% of the rate of lots closer to the arena--near the BQE and use a shuttle bus along Atlantic Avenue.

He didn't discuss disincentives such as residential permit parking.

Later, Hammerman asked Schwartz to pull the data from the EIS (environmental impact study) and show us the original projections for driving, and then to explain "how these distributed [transportation demand management strategies"--including increased transit service--would each impact on the worst-case scenario.



Sam Schwartz photo and set by Tracy Collins
Schwartz said he could provide the data, but said that such TDM measures "are taken in whole; they're not broken up so discretely. We think you need to take them as a whole. Discouraging parking is one thing and encouraging parking is another... and the cumulative effect from just the information alone, that part, we do know from the surveys [of future arena-goers], is [an increase of] 9% [taking public transit]." (That's a numerical increase from 45% to 54%; as a percentage change, that's 20%.)

Note, however, that as Tom Boast of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council commented on Patch:
"Interesting to note that staff at Sam Schwartz Engineering described TDM in a March 2009 professional paper: "TDM measures frequently include encouraging a modal shift away from the single occupancy vehicle by improving the convenience and availability of other modal options such as public or private transit, bicycling, walking, and carpooling. Other common TDM measures include congestion or parking pricing programs, or preferred parking for carpools and transit users." Concerned citizens should call on the State and the City (i.e., the Governor and the Mayor) to authorize and implement the other half of TDM plans excluded from the FCR plan presented by Schwartz: congestion and parking pricing programs (i.e., removing "free" parking on residential streets with a RPP program) and preferred parking for carpools."
In other words, Schwartz was working for a client that didn't--or couldn't--quite give him free reign.

Barclays Center vs. MSG

Schwartz was asked to compare Madison Square Garden Knicks events--visitors, parking--to the Barclays Center.



He portrayed the Brooklyn arena as in a superior position, as MSG provides no parking, nor a pre-paid parking system. Nor is there the kind of TDM plan unveiled yesterday. He didn't mention, however, is that MSG is in a business district full of available parking.

Penalties, and parking

What if the goals in reducing driving aren't met: Are there any penalties for nonperformance?

"No, there are no penalties," responded Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall.



Hammerman read the next question: do they have a document that details the number and locations of commercial parking spaces around the arena--details key to the promise that there are enough off-street parking spaces, even with the reduction in on-site parking.

"At the moment, we have the locations of every one of the parking facilities," Schwartz responded. "Soon we'll know which operators are participating." In other words, he doesn't even have a list of the participating locations, much less a count.

When will plans for the surface parking lot, on Block 1129, be presented to stakeholders?

Marshall responded by first augmenting her earlier answer: "I just want to point out that we're required to meet the levels in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement]. There may not be penalties, but there will be continuous follow-up."

As for the surface parking lot plans, she said this presentation wasn't the right forum for that discussion, and "Right now we are evaluating the responses we got" from lot operators.

Future snags from construction?

Remember, Forest City Ratner has plans to construct three or four buildings around the arena, with the first tower supposed to break ground this year. How will construction of Building 2 (at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street) and other towers affect traffic and pedestrian access to the arena block?



"We have plans to break ground on Building 2 sometime this year," Marshall responded. "At that time, we need to come up with a logistics plan to show how the building will be built... That plan will look at any impact it will have on the operation of the arena... In the months before we do that, we will start the process."

In other words, there sure might be impacts, but they don't know yet.

Who's paying for transit?

How much funding will Forest City be providing to the MTA for the additional service, such as the additional "gap" trains that add service after events?



The answer, apparently, is none, and Schwartz suggested--with no data yet--that it may be a net gain: "In the examples, we've had in the past, with the MTA, with New Jersey Transit and others, they see at as a way to provide service to their passengers. In the case of CitiField, it actually costs less and they made more revenue by introducing. So this isn't necessarily an additional cost."

Security

Given that the arena cantilever is closer than 20 feet from the curb at Atlantic Avenue, what protections will be needed to move traffic and curbside vehicles away?



FCR’s Ashley Cotton, a recent hire, said she didn’t fully understand the question, but said that arena operators had been working fully with the NYPD to ensure that the building is safe.

(Note that, because the arena in Newark was that close to the street, officials closed streets there, an issue that provoked obfuscation from Forest City.)

Trucks violating truck routes

Why are trucks leaving the construction site taking non-commercial routes, and how will that be controlled in the future?



Cotton gave a wobbly answer, saying that trucks routes are "encouraged and advertised," acknowledging that Forest City has seen photos (as posted on Atlantic Yards Watch) and saying the company was doing its best to stop the practice.
ESD's Arana Hankin photo and set by Tracy Collin

Arana Hankin, Manager, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the state agency in charge of the project, got up and said the agency was “working very, very closely with NYPD... to step up enforcement.”

If so, it's taken a while.


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