By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
DOWNTOWN — “Our goal is to get the people out of their cars and into mass transit and on bicycles.”
These words were not spoken by a member of some “green” organization, but by Sam “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, transit consultant for Forest City Ratner. His Transportation Demand Management Plan for Barclays Center was unveiled Tuesday night at a joint meeting of Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 at Borough Hall.
Here are the key points of the plan:
• Heavy online promotion using the slogan “Take the Train to the Game”
• Extra post-game “gap” trains on the subway system and the Long Island Rail Road
• Encourage those who do drive to buy vouchers to local garages in advance and thus discourage people circling around residential streets looking for parking spaces
• Give discounts to drivers who park at “remote garages” a mile away and then take a shuttle bus to the arena
• Cut the number of parking spaces at the arena site from a proposed 1,100 to 565
• Place about 400 bike-parking spaces
Schwartz noted that between 7-8 p.m. on weekdays, before Nets game time, more than 150 subway trains, 135 city buses and five Long Island Rail Road trains come to the location of the Barclays Center at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. Forest City also plans cross-promotions with local restaurants and other businesses to encourage people to come to the arena area even earlier, to further stagger transit ridership.
Post-game transit ridership, according to the plan, is “more condensed,” with more people likely to swamp the transit system all at once. One strategy Schwartz’s plan has is to add “gap trains” on the Q and 4 lines at these times. These would be empty trains, stored on nearby “layup” tracks, which could be pressed into service as needed.
Similarly, the Long Island Rail Road would provide shuttle trains to Jamaica, where riders could transfer to most destinations in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The arena itself would have a “transit coordinator” who would be in constant contact with the MTA.
As part of his research, Schwartz used a “focus group” of 2,200 people. Initially, he said, 38.6 percent said they would drive to the arena, followed by 36.2 percent taking the subway, and smaller numbers going by railway and bus.
“Once we educated people, the number of people who said they would take transit jumped from 45.5 percent to 54.4 percent,” said Schwartz, who used similar “education methods” to help reduce auto use at the Red Hook IKEA and Citi Field.
While mass transit is the goal, Schwartz acknowledged that some people will still drive to Nets games.
One option to cope with these drivers would be to have them purchase parking vouchers, reserving space at one of approximately 20 parking garages within a half-mile of the arena. Most of these garages, in the Downtown and Fort Greene areas, primarily serve business people and shoppers during the day, and would be available to handle new business at night without displacing residential parkers, Schwartz told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.
He estimates that out of 4,000 spaces in these garages, 2,200 to 2,500 would typically be available to Nets fans.
In addition, according to the report, about 612 spaces would be available at two “remote” garages about a mile away — at 211 Atlantic Ave. near Court Street, and at 352 Hicks St. (the garage of University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital). As an incentive, those who park here would pay about half of the market rate for garages nearer to the arena. Shuttle buses would then connect them to Barclays Center.
These two garages, added Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, “were identified because they are underutilized.” Nets patrons parking there “shouldn’t bother the neighbors – it will be like anyone else pulling in or out,” he added.
On the other hand, Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said that “parking is so scarce Downtown and in Brooklyn Heights” that local residents could find themselves competing for spaces with Barclays patrons.
Asked during a question-and-answer period supervised by Hammerman and fellow District Manager Rob Perris of Community Board 2 what route the shuttle buses would take, Schwartz said it was anticipated that they would use Atlantic Avenue, not local residential streets. There would be five or six runs per game, he told the Eagle.
Another questioner asked whether residential permit parking was being considered near the arena. Chris Rhones of the city Department of Transportation responded by pointing out that legislation at the state level would be needed to put that into effect.
When the issue of non-Nets events, such as concerts, was raised, Schwartz said that studies had shown that concert-goers were less likely to drive.
The issue of incorporating subway fare into a Nets game ticket came up as well. This had been mentioned as a possibility by Forest City Ratner in May 2011. Schwartz replied that his company had looked into it, but the technology to run such a program was too difficult to implement.
The plan can be viewed on the Empire State Development Corporation’s website, www.esd.ny.gov/atlanticyards. Public comments may be sumitted by email until June 22.