May
23

A Brooklyn arena rises and so do transportation worries

By

Planned improvements to the Atlantic Avenue subway station will bring arena visitors to the Barclays Center stoop. (Click to enlarge)

Although I haven’t written much about it over the past few years, I have a personal interest in the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards project. I can walk to the new arean in around 10-15 minutes from my apartment, and the project’s potential impact looms large over my current corner of New York City. From the subway crowds evening events will bring to the folks trawling the neighborhood looking for that elusive free parking spot, this project has the ability to disrupt life in Brownstone Brooklyn if it’s not handled correctly.

Last night, the major stakeholders in the project gathered in Brooklyn to discuss the infrastructure impact the project will have. Led by Sam Schwartz, the traffic and transportation consultant for the project, Forest City Ratner officials and local politicians led a meeting and discussion on transportation demand. While transit use remains the focus for arena-bound patrons, it’s unclear if the plan goes far enough to avoid an influx of congestion in the area, and a call for a residential parking permit program has stalled in Albany.

The simple truth about the Barclays Center arena is that it is not a car-friendly spot. Unlike Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, the Meadowlands, the abomination in Nassau County or even MSG, the Nets’ future home isn’t neighboring a highway (or, in the case of MGS, the Lincoln Tunnel). The BQE is a distance away down an oft-congested Flatbush Ave., and the nearest river crossings feed from local streets. Instead, it is atop one of the system’s great subway and LIRR focal points with the IND Crosstown and Fulton St. lines nearby. Transit use should be encouraged.

During last night’s presentation, that’s exactly how the project engineers framed it. For starters, the Barclays Center on its website and promotional materials will not discuss parking. It instead urges everyone to take transit, and people are responding. According to Schwartz’s presentation, mode share is now expected to be weighted toward transit trips with 40 percent of attendees across all events opting for the subway. But around 30 percent are still expected to drive — at least at first and until they see how inconvenient it will be to drive there.

To compensate for post-game crowds, the MTA will add extra Q and 4 trains into Manhattan. The authority runs a similar service along the 7 for Mets games and D and 4 for Yankee games. Extra buses will service the area, and the LIRR will add post-event trains as well. Pre-game peak hour crowds heading to the arena will cause crowding, but with a great number of lines passing through the area, the MTA seems to expect a diffuse impact.

What to do with the cars though remains an issue. Schwartz said the number of spaces near the arena has been chopped from 1100 to 541, and those who will drive are being encouraged to park in remote lots. Free shuttle buses will ferry patrons from those lots to the arena as unloading areas around the arena on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues will be extremely limited. Still, though, parking rates will not be raised to discourage driving, and more importantly, a residential parking plan has stalled in Albany.

The latter point, as Council Member Letitia James noted, is a problem. Even if the bill were to move forward tomorrow, it would likely be another year — and a full basketball season — until the parking passes become a reality, and residents will have to contend with game-bound drivers seeking out a free space. Even with a public outreach effort discouraging drivers, enough temporary arena visitors will cruise Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene to cause problems. “I just don’t think there’s enough disincentives,” James said. “I believe cars will flood our residential streets.”

Finally, pedestrian safety is a problem too. While the new subway entrances will siphon arena patrons to the building’s front plaza, crossing Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in that area isn’t fun on a good day. The city hasn’t been willing to institute many traffic-calming measures around the arena during construction, and there are none on the table for after. It remains, according to Schwartz, a work in progress that will be reassessed periodically.

So I am left wondering how flexible these plans will be. We do not know who will foot the bill for added post-event transit service, and a plan floated in 2009 that would have provided free MetroCards to Barclays Center guests has died a death due to unknown causes. Has Forest City Ratner done enough to discourage parking? Will the conditions on the street disincentivize driving after a few weeks? The Barclays Center arena is one of the most accessible around, and it’s in a neighborhood will little room for additional parking. Transit will be a part of the equation, and how patrons embrace that element will impact how residents come to view the return of professional sports to Brooklyn.

For more detailed coverage of the meeting, check out the Park Slope Patch liveblog and Norman Oder’s comprehensive coverage on Atlantic Yards Report.



Categories : Brooklyn

57 Responses to “A Brooklyn arena rises and so do transportation worries”

  1. George says:

    You can have a personal interest in this Brooklyn basket-ball issues, but many of us, including Jerrold and I, have a personal interest in the 245 Park Avenue entrance to Grand Central, on 47th St between Park and Lexington. They said it was supposed to open in the beginning of April, but already nearly two months have passed by with very little to show for it. We wish you would find someone at MTA to answer for this. Unfortunately your recent post about ESA delays failed to address the 245 Park entrance. I mean, this debacle is a disgrace. It didn’t take this long to build Grand Central North in the 1990s, and they had more corridors and entrances that they were building back then and working below and above active tracks.

    Another issue. What’s up with those ads in the subways about recent MTA accomplishments? One of them was “Cortlandt station is the new Cortlandt station” about some new commuter parking lot in upstate New York, but why are they boasting about it in the subway?

    • AK says:

      On your second point, I think it is extremely important for the MTA to advertise its accomplishments outside the five boroughs in the subway. New Yorkers need to understand that our transit system is a REGIONAL one and that everyone needs to pitch in to make it work. Moreover, many probably don’t even realize that the MTA is responsible for MNR/LIRR service in the first place.

      Also, it’s not “some new commuter parking lot in upstate New York,” it’s really a complete renovation of an overburdened station in Westchester. Indeed, your comment speaks to precisely the reason why it is so important for NYC residents to learn about the needs of suburban commuters and what the MTA is doing about it.

      • Andrew says:

        I basically agree, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered at first why there was a parking lot at Cortlandt Street and only later realized that it was a Metro-North station.

  2. R. Graham says:

    In getting back to the topic at hand. Ben you ask who will foot the bill for post event transit. The same agency that foots the bill for all post event transit. Transit itself! That parking situation is going to be a nightmare. I once worked an event at a bar not far from that intersection and finding a parking spot that night was an event. Now that spaces are slashed by over 50% those who drive will be foolish to say the least.

    • nycpat says:

      The Yankees and Mets pay a fee for “baseball specials”, typically six extra trains.

      • DirkE says:

        That’s not what was stated last night; Gridlock Sam that did the plan for the Mets said, “the extra trains was a money maker for the MTA” but the MTA refused to confirm he statement! the non arena rides will pay!!

  3. Larry Littlefield says:

    Pedestrian access will be an issue. Unfortunately, people will be required to pay to cross either Atlantic Avenue or Flatbush Avenue underground. This includes those walking to the Fulton Street line or the G.

    The cost of transit will not be an issue. Off peak ridership is gold for transit systems.

    • al says:

      Atlantic Ave isn’t that bad. At Ft Greene Pl (to get to the G at Fulton or C at Lafayette). Its 5 or 6 lanes with an intersection geometry that isn’t like the rhombus at Atlantic and Flatbush. Its what you see at major intersections in Manhattan and throughout the city.

  4. Kai B says:

    I honestly wouldn’t say pedestrian crossings in that area are a problem. Just last week I crossed over from the Atlantic Terminal Mall to Modell’s, requiring me to cross both Atlantic and Fourth Avenues, and it was fine – signal was clear for very long time mostly due to both streets being major arteries.

    • Joe Steindam says:

      The crossing of Flatbush and Atlantic is the worst, because of the severe angle they intersect each other at, the crossing by the arena is very narrow and will get very busy. It will get better when the sidewalk reopens, but it’s still a tight crossing compared to the 90 degree crossings we typically encounter.

  5. Eric F says:

    I think it’s arguably more difficult to drive in central Brooklyn than in most of Manhattan. People will figure out pretty quickly that this is not a car-friendly spot. The question is whether the draw is worth the inconvenience to people who’d want to drive. It’s probably less of an issue for the after work crowd than for families with kids who want to come in from the burbs to see weekend games. Ultimately, you may gain and lose certain demographics based on car preference, and we’ll see how it turns out. The Knicks/Rangers seem to draw pretty well in a car unfriendly spot, and as far as I know the Cubs have essentially zero parking (unless you play for the team) at Wrigley Field.

    • pea-jay says:

      Cubs use satellite lots a few miles to the west. Pay a flat fee to park and get a nonstop CTA-operated shuttle bus ride to the stadium and back as part of the deal.

      • Eric F says:

        I did not know that. Red Bulls do something similar for a Newark-Harrison run. At Wrigley, I did see years ago that every homeowner in the area rents out his lawn/alleyway for parking.

  6. Bill Reese says:

    If I’m reading that schematic correctly, there are only 8 MetroCard turnstiles at the new transit enterance? That’s not nearly enough. There are more at the Harrison PATH station that gets jammed when 10,000 people leave NY Red Bulls games every weekend.

    • Concur with both Eric F and Bill Reese, with the latter reinforcing something that New Jersey (among other locales) already has found out: Putting sports arenas in or near central cities can and does work. All the Bergen County bemoaning of “no one will go” to this or that location has proven to be hollow laments (or threats, depending on one’s point of view). Philadelphia Flyers fans love taking that train to see their team play the Devils in Newark.

      People will come to Brooklyn, we all seem to agree. Practical options will work out on their own levels, even without incentives for transit and/or pedestrian use–not that one should argue against such incentives, but people find a way.

  7. Matthias says:

    It has always amazed me that people can store their vehicles on some of the most expensive real estate on the planet for free (so long as they move for the street sweeper). An increase in demand should raise parking meter and garage prices, and a citywide residential permit program absolutely makes sense (for a fee). That the city has to beg permission from the state is ridiculous.

    • John says:

      Yeah, I don’t get that. Why can’t NYC (or even just Brooklyn) implement permit parking on their own? What does the state government have to do with it?

      • lili says:

        because parking permits keep the rest of the people away and they need to bring people to the arena.

        • R. Graham says:

          Parking Permits does not keep people from the arena. It keeps people from adding additional cars to an area that is already over crowded with cars from those who are residents. And not to mention as a resident I would like to have a reasonably fair shot at a parking spot in my own neighborhood than have to fight for a spot after work with 2000 other people who prefer to drive to a place where transit exists in abundance.

  8. lili says:

    Flatbush is a major artery in and out of Manhattan Bridge…Does anyone really think that traffic won’t be a huge issue? Barclays need the revenue from the 1% because the other 99% are struggling to pay their mortgage or keep a job. Even what’s left of a middle class will not take their family on Mass transit after a certain hour. DO you think the rich will take public transportation from Manhattan and Long Island? WIthout proper parking Barclays is going to be the white elephant in the middle of the room. I am not sure who the biggest dreamer is?

    • SEAN says:

      I read & heard the same regarding Yankee Stadium & we all know what happened with the garages along with the bonds used to pay for them.

      Those who complane about the lack of parking, are just bloviating & most likely atend an event at the new arena rarely if ever.

      • Eric F says:

        I disagree. There are absolutely people who will not attend a game unless they can drive. If I have a family of four little kids and live in Staten Island, I am highly unlikely to attend a Nets game in Brooklyn. A quarter mile walk is nothing for a fit adult, but it’s a rather arduous trek for a five year old. On the other hand, loading up the minivan and driving to the Meadowlands or even central Newark is much more doable for that family.

        That said, the location and arena will attract as well as repel. What you lose in Staten Island day trippers you may make up several fold in Park Slope yuppies. The Nets never drew well in the Meadowlands anyway, so this seems like a pretty safe bet for them. The biggest concern I’d have if I were the Nets is that you have a better-branded competing team in the same city just a few express stops away. I’m not sure how the Nets sustain a buzz being a second fiddle team after the arena is old news in a few years.

        • SEAN says:

          Eric F,

          OK so you won’t go do to the parking issue. That’s understandable since you are in SI, perrents shlep their children on transit all the time, so that’s a strawmans arguement. How is a child going to learn indipendence if they need to be shleped everywhere they need to go?

          • Eric F says:

            It’s not a straw man argument at all, and I don’t understand what type of independence you plan to impart to kids from the ages of say 4-7. When you have little kids, your mobility is greatly diminished, and your need to improvise side trips for food/bathroom greatly increases. This is why you hate to be the guy sitting on the aisle next to a parent and 4 year old on a six-hour flight to LA. The Nets will not get that business, and they probably don’t care. I’m just pointing out that you win some people and lose others.

            A lot of people on this site seem to have an ideological affinity for transit and thus project onto auto users an ideological affinity for cars. For most people, these types of decisions are made strictly on the basis of utility. They go to a place, decide if it’s worth whatever inconvenience and cost is assessed to return and act accordingly. If you are not within spitting distance of a train line docking at Atlantic Yards, the Brooklyn arena will be mighty inconvenient for you. That does not mean it won’t be a big success.

            • SEAN says:

              It is such a strawman arguement that you cant see it even when it stairs you in the face. I have sene more & more perrents with preschoolers or younger just shlep there kids everywhere without a car in the city like it’s no big deal. UWS, Queens Boulevard, on the subway you name it.

              As for the 4 to 7-year-olds you speak of, of course that’s a bit young to travel alone, but you can instill the skills for safe traveling around that age.

              Perhaps living in SI things are a bit different since SI functionally is more suburban than the rest of the city & is not as conducive for either walking or transit use.

              • Miles Bader says:

                I see kids in that age range travelling on rail transit all the time around here—typically only in the company of other kids the same age.

                I’ve no idea how their parents think about this, but I suppose it’s along routes they’ve often traveled together, so the parents have gained confidence that the kids know how to do it… [from the way they’re dressed etc, it’s usually clear they’re on their way to/from school, and there are plenty of other passengers and staff around.]

                Modern American parents have gotten mega-paranoid, thus the “drive kids everywhere, lock ‘em up otherwise; rethink at 18″ philosophy, but the kids themselves generally seem capable enough….

                • Bolwerk says:

                  8 or 9 years old is probably old enough to start riding trains, at least in groups or with an older kid if not by yourself. I certainly was allowed to do it when I was in Europe at that age, though I wasn’t allowed to do it here. In the wake of the crack epidemic and all the panic people had about molesters, which actually continues to this day,* my mother deemed it too risky.

                  Anyway, I don’t know about then, but these days I would guess it’s safer for a kid that age to be on a subway than in a car or on the street.

                  * Of course, the main reason molestation gets so much press is it arouses people who watch too much TV. No pun intended, either.

                • SEAN says:

                  Modern American parents have gotten mega-paranoid, thus the “drive kids everywhere, lock ‘em up otherwise; rethink at 18? philosophy, but the kids themselves generally seem capable enough….

                  You summed it up nicely. Is it from the massive number of perrents who are on Prozack, Zoloft & other prescription drugs causing them to act this way? Or is it the TV news that’s making them super paranoid. Perhaps both?

  9. TP says:

    As a non-car owning Manhattan resident who lives on a street full of unrestricted parking which is always full of cars from New Jersey, the Outer Boroughs, and the suburbs (because nobody who actually lives on my block has a car), I find the whole Atlantic Yards neighborhood outcry to smack of more than enough NIMBYism for the smart points to shine through. Of course there are problems with the way this project was handled from a land use and traspo perspective, but the sky is not going to fall because 30% of the audience are trying to drive to the game. Your quiet beucolic tree-lined brownstone neighborhood will have slightly more traffic than normal on game nights. You’ll live.

    And I’m kind of agnostic to the concept of residential permits because I don’t necessarily buy into the argument that because I live on a block I somehow deserve to park on the public street more than the guy driving in from Bergen County. People who live on my block have no use for that space. We have tons of transportation options other than driving a private car. If you live in Bergen County and want to come into the city to go to an event at night you very likely have no good way to get home at the end of the night by transit. I think residential permits can have the effect of making parts of the city less accessible, and because I’m not a NIMBY, I think that’s a bad thing. It feels like the people who have the most to gain from the permits are people who live in these walkable, transit-rich neighborhoods yet want to treat them like suburbs, with guaranteed parking spots and freedom from outside traffic. Just move to the suburbs if that’s what you want.

    My car-owning friends in Outer Queens, New Jersey, etc all basically make the smart transportation choice of taking transit when they come into the city during the day, but driving at night. How will people get from the Barclays Center back to Whitestone, Queens at midnight? They could drive in 25 minutes or take a marathon 1.5 hour transit trip via Manhattan and a long wait for a bus. Even if they spend an hour cruising for a parking spot or park 20 blocks away they still come out ahead! A couple extra Qs and 4s won’t change that. You have to acknowledge that it isn’t feasible to provide adequate transit to low density neighborhoods during nonpeak hours, so really the “solution” to the narrowly-defined problem here is discouraging these trips in general, which reduces accessibility in the city.

    • Thoughtful points by TP. But we have residential permit parking in Hoboken, thus limiting the amount of available space for Bergen County transients. The system is far from perfect, even after we dismiss Fox News hype of the construct. But it does work to some degree. As for us residents, we do get a break, but we also pay for the privilege (and that’s what it really is) to park fairly close to our place of residence.

      A lot of people on this site get spooked by “nighttime” quite a bit, it appears. Regardless, if we achieve TP’s view of 30% of the audience attempting access by automotive means, that will be a smashing success for the arena’s tranport modal split, certainly at least by U.S. measures.

      • Matthias says:

        Perhaps non-residents should be able to bid for those parking permits as well. I’d agree that just because one lives in a certain neighborhood, one isn’t entitled to store a vehicle for free there. But we should be able to pay for that privilege because everyone loses when parking becomes so scarce that vehicles are circling endlessly, polluting the air and snarling traffic.

    • Frank B says:

      25 minutes from Park Slope to Whitestone?

      You, dear fellow, are living in a fantasy land. Even at night, it will still take you at least 40 minutes via the BQE, LIE, and Whitestone Expressways. And if you’re using the Eastern Parkway/Interborough Combination, you might as well mark down an hour.

      That being said, your comment is still largely accurate. It is still far easier to drive, for those limited areas without subway service.

  10. BrooklynBus says:

    They never should have been allowed to close off that block of 5th Avenue funneling everyone into Flatbush and Atlantic. The building coud have been designed to allow traffic to go under the building or were they afraid of terrorism?

    • Take a look at the schematic on the top of this post and you tell me what runs underneath the intersection of 5th Ave. and Flatbush that precludes tunneling under the new arena. :)

      • BrooklynBus says:

        I didn’t say tunnel under but design it like The Keyspan Building in Metrotech where cars can pass beneath the building in the new unamed street that was built to replace Myrtle Avenue.

  11. John-2 says:

    In the end, if the Barclays Center attracts enough events and enough upscale customers who drive cars to the site, some real estate owner in the area — Ratner or just a current building owner in the Flatbush-Atlantic neighborhood — will rip a lower-revenue generating building down and put up a multi-story parking garage, if the revenues are higher than what they’re getting from what’s there now.

    That’s not going to solve the traffic problem involving the local streets people going to the arena will have to navigate. But it will end up with a similar set-up as the Garden/Penn Station, where nearby garages sprouted up in the years after the current building went up, to take care of the people in the lower level seats who either live too far from rail stations or (in many cases) think they’re too important to take the subway or commuter rail to the games, concerts or other events.

    • Matthias says:

      And that is how parking supply should be provided: in response to demand at a market price, not arbitrary parking minimums that encourage driving.

  12. thedude says:

    They really should look at some of the lessons that the Red Bulls learned with their arena in Harrison (and the PATH train issues there) and the lack of parking.

    • Eric F says:

      Harrison, NJ is a place that looks really transit friendly but really isn’t. The transit hub is in Newark. Harrison’s sole transit is the inadequate PATH station, requiring a transfer for anyone coming through Newark. Add to that, I-280 is a ridiculous 2 lane (in each direction) highway with very dangerous geometry, making pretty much all access into the area problematic. The arena is small, and yet a small crowd basically overwhelms the entire city’s infrastructure. What’s makes it worse is that soccer is not like baseball. People don’t leave early, you have pretty much 100% of the crowd walking out at once on game days. It’s a bit unfortunate. Had the arena been built 1,000 feet west in Newark you’d have a much more solid site from a transportation perspective. Ideally, Harrison’s roads will be upgraded and the station enhanced, but it’s a tough situation at present.

      • R. Graham says:

        Usually I would agree, but I don’t only because that area is the biggest park and ride area in almost all of the Tri-State area.

      • But I see people — even families! — use PATH to access Red Bulls games. Granted, it’s during daylight hours.

        • Eric F says:

          Well let’s not get too excited. The place draws pretty poorly. That may just be a reflection of soccer’s popularity, as opposed to Harrison’s. The team didn’t draw much at Giants Stadium either.

          Harrison has some big lots, but they’re a good 1/4 to 1/2 mile from the arena. It’s a hike, even for an adult, and even the NJDOT has assessed the stadium area as in need of better highway access.

          If I was going to take a young kid to a game, soccer would be a great one to pick. No tv time outs, quick games with constant action. I’d put that up against a parking lot hike any day.

          • Bill Reese says:

            They built a graven parking “pit” in one of the empty development lots in front of the stadium this season. Those fill up real quick.

            In 20 years when Red Bull sells the team and they drop the energy drink monicker, perhaps they’ll draw better. I have season tickets, and I know tonight they’ll be lucky to draw half of the 25,000 seat capacity to watch a First Place team play.

            • Stewart Clamen says:

              Harrison Station’s going to be completely rebuilt (for $256million) by 2017, fwiw.

              http://www.theobserver.com/?p=7103

              But it’s true that they should make the hypothetical walk from the stadium to Newark Penn Stn more appealing. Perhaps add a pedestrian bridge

              • Phantom says:

                A quarter of a billion dollars

                To fix up one PATH station

                • Corey Best says:

                  There moving the station over , to allow Amtrak to expand the NEC. There also replacing the viaducts leading up to the Dock Bridges and doing other things like replacing and moving 2 substations. So its not just a station overhaul , but a huge project.

  13. Bill Reese says:

    I’m also disappointed Transit could not add more G trains, with the Fulton Street station 2.5 blocks away from Barclays.

    Even if they couldn’t add extra trains, they could at least experiment by running a few 8 car trains, as opposed to the current 4 car sets that run. The Nets could have a big fan base throughout the G’s territory, and it seems short-sighted to not assume that the post-game platform at Fulton St. won’t look like those arcade machines where quarters perilously dangle over the edge while a metal bar moves back and forth.

    • John Paul N. says:

      MTA will need to see crowding conditions before they adjust schedules.

      But yes, one train from Williamsburg and Greenpoint to see the Nets versus two or more trains for the Knicks is a big advantage. From Bed-Stuy and parts of Bushwick, buses may be more convenient. I’ll be watching the crowding at Fort Greene Place and Fulton Street, as I routinely take the B38 through that area.

      I was initially surprised that the bus mode share is projected to be only 2.7%-4.2%. But then I realized the buses only go to the south, southeast, east, and Downtown Brooklyn.

  14. pedant says:

    “the Nets’ future home isn’t neighboring a highway”

    since when is ‘neighboring’ a verb?

    • throcko says:

      Since over 600 years ago, apparently:

      NEIGHBOR

      transitive verb:
      to adjoin immediately or lie relatively near to
      intransitive verb
      1: to live or be located as a neighbor
      2: to associate in a neighborly way

      Examples of NEIGHBOR
      the baseball field neighbors a parking lot

      First Known Use of NEIGHBOR
      circa 1586

  15. Danae Oratowski says:

    The problem isn’t that there isn’t enough parking – it’s that there are no disincentives that would discourage driving. They may have halved parking from the arena parking lot, but Sam Schwartz also acknowledged last night that “sufficient off street facilities to accommodate the cars shifted from on -site” and that there are more than 20 parking lots within walking distance of the arena that can accommodate all of the cars anticipated in the FEIS.

    Without disincentives like Residential Permit Parking combined with limiting availability of off-street parking, people are going to drive to the arena circle around residential neighborhoods for a free spot, knowing that there’s plenty of parking in garages if they need it.

  16. Duke says:

    The arena is right on top of one of the largest subway/rail hubs in North America. Somehow the idea that something about the project is not transit-oriented enough just seems laughable. So what if 30% of people will drive? Let them. That means 70% of people won’t. I dare you to get that kind of modeshare out of an arena in any other city.

    • Danae Oratowski says:

      Arenas in most other cities are not located adjacent to residential neighborhoods. When they are (in the case of Yankee Stadium) the number of cars driving around adding congestion and pollution is a disaster for the neighborhood or (in the case of Wrigley Field, Fenway) there’s residential permit parking to at least protect the quality of life for the people who live nearby.

      • Jeff says:

        Those are baseball stadiums though. A basketball arena holds less, and there are a ton more public transportation options for Barclays.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>