Critics of the Barclays Center construction counted "Carmageddon in Brooklyn" among their considerable list of project grievances. The fear was that a sizeable amount of the 15,000+ arena attendees would drive to the game, creating parking and traffic problems for an already busy area.
But two-thirds of Nets fans used mass transit or walked to Barclays Center in the Nets' inaugural season in Brooklyn, a significantly higher rate than originally projected, according to a new report from Sam Schwartz Engineering.
At an average weekday game, the commuter breakdown was the following:
"... a quarter of the fans arrive by private car; more than half take the subway. The third most popular mode of travel is walking (6.9 percent), which outpaces the Long Island Rail Road (6 percent), taxis or car services (5.7 percent) and city buses (1.1 percent)."
According to the New York Daily News, officials from the Empire State Development Corp. predicted that 27.8% of visitors would drive to the arena, almost three percentage points higher than the data. So what led to the lower driving rate?
On a suggestion last year from Samuel I. Schwartz, a traffic engineering expert whose firm released the report, the number of parking spaces at the Barclays Center lot were lowered from 1,100 to 540 to discourage driving.
Only eight events this season, which includes three concerts, filled up half the parking lot -- bordered by Carlton and Vanderbilt Aves. and Dean and Pacific Sts. -- let alone filled it to capacity.
New Jersey Nets fans also don't appear to be as loyal as Schwartz expected. Only 8% of fans at weekday games were from New Jersey, the former home of the Nets.
“One of our concerns was if they really had very loyal fans,” he said, “we would have had a lot of people who could have come from car-oriented communities,” he said. “That didn’t occur.”
Fewer fans also means fewer cars. Initial projections assumed near capacity crowds of 18,000 at games, but the actual number was closer to 15,000.
It doesn't hurt that Barclays is a mass transit hub, with 11 subway lines and 11 bus routes, as well as the LIRR, stopping at the arena.
The findings of the report "drew largely from 5,633 surveys conducted during eight Nets games: five on weekdays and three on weekends, when car use increased to about 32 percent."
Some other events were studied, including Disney Ice Capades and concerts, with 60% of the Mumford and Sons crowd taking the subway. “These are hipsters,” Mr. Schwartz explained. “And hipsters drive the least.”
Schwartz presented the findings at a meeting titled ""The Effectiveness of the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management Plan" at The Brooklyn Hospital Center on Thursday night. About twenty local residents attended the meeting and they were none-too-pleased with Schwartz's rosy findings, according to Barclays Center watch-dog blog Atlantic Yards Report.
AYR provides video of the presentation and Q+A, including residents' concerns that the study does not take into account that commuters are forgoing the expensive Barclays parking for free parking in their neighborhoods.
As one resident stated, "These numbers just don't reconcile to what we're living through, every day."
Gib Veconi of the The Prosepct Heights Patch not only criticized the study, but also the New York Times for not talking to local residents in their column on the story.
And even if Schwartz's findings about reduced parking are true, Veconi isn't happy:
"But the real story of the Barclays Center parking lot is a much darker one. Block 1129 was condemned for arena parking. The historic Ward Bakery was demolished. A homeless shelter was removed. Local businesses were displaced, and apartments housing dozens of working families were lost. This, from a project that was approved largely on its promise of providing affordable housing.
Now, Mr. Schwartz informs us that the parking lot justified by his traffic projections might not really have been necessary after all. Terrific. And what news do he and his clients at Forest City Ratner have for us about what to expect next?"
(Would now be a bad time to disclose that I am one of those outsiders parking for free on residential streets for Nets games?)
Read more: The Daily News, Reuven Blau and Tanay Warerkar- - Train to the game: More than half of Nets fans took subways to Barclays Center
Read more: The New York Times, Matt Flagenheimer - - At Barclays Center Events, Fewer Cars Than Expected
Read more: The Atlantic Yards Report - - Barclays Center has managed to cut driving, but "numbers just don't reconcile to what we're living through," says neighbor; of arena-goers who drive, most seek free parking on local streets
Read more: The Prospect Heghts Patch, Gib Veconi - - Barclays Center Transportation Perception Managment, Part 2