MTA strands fans No new trains after Nets games

The Brooklyn Paper
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If 19,000 cheering Nets fans come pouring out of an arena at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues someday, the MTA is not going to add service to help get them home.

The transit agency, which many hope will play a significant role in reducing congestion resulting from Bruce Ratner’s proposed Atlantic Yards mega-development, dropped this mini bombshell this week at Borough Hall, where Borough President Markowitz, local elected officials and Community Board chairs met to discuss Atlantic Yards issues.

The MTA refused to send a representative to the meeting, Markowitz said. Instead, the agency sent over a statement outlining its plans for service to and from Nets games at the Ratner arena.

“For Madison Square Garden, the regularly scheduled service is sufficient for every typical event,” the agency said in a statement. “Madison Square Garden is the ... model [for Nets game service] because it is about the same size and situated on multiple lines.”

Brooklyn elected officials — some who support Ratner’s plan, others who oppose it — could not disagree more.

“People who believe that Madison Square Garden is the same [as a Brooklyn Nets arena] don’t know Brooklyn,” said Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Park Slope).

Millman was most surprised by the MTA’s admission that it does not add service before or after Knick games.

“How can they say their regular service is sufficient?” she said. “That was very surprising to hear that.”

A spokesman for the MTA said he would let the agency’s statement speak for itself.

The MTA’s statement also said that “buses are not a key component of any service plan” after concerts and games at Madison Square Garden — which also angered the Brooklyn contingent.

“How can they say that buses are not critical in Brooklyn?” asked Shirley McRae, chairwoman of Community Board 2, which lies to the north of the Atlantic Yards site.

McRae called on the MTA to include buses in the agency’s traffic analyses of the area.

The borough’s elected officials have been meeting regularly to prepare for the release of a draft environmental impact statement for the Ratner project. The DEIS, which is expected to be completed next month, is supposed to analyze existing conditions and offer mitigations for problems such as traffic or litter that are caused by the project.

This week’s discussion on transit issues, combined with a similar gathering earlier this month on traffic, suggest that much more work needs to be done to convince local officials that the $3.5-billion Ratner project will not put an even bigger cork in the Downtown Brooklyn bottleneck.

Fears about a permanent gridlock near the Atlantic-Flatbush intersection prompted Forest City Ratner to announce this week that it’s talking to a traffic consulting firm that specializes in getting fans to and from crowded arenas.

Ratner had been prodded to hire the Florida-based firm, Gameday Management Group, by Millman and Community Board 6.
Forest City Ratner is reportedly also working on a deal with the MTA to give MetroCard discounts to Brooklyn Nets ticketholders to encourage them to use mass transit on game days.

The New York Post reported this week that the idea is “being bounced around by team brass … to quell community concern over the traffic nightmare.”

Although such a scheme might encourage mass transit useage, one transportation expert said the Nets were giving the discount in “the wrong place.”

“You need to discount the [game] ticket by $10” to encourage transit ridership, not discount MetroCards by $1, said Carolyn Konheim of Community Consulting Services.

Her partner, Brian Ketcham, told the same elected officials earlier this month that it’s time for New York City to bite the bullet and put tolls on the East River bridges.

“All of the development that is going on downtown will add 100,000 more vehicle trips through the area every day, doubling the current traffic,” Ketcham said. “The only way to alter the traffic patterns is to toll the bridges.”

Markowitz has said that “every alternative” should be considered — except that one.

“Tolling those bridges is a non-starter — not gonna happen,” he told The Brooklyn Papers. “It’s DOA. It’s an additional tax on Brooklynites and, therefore, discriminatory.

“I don’t want to see it in the DEIS,” he continued. “The state and the developer have hired great traffic consultants. They have to be creative.”

The city’s Department of Transportation has offered little guidance. In its Downtown Brooklyn Transportation Blueprint, which was released in May, the agency foresaw gridlock after all the proposed and approved development is completed.

“If future employees in projected office developments commute by auto at rates near existing rates, [traffic] would not be accommodated on the existing roadway network,” the report said. It concluded that frustrated drivers would begin their commutes either before or after the traditional “rush hour,” creating, in effect, rush hours that last all morning and all afternoon.

“We want to make sure traffic flows as smoothly as possible,” said FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco. .

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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