But maybe he can scratch transportation off his top-ten list of worries. If our sampling of the tens of thousands of fans who have been filling the arena since Friday night is on target, he has little to worry about. Apparently, it was easy to get there.
On Friday and again on Sunday night, we conducted an unscientific poll of 100 people who’d come to the concerts, and, time and again, heard much the same story when we asked whether transportation had been a problem: the answer—not at all.
About 60 of our 100 people reported taking the subway. “I thought it was going to be crazy, but it was a normal day,” said Flo Luccioni, 32, of Brooklyn.
For riders like Luccioni, walking up the stairs of the station brought an imposing first view of the curving glass and “rusted” steel arena. Over her head, a large circular screen shaped to match the curves of the building lit up the Brooklyn night with a blue glow. As one passerby put it, “It looks like a spaceship.”
The three individuals we polled who took the Long Island Railroad found it convenient. “It was easier to get here than Giants Stadium,” said Mike Hammam, 21, of Manhattan, of the schlep to the Meadlowlands, where the Nets, the borough’s new team, had long played.
Despite the effort from Barclays Center and city officials to encourage the use of public transportation, almost a third of those we asked still decided to drive. Christina Suarez, 27, drove with her two friends from Staten Island and said the ride over was not a problem. “Parking was the only issue,” she said, pointing out how the private lot she chose was expensive at $35. Tommy McMaster, 26, of New Jersey was luckier and found street parking right by the arena. “It was fate,” he said with a laugh. Johnny Garcia, 27, of the Bronx also found street parking—just not as close. “I parked 20 blocks away and walked,” he said.
Some even biked. “It’s amazing, I was here in 10 minutes,” said Fred Raphael, 31, of Manhattan. Raphael grew up just five blocks away from the Barclays Center. “It was a hole in the ground and now things changed. It’s fun.”
Transportation had been a major source of concern for local residents leading up to the opening, with critics suggesting that congestion from car and foot traffic would create a nightmarish scenario around the arena. In May of 2012, developers held meetings with the community to address the traffic issues and quell concerns. Transportation expert Sam Schwartz, a consultant involved in the planning process and originator of the term “gridlock,” outlined the plan to heavily discourage driving. This included marketing the subway, LIRR and bus service offerings, detailing plans for a 400-space bicycle facility and cutting parking spaces at the arena by more than half, from 1,100 to 441. “We will scare drivers away from the arena,” Schwartz was quoted as saying in a New York Times article back in May.
Fortunately this weekend, most concertgoers listened to Schwartz’s advice and stuck to the subway. Schwartz was pleased. “So far, so good,” he said. “A great number of patrons are using transit. Clearly, that’s the best way to go.”