Monday, July 26, 2010

Trafficing in Decit on Flushing Commons

Today Brian Ketcham, the traffic consultant for the Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development released a report on the projected mass transit impact of the Flushing Commons development-along with the compounded impact of Willets Point and other projects in the pipeline in and around the Flushing area. Here is the Ketcham letter to the MTA's William Wheeler, raising the transit capacity issue.

Mr. William Wheeler

Director of Special Project Development & Planning

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

347 Madison Avenue

New York, New York 10017

RE: Transit Trips Generated by New Development in and around Downtown Flushing

Dear Mr. Wheeler:

More than 23 million square feet of new development is planned for locations in and around downtown Flushing, Queens, including Flushing Commons, Willets Point, the College Point Police Academy and nearly 90 more projects totaling nearly ten million square feet.

Extrapolating from the FEIS for each project, the enclosed report shows that new development scheduled for 2017 totals more than 23 million square feet and could produce more than 90,000 more weekday subway trips and 70,000 more bus trips. This would more than double bus and subway ridership in this area. It could also place a huge demand on the LIRR.

I am writing to inquire about the capacity for the bus lines and the Flushing No. 7 subway line in and around downtown Flushing, Queens and whether or not additional capacity is planned to service the LIRR.

Should transit not be able to accommodate so many trips, traffic would be even worse than estimated. People would switch to their cars, adding many more than the 140,000 daily car and truck, a 25% increase in background traffic on a roadway system already over capacity during peak hours.

How does the MTA plan to accommodate this increase in the demand for bus and subway services? Can the LIRR handle any of this increased demand?

Key actions are pending on two projects, Flushing Commons and the Willets Point ramps, that will contribute more than half the impacts reported above. It is important that decision makers know your intentions to accommodate this growth. Your assistance in answering the questions raised in this inquiry is essential to their making an informed decision. Thanks very much for your help


But the compelling additional question here, is why hasn't EDC and the City Planning Commission (a misnomer, no?) investigated any of this-after all, they are lead agencies in the Bloomberg Era of Sustainability. Let's not forget the congratulatory statement issued by CPC Chair Burden after her crew approved the Flushing Commons Project: "The concept for the Flushing Commons project emerged from a community visioning and planning process that was initiated early in the Bloomberg Administration, which noted the void in the center of Flushing created by the large municipal parking lot,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden in a statement. “This proposal is a prime example of the Administration's commitment to create economic opportunities throughout the five boroughs, and it exemplifies sustainable, transit-oriented development that capitalizes on Flushing's exceptional subway, bus and commuter rail access.”

Really? Let's take a look at the facts-because, as we know, facts can be very inconvenient things. As the Ketcham report dramatizes:

"This report estimates the number of bus and subway trips that could be generated by new development in and around downtown Flushing. It is based on new development that might be completed by 2017 reported in the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) for the Willets Point Development Plan and in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Flushing Commons project. Table 1 below summarizes the results. It shows subway trips could total more than 92,000 on weekdays and bus trips more than 70,000. Table 1 also reports the estimated auto and truck trips, more than 144,000 that might be generated by more than 90 new projects identified in the environmental impact statements referenced above...

Both Willets Point and Flushing Commons under report traffic impacts and rely on approximately half their trips to be accommodated by mass transit. Neither project bothers to estimate whether or not the Flushing No. 7 subway line can accommodate such traffic although both projects admit they will need a huge increase in bus capacity to accommodate their assumed impacts. It is clear that, without an economic miracle, the MTA will be unable to even provide more buses let alone a huge increase in subway service....

It is clear that without an increase in transit capacity more people will be forced to drive into and through downtown Flushing and along the expressways encircling Flushing, expressways that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council recently reported will grow increasingly congested over the next two decades without 23 million square feet of new development in and around downtown Flushing.

It is also clear that New York City’s decision makers have not considered the problem of cumulative impacts seriously nor have they initiated the studies required to determine how much of future development can be accommodated and the existing road and transit systems. Perhaps it is time to put a moratorium on new development until this question has been answered and the Flushing community can be assured new auto and transit trips can be accommodated?"

And, as  the evidence of EDC's-and CPC's-sleight-of-hand grows, doesn't the broohaha over community benefits agreements seem silly? The real concern for communities that are being forced to bear the brunt of this overdevelopment, is the lack of honesty and transparency by those city agencies supposedly responsible for providing the guiding data for these myriad of projects. Flushing Commons shines a light on the deceptive practices of irresponsible city planners and economic development officials.