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Barclays Center in Brooklyn encourages train riders

The new Barclays Center Arena in Brooklyn can accommodate 18,000 people, but it offers just a few hundred parking spots.

The Barclays Center Arena is opening in the heart of Brooklyn on Friday with a sold-out Jay-Z concert. That's great for the 19,000 people with tickets to the show -- but worrying to those who live in the nearby brownstone neighborhoods, where traffic is heavy and parking spots scarce. City officials are urging fans to arrive by transit, but will they listen?

Victor Rodriguez doesn’t think so. He lives a few blocks from the Barclays Center, which sits on top of a train hub at the intersection of three busy city streets. I asked him to imagine evening rush hour overlapping with thousands of fans streaming in for a Brooklyn Nets game.

"Chaos,” he said. “It's gonna be madness. Traffic!"

City planners are hoping to avoid that scenario by vigorously discouraging driving. They've reduced the arena's parking spots from 1,000 to 541. And they've launched a publicity blitz about the 11 subways that serve the arena.

That effort included an appearance by The Harlem Globetrotters, who recently rode the rails to the Barclays Center, trailed by dozens of reporters. The trip began with the players assembled at a train station in Queens, where many city-bound riders switch from Long Island commuter trains to the subway. 

But arena’s developers know that despite such efforts, not everyone will listen. So they've hired Sam Schwartz, the traffic consultant who coined the word "gridlock," to come up with a plan. Schwartz told a public hearing in June that the key is keep cars away from Barclays Center.

"Our job is to intercept drivers before they approach the arena,” he said.

Schwartz is setting up half-priced lots with free shuttle buses up to a mile from the arena. Fans can also pay to reserve a parking spot online, which is supposed to cut down on drivers circling the arena in search of spots. And in true Brooklyn style, there's plenty of parking right at the entrance -- for 400 bicycles.

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