Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
Long orderly lines of flamboyant ladies in finery stretched from subway steps to the flickering marquis of Brooklyn's new Barclays Center arena for Thursday night's Barbra Streisand concert.
"I am in Brooklyn which is where I was born. I haven't been here since I was born. I'm about 120 years old," gushed Laura Slutzky of Manhattan, which she insisted on referring to only as New York City. "This is fabulous here. I took the subway, used my Metrocard for two-dollars and 25 cents. I was going to take a limo for $4,550 but this was much easier... I love Brooklyn, I love the whole thing."
The 18,000 seat arena with just 541 on-site parking spaces has raised hackles and hellfire predictions of clogged streets and desperate fans circling the nearby residential neighborhoods for parking, blocking traffic and usurping local car owners; curb space.
Twenty minutes before showtime the shuttle bus bringing concert-goers from remote lots was mostly empty. The attendant said people were using the lots, but they weren't full.
A small army of police and citizen "pedestrian traffic managers" played crossing guard to usher the throngs of walkers safely through the always busy intersection at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Cars and limos that tried to stop to drop off fans, usually in groups, were forced to drive to pre-determined drop off locations that wouldn't block traffic. This operation was in force for the first set of concerts as well.
After the eight Jay-Z shows failed to cause vehicular mayhem, rendering all but irrelevant the "gridlock alert" that preceded opening night, many still feared the pedestrian calm was a fluke, that it was something about Jay-Z fans that predisposed them to use the 11 subway lines, 11 bus lines, the Long Island Rail Road or walk.
In fact it seems that at least 1/3 of fans on opening night got out at the subway station right below the arena, according to our analysis of turnstile data.
The data isn't in yet on the Streisand fans, but after chatting with a few of gaggles of giddy women of a certain age in front of the gates, it was clear, Barbra, as fans know her, draws a crowd from far beyond Brooklyn. And rather than drawing them by their usual mode of automobile, these groups behaved like the Brooklynites. When in Rome ...
Robin Schrieber and her friend took an hour-long train ride on Long Island Rail Road, which stops right next to the arena. "We had to change at Jamaica...We had to walk up and over at Jamaica which we didn't love, but it took us right here."
The LIRR arriving at 7:18 at Atlantic Terminal might as well have been called the Babs Express.
"Everybody was going to the Barbra concert," Schreiber said. "People we knew, people we didn't know, everybody was talking to each other. No one knew where they were going, it was like 'Are you going to Barbra?' 'Where do we get on?' 'Where do we get off?' We all just kind of went en masse together."