While most of the World Trade Center site whirls in mid-construction, the National September 11 Memorial is a mere 208 days from completion. That thought brings both relief and consternation to local residents who have seen their neighborhood become a national flash point for mourning, controversy, and debate. It is also about to become one of the most heavily trafficked tourist destinations in the country.
Accommodating the tourists and their means of transportation is key to the success of the master plan, but traffic components of the plan are still two to three years away from realization. Currently the area sees 1.3 million visitors annually, when the memorial is completed in September, approximately four to five million will descend on a site about the size of one city block.
Last night, Luis Sanchez, Lower Manhattan commissioner from the Department of Transportation appeared before the World Trade Redevelopment Committee of Manhattan Community Board 1 to update the committee on plans for the huge tourist influx. He was joined by Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the memorial and museum.
Daniels said that the memorial will operate for ten hours each day, with access controlled, as it is at the Statue of Liberty and Washington Memorial, through a time reservation system (TRS) for ticketing. Visitors will not be able to simply show up; they will have to reserve a time slot in advance, primarily by going online. Though first responders and members of the community will be given preferential ticketing, they too must go through TRS until the entire construction site is completed. While this may control the pedestrian traffic to and from the memorial, it is also intended to mitigate bus traffic and “flatten peaks.” Tour buses would have curbside access within walking distance from the site and a layover time of two to three hours.
Sanchez said that DOT is also pushing remote transfer plans, such as water taxis from Liberty Island and parts of New Jersey. He noted that visitors would stay longer and spend tourist dollars in neighborhood businesses if they didn’t have to rush back to a bus in three hours time. Sanchez said that the DOT will actively reach out to the tourist industry to let them know that remote transfer tour groups will get priority ticketing and non-compliant companies would have passes withheld. “John Doe bus company isn’t going to be able to just show up,” he said.
Several board members argued the DOT’s presentation lacked enough details on enforcement for bus traffic that is already heavy enough to makes the area one of the most congested in the city. “How many buses are there going to be and where are they going to park?” asked one board member. “We already made one suggestion—for example, New Jersey.”