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Steal This Idea From Ikea: Great Transit Access

New York City's first Ikea store opens June 18 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and New Yorkers tired of the trek to Jersey for their Swedish furniture fix are expected to descend en masse on the 346,000-square-foot store. To smoothe the descent, Ikea has made huge commitments to improve public transit to its 22-acre site along the waterfront, cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by the BQE/Gowanus Expressway:

  • Existing MTA bus routes (described by as "two mediocre buses") will be extended to the new Ikea
  • Free shuttle service, provided by Ikea, will link the store to three subway stations at 15-minute intervals
  • Water taxi service, also free, will run every 40 minutes between the Red Hook site's 6.5-acre waterfront esplanade and Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street
IkeaIf you're fixated on the image of urban dwellers wrestling their EKTORP sofas and LAXVIK shelf units through the turnstiles and onto the trains, worry not. Ikea also offers Enterprise rent-a-vans and Zip cars on site, next-day courier service, and home delivery for large pieces.

This level of transit planning goes without saying in car-averse New York. But let's face it -- as gas passes four bucks a gallon and keeps going, millions of suburban and rural dwellers are suddenly car-averse, and the bus ain't just for poor folks anymore.

What are you doing to make it easier for people to shop your store without driving?

For a good example of How Not To Do It, look no further than my home turf, metro Denver. When a huge new stretch of suburban light rail opened in fall 2006, you could see the Park Meadows shopping mall from the nearest station, but you couldn't get there, according to former Denver Post columnist Diane Carman.

I stood on the platform looking at Nordstrom. To get there, I would have to cross the train tracks, climb a chain-link fence, drop 25 feet straight down onto the road, cross four lanes of traffic, scramble over a grassy berm and traverse the parking lot to the mall. The fall alone would have killed me.
It got worse. When Carman asked about shuttle service for shoppers and employees, Park Meadows manager Pam Schenck told her, "We are a shopping center, not a service provider." Turns out the mall's former owner opted out of the Regional Transportation District, in part to avoid its sales-tax levy, in part because it just didn't think its customers were bus-riding people. The resulting outcry caused Park Meadows' current owner, General Growth Properties, and RTD to run a shuttle to the nearest station, but even as light rail ridership has broken all kinds of records, a promised skybridge has yet to materialize two years later.

Gas was $2.25 a gallon when Park Meadows snubbed light rail riders. Hit the comment button and weigh in: What are the best ways for retailers to encourage people to shop without burning fossil fuel?

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