LOWER MANHATTAN — Tens of thousands of people who reserved free, timed tickets to the 9/11 Memorial are skipping out on their scheduled visit, memorial officials said this week.
More than 30 percent of the people who have scheduled a visit on the memorial's website over the past several months have not shown up at their appointed date and time, said Jim Connors, executive vice president for operations at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
"They're free tickets [so] it's no skin off their nose not to use them," Connors said at a Community Board 1 meeting earlier this week. "Maybe people don't plan ahead."
After the memorial opened to the public on Sept. 12, one day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the attendance rate averaged 60 percent, Connors said.
The memorial responded by curtailing the number of passes that are available far in advance and gradually adding more passes that are available 30 days, seven days, one day and just a few hours before a given entry time, Connors said.
"It's made it easier for people to get passes who don't plan in advance," Connors said.
That change has boosted the memorial's attendance rate to about 70 percent, a spokeswoman said.
Even with all the no-shows, the memorial has already attracted more than 500,000 visitors in its first two months, with about 10,000 visitors on a typical day, Connors said.
The 8-acre memorial features waterfalls in the footprints of the original twin towers, surrounded by bronze panels engraved with the victims' names and a tree-dotted plaza. Once much of the construction at the World Trade Center site is complete, in several years' time, the memorial will be open to the public without the need for advance reservations.
Since the memorial opened, some residents have complained about the disruptions the additional tourists have brought to the neighborhood, but Connors and a Department of Transportation official told CB1 Monday that the impact on traffic congestion Downtown has been minimal.
Just 2.4 percent of memorial visitors are arriving on tour buses, which means only four to six buses are dropping passengers off at the memorial each day, said Josh Kraus, senior project manager at the city DOT.
"We have not seen a significant increase in tour bus activity," Kraus said.
Before the memorial opened, the DOT had feared it would draw as many as 30 to 40 additional buses to lower Manhattan each day, Kraus said.
The city decided to charge buses $20 per hour to park south of Houston Street, and the 9/11 Memorial is only giving out visitor passes to tour companies that have agreed to follow the city's rules.
Kraus said the city has noticed a few problems since the memorial opened, including buses parking in areas that are meant for quick drop-offs and pickups and buses using streets that are too narrow.
He encouraged residents who see buses parking or idling illegally to take a picture and call 311.
"We want to nurture good habits and root out bad habits," Kraus said. "We want to make sure the bus companies know we are watching."