Friday, 14 June 2013

We're gonna need a bigger bus.

Thank God for preseason games, is all I can say after Wednesday night. There are a lot of bugs to work out in the Bombers' new system.

I'm talking about the transportation scheme (although the Bombers' on-field game, um ...,  has a few holes as well).  I'm sure it looked great on paper, but holy smokes ...

There were two main busing options from my neighbourhood: the special Bomber Blue & Gold Express, and a regularly scheduled University bus. There were two Express buses scheduled, but I wanted to get to the stadium early so I could wander around and check things out, so I left the house almost an hour and a half before the game to catch a regular bus.

Ya, good thinking there cherenkov ... the bus I wanted to catch was 25 minutes late, and when it came it was packed full and I couldn't get on. I would have been no better off waiting for the Express ... there was a line-up of 60 people when I walked by there, and this was stop number 2 on the route. Only about half were able to get on the first Express bus. The bus driver then proceeded on it's route to pick-up point number 3 knowing full well that he wouldn't be able to pick anybody up.

Anyhow, I finally got to the stadium, but a good 10 minutes late for kickoff. I would have missed more of the game had I not gotten off the bus at Pembina Hwy and walked the rest of the way. You see, this is a two-pronged problem: a lack of buses and massive traffic bottle necks. From my perch up in the nose bleed section of the the new ball park, I could see buses lined up on University Crescent right up to the end of the first quarter, when this photo was taken:

Bus Math

I can't help but think a little math would have gone a long way in ensuring sufficient bus service to the stadium. The stadium holds about 30,000 people. There are 5,500 parking spots at the stadium. (I heard there were problems with the parking too, but I won't get into that.) If we assume two people per car, that's 11,000 people parking, leaving 19,000 other people who have to get to the ball park some way.

The Bombers asked people to take the bus, and people took the bus. Winnipeg Transit said they accounted for 5000 people taking the bus but that 8500 people actually did take transit (or attempted to?).

I don't know why they only accounted for 5000 people when 19,000 people needed to get to the stadium and no on-street parking is available in the area. But even if only 5000 people were to take the bus, I don't think they had that covered. Most Winnipeg Transit buses seat 38 people, so let's say 60 people cram on a bus in total. The transit plan had 45 total Express buses for game day service -- the Blue & Gold Express and the Park & Ride Super Express. 45 x 60 = 2700 people. This barely covers half of the passengers that they anticipated.

They also had extra service on the 161 route from downtown, the last of which was optimistically scheduled to leave the U of W at 6:20 and get to the stadium 10 minutes before kick-off. There was no other extra service from any other areas of the city, leaving people to rely on the minimal Express service or the overloaded regular University buses.

Anyhow, they will no doubt add more buses for the home opener later this month, which may solve problem #1: not enough buses, but it doesn't solve problem #2: massive gridlock. In fact, it may make it worse.

I can't help but point out at this stage that had our waffling leaders put rapid transit in place before the stadium was built this might not have been such a big problem.

So what's a person to do? I thought I might bike next time, but even the volunteer-driven bike valet was overwhelmed.

It is a conundrum...

I have thoughts on the new Investors Group Stadium too, but those will have to wait for another day. I'll just say this: it is very nice in some ways, but there are still some big shortfalls including congestion problems within the concourse. But hey, the Rum Hut made it over to the new place!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Gordon Bell's Field of Reality

Monday June 10 at 10:30am, there were be an official unveiling of the new "Field of Dreams" for Gordon Bell High School.

I wrote a few blog posts about this particular project back when it was starting, and I have to admit that I was not entirely supportive. Much of that has to do with the way in which the project came about. This piece of real estate on the edge of downtown was vacated by a car dealership in February of 2007. Canada Post bought the land over half a year later, in November of 2007, and had already designed a facility to fit the unique area when the movement to turn the area into green space began in September of 2008 with this Free Press editorial by Nancy Chippendale.

In the wake of the Upper Fort Garry debacle, where a highrise apartment development was toppled very late in the game by the 'Friends of Upper Fort Garry' to make room for an expensive and unnecessary interpretive centre, I was not sympathetic to additional efforts to replace in-progress development with supposed green space.

However, I have slowly come around and I'm willing to acknowledge that this Field of Dreams concept is mostly a good thing. After all, there are several important differences between this project and the Upper Fort Garry SNAFU.

  1. The land was vacant for a much shorter period of time. There was a year and a half between the closure of the dealership and the start of the movement to build a recreation field on the site. It takes a bit of time for people to recognize an opportunity and get organized, so this is not unreasonable. By contrast, the area on which the UFG interpretive centre is supposed to be built was a little-used parking lot for as long as I can remember. It was only when a developer saw the value of the land and decided to make use of it that the "Friends" jumped in to "save" it.
  2. The Field of Dreams movement was a grass roots movement, driven by the community to fulfill an actual need in the community. By contrast, the UFG project is the work of an elite, wealthy cabal to build something that is not needed by anyone.
  3. The Field of Dreams is achievable and affordable. It wasn't cheap -- the bill will reach close to $7 million or perhaps more, including land purchase -- but with fundraising by students, an actual desire for the project and will to make it happen, things eventually fell into place. By contrast, the Upper Fort Garry project is unaffordable, and will probably never be completed as planned. A park on the foot print of the old fort will indeed be built, but it would have been built in any event, in some form or another, with or without the Friends of Upper Fort Garry. However the elaborate plans that the Friends have cooked up for the park still require an extra $3 million to finish, and then they have to raise another $5 million or so for the interpretive centre which is the specific part of the project that the residential development was killed for. That money will be very hard to come by, when there are so many other causes that provide community benefit or greater exposure for donors. That is why the site is still a parking lot, and it will remain a parking lot for the foreseeable future.
So I guess I was wrong to look at the Field of Dreams project in the same light as Upper Fort Garry, and it's nice to see it actually come about.


The design of the actual site is quite nice, and fairly true to the original diagram by Scatliff Miller Murray (h/t MrC):
The field is not unidirectional as shown above, but a compact soccer-type field with two goal lines. Otherwise it comes pretty much as advertised.

It should be noted that although a standard high school soccer field could fit in this space, as I showed in that previous post, they chose not to do that. Instead they opted for a north-south orientation in the middle of the space, which is an elegant design with the circular track around it, but it necessitates a smaller field.

About that track ... it is quite narrow, so there will be no racing around it. It also merges with the sidewalk at one point which is certainly less than ideal.

This is a park where, to some degree, function was sacrificed for form.

However this is mostly nit-picking. Compared to what the students of Gordon Bell had before (i.e. nothing), this is a fabulous facility. I hope they get good use out of it, and I hope that my car insurance premiums don't go up too much because of soccer balls flying onto Portage Avenue and causing accidents.

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