In my last post, I looked at the Kitchener Rangers plan for parking at the expanded Auditorium. I described it as a major step in the right direction. In this post, I’ll share concerns and ideas from last week’s meeting and my own recommendations for taking another major step in the right direction.
Feedback is being sought on how to address parking and transportation until February 28 so that a report can go to city council on March 5. Share your ideas directly but please share them here too.
How many parking spots are needed?
According to the consultant who did the parking study, the expansion will create a need for 385 parking spots. I would have preferred if the study included data from multiple games. I believe the result would have been more reliable. Having said that though, I suspect that the answer would be +/- 50.
Many attending the meeting didn’t believe the 385 number. They suspected it to be closer to 500. One gentleman stated that if enforcement is improved as promised (see below), than there will definitely be more on street parking on new streets. The Rangers plan should address about half of that. This post proposes how to address the other half.
How many parking spots are available?
The original version of the study said that there was room for 866 cars to park on streets in the study area. The report was updated to account for the errors that I identified and now states that there are 648 spaces available. But if my original analysis was correct, there are areas within the study area where no one going to the Auditorium will park and areas outside of the study area where people will park. So I see a maximum of 448 spaces on the streets for 250 cars.
At the meeting a Randerson Avenue resident indicated that he would like his street to become one-sided parking to make sure emergency vehicles had access to this dead end street. That one change alone could remove 50 nearby parking spaces and leave 398 spaces for 250 cars. Additional parking restrictions on other streets with two-sided parking eliminate other “available” spaces.
If as suggested in my original analysis and further restrictions are made, there could be as few as 273 spaces for 250 cars. While technically enough, that’s not likely to be true just as the Auditorium itself technically has enough spaces according to zoning regulations.
Concerns expressed by the Auditorium’s neighbours
I have been told that I’m making a big fuss without sufficient cause. The neighbourhood is only used for parking about 33 – 50 nights a year (if there is a good playoff run!) and we should be able to tolerate it. Having cars parked on our streets is no great inconvenience especially if there’s only parking on one side.
I can understand those arguments. I might even agree with them. But when 65 or more people came out to the original parking meeting because of concerns and more than 100 people came to last week’s meeting, I conclude that there are concerns that need to be addressed especially when you consider that 60 – 250 more cars will be trying to find a place to park. There have been concerns expressed for decades and the last expansion created even more difficulties that needed to be addressed retroactively. I’m trying to avoid needing to do that again.
Another major step to doing so is required is because even after measures to address problems from the last expansion, neighbours still have concerns that need to be addressed such as:
- Parking near fire hydrants
- Cars too close to driveways and street corners
- Parking on the grass along Stirling N. beside the soccer field
- Parking on the grass near playground off Borden
- Inconsistent enforcement
- Bylaw officers only responding to complaints which places the onus for enforcement on residents
- Unable to have guests park near their home
- Church lots are used for parking meaning they can not use their facilities on game nights
- St. Anne’s Church told by city that parking on its paved boulevard is illegal but that is never enforced on game nights
- Seasonal weather restrictions do not apply to November and December which could present same issues as January – March
People want to park as close as possible
I believe that what these concerns have in common is that people want to park as close as possible. If enforcement is not consistent, people will take their chances and park where they know they shouldn’t. Education is also an issue because people may not realize that a spot isn’t suitable if they’ve used it before or if they see others using similar spots. These types of issues will only increase if there are 60 – 250 drivers looking for prime street parking spots with the shortest possible walk to the Auditorium. Based on past and present experience, I believe that the size of the area covered by on street parking will not get larger unless people clearly get the message from education efforts and education what is acceptable for parking in the neighbourhoods around the Auditorium.
Concerns about pedestrians
I was pleased to see a number of Ranger fans in attendance. No plan is going to be successful without getting them to buy into it. It was mostly fans who expressed concerns about the safety of pedestrians. Specific concerns and solutions were:
- lack of sidewalks on Sherbourne
- removal of traffic signals on East Avenue to walk cross to or from Borden
I suggest that another problem area is lack of a suitable pedestrian crossing on Ottawa at McKenzie especially if more people are going to be parking on the other side of Ottawa Street.
Solutions suggested at the meeting
Here are some of the solutions suggested by those who attended the meeting:
- Encourage exiting by Ottawa Street
- Announce parking tips at beginning of the game
- Arrange to use Armoury parking lot
- Have residents charge to park in their driveways
- Use Centennial Stadium area if it is removed
- Have police officers at game direct traffic before and after game
- Ride transit for free
- Have everyone pay $10 to park
What the Rangers can do
I like the direction that the Rangers have planned. I think with proper marketing of their initiatives, they can be successful adding or diverting at least 250 spots. I believe that their initiatives have the potential to have an even greater impact and urge them to expand upon the most successful strategies they have planned.
As they suggested, making a section of their website dealing with parking and easily found should be an immediate priority.
What the city should do
The city needs to do much more to ensure enforcement of current issues are addressed. Enforcement must be planned and not rely upon complaints. The improved effort must be consistent and should start in the near future.
The city should proactively ask residents living on streets with two-sided parking in the study area if they would like to restrict parking to one side–during the winter or all year round. For streets with seasonal restrictions, residents should be asked if they would like to see them extended to November and December. These changes should be implemented before the next hockey season.
The city must also be aggressive in educating drivers about their parking options through a variety of means including the Auditorium’s website.
The city should take a look at how they can add or divert spaces. Some of my ideas are:
- Make another lot for people using car pools
- Charge for parking in other lots such as the one that faces the Armoury. Perhaps the fees from parking could go to one of more local charities that fans are likely to want to support. Charities that make playing hockey affordable or help kids learn to skates would be a particularly good fit. Maybe fans paying for parking qualify to enter to win a prize.
- Determine if there are ways to maximize onsite parking with cost-effective measures or adding surface parking at a better price by doing it in combination with the Rangers.
What the GRT & the Region of Waterloo must do
While improving frequency of buses on existing routes as the Rangers desire would be a step in the right direction, transit must be a much bigger part of how people get to and from games. In fact, I believe that this situation is a litmus test of how seriously Grand River Transit is in changing people’s transportation behaviours.
Long term, the LRT system should be the preferred choice to get to and from games for at least a sizable minority of fans. That is not possible before 2017 but why wait?
Grand River Transit (GRT) must implement at least one of the following ideas–and if they are reluctant to do so Regional Council must direct them to do so. I’m looking to Kitchener’s regional councillors and chair Ken Seiling to make at least one of the following happen.
Ranger Fan Specials
- There should be Ranger Fan Specials from the iXpress stations at Ottawa and Charles and the new iXpress route on Fisher-Hallman
- A Ranger Fan Special should come directly from the downtown bus terminal
- Additional specials could be considered from major transfer points such as Fairview Park Mall, Super Centre and the Laurentian Mall
I’m not talking about regularly scheduled routes. I’m also not talking about a single shuttle. I’m talking about having as many buses available to run these specials as necessary to meet demand.
To make these specials even more attractive, the buses should drop fans off as close to an entrance as possible.
These special runs could be included for standard GRT fares.
Yes, I realize there could be a demand for a similar service for other large gatherings. If it makes sense, do it!
Need some tips? Look to other cities like Ottawa that have special runs with service to match peak demand for Senator games.
Free rides for ticket holders
Another proven strategy to promote transit from other cities is to offer free rides to ticket holders. Doing so would not create any additional costs if service was being improved to meet fans needs anyhow. In fact, it might help to promote transit for other uses.
I doubt that free rides would be given without some money coming in from somewhere. I’d suggest that the best option would be for a company to sponsor the free rides like Molson does over Oktoberfest. With the Rangers being THE sports team in Waterloo Region, there should definitely be interest in helping to make a free ride for Ranger fans happen. If getting a sponsor for a whole season of rides is reaching too far at first, perhaps the sponsorship could be by the game or for blocks of games such as a monthly sponsor. I think it’s just a matter of the right person or people making it a priority.
250+ fans need to take Grand River Transit
The best possible scenario would be a combination of the special runs and free rides. But no matter what, Grand River Transit must be a part of the mix if parking on residential streets is going to remain at the status quo or better yet reduce or eliminate it.
Whatever improvements are made, Grand River Transit must start to carry at least 250 fans to and from each game or event to effectively address the facility’s limited parking. I think the Rangers must push for a transit solution on that scale and I’m looking to city council to pass a motion requesting that the Region of Waterloo work with the city and the Rangers to make transit a key part of the answer to “Where will they park?”
And yes, any transit solutions pursued should apply to any event at the Auditorium that is expected to have parking needs greater than the available onsite parking.