What is Bob Monette thinking?

The other day, we were treated to an update on Lansdowne transportation. We were told that the transit plans for RedBlacks games were a resounding success. Yes, there were fewer people biking than was anticipated (though some people would park off-site and walk a block or two to the game) and the shuttles weren’t as popular as intended, but lots and lots of people used OC Transpo, so it’s kind of a wash.

So, we learned, special event transportation worked as well as could have been hoped (and, from what I observed, this is generally true…though with relaxed parking restrictions late in the RedBlacks season, a lot more people started driving…and drinking and driving).

What we didn’t get (at least not from the city or OSEG) was an update on the day-to-day traffic issues, and there are a few. There’s no doubt that Lansdowne has caused traffic problems in the Glebe, and I can only assume Old Ottawa South, too (in the past few years, traffic in Old Ottawa South always seemed worse than the Glebe, at least in my journeys).

Orleans councillor Bob Monette had an… interesting… idea:

During a transportation committee meeting Monday, Orléans Coun. Bob Monette suggested transit use to Lansdowne in the winter might not be as high simply because people don’t like walking. Allowing parking in the stadium could reduce the traffic congestion on Bank St., Monette said.

This is, obviously, ridiculous (and not just because the idea of turning your professional sports field into a parking lot is ludicrous).

First of all, creating an inducement to driving (more parking) will just result in more traffic, not less. I imagine Monette might be thinking that it will keep traffic flowing as people don’t stop to park on the street. But this assumes a finite number of people driving to Lansdowne. There’s no reason to think that’s the case (or that we’re at that limit). We’re Ottawa; we’ll always find more cars if we need to.

Under this proposal, we’ll have people driving to TD Place to park, driving around to park on neighbourhood streets, and, soon, driving to the parking garage mobility hub they’re building down the street.

Further, Monette’s argument has an internal contradiction. He is suggesting that people don’t take the bus in the winter because they don’t want to walk a few blocks. If that’s actually the case, then they wouldn’t be parking throughout the neighbourhood in order to walk a few blocks to Lansdowne. But this is exactly what is happening.

Monette’s solution to the traffic problem is predicated on the notion that the exact cause of the traffic problem doesn’t exist.

This is why we’re in our current traffic mess. All of our solutions–more roads! more lanes! more parking!–exacerbate the problem.

A Successful Test

Last week, OSEG had a test-run for RedBlacks fans and TD Place employees. They intent was to welcome the fans, tour the facilities and figure out just how the whole thing was going to work. It was, by all reports, a success. It is clear (and there was never much question) that Jeff Hunt and his cohorts know how to run a sports franchise. It was the development side of things, including transportation, that was a little more worrisome.

Thankfully, the transportation aspect seemed to go smoothly. I wound up on Bank Street at about 5:30 pm. It was noticeably busier–more drivers, more cars parked, more pedestrians–but everything was moving smoothly. Even on my bike, I was able to quickly merge with Bank Street traffic, change lanes and turn onto my street (which has no traffic light).

One interesting development is the effective reduction of Bank Street to one lane. On-street parking is prohibited from 3:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon, and it doesn’t usually fill up right at 5:30, but last week was different. With all the parking (which, note, won’t be available for Friday’s home opener), cars had to occupy the centre lane, exclusively. This meant that straight-through traffic had to co-exist with left-turners and those lost or hunting for a parking spot.

My takeaway from this is that it would not be much of a problem to reduce Bank Street to one lane, expand the sidewalks and add bike lanes.

This would also address the one real issue with the open house, pedestrian traffic. Bank Street sidewalks are too narrow for the current burden of foot traffic. RedBlacks fans will just make it all the more crowded. Complicating matters is that a lot of fans appear to have little idea as to how to walk down and share a busy urban sidewalk. I’ve often noticed that those who don’t walk very much demonstrate little awareness of the pedestrians around them, and this was reinforced last week. But if that’s the worst of the traffic problems, I’ll take it (and, perhaps, it will be a learning experience for a lot of our residents).

There is, of course, a big caveat to all of this. There were only about 10,000 fans in attendance (according to reports, which are likely to overstate things) and we are expecting 27,000 at Friday’s game. In addition, fans did not all arrive for the 6:00 pm opening; they trickled in for hours. This probably won’t be the case Friday. It could complicate things.

Lansdowne Test-Run

So tonight, OSEG is hosting RedBlacks season ticket holders at Lansdowne/TD Place Stadium. They’ll be running shuttle buses along Queen Elizabeth Drive and there will be increased bus service along Bank Street. It’s an attempt to simulate the game day experience, and they hope it will serve as a training run for fans and employees, alike.

It will be interesting to see what happens. There will be no special parking restrictions, so this won’t simulate next week’s home opener. It’s also difficult to guess how many ticket holders will actually show up this evening. They’re expecting 27,000 for next week’s game. Will they get anything close to that? If they don’t (and with the additional parking), their may be a false impression given as to the ability to drive to the game.

Anyway, OSEG should still be commended for this effort. For all the faults of OSEG (retail mix, lack of setbacks), it is clear that they know how to run a sports team. It would be rather devastating to Lansdowne should football fail within a few years, again.

Here’s hoping this test-run will help smooth out any transportation problems.