Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue and Gold fans can spare transit change

First exhibition game goes off without hitch

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Bombers fans Tom and Randi Donahue board an express bus to Investors Group Field Monday night at Osborne station.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Bombers fans Tom and Randi Donahue board an express bus to Investors Group Field Monday night at Osborne station. Photo Store

The transit buses were half full. There was no crush of blue and gold at major stops. And the Saturday farmers market in St. Norbert typically causes worse traffic jams on Pembina Highway.

Despite a new transit fare that many feared would dissuade riders and boost traffic and parking woes, getting to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' first exhibition game Monday night was a breeze.

"I went to both exhibition games last year and it was busy. It was packed," said Francois Allard-Cramer, a season-ticket holder who was heading to Investors Group Field with his dad, Greg.

The duo caught the bus to the University of Manitoba from the Osborne rapid transit station, where, even 45 minutes before kickoff, most stadium-bound buses were half empty.

'Come on, it's two-and-a-half bucks' -- Bombers season-ticket holder Tom Donahue on bus fare to the game

Half-an-hour before game time, when Pembina is typically gridlocked, vehicles sailed through.

Bombers fans said exhibition games typically draw a smaller crowd and it doesn't help when Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for the same night. The new carpool lot may also have helped keep traffic manageable.

After an eleventh-hour showdown with the city, the Winnipeg Football Club was forced last week to begin charging ticket holders the full $2.55 fare for transit rides to the stadium.

Most people riding the bus said the fare was a side issue compared with how the Bombers intend to haul themselves out of their slump.

"Come on, it's two-and-a-half bucks," shrugged season-ticket holder Tom Donahue as he waited for the 161 super express.

Even if fans were mad about the new fare, driving is still not attractive, added wife Randi.

"There aren't a lot of parking options like at the old stadium," she said.

The couple said they weren't expecting much traffic mayhem since the transit and park-and-ride process worked great last season after the initial hiccups.

They were more anxious to see the new team.

"It's not the old team," said Donahue. "Which I would not want to see again."

Motorists driving to the stadium will have to contend with lane closures just south of University Crescent. There, summer road work could slow drivers trying to get in and out of the stadium for much of the summer, though it caused few delays Monday.

Tim Verry, who may hit his 500th home game this season, said he'll use his monthly bus pass to hop a bus to the game. Even if he had to pay the $2.55 fare, he would. And he said the new transit fare has sparked so much grouchiness among fans, partly because the team is in the doldrums.

"It's kind of on top of some of the negativity," said Verry. "If the club starts doing well, a lot of this will dissipate."

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Did the new bus plan work? Did you get to the game on time? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2014 0

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