Like many of you, I have read and heard much over the past two weeks about the experience of getting to and from the new Investor's Group Stadium -- home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and sundry other sports and entertainment events. I get to experience, first hand, the game-day experience on Thursday, when I take my family to see the regular season home opener.
We haven't yet decided how to go to the stadium. Might hitch a ride with friends. (Carpooling is the intelligent person's solution to traffic problems after all.) My wife, a regular Winnipeg Transit passenger, has suggested we try out the Bomber express buses from a park and ride site. Just for the experience, I thought that might be the ticket.
Went to Winnipeg Transit's website and found out that the page with all information on how to get to and from the stadium on game day is down. No information at all. Nothing as well on the Bomber website. It's all being updated, and team officials have promised that it will be available sometime Tuesday afternoon.
As I write this, it's now officially Tuesday afternoon. In fact, it's just after 12 noon. Nothing yet. I'm going to watch carefully to see what happens in the next few hours.
It's a bit difficult for me to understand why the updated information is not already posted. I do understand that the Bombers and Winnipeg Transit want to get it right. We all want them to get it right. But there appears to be a lack of urgency at work here. And in case you didn’t know, doing something urgently is one surefire way to show people that you really care.
To be fair, how are we to judge both the planning to date and the response this week? Much has been said about the hassle of getting in and out of the stadium site for the Bombers' pre-season game. However, if we’re really trying to be fair, we need to admit the gridlock that accompanied that game was as much a result of unrealistic expectations as it was poor transit and traffic planning.
By all accounts, the biggest traffic problems ensued after 6 p.m. at the bottlenecks of University Crescent and Bison Drive, the only two routes into the U of M campus. I think it’s fairly easy to assume that a good number of football fans approached the trip to the new stadium much like they did when attending the old stadium. Which is to say, thousands underestimated the challenge of getting to a stadium with only two access points.
The Free Press reported that it took more than an hour to go by bus from downtown (U of W to be precise) to the stadium on pre-season game day. That is a pretty long time. However, those of us who are regularly forced to travel Pembina Highway during the afternoon rush hour would could tell you that it could take 30-45 minutes on any day to go from downtown to the University because of the Pembina gauntlet between Jubilee and Bishop Grandin. It has taken me 20 minutes just to get from Jubilee to McGillivray on some particularly bad days.
If the first step to fixing a problem is to admit you have one, then join me in admitting that we as a community completely underestimated the challenge of getting to the new stadium. If you were caught in a traffic jam at 6:30 p.m., you did not leave enough time to get to the stadium.
True story. Good friend of mine who has season tickets took his nine-year-old daughter to the pre-season game. He lives in Fort Rouge, so drove down Osborne/Dunkirk, cut across St. Vital Road to River Road and whipped down to Bishop Grandin. Then it was a hop over to Pembina, skip to University Crescent and jump to one of the pass-controlled lots on the U of M campus. By his account, he left at 5:30 PM and was out of his car touring the new stadium at 5:45.
It literally did not take him any longer than it normally does to get from his house to U of M. Lucky? Perhaps. But my friend gave himself 30 minutes more than he would have normally if attending a game at the old Polo Park site. That’s a lesson for all of us.
If the Bombers and Winnipeg Transit can be faulted for anything, it is assuming that you can go small at first, and then ratchet up the response after you actually experience a game-day crowd. I think the better approach would have been to call in the extra traffic cops, use the dedicated bus lanes, call in more park-and-ride buses and otherwise overcompensate, and then scale it down. But that’s just me.
Remember, I’m the guy who thinks that there should be updated game-day Transit information posted on the site now.