Some time before the Taylor Swift concert on Saturday, the Winnipeg Football Club, the City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba must put together a new plan to get fans in and out of Investors Group Field.
The failure of the new stadium's event-day transportation plan last Wednesday has left officials scrambling to find a better way to allow cars onto the U of M campus, both to park and drop people off, and get buses in and out without creating Transit Tom traffic jams.
Since the June 12 transportation debacle, Winnipeggers have contacted local media, the city and the football club by the thousands to offer suggestions for short-term fixes. Those ideas include utilizing the available lanes on University Crescent and Chancellor Matheson Road in a different manner, creating temporary diamond lanes for transit buses and directing traffic more purposefully at Pembina Highway intersections.
Obviously, more radical solutions that involve new transportation infrastructure will not materialize this year. But for the sake of speculation, here are four plausible, if not entirely practical ideas for alleviating the congestion on the U of M campus on game days:
1. Create a Southwood transit spur line
Cost: Up to $18 million, according to the Dillon Consulting/Stevenson Advisors Southwest Transitway alignment study, commissioned by Winnipeg Transit.
What this would involve: A bus corridor running east from Pembina Highway along the Markham Road right-of-way, terminating at a new Winnipeg Transit "Stadium Station" north of Investors Group Field.
Feasibility: Extremely likely, to the point where it's safe to say this is inevitable. The redevelopment of the former Southwood Golf Course land provides the City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba with a unique opportunity to place a transit spur line pretty much wherever they like.
Pros: A dedicated route for transit buses would free up University Crescent and Chancellor Matheson Road for vehicle traffic. There also should not be any land-acquisition costs, as the university would likely provide Winnipeg Transit with a free easement.
Cons: Uncertainty regarding the completion of the Southwest Transitway has created some tension between the city and the U of M about the Southwood land, as some city officials fear having their transitway options curtailed or dictated by what the university does with this parcel.
Bottom line: A spur line would be at least two years away, as the U of M has yet to select a winner of the design competition for a new transit-friendly development on the Southwood lands.
2. Complete the Southwest Transitway
Cost: $350 million as a bus corridor, or $700 million to upgrade entire corridor to light rail, according to the city's Transportation Master Plan.
What this would involve: The extension of the Southwest Transitway from Jubilee Avenue to the west along the Parker lands and then south along the Manitoba Hydro right-of-way to Pembina Highway. It would continue south along CN's Letellier line, cross Bishop Grandin Boulevard and then terminate at Stadium Station along the Markham right-of-way.
Feasibility: Up in the air, thanks to a long-running infrastructure-funding dispute between Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and the Selinger government. Katz wants to build the line using federal funding dedicated for public-private partnerships. The provincial NDP wants to access the federal Building Canada Fund, which Katz would rather use for other infrastructure projects.
Pros: A completed transitway would provide all the congestion-elimination benefits of the Southwood spur line, with the added benefit of removing buses from Pembina Highway. This is also something the city has planned to build since 1974.
Cons: Even if Katz and Premier Greg Selinger reach a funding agreement tomorrow, it's unlikely the Southwest Transitway would be completed before 2019.
Bottom line: Bomber fans won't wait five years for satisfaction. An even more bitter pill to swallow: The 2008 rapid-transit agreement between Katz and former premier Gary Doer called for the Southwest Transitway to be completed by 2014. Katz has dithered on transit for a decade, while he and Selinger can share the blame for the past four years of bickering. Only now do all Winnipeggers see the folly in the shared city-provincial ineptitude.
3. Build a St. Vital-Fort Garry footbridge
Cost: Unknown, but likely in the tens of millions.
What this would involve: A bike-and-pedestrian bridge over the Red River, linking the University of Manitoba campus in Fort Garry with River Road Park, Henteleff Park or another section of St. Vital.
Feasibility: The city has explored the idea of an active-transportation corridor connecting the U of M to St. Vital, but such a project has never ranked high on a list of city infrastructure priorities.
Pros: University students and staff would use such a link year-round. On game days, Bomber fans who live east of the river could step off transit buses on St. Mary's Road and then walk to the stadium. So could motorists who park at the St. Vital Centre mall, if they're up to a 3.5-kilometre walk.
Cons: There does not appear to be any room for a large parking lot on the St. Vital side of the river, limiting this option's appeal to east Winnipeg residents who will not walk or use transit. More significantly, this option would not serve the vast majority of people trying to reach Investors Group Field.
Bottom line: The decision to build a pedestrian bridge should be considered on its own merits, with stadium access merely a bonus benefit.
4. Build a U of M boat dock
Cost: Unknown. Likely in the millions.
What this would involve: A boat dock on the west side of the Red River at the east edge of the former Southwood Golf Course lands, north of Sifton Road. The dock would have to be large enough to allow access for large riverboats as well as smaller craft such as water taxis and private motor-craft. The latter may be able to utilize a floating dock. It's a 600-metre walk from this spot to Investors Group Field.
Feasibility: A seasonal floating dock exists further north at a Pembina Highway Pony Corral location. A permanent dock allowing riverboats to drop off and pick up passengers may be less feasible; a geotechnical study of the riverbank would be required. So would a variety of permits. It's also unclear whether it would be safe to have numerous boats approaching one location on the river.
Pros: Water-taxi access to a Bomber game would appeal to a lot of Winnipeggers. Riverboats could move several hundred fans at a time. On non-event days, U of M staff and students could use a floating or permanent dock to access the university grounds via canoe and kayak. A dock would also serve as a valuable amenity for the future Southwood development.
Cons: It may take years to conduct all the testing and permits that would be required before it's even known if such a dock is feasible. And it's not clear who would pay for such an amenity. Novelty aside, it's also unclear how many fans would access Investors Group Field in this manner.
Bottom line: Any decision to build a U of M boat dock would need to be made on its own merits. Again, stadium access would merely be a bonus.