Gridlock was a non-issue for residents as fans took transit, bicycles to first CFL game
By Laura Mueller, Ottawa Community News
While opening weekend may be too early to claim the Lansdowne Park revitalization is a success, receiving kudos from a Friends of Lansdowne member isn't a bad way to start.
By all accounts, the experience in the Glebe on opening night for the RedBlacks on July 18 was a positive one. Accolades even poured in from Ian Lee, a prominent member and spokesman for the Friends group that bitterly opposed the business plan and contractual aspects of the redevelopment.
"I am not trying to give (the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group) gratuitous kudos ... but I've got to give them credit because they must have run it very smoothly," he said. "I'll be frank, I was pleasantly surprised."
After almost four years of construction, more than 24,000 fans flooded Landowne and TD Place stadium for the sold out RedBlacks Canadian Football League home opener on July 18. Another 14,593 fans fl ocked to the stadium two days later for an Ottawa Fury soccer game that set an attendance record for North American Soccer League.
Lee said he stayed home, about two blocks away from Lansdowne, and didn't check out the stadium, but he said the process of getting fans to and from the football game ran smoothly, from what he could see. There was no traffic congestion, Lee said, and his friends and neighbours agreed. "There was no gridlock, panic, crisis of any kind," Lee said. "It doesn't mean that it can't be fine tuned."
Hassan Madhoun agreed. The transportation demand manager for Lansdowne was breathing a sigh of relief that his message telling people to take their bicycle, the bus or a shuttle to the game got through to fans.
Firsthand reports from Glebe residents and businesses confi rm there were very few motorists circulating around neighbourhood side streets searching for parking. The city handed out 51 parking tickets in the Glebe on RedBlacks' game night and towed nine vehicles. Most of the complaints that came in related to people parking beyond the time limit for the zone or parking in an area marked for no stopping or parking, including private property. The city received just eight complaints to 311 bylaw services, plus one complaint related to selling parking in a private driveway, which is a zoning bylaw violation. Only four tickets were handed out during Sunday's Fury game.
"People got the message and they decided not to park in the Glebe," Madhoun said. "I personally was encouraged to see that a lot of folks decided to take transit. That was a very positive surprise for me." The overall number of people who took a bus or shuttle to the game hit OSEG's target, Madhoun said. But he was surprised that most fans - 7,600 of them - took OC Transpo to Friday's home opener instead of a larger proportion of people taking park-and-ride shuttles, as he predicted.
OC Transpo fares are included with RedBlacks tickets. Madhoun estimates around 700 people biked to Lansdowne. While only 400 bikes were counted in the secure parking offered on site, OSEG staff did a rough count of the number of bikes locked around Lansdowne and concluded that another 300 or so chose to cycle, but not use the secure lock-up.
There is always room for improvement, Madhoun said. There were a few hiccups with motorists trying to enter the park through the Queen Elizabeth Driveway entrance, which is used as a shuttle loop. All of the extra people who came to the Glebe by various modes created a lively, vibrant environment along Bank Street on opening day, said Andrew Peck, the executive director of the Glebe Business Improvement Area.
"The feeling of the merchants was it was full of life," he said. He's still collecting feedback on whether that translated to an uptick in sales.
Obviously, restaurants did brisk business, Peck said, but having a new demographic of potential customers introduced to Glebe retailers is a good thing, even if they didn't spend money on opening night. "A business cannot thrive without traffi c," he said. "Having people come here who wouldn't have come here otherwise is an opportunity."