If we built the Auditorium today, it would be expected to have enough parking for maximum capacity. The expectations should not be any different when it is expanding by nearly 1,000 seats especially when the residential neighbourhoods around it are pretty much maxed out for street parking.
On Thursday night, the Kitchener Rangers took a major step in the right direction when they revealed their answers to the question, “Where will they park?” While some of the details are still a bit fuzzy and there is still much work to be done to take additional steps by both the team and the city, I was pleased to see a real effort made to try to minimize an increase in on street parking. The Rangers demonstrated that they care about being good neighbours as much as they value caring about the community as a whole.
More than 100 people showed up to hear the presentation, ask questions and share their concerns. The vast majority were from the residential neighbourhoods surrounding the Aud. That turnout shows the strength of the interest in how the impact of expansion on parking would be handled especially when you consider there were likely two or three people who shared the concerns who could not make it or chose not to come. I was pleased that I helped to get them some answers and an opportunity to give feedback to enhance the plans that were shared.
The Rangers Plan for Parking
Here is what the Rangers are planning to do to minimize the need for additional street parking;
1. Adding on site parking
The Rangers propose to increase on site parking by adding 109 spaces. They will pay the $480,000 cost.
2. Free shuttle service
The Rangers have identified seven sites around Kitchener-Waterloo where fans could park and take a shuttle in. The sites were selected to be close to where fans live. I expect that many if not all the sites will be where there is an opportunity for some pre-game or post-game hospitality. This plan is modeled after the St. Louis Bar and Grill on Northfield in Waterloo that already offers a shuttle service.
An eighth location will be in downtown Kitchener though the details have not yet been firmed up. I suggest that the parking should be near King and Water/Francis where there are several bars and restaurants suitable for the sports crowd already with the Honest Lawyer on its way. Manulife’s nearby surface lot (Charles/Francis/Joseph/Water) or parking garage would be perfect.
If each location provided parking for an average of 30 fans this plan would provide parking for 240 fans and reduce the need for parking at the Aud by about 100 spaces.
A suggestion by a fan was to get the shuttles started as soon as possible. I agree!
3. Car pool lot
Preferred parking will be reserved in a lot by Ottawa Street for vehicles carrying 3 or more fans. The Rangers want the average capacity of each vehicle to be 3.5 which is higher than the current 2.3 for all vehicles. If they can do so, it reduces the need for parking by 92 spaces.
4. Preferred pay lot
The side lot along McKenzie will be turned into a pay parking lot. A perk will be an entrance right off the lot. Funds from this lot will pay for the expansion of the surface parking in #1. I suggest having more perks like getting entered into a draw of some kind such as for the best seats in the house. If successful, I could see pay parking expanded.
5. Staff transportation service
Staff need parking too. Many come and leave at about the same time. The Rangers are investigating whether for example an off site parking lot could be used and shuttle or car pool staff to their jobs.
This is one of the few pieces that directly involved the city. There is a recognition that enforcement needs to be improved. It must be consistent so that the cause and effect are clearly understood. An improved effort is to be made to ensure bylaw officers know when games are scheduled and check for infractions. Residents were also promised that they would have improved access to lodge a complaint and get immediate action. They were told they shouldn’t have to wait until Monday to reach somebody.
7. Grand River Transit
Fans do not take Grand River Transit because due to scheduling changes the frequency of service does not meet their needs. The Rangers are trying to get the frequency improved on game nights.
Education was identified as a key to avoiding changing behaviours and avoiding infractions. A variety of measures by the city and the team are planned to help address known issues and to help people coming from out of town know where to park. One resident suggest an announcement at the beginning of the game highlighting how to avoid common concerns such as parking too closed to driveways or street corners.
The first four parts of this plan is expected to reduce an increase in on street parking by about 310 spaces. If successful only 60 – 75 more spaces would be needed on nearby streets. If the car pool plan is successful, I think it could be expanded and reduce even this need.
I’d like to see all of these plans implemented during the current season to begin to change the behaviour of fans before the expanded Aud opens in the fall.
What do you think of these ideas?
Look for another post shortly that looks at the concerns expressed at the meeting and the ideas shared. I will also share my ideas on how they city, Region of Waterloo and the Rangers can take another major step in the right direction.