Last night city council considered the motion to expand the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium by 1,000 seats. If you would like a recap, check out the coverage by 570 News and the Waterloo Region Record.

I’ll jump right to the end result, which saw the original motion amended to request that the Rangers start their shuttle plan in January 2012 (which they have already agreed to) and to have city staff, the Rangers and the community develop a parking plan and report back to council by the end of February. So a plan should be in place before construction begins in March.

I am pleased with that result. It was the best outcome possible yesterday. There is so much work to do but with the amendment, parking seems to be a higher priority than previously and there is a deadline to present concrete solutions.

I greatly appreciated seeing Councillor Berry Vrbanovic request the amendment. Councillor Paul Singh was also very enthusiastic about both parts of the amendment. The original movers of the motion, Councillors Kelly Galloway and Scott Davey agreed the amendment was friendly. I liked hearing the Mayor and all councillors expressing concern about parking solutions.

As a Twitter follower asked yesterday, why are we talking about a parking plan? What about transit. I guess the short answer is that driving to the game has been the norm in this area and so wondering where the cars would go was the way to frame the debate. But if you’ve read my previous posts carefully, you’ll see that public transit has always a key component to an overall transportation strategy to get people to and from the Auditorium–and not just for hockey games but for all large scale events held there.

I am sorry if anyone involved with the Rangers organization or the team’s supporters felt I was being critical. I strongly supported the key aspects of what was presented–the expansion and financing. But before it was too late, I jumped into action because I had grown frustrated about not seeing evidence of a plan for parking.

The voices of concerned residents in the neighbourhoods around the auditorium did not appear to have been heard. I kept expecting to see their concerns reflected. When the plan to expand was revealed there was a proposal for a shuttle but nothing else then the neighbourhood meeting featured pictures and videos of the expanded Aud but beyond the proposed shuttle there were no plans presented to residents about how additional parking and traffic would be handled. I was sure after the clear message that delivered that night combined with years of experience that we’d see a response to that feedback before it moved forward. When it didn’t and a flawed parking study indicated that there was plenty of on street parking to be accessed, I decided that I needed to make an effort to help the voice of concerned residents be heard–especially as both my neighbourhood is already used for parking and my parents street probably will be for the first time in the 45 years they’ve lived there.

I’m sure there has been activity to address parking behind the scenes in offices and meeting rooms at City Hall and the Auditorium. But people concerned only know what has been shared with them and there was little evidence they had been heard. Trust us, we’ll figure something out didn’t cut it for a project that could add 385 vehicles and expand the network of streets serving double duty as parking lots.

I am glad I took the action that I did to help make their concerns a higher priority. But I can’t carry the ball by myself and more people who have concerns need to take this opportunity to help find solutions for getting people to and from the Auditorium for all large events. I hope residents will be invited to participate in developing the transportation strategy and that a neighbourhood meeting will be held in advance of the strategy going to council and allowing enough time to have feedback considered.

Is it possible to reflect all the feedback or address all the concerns? No, it never is. But making people feel that they have been heard should nearly always be possible.

Talk Local tonight

Tonight’s Talk Local on Rogers TV 20 is about the decision on the auditorium. The project is going ahead but since parking/transportation solutions are still being worked on, it is an opportunity for you to share your experiences and concerns or offer solutions. You can reach the show by phone, e-mail and even Twitter.







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