Ride Grand River Transit for free

Grand River Transit - iXpress bus

Some very exciting news about getting the auditorium has been announced. Everyone going to Rangers games at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium can ride Grand River Transit for free to go back and forth from the games! I’ve been pushing this as a significant contribution to the over demand and under supply of parking at the expanded Auditorium for  a year so I’m extremely pleased.

GRT Route 8 takes you right to the Aud but I’m not sure how often it runs prior to game time so you might be better to rely on the iXpress which stops on Charles St. at Ottawa. It’s about a 750 metre walk but not much different than what many people driving experience. Just go straight down Ottawa, cross at Weber and take East Ave or MacKenzie to the entrance. Or you can take Charles to Borden and then go straight up Borden.

Taking the iXpress comes with some benefits as you can stop for a drink or a bite to eat at the Corner Pub or the new Lino’s Bar & Grill in Eastwood Square. You can also grab a great meal at King Fish & Chips (at King E. & Borden) or stop at one of two Tim Hortons, a Subway and a Dairy Queen. If more people take the iXpress (and later the LRT), I expect you’ll start to find more options for interesting ways to make an evening of your trip to a hockey game with before or after game activities in the area. Perhaps it could even help make King & Ottawa the new King & Victoria.

I understand that one bus is waiting to pick up people after the game. I presume it is a normal route 8 bus but headed to the terminal. I hope that more buses are added for this purpose if one bus can not meet the demand.

Room for improvement

While the free bus ride is a major move in the right direction, it is more complicated than what I had envisioned. I expected fans would just need to show their ticket to get on the bus. Here’s what they need to do:

  • Get special GRT bus tickets
  • They can be picked up only at the Auditorium
  • A Rangers ticket must be presented for each game that you want transportation
  • But you can get tickets for as many games/people as needed IF you have their tickets up until January 1.
  • I’m afraid that this process involves too many steps and while some will take advantage of it, I’m sure many more would use the free ride if it was much easier. Such as:
    • Having multiple locations to pick up the special tickets to ride free to Rangers games
    • Having special arrangements for season ticket holders to get the full season all at once (perhaps done online)
    • Give the tickets automatically to everyone who buys single game tickets (online or in person)

Shuttle still needed

I also think that people would find GRT more convenient if there was a dedicated shuttle service between the downtown bus terminal that made a stop at the iXpress station at Charles/Ottawa. I understand this isn’t currently planned because their is a Rangers Express from Kitchener City Hall that is available. But I think that is just far enough away to act as a disincentive to someone considering taking the bus from home and it doesn’t help change behaviours to prepare people to use the LRT to get to the Auditorium.

Where is info online?

The Rangers announcement and flyer to subscribers refers people to the GRT website for additional information. If any information exists about how GRT makes it easier to get to Rangers games, I have not been able to find it today or over the last month.

I’d also appreciate seeing parking information on the Auditorium’s website and collected in one place and visible from the front page on the Rangers site.

More good news

  • The Rangers Express has proven to be popular. So popular that extra buses have been added at the Montana’s locations in both Kitchener and Waterloo and Moose Winooski’s.

I still see downtown Kitchener as having huge potential if the Kitchener Downtown Business Improvement Area effectively promotes it and its members seize the opportunity. In the Wonderful Waterloo forum, participants suggested the Rangers Express have locations in uptown Waterloo and New Hamburg.

  • The car pool lot has been a great success since opening night.
  • I believe the new paid parking lot is well used.

The ANA and I have suggested last winter/spring that the car pool minimum occupancy be 4 people per vehicle. We also suggested a larger car pool lot. I’d suggest that at least one is needed for this initiative to make an impact on reducing the need for parking. Right now it just gives better parking to people who probably already had 3 or more people in their vehicle. We had also suggested using a larger lot when the 100 more on site parking spaces weren’t possible for this season. I now think that a larger car pool lot is a must.

People are making a donation to pay to park at St. Anne’s Church. I’m not sure how much is suggested but it shows that people are willing to pay for parking. That tells me that there could be game day paid parking at the Auditorium too.

Unfortunately, I understand that there are currently no recommendations to enhance the car pool initiative nor to consider additional paid parking.

  • If you live in the area and want to report illegal parking (519-741-2330) such as on the grass and ball diamond behind Shepard School / Knollwood Park, you can now report multiple vehicles without being required to have every license plate!

Frederick Street Mall

I think that Frederick Street Mall has great potential as a parking space for people who need to drive. Brunswick Bowl could definitely figure out some kind of promotion to attract people before and/or after the game and allow them to park in its lot during the game. Maybe the Frederick movie theatre or mall merchants could come up with something too. People are already parking on Chapel near the mall and on Melrose and Chapel steps away from the mall.

Will this be enough?

I hope so but I’m pessimistic that these positive moves are not enough to compensate for the extra demand created by the addition. Revising the GRT program so that it is set up for success can over the long term make that difference. On the other hand, I don’t think we have the luxury of allowing change to occur slowly. In January at least 66 cars now parked on Borden and Melrose will need to find new spots due to winter parking restrictions–a number that I expect to increase once residents on streets like Randerson, Glendale, Pandora and Melrose between Krug and Chapel call for winter parking restrictions so that fire trucks can reach their homes on streets narrowed by snow storms.

4 thoughts on “How to get to the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium & where to park

  1. The structure of having to pick up tickets at the Aud smacks of a program designed by car drivers for car drivers.

    If, instead, you are someone who tries to drive as little as possible (or not at all!) then you may as well not bother to take advantage of this program because (a) if you could take advantage of a free game night bus to the Aud, you need to pay for a bus ride to the Aud to get the tickets and (b) one of the side effects of reducing car dependence is elimination of non-critical trips.

    But, perhaps that’s acceptable given that the problem the Aud is trying to solve is reducing parking demand for its limited supply. But it doesn’t have to stop there: this program could also serve to entice people like me to more games, if it didn’t throw these obstacles in the way.

    1. Excellent comments Chris! Your first observation is one that had crossed my mind too. I’d like to add to your last comment by saying that if our goal is to change people’s behaviours and make the LRT and option for an event like a Rangers game which is within walking distance that we need to start now.

  2. First, thanks to the ANA on hosting Rangers games each season. I live in a similar neighborhood, and it would be quite an adjustment to be slammed with parked cars and gridlock three times a week all winter.

    As a season ticket holder that drove to every game in the 2011-2012 season, I have welcomed the new initiatives to alleviate parking problems. So far this year, we haven’t driven to a single game.

    We have utilized a few different alternatives (GRT iexpress / Route 7 and Rangers Express). I would say we are quite pleased with how things have worked out.

    To ride the bus, you need to pick up passes at the Aud box-office. Sure this is problematic the first time you go, but the Rangers provided us with 35 bus passes which will get two ticket holders to and from games into December, when we will get 35 more from them. For single game ticket holders, the tickets need to be picked up, so there is an opportunity to acquire bus passes at that point. Would I like to see a point where flashing your game ticket gets you on the bus for free at some point? Of course, it just makes sense.

    For the Rangers Express, we counted at least 10 buses waiting outside of the Aud at the end of last nights game. That means 500 people that traveled to the game by bus and not car. Many of the buses were completely full.

    The bus we travel on (Downtown BIA sponsored) has never been full. From our perspective, this may be attributed to a few reasons.
    (1) There just aren’t that many fans that live downtown (the Rangers keep stats on ticket holders by Postal Code. I’d be interested to see a map of the distribution).
    (2) The bus leaves pretty early for the 5 minute drive to the Aud (for us to take the Rangers Express, we would have to leave our house 1.25 hrs before the game). Its a rush just to get to the bus and when we arrive, we wander for 30-40 mins at the Aud.
    (3) There are consistently more people on the bus on the way back from the game than there are on the way to the game. This indicates that folks are finding their way to the game in a different way (My opinion: Refer to #2. The bus leaves the game immediately – if people had to wait 30-40 mins for the bus, like they do for the game to start, they’d be less interested).
    (4) Aside from the flyer I saw at McCabe’s, there isn’t much interaction with the DT restaurants. No special menus as advertised. And that’s on Fridays. On Sundays, there is almost nothing open DT. There are lots of opp’ty for DT businesses to embrace the Express buses…Hint: there were a bunch of guys on the return bus last Friday that were headed to the DT nightclubs.

    I agree that there is potential with the bus terminal there, but that sort of negates the DT BIA involvement if people are heading in/out on feeder buses directly.

    I’m not sure that the Rangers are in any position to be the catalyst to changing the behaviours of car drivers. The team operates within the constraints provided by various authorities (for example, as the CEO has stated, the addition to the arena did not trigger the requirement for a larger parking lot according to City design standards). What the Rangers HAVE done is go above and beyond their minimum requirements in order to be good neighbours. They are doing what they can (not what they are compelled to do by any standard – other than being good members of a community), likely at some considerable expense, to help alleviate the congestion. At the end of the day, the fact that people are parking legally and illegally all over the ANA neighbourhood is a function of a number of things, many of which the Rangers cannot be held accountable for, including but not limited to societies dependance on cars, lack of enforcement of current rules, poor city planning, irreverence, etc.

    See you at the game!

  3. Thanks for your feedback Pat! It’s great to hear that you’ve been able to get to every Rangers game without taking your car all the way to the Auditorium. Sounds like the ticket system for the free ride works pretty well for season ticket holders. I just wish it worked better for single game folks including those that get tickets from subscribers who don’t take the bus.

    By the sounds of it, there is much more that can be done to make the Rangers Express from downtown Kitchener more successful. Since the trip from downtown is so short, a later departure time could be tried to see if it helps encourage more people to use that location. Maybe 30 minutes before game time would be enough?

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