What is the appropriate number of on-site parking spots for a sports venue with a capacity of 24,000 seats? At TD Place in Ottawa, the answer is: hardly any at all.
The newly renovated stadium is located in Lansdowne Park, a forty-acre site in the heart of the Glebe neighbourhood just south of downtown Ottawa. Lansdowne is embedded in a dense, thriving community of single-family dwellings, mid-rise apartments, and businesses. Residents across the city are drawn to the neighbourhood’s food and retail.
But drawing in 24,000 people for a football game is a whole other monster. When the plans for TD Place were first proposed, local residents were worried. How could the Glebe possibly handle the influx of thousands of vehicles during games? The level of traffic would have been catastrophic for the neighbourhood’s fabric of narrow, pre-war streets, their residents and businesses.
But the developers had no plans to build on-site parking anyway--the space around the stadium would be developed into residential and commercial properties, to help cover the project’s costs. From the very start, the decision to renovate the stadium was predicated on a vision that would rely on transit, cycling, and walking, to successfully get 24,000 people in and out of the venue. This was questioned by those who pointed out that, unlike Toronto and Montreal, which had rapid transit systems, Ottawa relied on buses to move people.
The transportation plan for Lansdowne was a collaborative effort by the site’s developers, the municipal government, as well as the transit commissions of both Ottawa and nearby Gatineau, Quebec. Under the “Park and Shuttle” and “Take Transit” programs, shuttle buses would bring riders to Lansdowne from designated parking lots across Ottawa and Gatineau. The parking lots can accommodate a total of over 11,000 vehicles, and the bus ride is free for all game ticket holders. The City even prepared a special cycling map for Lansdowne, where secure bike parking is provided for special events.
In the run-up to the first game, the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not the transportation plan could live up to task. It did. After the success of the first couple of events, it seems that a better question to ask is: What can projects like TD Place do for transit and active transportation?
I asked a local resident, Karen, about her experience getting to a game at Lansdowne. Karen, who takes the bus from her home in Aylmer, Quebec to her downtown job, is no stranger to transit. She was really impressed with the efficiency of her free bus ride to Lansdowne. Karen’s husband, on the other hand, does not like being in a cramped space with other riders. He never takes the bus. That is, not until he had to get to Lansdowne.
Lansdowne’s developers crafted a particular situation where transit was by far the most sensible, if not the only viable, way of reaching the destination. Even the most bus-wary had to succumb, and give the old proletariat chariot a whirr. Others may have biked for the first time in years, or taken a healthy thirty minute walk. For Karen’s husband, the trip to Lansdowne was not the best time of his life. But the payoff was arriving at a stadium that is located in the heart of the city, next to shops, food, bars, and overlooking the beautiful Rideau Canal.
Cities that are trying to promote transit and active transportation can learn from this bold example. The decision to not have public parking at Lansdowne could have spelled catastrophe for the project. But it didn’t. It just forced people to change their habits, while setting an example for a city that thrives just as well, if not better, outside its usual car-dependence.
How is your city promoting transit and active transportation? If your city has a stadium, what is the most frequently used method of transportation?
Credits: Images by Nour Aoude. All data linked to sources.