LeBetter Flats (v) – How Quickly can you Drain the Sens Arena?

Stadium - west of preston (cropped)

IF one of the proponents in the NCC’s current game of Who Can Build the Flats constructs an Arena or similar multi-function space, could it be 100% accessed only by transit?

It would of course be quite a risk to build an arena with no public parking. There will always be parking (underground !) for building and team officials, VIPs, players, handicap spaces, security and some concession staff. Maybe less than 500 spaces.

Let’s do the math. Assume the Arena holds 24,000 people. Most of them leave the building within an hour of game end. Those going west, walk over to Pimisi Station. Those going east, walk over to Bayview Station.

When the arena is built (no earlier than 2022 or 2023, to give them time to plan and build the thing, post soil-remediation) then the Western Confederation line will be in place, offering LRT service direct to Baseline and to Bayshore. The Eastern LRT will have gone beyond Blair Road all the way out to Orleans. No doubt the opening of the LRT and Arena will coincide, since there would be little other practical way to access it.

affordable network

(Above: red and purple Confed Line runs from Bayshore to Orleans by 2023. The Trillium line extends  – single track – to Riverside South. The STO Rapibus line runs north and east. Ironically, people living local to the current Kanata arena get no train transit… )

The capacity of the OTrain Confederation Line is 10,700 persons per hour (pph) east, and the same west. So yes, it could, in theory, drain the whole arena of 21,400 people in one hour.

What of the people who live in the south? Well, the OTrain Trillium line can carry 1140 pph southbound.  If we extend the platforms at all the stations, then two trains could be hooked together, giving us 2280 pph. There may even be the odd soul departing our fair burg for another city, so the airport spur line would be useful. (The train station is already on our line).

What of the people who live to the north? After all, a major selling component of the Flats as a site for the arena is its proximity to the Gatineau market. And the NCC is all hot and keen on nation building. Running trains over the Prince of Wales railway bridge, single track as it is now, would allow us to move another 1140 – 2280 pph.

Other options, which might be cheaper, include extending the Gatineau Rapibus line from its terminus just north of the Prince of Wales Bridge, to the south (Ottawa) end of the bridge. However, the bus terminal and turnaround is a problem due to the space it takes up compared to the Trillium line. Cheapness is attractive to certain politicians, however, so it might be justified as “temporary” until the build out of the Flats reaches the western end of the Flats (ie  not before 2045).

In any case, there will have to be some bus service facilities to the site.

The OTrains in Ottawa have few park and ride facilities. Yet thousands of potential attendees will want to park at a suburban station and train it in. Billings Bridge and College Square malls wont want to be park and ride lots twice a week.

I am assuming, of course, that everyone will take transit because  trips will be included in every ticket price. And since we don’t have extensive storage tracks except at the Bellfast yard, I’m assuming all the trains will run at rush hour frequencies (3 minutes) through game day rush hour til 11pm. Once the trains become fully automated and driver overtime is eliminated, this will be very economical to do. I am less certain the city will be able or willing to put enough additional  trains on for other types of events, like conventions, home shows, smaller concerts, etc. because scheduling drivers and paying overtime is difficult/expensive. The short term penny-pinching mentality will over-rule the promoting-fast-and-convenient-transit meme.

Workers at Ottawa’s largest employment centre (downtown) and third largest (Tunney’s Pasture) may walk to the game or use the trains. Post game, they’ll continue to take transit home or just back to their parked cars in downtown garages or pay and display lots at Tunney’s. This car traffic will filter out of the downtown much like any other rush hour day.

All is not perfect. Will the trains appeal to everyone? There are obvious groups that may not like it, eg the elderly and handicapped, who don’t like crowds. Families with young children may be unthrilled too. Now, in Kanata, they load the sleepy tykes into the car and then bundle them into the house from the heated garage. With transit, it’s march the excited little ones half a kilometre to the station, wait, board train, stand for 40 minutes* until you get to your stop, then transfer to another bus and a walk, or drive the car home. I’ll bet lots of parents figure it is much better to just drive to the arena, or a parking garage on the Flats, or aim to park on nearby residential streets. Groups going to the game may also prefer to share a car right to the venue, thus wanting parking — or maybe they will just uber it. Physical capacity isn’t the only factor determining transit share — just look at Bluesfest, already on the transitway, and the choking of the surrounding area with car parkers.

  • -* I say stand, because the ratio of standees to sittees at rush hour is 60 or 70 per cent standees, if my faulty memory serves me correctly.

There is lots of figure out yet, but the idea here was to test if a minimal parking arena could work. And yes, it could.


6 thoughts on “LeBetter Flats (v) – How Quickly can you Drain the Sens Arena?

  1. The Canucks have no parking (other than the underground kind you describe above). They advertise nearby lots etc, but most people take transit, walk or ride. They also benefit from the people who come from work to a bar/restaurant – then game that you describe above.

    1. Vancouver can also roll out as many trains as required, then respond quickly as the peak goes down, by returning the driverless trains to storage. It is a marvellous testament to the advantage of driverless trains. In Ottawa, we have to schedule and put drivers on the road for a fixed number of hours at overtime rates. At Bluesfest, bus go-home drivers show up around 6.30 or 7, stand around their vehicles in the bus staging areas for three or more hours drinking coffee, then at 10.30 or 11 scramble off to do their one or two runs, before going home. Totally inefficient. And yes, all Bluesfest tickets should include a small surcharge so boarding would be free or prepaid after the concerts.

  2. I believe that the college square park and ride will be eliminated as part of the LRT western extension. So it won’t be an option.

  3. The inclusion of a transit ticket in the cost of a game ticket is a good idea so as to convince people to park elsewhere and ride a couple of stops to the arena. The west side of Lebreton flats is a bit too far from downtown to conveniently walk on a winter’s night. This site is further away from a smaller downtown than the arena is in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal. I bet there will still be a private garage eventually to cater to the well heeled game goer who wants the luxury of taking their car home.

  4. Also, not to nitpick, but the arena will have 18,000 seats, not 24,000. There is no arena in the NHL with 24,000 seats. The difference in required capacity is 25%.

    Not to mention the fact that many attendees will go to restaurants and bars following the game, so the actual egress period is more like 2-3 hours.

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