Stadium / Arena parking revisited

I continue to be curious about how much / little parking a stadium or arena can get away with. The shuttle parking at Lansdowne seems to work well, although I dunno if it runs for non-sport events. And that large arena proposed for LeBreton Flats, it may be on transit but the Bluesfest experience isn’t encouraging, as our neighbourhoods are jammed with cars and “very happy” motorists on concert nights. Such a contrast to the idyllic photo-porn offered by the LeBreton proponents:


I saw an account of Barclay Arena in Brooklyn, NYC.

The description is by Samuel Schwartz, former long-time NYC traffic commissioner and now consultant. He says Barclay Arena is in an area that was already totally gridlocked with traffic. But there are nine subway lines and one commuter RR at the site, and two other subway lines are a few blocks away.

If you scale NYC down to Ottawa size, our ~3 lines (running east and west and south of LeBreton, and if we could ever get the Prince of Wales back into service … north) might be comparable. Remember, the Confederation Line alone can empty an entire Sens arena in less than an hour. The question is less one of  capacity and more the broad coverage of the city.


This doesn’t negate the difficulty in funding Barclay Center with very little parking. The New York area teams were used to having 50% or more of fans arriving by private car. The new arena proposed having 28% maximum.

This is apparently a lower car share than even Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan.

barclay pic

Surveys of fans and potential arena patrons before the centre was built showed that various inducements to take transit were not persuasive. Except for one neat nugget of info. Most car users had no idea how to use transit, didn’t know the routes, or the times, or how to make transfers. Dare I say that like many they are afraid of the unknown?

Which makes sense if you think that here in Ottawa thousands take the transitway or OTrain daily but the many OTHER thousands, who use cars, have little or no idea where the rapid routes go and how to use them. Do any of your car commuting workmates / friends know where the OTrain line is?  They haven’t even been on a bus since grade school.

If even regular users of the transit system cannot find their way around the OC Transpo web site ( I confess to extreme frustration and aggravation that quickly leads to all out monitor rage …) let alone figuring out a complex routing that might involve transfers in a station you’ve never been to in a neighbourhood you’ve never heard of … or if you have heard of it, it was likely due to some violent incident … if regular transit users find navigation a challenge, then for motorists it may be insurmountable.

So the Barclay planners offered information. Wayfinding tools in stations along the route. Maps, interactive signs, on-line tools and apps.

And then they built a stadium with only HALF the approved parking. They offered 541 on site spaces in a stadium built for 18,000. They installed a 400 bike parking lot, and offered parking discounts for cars with three or more people. They ran shuttles to parking lots elsewhere.

Several years of data later, their modal target was 28% car; they achieved 25%.

After 160 major sports or concert events, their 541 space lot was never once filled.  Only eight events have filled half the lot. And the average number of spaces used was only 120 out of 541.

Mr Swartz attributes this success to walking, biking, and transit. And the rise of cities and the fall of cars.

He does not mention the  price of parking.

While no two locations and situations are ever exactly the same, I felt more encouraged after reading of this account by Mr Swartz of the Barclay’s Arena success. Maybe we can ask Ms Sadik-Kahn when she is here in a few weeks about her account of the parking story at Barclays.





7 thoughts on “Stadium / Arena parking revisited

  1. Great story – thanks for mentioning the Prince of Wales bridge for rail transit!

    1. YES! Always and often! It breaks my heart to see the LeBreton planner porn with that lovely bridge sitting there. Rotting!

  2. The challenge is less about how to get to the arena, but rather in how to get home after the event. A lot of transit systems, and OC Transpo in particular, offer less frequent service within the suburbs as the evening turns to night. For example, getting to Baseline Station is easy for 18+ hours of the day. Getting from Baseline Station to the surrounding neighbourhoods after 10:00 pm is an exercise in futility.

  3. You have put your finger on an important issue. Information is king in the use of transit.
    Young people these days are transit users. I take the example of Montreal and my son and his friends. They do not own cars. But they likely cannot afford the atrocious price of sports tickets. Of course suburban patrons deal with the issue of returning home as raised by another comment. But fundamentally we nee more and better information on our transit system as well as simplification of lines. OC Transpo needs to advertise aggressively as it is in competition with other modes. Oh and the O-Train; well I know quite a few persons who have no idea where it is!

  4. As a regular transit commuter and user I also find the OC transpo website pretty poor. Luckily they provide open-data/hooks to other routing services (Google Maps, Transit App, etc.). Much less focus should be put on maintaining their poor in house developed services and more effort should be put into making sure OC transpo information is available on as many third party services as possible. They also need to let people know about the third party service compatibility through advertising!

  5. I like the Barclay Center’s approach to the issue, but would be a little sceptical about how successful they have been based on the use of the available parking. As I understand it, which is only a little, the Islanders have not had very good attendance since they moved from Nassau county. It would be good to have crowd sizes and parking usage side-by-side. Then we would know if available parking is not being used because nobody’s there.

  6. Merrill, I think the numbers presented for Barclay’s are based primarily on the Nets, as they have been in the arena for several years, as well as concerts and other events during that time. The attendance for those events would be similar to or higher than that expected by the Sens downtown.

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