Bombers, city promise traffic improvements after 1st game

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the City of Winnipeg are promising improvements to traffic heading in and out of Investors Group Field on game days, in response to the chaos that clogged streets around the new stadium on Wednesday.

Fans frustrated by gridlock, transit problems to and from Investors Group Field

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the City of Winnipeg are promising improvements to traffic flow to and from Investors Group Field, in response to the gridlock and frustrations many fans faced at the Bombers' first game there. 2:01
A Blue Bombers fan punches a sign advising drivers against parking in a certain area. (CBC)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the City of Winnipeg are promising improvements to traffic heading in and out of Investors Group Field on game days, in response to the gridlock on streets around the new stadium on Wednesday.

Officials are urging fans to continue taking transit buses to games, saying a number of the problems that surfaced at Wednesday's game — the Bombers' first at the new stadium — will be dealt with.

"Yesterday … wasn't what we would have considered a test event. But we're looking at that as a great learning experience, and we have to learn from it and we have to get better, and we will get better," Bombers president and CEO Garth Buchko told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

Buchko said the traffic woes were caused partly by students and staff on the University of Manitoba campus, where the stadium is located.

"We learned yesterday that there was a lot of confusion with students and people working at the University of Manitoba who were driving in during game day, not really realizing that they shouldn't be doing that," he said.

"They were in the line; they were in the queue."

At the same time, Buchko said staff were caught off guard by the fact that 60 per cent more fans took transit to Wednesday's game than they had expected.

"These studies were done years and years ago, and updated over the last couple of years, but there was a significantly larger amount of people who were riding the bus than what anyone could have anticipated," he said.

Transit director Dave Wardrop told CBC News earlier in the day that Winnipeg Transit was doing the best with the resources it had for the game.

Wardrop said the Bombers estimated only 5,200 people would take buses to the stadium, but in the end, 8,500 chose that route.

And there were other issues that increased the delay, he said.

"The location itself does offer challenging service delivery in terms of limited access and and the event itself occurred during the tail end of the rush hours," he said.

The buses not only delayed fans but people who worked concessions. Officials said it was estimated that a quarter of people scheduled to work at concession stands were unable to make it to work on time.

The Bombers only contracted 61 buses before the game and 75 after it, according to Wardrop. In the end, transit was forced to use 99 buses to take people home from the stadium.

The Bombers will be charged for the overtime and the extra buses, he said, adding the city is pleased to see so many people chose to take the bus.

Wardrop said the city is meeting with the Bombers to discuss future improvements for the games as well as the Taylor Swift concert that's coming up on June 22.

The Bombers' next game is its regular season opener June 27 against the Montreal Alouettes.

Team vice-president and chief operating officer Jim Bell said the pressure is on to make changes for those upcoming events.

"If that is a trend, we're going to learn from last night, we'll learn from Taylor Swift … we will learn from June 27," Bell said.

"But we will improve. We will improve every step of the way."

Traffic rage

The traffic problems were a source of rage from fans at the game and have been ongoing through social media and radio phone-in shows Thursday.

Although the game started at 7 p.m., Pembina Highway and other feeder routes to the University of Manitoba campus were choked with traffic.

Fans were still streaming into Investors Group Field as late as 8 p.m., missing large chunks of the first-ever game at the new stadium.

Before the game, the football club did what it could to anticipate parking problems, encouraging fans to walk, cycle or take buses.

Many shuttles were also available to transport people from several designated parking lots, so-called "booster lots" at businesses along Pembina Highway.

But all of those vehicles became wedged in the traffic and hundreds of frustrated transit passengers opted to get off the unmoving buses and walk the rest of the way to the stadium.

Barry Prentice, a transportation expert at the University of Manitoba, said the Bombers have to get more fans out of their cars and onto buses to ease the traffic congestion.

He added that buses should have express lanes to get to and from the stadium.

"The idea of having diamond lanes, the temporary diamond lanes on the sides of Pembina from Jubilee down to the university — I couldn't see why that couldn't be done," Prentice told CBC News.

Prentice said there would be a cost associated with putting the diamond lanes in effect for every game, but he added that it would certainly solve some of the traffic problems.