Ongoing traffic nightmare enrages Bomber fans

There was plenty of applause at the Blue Bombers' stadium Thursday night — that is, when transit and shuttle buses arrived to take the last of the long-patient fans away.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans have more complaints about traffic and transit issues as they were leaving Investors Group Field after the team's regular-season opener against the Montreal Alouettes. 1:50

There was plenty of applause at the Blue Bombers' stadium Thursday night — that is, when transit and shuttle buses arrived to take the last of the long-patient fans away.

The $200-million Investors Group Field (IGF) received rave reviews as did the Bombers themselves, who narrowly lost the inaugural game at the new stadium, 38-33 to the Montreal Alouettes.

But once again, the 33,000 fans leaving IGF encountered a nightmare of backed-up traffic, long waits and frustration. Some people stood around for more than an hour to finally squeeze onto a bus.

"It's pathetic. I live an hour away from Winnipeg, so by the time I get on this bus it's going to be 12:30 a.m. And by the time I get home it's going to be 1:30 or 2 o'clock in the morning," said one man waiting among the multitudes.

The transit problems developed despite the Bombers and the City of Winnipeg revising strategies to address the issue, which surfaced after the first pre-season game and the Taylor Swift concert last week.

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One woman who spoke to CBC News Thursday night said she won't renew her season tickets next year, saying the three-hour game isn't worth the seven hours in total it takes of her time.

"I'm not happy. I'm pretty tired and I want to go home," said another woman.

The game ended shortly after 11 p.m. but Carol Smith and her husband finally got on their bus at 12:15 a.m. Friday.

She said the traffic problem is exacerbated by the fact that Winnipeg Transit operators seem to be confused about the whole thing.

A long line of shuttle buses waits outside Investors Group Field. (CBC)

"The guys who are directing traffic say they aren't Transit and you can't find Transit people," she said.

"The bus drivers tell you to go to a certain spot but then they don't come there. Other bus drivers don't know where they are going."

But not everyone was critical.

"It's gonna take time to work out," said one man. "We all have to be patient."

"There's a learning curve to everything. I think people in Winnipeg are way too uptight about stuff," said a woman.

Bombers brass respond

The Winnipeg Football Club issued a statement Friday morning, saying there were "many things that went very well last night during our official opening."

Officials pointed to the 11,000 people who took the bus there and the 12,000 people who bused home from the event.

As for difficulties getting home, officials said street lights were out in the area which slowed people down.

"That said, as is the experience with every large sporting venue, it always takes time to move over 33,000 [fans] all at once," the statement read.

"As we promised, we will continue to work to improve the situation but believe we have made great strides forward in just a few short weeks."

Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop said officials are looking at some options, including better signage and improved loading areas.

"We'll be taking a look at all the opportunities to improve," he said.