Monday, July 27, 2009

Festival Externalities

Every festival has impacts external to the site it operates on. These get managed in different ways.

Winterlude and the Tulip Festival have numerous events along the canal, abutting neighborhoods like the Golden Triangle and The Glebe. For both these festivals, shuttle buses run along the canal to get crowds to and from the event sites. This distributes parking impacts over a larger area. It also means the City Hall garage and Lansdowne Park parking lots get used.

For Bluesfest, there are no shuttle services, leaving adjacent neighborhoods to suffer from a huge influx of parkers. This is most noticeable in the Dalhousie neighborhood immediately to the south of LeBreton Flats, and Hintonburg to the west. As a resident of Dalhousie, I am astounded at how many people cruise the streets at 8.45 pm expecting to find on-street parking in the first few blocks from Bluesfest, and then expressing their frustration by driving aggressively or parking on the boulevards or paths and right on corners.

The Glebe even gets some its streets temporarily privatized during the festivals, with guards and barriers to control access, keeping out the general public and limiting access to invited guests. There are no similar controls for the neighborhood to the north of Dows Lake, which is Dalhousie again. What's the difference between the north (Dalhousie) side and south (Glebe) side of Carling Avenue? Would it be that houses on the south side sell for $900,000 and up and on the south side for $250,000?

Right after the Bluesfest, there was the Classical Series on LeBreton Flats. Sponsored by the NAC and NCC, the concerts attract smaller crowds than Bluesfest, but they are handled much better, with continuous shuttle bus service from Tunney's Pasture's huge parking lots to the site, via the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. As a result, the neighborhood was not overrun with parked vehicles. Unfortunately, the City's enforcement of parking regulations during Bluesfest was largely lifted, with the prompt result that parkers once again began taking over the parkland and boulevards and Albert St path with illegal parking that went unticketed.

The Tulip festival and Winterlude get signage at the Carling OTrain station advising patrons OTrain transit access and sidewalks to Dows Lake and Commissioners Park. The Bayview Otrain station remains unconnected to the Ottawa River bike paths just a few hundred feet north of the station, which also offer a fast direct pedestrian route to Bluesfest. There is no signage indicating the way to walk, of course, but OC Transpo employs additional security to prevent people from walking along the transitway to Bluesfest.

Why does the Classical Music series, Winterlude, and Tulip Fest get shuttle buses and Bluesfest doesn't? And it is not the cost of the shuttles, the City already pays for a glorious shuttle service that doesn't operate. I am speaking here of the ridiculous situation whereby OC Transpo supplies extra post-concert buses to handle the exiting crowds. The drivers and vehicles show up around 6pm, gathering in large red herds along old Wellington east of Booth, and at the bus staging area at Bayview. The drivers stand around chatting and having coffee for hours, to make one or two runs at 11pm. I guess they have to paid for an entire shift. Instead of having these drivers stand there, why not run shuttle service from the City Hall garage, from Lansdowne, and from Tunney's, from 6pm to 11.30?

Why do some festivals better control their external parking and crowd access impacts than other festivals? It wouldn't just be the a$$luence of the impacted neighborhoods would it?


  1. There is a shuttle, it's called the Transitway.

  2. Eric - who runs Winterlude and the Tulip Festival? And who runs Bluesfest? There is, I think, your answer. Residents have no influence in either case, but the NCC sure does.

    For a counterpoint, what does the Glebe get during the SuperEx? No roads closed, no shuttles (save some OCTranspo event specials, which Bluesfest also gets), overrun with parking, noise everyday for 10 days up until midnight etc etc.

  3. The Ex is indeed a wonderful cultural event held in the Glebe. Any neighborhood is justified in mitigating the negative effects of a festival, or event like the Ex. Better organized and more affluent neighborhoods get better mitigation.

    Of course when government sponsors an event, the budget is bigger for things like shuttles. Winterlude is a NCC event; but doesn't the Tulip festival have an organizing committee etc headed by Julian Armour, formerly of the Chamberfest?

    I recall seeing temporary bus stops outside downtown hotels for shuttles for some festivals (Jazz fest? Chamberfest? I cannot remember exactly which ones.)

    Some festivals seem to go to some effort to get people there via transit; others do nothing for their neighbours.


  4. The inconsistancy with which the city deals with bluesfest parking is really problematic - for both residents and parkers. The city seemed to be "caught off guard" the first few nights, with no controls at all. (Which is crazy considering this is year 3 back at this site). After a few nights they seemed to realise that they had better put up a few signs and send out a few bylaw enforcement officers - who wrote hundreds of tickets. Then they seemed to stop again.

    I don't think the answer to this problem is a shuttle. The proximitly to the transitway should be the answer. Just actually enforce illegal parking, and limit the closest streets to local parking during that week. Bluesfest should absolutely stress that there is NO on site parking available. If they want to have good neighbours, they should work a bit harder at being good neighbours, and simple steps like this would go a long way.

    I do not understand why parking on the boulevards along Booth and Albert is tolerated by the City during events. They certainly would ticket a car parked there on a typical weekday. It is a dangerous situation for pedestrians and a bad precident to set for future years when the area is more developed.

  5. In 2008, the OC Transpo service to the Bluesfest was pitiable. Buses were totally overcrowded and there simply wasn't enough evening capacity.

    I can't say whether the same problems occurred in 2009 since I didn't attend Bluesfest.

    I wonder if some people "learned" from 2008 and took their cars.