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Council announces shuttle buses possible for Belleville Senators games

By Kayla Haggett [1]and Madeleine Villa [2] 

BELLEVILLE – A shuttle bus service will be running to and from the Yardmen Arena when the Belleville Senators start playing next fall.

But city taxpayers won’t be paying for it.

The proposed 2017 budget outlined $25, 000 to be put towards a solution to the parking situation at the Yardmen Arena.

Mark Fluhrer, director of recreation, culture and community services, brought up the need for additional parking to accommodate the expected increase in traffic at the arena come the start of the Senators’ season.

Fluhrer said that the 1300 parking spaces available would not be sufficient. The arena has 4400 seats, and additional standing room for 1000 other spectators, and Fluhrer expects they could see upwards of 6000 people on game nights.

Councillor Mike Graham then brought up the issue of spending more taxpayers dollars on the Senators.

“I’m not prepared to spend taxpayers dollars to give somebody a ride to the hockey game,” Graham said.

Matt Coffey, manager and planner of transit services, said that the park and ride shuttle program is the most inexpensive option and that they have been working with the Belleville Senators to find alternative funding, so that taxpayers won’t be affected.

Mayor Taso Christopher responded to council members concerns by putting forward a motion to find someone other than taxpayers to pay for the service. 

That motion passed. 

Fluhrer said the city is working with the Senators to find other ways to pay for the service, including possibly looking for a corporate sponsor.

As for how the shuttle service would work, some planning has already been done.

Ticket holders would park their car at one of the chosen locations and be brought to the arena via shuttle bus.

Some of the proposed pick-up locations include the industrial park, a parking lot on Cannifton and College Street and the Quinte Mall.

Christopher said that in the past the winter months have seen a lack of economic stimulus in Belleville, but this will change when the Senators come in November.

“There’s going to be a full injection of about 5000 people on a Thursday to Sunday going in and out of those facilities,” said Christopher. “We need to prepare for that.”

Christopher also believes that having pickup locations near local eateries will help boost the economy in the local food sector. This would also allow for what he called a positive sporting experience for families.

Coffey has been talking with the Quinte Mall about using their parking lot as a hub location for the program. He said that they are on-board with the idea and have offered to let people park free of charge. Though preliminary discussions have occurred, Coffey said that moving forward they will need to work to get formal responses from community partners.

Christopher said that they’ve successfully run shuttle services before, including the world floorball championship two years ago, the waterfront ethnic festival and the 8-wing Trenton Airshow. He said that they have the ability to do this, and that he has confidence that they will find the necessary resources before the fall.

Fluhrer went on to say that this pilot project could be a way to improve transit in Belleville. “We’ve obviously looked at Belleville as being a city in evolution, that’s looking at it becoming less car dependant over time.”