Vaudreuil screwjob

Hey, remember back in June when I told you about that AMT contract to run two new express bus routes with crazy perks like air conditioning? And then two months later everyone hears about it for the first time (thanks to a press release) and is immediately outraged, saying this is “two-tier transit” and it’s illegal demanding it be scrapped?

Well you’ll be pleased to know that the Quebec government has done exactly that, bending to municipal pressure (and unions) and putting the kibosh on the project, mere days before it was to go into service.

Actually, it’s not really suspending it. Instead, the minister has taken the contract from Limocar and given control of the Vaudreuil line to CIT La Presqu’ile, which serves local transit needs of the western shore.

Of course, that’s what should have been done in the first place. The regional transit authorities around Montreal all have express buses going onto the island, including the RTL, STL, CITSO and companies that run transit in towns you didn’t realize had transit systems. Even CITPI has routes that connect with the STM network at John Abbott College in Sainte Anne de Bellevue. Why spend gobs of money on a private contract when you can just let the local transit authority handle it?

And even if we concede that the AMT needed to hire a company to run this route, why the requirements for air conditioning, Wi-Fi access and the rest that instantly disqualified the transit companies from the process? The government has been clear in the past that air conditioning is a luxury and they won’t pay for buses to have them. So why did AMT get special treatment?

Mentioning the delay between my reporting in June and the decision this past week isn’t just to make me look good. There are consequences to going back on decisions like this. Limocar went through a fair bidding process in good faith, and now they’ve been screwed over. It’s unclear whether they’ve spent any serious money setting this route up, but even if we just count the manpower they spent on the bidding process, that’s a lot of resources for something that has turned out to be irrelevant.

In other words, expect a lawsuit to develop out of this, or expect Limocar to get some serious cash in severance costs.

And, of course, all that is money out of our pockets.

All because people complained about a contract after it was awarded instead of when the ridiculous requirements were announced.

16 thoughts on “Vaudreuil screwjob

  1. Shawn

    Great, now do we have to rip the AC out of the Two Mountains train, too? Is that also an affront to Quebec’s one-tieredness?

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  2. Fagstein Post author

    No. The trains are run by AMT directly, and air-conditioning on a train (which stops infrequently) and a bus (which has open windows everywhere and stops on every block) are very different things. The government is apparently OK with commuter trains being air conditioned, isn’t OK with buses, and hasn’t decided yet for the metro.

    That said, the commuter trains are good examples of two-tier transit. A ride from Pierrefonds to downtown on the commuter train costs more than a ride on the bus and metro, and there’s a reason you see more business people with expensive suits and laptops on the Deux Montagnes train than the 470 bus.

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  3. Marc

    The AMT train & bus setup would have been comparable to GO transit. If anyone hasn’t used it, GO transit is an incredibly efficient operation that should be used as a model. But I guess here we’re so used to mediocrity, good things don’t happen. The AMT plan made perfect sense. So the 40 will continue to be a sardine can of cars with one person in them – good ol’ Quebec!

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  4. Jean Naimard

    Besides, trains have been air-conditionned since 1937, when the first ice-cooled (yes, A/C was done with huge blocks of ice put inside bunkers below the cars; a very simple and effective system, which was used until 25 years ago) coaches were put in service. Carbuilders have since discovered that having unopenable windows makes for a much simpler and sturdier window construction, and operators have also found that the maintenance costs were so much lower that the extra cost of fitting A/C on coaches was well worth it.

    Intercity buses have also discovered this during the last 40 years, but city buses are the last holding stalwarts. However, having had to use my A/C for only three days this summer, I will also say that A/C is a luxury on urban buses; I’d rather have 5% more buses in service than A/C buses.

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  5. James

    Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury, for many elderly people. Likewise, a washroom makes a long-haul bus ride much more feasible for most diabetics. I love how the Quebeckers who are most shrill about equality and who insist most vocally on crummy single-tiered everything are at the same time so moralistic about this sort of thing, and so insensitive to the legitimate needs of others.

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  6. Marc

    I’ve recently used three American transit systems: NYC, Minn/St. Paul and Cleveland, and every bus is A/C’ed. The latter even has the same low-floor Nova Buses we do. I don’t think A/C is a luxury at all. I’d rather pay a slightly higher fare than travel on a stinking hot bus that reeks of B.O.

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  7. Guy

    I fear that the replacement solution for Vaudreuil-Cote-Vertu is going to last only for the duration of the Galipeault bridge rebuilding. The article states :
    “Pour ne pas punir les usagers, le CIT Presqu’île a été mandaté pour offrir le service annoncé entre Vaudreuil et l’île de Montréal, qui sera bienvenu pour la rentrée de mardi en raison de la reconstruction du pont Galipeault.”
    After, it’s back to the 1 hour choo-choo train from Vaudreuil to Lucien-L’allier…which sucks for Vaudreuil folks working in Ville St-Laurent.
    I was in Boston recently and their public transportation is so much more effective than ours! What a shame

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  8. Jean Naimard

    The United States happens to be located slightly more to the south; that is, closer to the equator. Therefore, the sun rays hit the ground at a higher angle, which concentrates them more, since a given angular sector covers less area. This explains a bit the higher temperature one experiences in the US.

    On the contrary, up here, given the lower angle of sun rays, we experience lower temperatures than in the US. So air-conditonning is a useless luxury that, if implemented here, will mean higher costs. Would you be willing to pay $5 more per month for a frill that is useful only one week during the year? Or would you be willing to cut down service on bus routes just to pay for it?

    It they want their luxury, let them pay for it with their own pockets by riding air-conditionned taxis (tha’s public transit, too) for the 4-5 days it is too hot in the summer. There is no reason why 50 people should be deprived of proprer service so 10 can ride cushily.

    The idea about “equality” is that everybody shall have the same treatment, especially if it comes from the government; it is the french jacobine way of guaranteering social justice; we, the french, culturally do not believe in personal responsibility, so we do not see why some shall have a better treatment than others.

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  9. Tux

    I too find the idea of air conditioning as unnecessary luxury pretty f-ing ridiculous. One has only to ride a packed 211 from the west island to Lionel-Groulx at rush hour in 30 degree temperatures to understand that air conditioning would make descending to hell in a stinking aluminium tube into merely a crowded bus ride. Instead, tired and uncomfortable people sweat, stink, and get on each others nerves. Tempers fray and I’d seen plenty of incidents involving people yelling, swearing, and shoving, that probably wouldn’t have occurred if stepping onto the cool bus from the hot outdoors was a pleasure instead of just a humidity increase and a freedom of movement decrease.

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  10. Marc

    Jean: Minneapolis gets the exact same climate we do, including the 5-6 months of winter, and every vehicle there is A/C’ed. i don’t need the geography lesson, thank you.

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  11. Jenny

    The whole problem with transit authorities is that at this point they are constantly in “reaction mode”. They no longer think ahead, nor do they plan ahead for things (like, say, the order of new buses BEFORE the old ones go completely kaput…). All they seem to be doing is putting out fires.

    Which means that the quality of decision-making is going downhill. Fast.

    Having buses with AC is great, but shouldn’t we just have a system that has more buses to begin with? Just so can all be safely onboard without toes being crushed, elbows or handbags being thrust in the faces of those lucky (or unlucky) enough to be sitting down and oxygen levels going dangerously down after 10 minutes.

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  12. homer

    How utterly stupid.

    Connecting at John Abbott gets them to the 211, which takes approximate 60 minutes at rush hour (sans airconditionning, of course) to get downtown. That’s entirely different than getting them to Cote-Vertu Metro. The bus idea was a great move and with some perks like Air Conditionning, or Wifi (for the 40 or so minute ride) could genuinely have encouraged some people to not take their cars.

    If you compare 60 minutes + the 20 or so minutes to get to John Abbott from Vaudreuil, I think most people who live there and commute downtown will just end up sitting in traffice for about 60 minutes (i’ve driven downtown from Vaudreuil, in traffic), and enjoy the comfort of their own car.

    Sorry, but getting surbubia (which won’t magically cease to exist) requires making a few exceptions. Keep in mind that people in the Suburbs can usually afford to drive downtown and the “environment” won’t get them to leave their cars at home. They have to be offered a time savings. Time is money folks. I can get or two meetings done while in traffic in my own car (on my bluetooth of course), I can’t get anything done on the 211.

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  13. Jean Naimard

    I, too, ride the 211 and I would rather see evening service every 10 minute than air-conditionned buses every 30 minutes. And what one does when the A/C breaks down? Because it **WILL** break down and it will take several days before it gets fixed…

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  14. Tim(BC Bur.Corresp.)

    Greetings from Vernon. Unless you read this entry any time after 9:30am (6:30 Pacific) Wednesday in which case I greet you from wherever I am on the Trans-Canada on my way back to Mtl.

    Sub-contracting isn’t a scandal, as far as I’m concerned. Limocar is the operator of buses on the CIT to my parent’s home, the Conseil intermunicipal de transport de la Vallée du Richelieu. Viens used to provide bus services to the OMIT for St-Bruno-de-Montarville.

    As for two-tier system, Shawn nailed it on the head. It already exists already today in our commuter train lines (fare differentiation, air conditioning, outsourcing (trains are manned by crews from the company owning the line, be it CP or CN)), buses (a TRAM card to get from St-Lambert to downtown costs more than one from Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, miles further away, service to Beloeil is more frequent than to Saint-Constant), water taxis (summers you can pay to use a ferry shuttle from Nuns’ Island to downtown Verdun a lot faster than you would by bus); we could list inconsistencies and anomalies all day.

    And ultimately, if you need proof of the existence of a two-tier system, count the number of SUV’s to buses the next time you go down A20, or across the Champlain Bridge, during rush hour. The money isn’t going anywhere; it’s a question of getting those with money to make the right choice. They’re not afraid of paying more (or else they wouldn’t own that Hummer); so what more can we do to make the option attractive? Offering them the opportunity to work during the commute (Wi-Fi) is brilliant. Doing so comfortably (A/C) more so.

    Personally, I see air conditioned express buses, filling in off-hour gaps on existing train lines and as an alternative to where lines do not run today or where there is no right-of-way for rail (just like GO Transit does in the GTA), as a very good way of shoring up our regional public transit offering. I know for many the Candiac/Delson and Mont-Saint-Hilaire lines don’t meet their needs because they don’t always work strictly nine-to-five. Alternatives exist (the CITVR’s 200 and 300 lines in the case of Mont-Saint-Hilaire) but they don’t work on the same fare schedule; a TRAM card will work but not a simple TRAIN pass.

    I think we need to move more toward a system like what GO Transit provides. And on a side-note, GO Transit’s regional buses have air conditioning.

    Look forward to getting back and following the blog more attentively. Ciao!

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  15. Tim

    @Jean: I’ll presume that you’re from France, as you say “we, the French” when referring to the Jacobin way of guaranteeing social justice. I make this assumption confidently, since to my knowledge Jacobinism played no more or less significant a role in French America than anywhere else in the world where the call for Liberté, Égalité, Franternité was heard.

    Anyway, given your supposed French origin, I presume I won’t need to remind you that the Régie autonome des transports parisiens, transit authority native to the Capital of the Republic, where that historic trinomial appeal was first cried, also ran in their famous metros both a first and second class until quite recently!!!

    Of course, that practice has since ended. I nearly call it to your attention to show that even the stewards of the Jacobin legacy tolerate from time to time some inequality.

    But don’t worry. We’re an opt-out society here in Quebec. We’ll give you a $10 discount on your monthly pass to compensate for the A/C surcharge. Use the money to buy some chill pills, man. =P

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  16. Jean Naimard

    If Vaudreuil residents so desperately need to go to St-Laurent so fast, why can’t they take the already air-conditionned train that runs from the brand-new Vaudreuil station, and then take the Métro from Vendôme (it’s only a 12 minute Métro ride to Côte-Vertu)? The train zips by the traffic on the 2-20, and the Métro does the same for the 15.

    The unions are right to denounce subcontracting; subcontracting to private companies is far more expensive because a private company has to take a profit out of the deal; and no, they are not more efficient: case in point, the South Shore transit bus maintenance was contracted out to a private company until a few months ago, but when the contract expired, they went back to their own mechanics, as the private contractor would not stock bus parts but would only order them when needed. The net result was a high number of buses out of service!

    Oh, if employers have to struggle with unwieldly unions, maybe they need to chew on testosterone pills. Big private companies are, too, struggling with unions, yet they manage to pull in profits.

    * * *

    Transit operators operate on “reaction mode” because public tranportation are so underfunded that they can only operate on a shoestring. Public transportation has taken the backburner, thanks to the urban sprawl culture where transit will never be able to be a viable alternative.

    Some weeks ago, the government was caught with it’s pants down with the increased petrol prices, and asked the public transit operators what could be done to improve the lot of the poor urban sprawlers who face an increased gas bill.

    Well ¿DUH? When you deliberately neglect public transit, it’s not a wonder that if only 10% of car riders decide to switch to transit, the transit system will be grossly overloaded.

    Last winter, in a public “consultation”, in Pointe-Claire, the STM struggled to improve west-island services. It has so little buses that it was barely able to make the 209 bus on Des Sources operate all day long, a move which was 28 years overdue! Right now, during the morning rush-hour, the STM needs 50 extra buses just to offer the advertised service.

    This is the net result of deliberate neglect; even though I have yet to see a suburbanite who doesn’t want to take transit but is forced to use a car because of the inadequacy of the transit offer, suburban (and Québec — having the capital in the boondocks sure helps them not to see Montréal’s problems) politicans sure aren’t jumping on the bus, and are stalwartly resisting any urge to curb automobile use and increase transit. After all, the ’burbs have to maintain a tax advantage over the city they are so fond of parasiting so badly (those big houses in Beauconsfield would be worth zip if they weren’t so close to Montréal. And one knows that property values is one of the most sacred things; after all, some places will prevent clotheslines or erect mini Berlin walls — some even banned bathing suits in the past! — to preserve those sacrosanct property values).

    Well, this is the wakeup call. They could have paid earlier, but now we gonna have to pay right now.

    We need more transit-oriented features, and not just new buses and new trains (all reportedly on order), but active political action at all levels, and comprehensive legal reforms.

    For example, the current, immerdiate, right-now problem is transit capacity. Rush hours are putting transport infrastructure under considerable stress (just the traffic on the 40 is a good indicator), thanks to everybody having to be at work for 9.

    Well, why not stagger working hours so everyone shows up not all at the same time? A good way to do this is “flex time”, where people set their own schedules; who know better how to organize his schedule than the worker himself? Of course, the boss knows best and he has to exercize his authority, and more importantly, he has to keep his flock of warm bodies close by, otherwise he would’nt be the boss, so he won’t like that, and everyone has to cram in their cars (or buses) to get there at 9.

    Well, phoque le boss. Experience has shown for centuties that private entreprise will never take decisions beneficial to society as a whole; this is why we have governments. The government should amend the code du travail so that an employer has to positively show cause and a very good reason to refuse flex-time. And the same time goes for telecommuting, which completely eliminates the need for the commute and thus is even more beneficial.

    Or there is the case where the last bus home leaves at 17:21. Many people are required to do unpaid overtime; they can’t leave until this or that is done. When you have to walk 20 miles when you missed the last bus, who’s gonna not take his car to work when he would risk his job? Well, if the boss is inconsiderate enough to not plan the work so workers can arrange their life with transit, he should pay the taxi ride when he requires people to work later than the last bus.

    Of course, of course, this will put “undue strain on already overstresses businesses”. We all know that. We all heard that before whenever the minimum wage is raised, or that maternity leaves are instituted, or when every single social measure destined to benefit workers is shamelessly driven down the throats of extremely very hard beaucoup working entrepreneurs, forcing them to rely on a $50,000 car instead of a $80,000 car (don’t worry, though, some are not suchly intimidated. I’ve seen someone fire 17 workers in order to pay for his son’s Porsche).

    But, fortunately, we are starting to see some sense in that picture. Last year, the chamber of commerce stated that a healthy transit system is a prime component of an economically viable city (or something that sounded like that). This is progress, because chambers of commerce are usually staunch opponents of public measures, that is, government spending that will not go directly into their pockets. And once they realize that if the little worker bees would not be compelled to splurge a third to a fourth of their hard-earned money just to scoot about in a smoke-belching jalopy in order to lead perfectly normal lives, they could easily shave off $5000 on salaries if there was decent public transit, ther will be decent public transit.

    But of course, cleaning up house should start at home. And as long as people will persist in electing jingoist politicos, especially on the municipal scene, you can expect nothing to be done. The little west-island ghettoistic mentality is a prime example; winding streets that go nowhere, just to make sure that those unwashed barbarians won’t come west from their dirty eastern suburb are surely not very conductive to transit. The fact that there was no day bus service on Des Sources is clearly the result of it being the city limit between Dorval and Pointe-Claire; why would either mayor push for a measure that could benefit the other city? The forced mergers had provided some hope that such nonsense would have been eradicated, but alas, a government who thrives on nonsense, like not funding transit, undid all that.

    Clearly, transportation is an issue that greatly overflows buses and roads and tracks; it is greatly time that a comprehensive approach be taken for it. And we should not be afraid on ruffling feathers to do it; some arms will have to be stonged and arses kicked in order to insure sanity in transportation.

    Other countries have taken that step. For nearly 30 years, France has had the “versement transport”, where employers have to foot a part of their employee transportation bill. After all, they benefit from their employees, so it’s only natural that they’d be taxed for it (yes, I know, that’s how we, jacobines tackle problems: we secure funding first, from where the money is, the pockets of the rich — no, we don’t see having money as a god-given right; in fact, we don’t believe there is a god). Some more progressive employers are starting to do this here. In Ottawa (and, I’m sure elsewhere), employers can purchase yearly “Eco-Passes” at a good discount for their employees. Not so here. Transit is so woefully underfunded…

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