Posted in Montreal, Public transit

STM’s in my lane

I went to a press conference on Tuesday that the STM organized to announce a new reserved bus lane being installed on St. Joseph Blvd. There were a few dozen people there, though most seemed to be employees of the city or the STM, as evidenced by their clapping after speeches.

There were a few journalists present, though they seemed more interested in Plateau Mayor Luc Ferrandez’s attendance record at city council meetings than yet another reserved bus lane that will take away parking spaces. There were no questions after the presentation.

I can’t blame them. Even for someone like me who’s interested in public transit, there’s little new here that doesn’t also apply to every other reserved bus lane in the city.

A city of Montreal truck blocks a bus stop zone as it loads equipment used during a press conference to announce new bus lanes

I couldn’t help noticing during the press conference that there was a car parked in the bus stop zone next to the Laurier metro station. It had a rotating light on the dashboard and seems to have been from a private security agent. Later, after the press conference was over, a city of Montreal truck pulled up and parked in the middle of the bus stop zone to load up the podium and other equipment.

The truck ended up blocking the arrival of the No. 46 bus, forcing it to leave its passengers off from the centre lane of St. Joseph Blvd.

There’s some irony here.

Night bus overhaul coming

Meanwhile, I asked STM chair Michel Labrecque (supposedly the transit users’ representative on the STM’s board) about the upcoming revamping of the night bus service which is coming on June 27. Labrecque feigned ignorance, saying something about not being in the right mindset to discuss it (even though he and one of his aides had, in fact, been doing just that). I was told there would be a news conference on June 15 to explain everything, but that they couldn’t go into details.

A bit odd since bus stop signs with the new numbers have already started appearing. Through the rumour mill we see that the STM will introduce three new lines – the 353 on Lacordaire Blvd., the 354 from downtown to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and the 376 from downtown to Pierrefonds (via Highway 40). All three routes had previously existed and are being brought back in areas similar to where they were years ago. In addition to this, many existing routes will be modified, mainly to extend them so they serve the downtown core (reducing the number of people who have to take the 358 bus and then transfer). The 355 bus will be one of those adding service downtown. The 356 will also be modified so it heads up Sources Blvd. instead of going all the way to Ste. Anne.

I’ll get you more details on those changes after they’re announced, after the schedules are released or after I get details from sources, whichever comes first.

37 thoughts on “STM’s in my lane

  1. AlexH

    Montreal is great at painting lines on the ground to create bus and bike lanes, but many of them are either impractical or non-functional. They are rarely enforced, and when they are, it’s enforcement Gestapo tactics that just piss people off.

    The city will spend millions to equip cars to check plates to find people who didn’t pay their registrations (because it’s an income generating business), but they won’t pay police to drive up and down major bus lanes to assure compliance with the rules (because compliant drivers don’t generate income). Police also won’t for bike riders to use streets with bike paths, and would rather allow them to wander freely in traffic on st catherine or Rene Levesque rather than directing them up to the purpose built bike lanes on De Maisoneuve.

    The funniest thing of the week? Every day the police are at the corner of Rene Levesque and St Urbain, “running” the traffic lights. First off, it’s a stupid thing, because the real issue of blockage is at St Laurent, not St Urbain. But there is also construction at that intersection, and a big sign saying that the east side is not open to pedestrians. However, hundreds of people an hour cross the street, right in front of the police, who are often hiding in the shade generated by those “close to pedestrian” signs. Do you know now many tickets they write to people crossing on that side? None.

    Bike riders on the sidewalk? Squeegee kids operating less than a block away? People crossing against the lights? Nothing.

    It’s a head shaker, that is for sure.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      They are rarely enforced, and when they are, it’s enforcement Gestapo tactics that just piss people off.

      You seem to be arguing that they’re underenforced and overenforced.

      Police also won’t for bike riders to use streets with bike paths, and would rather allow them to wander freely in traffic on st catherine or Rene Levesque rather than directing them up to the purpose built bike lanes on De Maisoneuve.

      There’s nothing illegal about riding a bike on Ste. Catherine or René-Lévesque.

      Reply
      1. gds

        “There’s nothing illegal about riding a bike on Ste. Catherine or René-Lévesque”

        True, but the point is that it should be. Especially Sherbrooke and Ste. Catherines since the bike path on de Maisonneuve is right in the middle. The rule should be similar to the no trucking restrictions. If you have a specific destination to go on those streets, then fine, but no taking those streets just for the sake of taking them.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If you have a specific destination to go on those streets, then fine, but no taking those streets just for the sake of taking them.

          Aside from the problem of police not being able to tell the difference at a glance, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to take either street instead of de Maisonneuve (I’ve done both). Restricting where cyclists can go will create all sorts of problems (political and practical)

          Reply
        2. ZDZedDee

          It is completely legal to ride a bicycle on Ste-Catherine or Sherbrooke streets.

          Completely legal in every way.

          Are you be as angry at the other car drivers? (OK, you are angry at them too, but lets focus on the bikes for now) It is all the other car drivers whose great numbers that cause the gridlock situation that causes you such misery, not the bicycles. Bicycles are part of the solution. And if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. N’est pas?

          Please share the road, bicycle riders are people too. We only ask a few feet width of the road. It’s not very much, and we pay the same taxes as you do.

          And take notice at the great numbers of bicycle riders who are obeying the law. There’s been a big change in the last couple of years.

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            The gridlock isn’t caused because of traffic on a single street, but rather the culmination of actions taken by the Tremblay administration to cut down the number of available lanes on parallel streets, as well as Rene Levesque, as a result of bike lanes, bus lanes, and so on. Let’s not forget for a second the intentional de-syncing of traffic lights to assure a restricted flow of cars through an area, no matter the demand.

            Creating specific bike lanes is meaningless if they are not being used. It would the same as having a reserved bus lane on a street with no bus route. Why do it? The horrible damage done to du Maisoneuve to create a bike lane is almost beyond understanding, unless you truly hate cars and hate the people who drive them – and spend money in the downtown core. Having bike lanes and then not encouraging them to be used, and rather allowing cyclists to run wherever they like (including on the sidewalks, against traffic, and through red lights) is just insane.

            Most cyclists don’t obey the law. The run lights, they ride in the wrong direction against traffic, and so on. There is no help for users at a bixi stand, nothing to guide them in safe operation. In fact, most of the Bixi stands are specifically NOT located near bike routes, but instead put users directly into traffic (and mostly onto the sidewalk).

            Let’s not forget either the amount of parking spaces in the downtown core lost to Bixi bikes, which in turns leads to people circling the blocks longer to try to find parking, only to create more gridlock.

            So gridlock is caused mostly by the choices made by the Mayor and his people to try to limit the public’s choices, and the public continues to vote against it with their actions.

            Steve: The laws are over and under enforced. Instead of applying the rules with an even sense of “right and wrong”, the police are either entirely absent, or running an “operation” which appears to ticket every car going by. If the goal was enforcement and encouraging the public to follow the laws, having a significant number of police officers circulating in traffic would be a much better way to get things done. But that doesn’t generate the level of income that an “operation” generates.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              The horrible damage done to du Maisoneuve to create a bike lane is almost beyond understanding

              I guess so, since I see that street often and it looks perfectly fine to me. Lots of bike traffic on the bicycle lane at all hours of the day and all seasons of the year, and plenty of car and pedestrian traffic.

              Having bike lanes and then not encouraging them to be used, and rather allowing cyclists to run wherever they like (including on the sidewalks, against traffic, and through red lights) is just insane.

              Bike lanes encourage themselves to be used, and I think they do a good job about it. And while one could make the argument that police aren’t doing enough to enforce traffic laws with cyclists, riding on sidewalks, against traffic and through red lights are all ticketable offences.

              In fact, most of the Bixi stands are specifically NOT located near bike routes, but instead put users directly into traffic (and mostly onto the sidewalk).

              I’m not sure what “specifically” means in this context. Bixi stands are spread out throughout the city. If so many of them aren’t near bike lanes, it’s because there aren’t enough bike lanes.

              Let’s not forget either the amount of parking spaces in the downtown core lost to Bixi bikes, which in turns leads to people circling the blocks longer to try to find parking, only to create more gridlock.

              Which leads to fewer cars going downtown and more use of public transit. The number of parking spaces taken up by Bixi stands is small (and only during the summer). Downtown simply doesn’t have enough space to accommodate everyone’s parking needs, Bixi stands or no. The faster we teach drivers that they shouldn’t expect to find street parking during business hours, the better.

              So gridlock is caused mostly by the choices made by the Mayor and his people to try to limit the public’s choices, and the public continues to vote against it with their actions.

              Traffic jams (actual “gridlock” is pretty rare even during rush hour) are caused by too many cars driving to and from downtown during rush hour. Nobody’s preventing anyone from doing that, but it’s a problem that can’t be solved by adding a few parking spaces. It has to be solved by offering alternative forms of transportation.

              Reply
          2. AlexH

            Steve: du Maisoneuve is a mess. 50% loss of parking, 50% loss of lanes, which has a negative effect on both business in the area (I have friends that run a store in the area, and they have lost business as a result of the changes), as well as adding significant risk for cyclists and motorists alike. It also contributes to longer travel times for motorists in the area.

            I noticed you tweeted the 1 million rides on the bike path, or 2700 a day. That would be a couple of hundred bike trips an hour, I have to think that car traffic is many times that. Gollified numbers aren’t really impressive when you have something to compare them to.

            “Traffic jams (actual “gridlock” is pretty rare even during rush hour) are caused by too many cars driving to and from downtown during rush hour.”: You are correct to a point, but not really. Gridlock occurs when intersections get blocked, not allowing cross traffic to flow. This is an incredibly common situation in Montreal these days. All of the construction, road closures, re-routing, and so on leads the same number of cars to have to operate on very restrictive paths, which leads to longer trips, drivers getting impatient, and sometimes ending up trapped in the middle of intersections, blocking the flow of traffic.

            Those sorts of things happen when you artificially limit or constrict the flow of cars, or if you redirect large flows of cars from one route to another as a result of construction or blockages. As an example, when you introduce a bike lane that cuts down the flow of traffic on a street, at least some of that traffic will move to adjoining streets. If those streets were busy butnot quite jammed before, the increase in traffic can cause traffic jams that ripple back through the entire area.

            Parking has the same effect: If you cut down the amount of parking, make it harder to obtain, or make people have to drive longer to find somewhere to park, you create additional traffic. Enough of this sort of thing leads to traffic jams, delays, etc. So placing Bixi stands in areas where parking was already contrained, taking out many more parking spaces isn’t a very positive move. While the bike supporters might see it as a great victory, the result isn’t any more green if the amount of drive time in the downtown core per car goes up. Instead, you have deluded yourself into thinking you have done something positive for the environment, when perhaps you have not.

            “Which leads to fewer cars going downtown and more use of public transit.”: This is perhaps one of the most easily debunked myths of all. People who are going to use a car to get downtown are going to continue to do so. You may see short term bumps in public transit use (the STM doesn’t break down their traffic by source and destination, so there is no way to know how many additional trips go to the core of the city), but you are more likely to see other results. Remember, it’s the decision makers and business owners that are more likely to be driving into town. If you make their lives miserable, they are more likely to consider relocating their companies for their own comfort. Mr businessman in a three piece suit isn’t going to ride a sweaty hot bus to and from work every day instead of driving his SUV.

            The Mayor of Montreal is incredibly against the car. Everything is done in the city these days to make car travel harder. The problems that exist are as much to do with artificial blockages put in place as anything else. Manipulating traffic lights, blocking access, creating round about routing, and generally screwing the system up is all actions taken to make the public transit option look better. It isn’t that public transit has gotten any better, it’s just that the alternative (cars) has been hobbled to the point where it is on par with public transit. That doesn’t create ridership, that create upset people sitting in their cars wondering where all the tax money is going. Oh yeah, it’s going to pay for Bixi.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Steve: du Maisoneuve is a mess. 50% loss of parking, 50% loss of lanes

              Parking has been lost on one side, but the number of driving lanes hasn’t changed. The bike lane hardly takes up half the street.

              So placing Bixi stands in areas where parking was already contrained, taking out many more parking spaces isn’t a very positive move. While the bike supporters might see it as a great victory, the result isn’t any more green if the amount of drive time in the downtown core per car goes up.

              Do you have any numbers to back up your assertion that the carbon emitted by the extra time needed to find parking is equal to or more than that saved by people taking bicycles instead of cars in the first place?

              Mr businessman in a three piece suit isn’t going to ride a sweaty hot bus to and from work every day instead of driving his SUV.

              Mr. businessman in a three-piece suit isn’t going to drive around the block five times looking for a parking spot. He either has underground parking, or he takes his car to a paid lot, or he has a taxi or limousine drive him to and from work.

              People avoid driving downtown because of the traffic. More traffic will mean fewer of them driving downtown. Yes, there are some people who will keep driving downtown even if it takes three hours to park. But there are many people who have either option available to them, and making it easier to drive and find parking downtown will only cause more people to drive, which means no net benefit to downtown traffic.

              Bixi stations only take up a parking space about every four or five blocks in the most dense areas. That’s hardly a reason to panic. Montreal has 400 Bixi stations, and not all of them take up parking spaces. It’s a drop in the bucket. Bike paths take up more space, but they’re also not all over the place. The number of dedicated bicycle lanes in the downtown core can be counted on two hands.

              The Mayor of Montreal is incredibly against the car.

              I thought it was the mayor of the Plateau who was against the car.

              The problems that exist are as much to do with artificial blockages put in place as anything else.

              Are you suggesting that if there weren’t “artificial blockages” there would be no downtown traffic? Is highway traffic (the type drivers most complain about) also a result of “artificial blockages”?

              That doesn’t create ridership, that create upset people sitting in their cars wondering where all the tax money is going. Oh yeah, it’s going to pay for Bixi.

              Far more tax money goes to fixing roads and highways for the benefit of cars than goes to Bixi service (which, I might add, is a loan).

              Reply
          3. AlexH

            Before the changes made to Du Maisoneuve, it was always at least 2 full car lanes plus parking on both sides. Now, from Guy to Atwater, it is 1 parking lane, and 1 single traffic lane with a painted off area on the left towards the bike lane which doesn’t allow parking, and it not suppose to be used for cars. There is no longer a dotted line to show two lanes through that area. The flow of traffic in the area as a result is diminished.

            “Do you have any numbers to back up your assertion that the carbon emitted by the extra time needed to find parking is equal to or more than that saved by people taking bicycles instead of cars in the first place?” – No, but do you have any numbers to back up that people who were parking cars before suddenly switched to Bixi? Or are Bixi riders just past public transit users / walkers who now use the bikes instead?

            “Mr. businessman in a three-piece suit isn’t going to drive around the block five times looking for a parking spot. He either has underground parking, or he takes his car to a paid lot, or he has a taxi or limousine drive him to and from work.” – The point isn’t that Mr Businessman is going to circle the block, only that he isn’t going to move to public transit, so car users are not going to disappear. They are part of the mix of people who are not going to end up in public transit at any point, they will relocate their business before that happens.

            “Bixi stations only take up a parking space about every four or five blocks in the most dense areas. That’s hardly a reason to panic. Montreal has 400 Bixi stations, and not all of them take up parking spaces. It’s a drop in the bucket. Bike paths take up more space, but they’re also not all over the place. ” – If you break out the individual pieces, none of them alone is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. But when combined, it hurts. Lost parking, lower traffic flow, harder left turns (on Du Maisoneuve) and so on touch the way things work. When the availability of parking in downtown is low to start with and then made lower, it hurts. A bixi rack is 5 or so parking spaces lost, so the 400 racks could be up to 2000 parking spaces taken out.

            “I thought it was the mayor of the Plateau who was against the car.” – Mayor Tremblay is very much against the car, and widely supports steps to limit car traffic in Montreal. It isn’t the mayor of the Plateau that is agreeing to finance Bixi (again), to add more bike paths all over the city, or to move to limit parking in many areas and to signfiicantly increase the price of parking.

            “Far more tax money goes to fixing roads and highways for the benefit of cars than goes to Bixi service ” – and far more economic activity is generated on those roads than on the Bixi bikes (which conveniently also use those roads).

            I would dare the mayor to declare downtown a car free zone for 12 months. Draw a box at Papineau, Atwater, the 720, and say des pins. Inside that area, the only way to get around is public transit, bixi, or your feet. No taxis allow, no cars allowed, nothing. Want to bet how long it would take for massive new commercial construction projects to pop up in the south shore and laval to take up the businesses that would be moving out of the core?

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              A bixi rack is 5 or so parking spaces lost, so the 400 racks could be up to 2000 parking spaces taken out.

              Even if that math made sense (and it doesn’t – all but a few Bixi racks take up about two or three parking spaces at most), it still compares negatively with the tens of thousands of registered Bixi users.

              Want to bet how long it would take for massive new commercial construction projects to pop up in the south shore and laval to take up the businesses that would be moving out of the core?

              This has already happened. Shopping malls like the Dix30 were built to attract suburbanites who do their shopping by car. Businesses that depend on the availability of parking will always find it easier in the suburbs than downtown. Bixi hasn’t changed that, and neither have bicycle lanes or reserved bus lanes. Downtown traffic is a fact of life in even the most car-friendly city.

              This isn’t rocket science. Downtown simply can’t accommodate all the people who want to drive to work every day. Therefore it has to facilitate other forms of transportation that are more efficient and use less space per person.

              Reply
          4. AlexH

            You said “This isn’t rocket science. Downtown simply can’t accommodate all the people who want to drive to work every day. Therefore it has to facilitate other forms of transportation that are more efficient and use less space per person”

            I think this is where we cannot agree. If they made the offering of public transportation / alternates so much better, people would willingly leave their cars. But instead of truly improving the offer, the reality is that they are trying to hobble the traffic situation until the stinky hot, sweaty, slow, and often indirect routings of buses and metros appear to be the better choice. Artificially hurting the flow of traffic and making it harder to do what has always been done seems to be more of an anti-car move than a pro-anything else move.

            You said: “Even if that math made sense (and it doesn’t – all but a few Bixi racks take up about two or three parking spaces at most), it still compares negatively with the tens of thousands of registered Bixi users.” You also sort of fail here, because you are assuming some sort of one for one trade. Were Bixi users previously car users? Did the introduction of bixi cause 2000 or so less cars to come into the downtown core each day? Or is Bixi just another tool used by local residents to get around, avoiding the costs and risks of buying their own bike?

            You cannot look at the conversions of parking spots to bixi users and try to determine some positive move. The Bixi racks could just as easily be placed in other areas, which would give both the bike benefit and not hurt the parking situation. The choices of locations often appear to be made specifically to cause the most harm to car owners and traffic in general.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              you are assuming some sort of one for one trade. Were Bixi users previously car users?

              According to the statistics, no. Most of the people who take Bixi would otherwise bike, use public transit or walk. But should 20 Bixi users who share their bikes be denied parking spaces for them so one or two drivers can park for a day?

              Artificially hurting the flow of traffic and making it harder to do what has always been done seems to be more of an anti-car move than a pro-anything else move.

              The purpose of bicycle lanes and bus lanes isn’t to “artificially” hurt the flow of traffic, but to favour one form of transportation over another. (Specifically, it favours either more efficient mass transit or more compact cycling traffic.)

              There are “traffic calming” measures being implemented in the Plateau and elsewhere, some of which I agree with, others not so much. But those “artificial” traffic measures are being undertaken not for the benefit of transit users or cyclists, but because people in those neighbourhoods are demanding safer streets.

              The Bixi racks could just as easily be placed in other areas, which would give both the bike benefit and not hurt the parking situation.

              Like where? Many racks downtown are already on the sidewalk. Suggest a better spot for a Bixi rack that’s safe for everyone involved and I don’t see why there would be an objection.

              Reply
          5. emdx

            The gridlock isn’t caused because of traffic on a single street, but rather the culmination of actions taken by the Tremblay administration to cut down the number of available lanes on parallel streets, as well as Rene Levesque, as a result of bike lanes, bus lanes, and so on. Let’s not forget for a second the intentional de-syncing of traffic lights to assure a restricted flow of cars through an area, no matter the demand.

            Patently false. Gridlock is caused by cars. Adding lanes is not the solution, since once you add lanes, they get filled to capacity.

            The obvious solution is to REDUCE lanes, which is being done by putting bike paths and reserved lanes. And soon enough, there will be streetcar tracks to relinquish cars to the historical oddity they are, a product of a wasteful era.

            Creating specific bike lanes is meaningless if they are not being used. It would the same as having a reserved bus lane on a street with no bus route. Why do it? The horrible damage done to du Maisoneuve to create a bike lane is almost beyond understanding, unless you truly hate cars and hate the people who drive them – and spend money in the downtown core. Having bike lanes and then not encouraging them to be used, and rather allowing cyclists to run wherever they like (including on the sidewalks, against traffic, and through red lights) is just insane.

            If the way wasn’t clogged by cars, there would be no need for us to ride against the traffic (there wouldn’t be one ways) or on sidewalks, or run red lights (who are necessary because of the cars). There are far too many cars on the road, and any initiative that discourages motorists is a good one.

            Most cyclists don’t obey the law. The run lights, they ride in the wrong direction against traffic, and so on. There is no help for users at a bixi stand, nothing to guide them in safe operation. In fact, most of the Bixi stands are specifically NOT located near bike routes, but instead put users directly into traffic (and mostly onto the sidewalk).

            The law was made for cars. Because of their high mass, high speed, low manoeverability(sp?), their safe operation is only possible by following very strict rules. Not so for bicycles. Let’s take the example of the proverbial red light:

            When you are in your box on wheels, you sit far back from the actual intersection when stopped at it, and you are sitting rather low. So you do not have an unobstructed view of the street you’re crossing and therefore you cannot see if someone else is coming.

            On a bicycle, however, you sit high, and you’re much closer to the intersection, therefore you have a much better view to see if anyone is coming, plus our very low mass means that we can stop on a dime, whereas a car cannot. This is why we can run stop signs and red lights SAFELY.

            Let’s not forget either the amount of parking spaces in the downtown core lost to Bixi bikes, which in turns leads to people circling the blocks longer to try to find parking, only to create more gridlock.

            Let’s not shed a tear for those cheapass drivers who would rather spend money in gas, choking us up in their smelly car fumes while going around to look for a parking spot, than dish out their cash to a private parking lot…

            So gridlock is caused mostly by the choices made by the Mayor and his people to try to limit the public’s choices, and the public continues to vote against it with their actions.

            No. Gridlock is caused by cars who come to the downtown core without any valid reason.

            Reply
        3. AlexH

          “should 20 Bixi users who share their bikes be denied parking spaces for them so one or two drivers can park for a day?” – Nope. Considering that these are areas where parking is expensive, limited, and has a 2 hour or less turn over, I would say that many more than a couple of drivers would get involved. If you consider 2 hour blocks only, you are still looking at anywhere from 4 to 8 cars per day. Take out even 3 parking sports, and now you are comparing 12-24 car parks to 20 bixi users. We don’t even know the average number of people in a car, so if could be 12-48 people (assuming up to 2 people per parking session).

          “The purpose of bicycle lanes and bus lanes isn’t to “artificially” hurt the flow of traffic, but to favour one form of transportation over another.” – It isn’t just the lanes in and of themselves. It’s changed made to the traffic lights (bus priority lights, which take away from all other traffic flow) or traffic lights purposely de-synced to slow traffic flow. It can be installing the lanes and then banning left turns or right turns at certain intersections whiile do it, or making it harder to make those turns (the short space for right turns on Rene Levesque means that there are often right hand turn cars blocking the 2nd lane, because they cannot use them empty right lane until 2 or 3 car lengths from the corner). If the bus and bike lanes added space to the road, it wouldn’t be an issue – but in Montreal, they typically remove services from the automotive traffic to permit these things. When the roads were already fairly occupied, dropping a lane or more impedes traffic on that street and parallel roads as well, as traffic is diverted and causes other jams away from there.

          “Like where? Many racks downtown are already on the sidewalk. Suggest a better spot for a Bixi rack that’s safe for everyone involved and I don’t see why there would be an objection.” – A good example would be St Catherine and Mcgill College. Bixi rack is on the north side, taking up most of the parking spaces there. McGill college is a lightly used two lane with no parking on either side. Shrinking one side of that down to a single lane and putting the bixi rack there would be good. Even the sidewalks on both sides are fairly large, and could likely support a bixi rack. That is just a good example. Bixi racks could also be put in some of the bus stop zones, many of while are much longer than required. Take out 1 parking space and part of the bus stop.

          Reply
          1. Chris Erb

            The argument that restricting automobile flow on downtown streets doesn’t hold much water if you consider the fact that generally, in North America, the most vibrant and dynamic downtowns are those where driving and parking are the most difficult. Montreal has one of the best downtowns on the continent and I would argue that much of that has to do with the high use of transit and active transportation (cycling, walking, etc.). Vancouver, Portland, NYC, Toronto, are all cities with good to great downtowns but are all hell to drive in (but relatively friendly to pedestrians, bicycles, and transit). Downtowns that make driving easy like Detroit, Calgary, Atlanta, etc. are places I doubt many people want to see Montreal replicate. I can only imagine that if vehicular travel was made even more difficult in the downtown core, the quality of life there would improve (this may even be true for drivers if the number of vehicles driving into downtown decreases considerably).

            The argument that easing traffic congestion to help the environment is completely bogus. In fact, it is generally agreed that congestion is actually GOOD for the environment. The Wall Street Journal summed it up pretty well in an article printed a couple years ago: here:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703746604574461572304842840.html

            Reply
          2. MB

            AlexH

            This issue is clearly more complex than you might realize past the knee-jerk (the built environment includes more than just roads). Here are a few more layers that might make you re-think your stance; to stop equating “auto-supremacy” with “quality urban environment.”

            1) Businesses and dwellings do not require automobile infrastructure to be competitive with the suburbs or with other businesses. Look at any of the world’s great cities for examples; or, look at some successful businesses here in Montreal. You should suggest to your friend who’s business is suffering due to the lack of parking to change his or her business model to attract non-motorists. That makes more sense than re-building downtown to cater to suburban motorists. Besides, we tried that already and it hasn’t worked well.

            2) It’s hard to believe you’re looking at this with a clear head when you describe anything other than driving as “stinky hot, sweaty, slow.” Millions of people in Montreal every day have no problem taking bicycles and public transportation (including the head of the company where I work, an important international publicity firm). Your description of other transportation modes reeks of entitlement. I’ve used public transportation in Montreal for 10 years without any problems or major complaints. Often it’s been quite convenient and comfortable. For many parts of the city it provides a useful alternative to driving. I am looking forward to my walk home, and if I get tired I can hop on the bus. Perfect. Maybe I’ll stop at some of the stores along the way if there’s something appealing in the window. Traffic calming on Clark and St-Dominique means that I can instead opt for some peace and quiet.

            3) With limited space, making any form of transportation easier or better comes at the cost of other forms of transportation. Steve mentioned this a few posts back; you set up a strawman to refute, or ‘disagree’, by saying that the other options suck so whatever, more cars. None of that addresses what Steve was arguing. I’ll try to make this simple: we are talking about a limited space on roads that for SIXTY YEARS have been prioritized by and designed to optimize automobile use. We can all see that this doesn’t work very well. So, to take steps to solve the problem we re-organize the space to improve other forms of transportation. The ultimate goal is to get more PEOPLE through a given area, not more cars. How are we supposed to improve public transport and cycling infrastructure if THE ENTIRE ROADBED is used for cars and car storage? We can’t improve public transport without taking some space from the cars. You’re not even being “hobbled,” you’re being inconvenienced. Unbelievable, truly.

            …and then you dare to suggest where bicycles should and shouldn’t be allowed? Being able to drive or park on every single street in the metropolis is OK, but no cycling adjacent to an existing bike path. What planet are you from?

            4) You say: “Take out even 3 parking sports, and now you are comparing 12-24 car parks to 20 bixi users. We don’t even know the average number of people in a car, so if could be 12-48 people (assuming up to 2 people per parking session).”

            I must assume that it did not occur to you that a Bixi station that accommodates 20 racks will be used by more than 20 people per day; downtown it’s probably more like hundreds of people for 20 racks. Do you understand how Bixi works? In any case, you can feel free to assume 2 people per car parking session but we KNOW, because, you know, people study this stuff, that the vast majority of motorists arrive downtown in SOV, or single-occupancy vehicles. There_is_simply_no_logical_way that one or two parking spaces are convenient for a larger number of motorists than bixi customers. Some parking spots don’t see cars in them all the time, too. Don’t just assume that every part of the city has an endless demand for more car stuff.

            5) You keep talking about traffic “flow” being “artificially” impeded; I suspect that you are not a traffic engineer. Maisonneuve is still a great example: 10 years ago there were barely any businesses or dwellings along the street because nobody wanted to go there; yet it had two lanes of traffic and lots of parking, on street and adjacent. The only people who used the street were motorists en route. It was extremely unpleasant to walk along and except for the metro stations there were virtually no destinations. Today the route is lined by many residences and small businesses, terraces, welcoming sidewalks, & new buildings. It’s just simply a better place to be, but you might have to get out of your car to see that. I don’t think there’s much interest from developers to build multi-million dollar skyscrapers, establish new businesses, etc., on a traffic sewer with 6 foot wide sidewalks.

            6) There is a solution to “fixing” Maisonneuve as you would like. Automobile traffic acts much more like expanding gasses than flowing liquids. You see, many planners now understand that improving automobile infrastructure actually *induces* more demand from motorists and creates even more traffic problems. This of course can ONLY be avoided if we level vast areas of the city for the sake of wide roads and parking lots—bikes and people tend to disappear from those environments anyway. We haven’t really done that anywhere in North America since the 1960s-70s, why are we so behind????

            Maybe you’ve convinced me…this is beautiful! Let’s raze most of downtown and use the space for big parking lots, and widen everything to 10 lanes plus parking. Landscaping should keep the tourists coming. We can keep maybe a couple of the shopping centres to compete with Dix30 now that there is unlimited parking. Oh, and we can’t forget the office buildings where important business people do important business. They’re the only ones that really need to use the city anyway, so everybody else OUT! It’ll be just like Phoenix!!! Yay!

            Reply
          3. Kevin

            I used to live at the corner of de Maisonneuve and St. Mathieu, and a good friend of mine still lives there, so I’m pretty familiar with traffic in that area.

            In the mid-90s the amount of car traffic was always very heavy, even with two lanes allowed to cars. People who were lucky enough to find parking on both sides of de Maisonneuve inevitably caused a mini-jam as they backed up into the spot.

            Since the bike lane was installed, I’ve noticed far more difficulty for people trying to turn left off de Maisonneuve onto any street, and that is creating backlogs as drivers have to jig around the car at an angle.
            On the flip side it is much, much safer to ride a bike down that street.

            As for bixis, nobody has done the research I really want to see: comparing how many people use bixi instead of a car.
            Just informally most of the people I know who have Bixi keys already own bicycles and use them to ride around, including to work. However when Bixi came along, instead of risking their own bicycle and trying to find a place to park it near work, they now use a Bixi.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              As for bixis, nobody has done the research I really want to see: comparing how many people use bixi instead of a car.

              A survey last year actually looked into that. It showed only about 10 per cent of Bixi use replaced cars or taxis. Most replaced walking, personal bike travel or public transit, with roughly equal numbers for each.

              That’s not to say there isn’t an indirect effect. Reducing pressure on public transit, for example, makes it more appealing for drivers.

              My own experience is that Bixi replaces short transit trips or long walks. It’s also more enjoyable, and healthier. And depending on the route, it can even be faster.

              Reply
          4. AlexH

            MB, until I got to your sarcastic conclusion, I was enjoying your posting. It was amusing, like a Conservative budget. Sorry, my mind is wandering. Anyway, to address your points:

            1) Those “great cities” are built for public transit, bikes, and so on, and have zoning laws that encourage people to live in the city. The last 30 years or so, various Montreal mayors and councils have been working hard to push people out of the city and into the burbs, by making housing in town either undesirable, unaffordable, or downright dangerous. We have only started to see in the last couple of years serious attempts to build new condos and living spaces in the core of the city. Montreal has not be designed or organized as a transit city, and without major spending, it won’t change. The design of the city just doesn’t support it.

            2) I started using public transit in Montreal 30+ years ago, and my latest trip was about 2PM this afternoon. Guess what? The bus was hot, stinky, sweaty, and filled with people feeling the heat and hating being there. It was very unpleasant, slow, and so on. This morning, going from Gouin and Grenet to the Montpelier train station during rush hour took 40+ minutes, a journey I can do by car in less than 10 – without the sweat and without the bother. I can stop for 30 minutes on the way to enjoy a coffee or window shop, and still get there in better shape. Excellent.

            3) As Steve has pointed out, survey say that the vast majority of people using Bixi are doing so to replace walking or public transit trips. Shrinking the traffic lanes and minimizing parking isn’t changing habits (but it does make it harder for buses to get around). I think it just makes car drivers even more resentful. I would love to see parking meters on bike parking. Pay your $6 for 2 hours and let me know how that works out for you.

            4) The 20 number comes from Steve’s comment. All I was trying to show was that 3 parking spaces doesn’t mean 3 cars served per day. In 2 hour bloicks, it means many more cars per day, and in areas with even faster turnover, it could be even higher. If you want claim that “no logicial way” stuff, perhaps you might want to show something with some logic in it.

            5) 10 years ago De maisoneve was busy and filled with businesses. Where there were restrictions in the flow (such as around the split in the road under the building after Stanley that was torn down), there was still plenty of business. I can’t remember it being empty or a wasteland. Now I can tell you that I have friends who operate a store on the street, and I never even go into see them, because it is absolutely impossible to find parking in the area during business hours. Can you please give some examples of the changes you are suggesting have happened?

            6) I would say that your concept is incorrect, because your premise is incorrect. Automobile traffic is one of those things that can be greatly improved not by building more roads, but rather by working on traffic flow. Done right, traffic flow allows for more cars per hour through a given area by maintaining them at a safe speed without repeated stops. That improves the air quality (most air pollution from cars is generated as they pull away from a stop), and can great improve the quality of life for everyone involved. The idea that blocking streets, de-syncing traffic lights. adding stop signs, speed bumps, and reducing lanes some how is going to improve things is a failure. At best, the traffic is shifted to adjacent roads, which causes more traffic headaches (just out of your eye sight, do you think it is fixed), and you also often hurt the local merchants by limiting the number of people who chose to enter their area.

            Let’s use a great example of “traffic” control and how it plays out. Decarie street in St Laurent, between Du College and Cote Vertu is an area that has almost always been a vibrant business area. I can think back to being 10 years old, going with my parents to eat at Chicken Heaven (around 900 Decarie). The street was home to a branch of every major bank, there were commercial stores down each side of the street, and it was always very busy. It has gotten big boosts over time with the addition of the metro at each each of this strip as well, Du College and Cote Vertu metro stations are at each end.

            About 15 years ago, back in the days of St Laurent, it was decides that the street would be redone as a divided boulevard with parking on both sides of each traffic lane, north and south. This effectively doubled the amount of parking available in the area. This however was paired up with the idea of restricting access to Decarie in the area, with some side streets blocked off, and other moves that made it harder to access Decarie. At Cote Vertu, you can no longer turn onto Decarie, which means you have to take a convoluted route to get there. They formed a merchant association as well, and levied special fees to improve the pedestrian angle of the street, with nice looking lights, and so on.

            The changes started a bit of a decline, as high association fees and taxes in the area drove some businesses out. But those spaces were usually taken up by others.

            In comes the city of Montreal, about 4 years ago, and they decide to redo this stretch again. The big change? No added lanes of traffic, wider sidewalks (already way oversized, bigger the St Catherine at it’s best), and half the parking got removed. Oh, and Stationment Montreal came in with their pay box parking, high rates, and no ticking time on the meter. The results? The banks are almost all gone, on the TD and Bank of Montreal are left. The Royal moved to the shopping plaza (to get parking), and the Banque National fled the area. Stores sit for rent for months / years, even new builds site unused after 4+ years. There is almost never any parking available in the area, it’s incredibly difficult to do business here any more. Thousands of people walk down the street every day, and there is still not enough business to support the merchants. They needed the car traffic, they need the people who had their stores and services as a destination, but could no longer get there because they cannot find parking.

            So no, the answer isn’t pave it all and people be damned. But without major changes in the way the city is structured and how it allows development of the city as a living space, it is unlikely that the demand by car drivers for access to the city will stop. If artificial means are used to stop that demand, it is likely the demand will shift elsewhere. Making the city an undesirable destination isn’t a way to encourage business.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Shrinking the traffic lanes and minimizing parking isn’t changing habits (but it does make it harder for buses to get around).

              Unless that “shrinking” is to add a reserved bus lane.

              I would love to see parking meters on bike parking. Pay your $6 for 2 hours and let me know how that works out for you.

              Setting aside the fact that Bixi already charges for use, bikes take up far less space than cars. I realize you don’t like cyclists, but this would accomplish nothing.

              The idea that blocking streets, de-syncing traffic lights. adding stop signs, speed bumps, and reducing lanes some how is going to improve things is a failure.

              Note that none of these things has been done on de Maisonneuve Blvd. or any of Montreal’s major arteries. There are traffic-calming measures being done on smaller side streets, at the requests of local residents.

              Reply
          5. Kevin

            In which case @AlexH has a point: Bixis make driving aggravating, but don’t really get people out of their cars.

            Reply
          6. AlexH

            Steve, traffic calming on side streets is very different from what is done on major arteries. Having one light turn green just as the next one turns red, example, and doing it intentionally is the sort of thing I am seeing. In St Laurent, both Marcel Lauren and Cote Vertu, which had very good light synchronization when it was a city alone now has some of the most obstructionist light timing around. You can see the issue when you look at long lines of cars are certain intersections, but with huge empty spaces in front of them (often for multiple blocks). Properly timed lights mean that drivers can run at a pace near the speed limit and never have to stop, which is both good at saving gas and also at diminishing pollution. When they shift it to intentionally create a blockage, they create more pollution, more noise, and more frustrated drivers. It is entirely avoidable.

            For bus lanes, I think the jury is still out. If you have a busy street with 3 lanes and cut it down to 2 plus a bus lane, you create more car traffic. More importantly, because of queuing theory, you don’t lose 33% of the road effectiveness, but something closer to 50%, as cars have to merge together, the lines get longer, etc. The buses may only move marginally faster between stops, but will be stopped for a similar amount of time. In the end, what you did was perhaps marginally increase the speed of the buses, but you have in turned created a significant traffic headache for all other traffic. I have been unable to see any studies from the STM or others on the overall effects on traffic of the creation of bus lanes, only their wonderfully optimized (and often inaccurate) boasts about speed increases.

            The parking charge comment just points out how the city is once again giving an unfair subvention to the bike riders. You can park anywhere, you can lock your bike to almost anything, you can block sidewalk space, and all without getting a ticket or paying for the right. Cars? Charge them like crazy.

            Reply
          7. emdx

            Answering to AlexH here:

            1) Those "great cities" are built for public transit, bikes, and so on, and have zoning laws that encourage people to live in the city. The last 30 years or so, various Montreal mayors and councils have been working hard to push people out of the city and into the burbs, by making housing in town either undesirable, unaffordable, or downright dangerous. We have only started to see in the last couple of years serious attempts to build new condos and living spaces in the core of the city. Montreal has not be designed or organized as a transit city, and without major spending, it won’t change. The design of the city just doesn’t support it.

            Which mayors are you talking about? Drapeau? Yes, Drapeau did his best to make the downtown core unlivable, by gutting it to make highways and parking lots.

            Doré? What did Doré do wrong, besides bungling-up Overdale??? Let’s not forget that Doré was mightily hobbled by 30 years of Drapeau’s retarded decisions; something you cannot undo on a dime.

            Bourque? Well, this one is his own separate parallel universe…

            Tremblay? Just a big status-quo pusher.

            2) I started using public transit in Montreal 30+ years ago, and my latest trip was about 2PM this afternoon. Guess what? The bus was hot, stinky, sweaty, and filled with people feeling the heat and hating being there. It was very unpleasant, slow, and so on. This morning, going from Gouin and Grenet to the Montpelier train station during rush hour took 40+ minutes, a journey I can do by car in less than 10 – without the sweat and without the bother. I can stop for 30 minutes on the way to enjoy a coffee or window shop, and still get there in better shape. Excellent.

            Your bus trip was slow, courtesy of the cars blocking the way.

            Now, if you live at Gouin/Grenet and take the train at Montpellier, you need to have your head examined. OF COURSE it’s gonna take you 40 minutes, because you have to take 3 buses and walk a long way. Why don’t you get off at Bois-Franc, the bus goes by there.

            Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you were too cheap to pay for an extra-zone pass… Your time is not that valuable, then.

            3) As Steve has pointed out, survey say that the vast majority of people using Bixi are doing so to replace walking or public transit trips. Shrinking the traffic lanes and minimizing parking isn’t changing habits (but it does make it harder for buses to get around). I think it just makes car drivers even more resentful. I would love to see parking meters on bike parking. Pay your $6 for 2 hours and let me know how that works out for you.

            The reason for parking meters is to make sure no one hogs a parking space for too long, and keep it for others. Bicycles, on the other hand, take no space at all to park, so there is no need to put parking meters for bicycles. And, needless to say, how the hell are you going to force bikers to use parking meters? Come on, I’d like to hear the fascistic way you would have such a requirement enforced…

            5) 10 years ago De maisoneve was busy and filled with businesses. Where there were restrictions in the flow (such as around the split in the road under the building after Stanley that was torn down), there was still plenty of business. I can’t remember it being empty or a wasteland. Now I can tell you that I have friends who operate a store on the street, and I never even go into see them, because it is absolutely impossible to find parking in the area during business hours. Can you please give some examples of the changes you are suggesting have happened?

            Totally false. Maisonneuve used to be a no man’s land. Now, there are plenty of terraces thriving west of Stanley, thanks to the reduced traffic.

            If your friends cannot run a store on Maisonneuve because of no parking, why don’t they move out to the suburbs, and let the space be available to someone who knows how to run a store there??? That would be a good riddance, as we do not need people who cannot adapt to our beautiful city; let them uglify the already ugly suburbs, they’ll feel right at home.

            6) I would say that your concept is incorrect, because your premise is incorrect. Automobile traffic is one of those things that can be greatly improved not by building more roads, but rather by working on traffic flow. Done right, traffic flow allows for more cars per hour through a given area by maintaining them at a safe speed without repeated stops. That improves the air quality (most air pollution from cars is generated as they pull away from a stop), and can great improve the quality of life for everyone involved. The idea that blocking streets, de-syncing traffic lights. adding stop signs, speed bumps, and reducing lanes some how is going to improve things is a failure. At best, the traffic is shifted to adjacent roads, which causes more traffic headaches (just out of your eye sight, do you think it is fixed), and you also often hurt the local merchants by limiting the number of people who chose to enter their area.

            Drapeau gutted the city in the 1950’s and 1960’s in order to “improve” traffic. All he did simply nearly killed the downtown core, while fueling the exodus to the ’burbs.

            Without cars, there would be no suburban exodus, so the best way to revitalize Montréal is to reduce the number of cars. Since we cannot outright ban them, a better way is a psychological way, by wearing motorists nerves by preventing them from moving, repeated until they finally get the light and do not bring their car downtown anymore. And if they stay in the ’burbs, that’s a double plus for us, because he won’t be polluting our city with his smelly car AND he will not bring his retrograde carhead attitude here.

            Let’s use a great example of "traffic" control and how it plays out. Decarie street in St Laurent, between Du College and Cote Vertu is an area that has almost always been a vibrant business area.

            About 15 years ago, back in the days of St Laurent, it was decides that the street would be redone as a divided boulevard with parking on both sides of each traffic lane, north and south.

            In comes the city of Montreal, about 4 years ago, and they decide to redo this stretch again. The big change? No added lanes of traffic, wider sidewalks (already way oversized, bigger the St Catherine at it’s best), and half the parking got removed. Oh, and Stationment Montreal came in with their pay box parking, high rates, and no ticking time on the meter. The results? The banks are almost all gone, on the TD and Bank of Montreal are left. The Royal moved to the shopping plaza (to get parking), and the Banque National fled the area. Stores sit for rent for months / years, even new builds site unused after 4+ years. There is almost never any parking available in the area, it’s incredibly difficult to do business here any more. Thousands of people walk down the street every day, and there is still not enough business to support the merchants. They needed the car traffic, they need the people who had their stores and services as a destination, but could no longer get there because they cannot find parking.

            Congratulations! You just demonstrated how flawed the suburban model of car-centric mobility is. The reason why Décarie is not thriving is not because of the reduced parking spots, but because the people who live around do not have access to good transit service, caused by the very low density of the area.

            Montréal does not have such problems, because of it’s mixed-use planning, something that wasn’t done in St-Laurent, where housing is strictly segregated from commerce, forcing people to travel long distances that practically neccessitate a car.

            For the record, for about 15 of the last 22 years, I worked about a kilometer away from my house. And, thanks to the mixed land use, I was able to get all I needed without going afar (for example, on my city block, I have two strip joints, some office buildings, a garage, a plumber’s shop, a woodworking shop and a movie studio. Expand to the next adjoining blocks, I have at least 10 restaurants, 3 dépanneurs, 1 huge drugstore, 2 pawn shops, 1 computer store, 1 surplus store, 1 dollar store and whatnot — if I needed to access that in St-Laurent, I would still be walking around).

            So no, the answer isn’t pave it all and people be damned. But without major changes in the way the city is structured and how it allows development of the city as a living space, it is unlikely that the demand by car drivers for access to the city will stop. If artificial means are used to stop that demand, it is likely the demand will shift elsewhere. Making the city an undesirable destination isn’t a way to encourage business.

            Demand for car access will stop when it will be made painfully clear that cars are not welcome in the city. And if business flees, good riddance, we don’t need car-encouraging business. Better leave that space for businesses that do not need cars. And when the gas finally hits $10, we’ll be the one laughing at the suburban businesses dying-up because no one can afford driving there anymore.

            Reply
          8. AlexH

            EMDX: Actually, it’s two buses from Grenet to Montpellier, 64 to 121, nothing more fancy than that, and the 121 part is very short (10 minute). The total walk after that is less than a block (from Muir and Cote Vertu to the stairs to go up the train platform). My route was to meet up with someone else, and was still faster than it was to take the metro from Cote Vertu downtown. The question of zones didn’t enter into the discussion at all.

            The speed of the 64 bus mostly had to do with out of sequence traffic lights, long delays with the card reader at the bus entrance (it takes longer per person to get on), and an endless number of stops and starts. Traffic really wasn’t an issue. Just the process.

            As for St Laurent, until the merger with Montreal it was pretty much the primo place to live and work. Plenty of public transit, a large industrial park and base, great roads, and so on. The Decarie strip has always had good bus service (17 has run along there forever, and other routes cross it at both ends and once in the middle as well). There are also two CEGEP level schools not far away, plus every high school in the area has students dumped at one end for good measure as well. But business isn’t just about people walking by, and destination restaurants, banks, and the like all require at least some reasonable parking to support their business models. As parking has shrunk, the number of businesses has shrunk as well. It’s not hard to draw a correlation. You can also look at the harm done to merchants on St Laurent boulevard in the last few years with all the road work, poor access, and lack of parking in those areas as well. It’s a real issue.

            Gutting the city for roads and parking only means that the work was done poorly and without consideration. Drapeau was as extreme that way as Tremblay is the other, and neither solution is the best.

            If we want a city where public transit is the norm, the rules for buildings need to change to allow higher density, allowing more people to live in the city and for fewer to choose to live in the burbs.

            Here is another dumb example: downtown to Montpellier train station takes 15 minutes at most (beating the metro bus combo that can sometimes near 1 hour). Yet, between 4 and 6PM there are only 6 train departures, and they are often quite full. The parking areas in Two Mountains are packed, as are other areas. If you want to get cars out of the city, why not address the source of the cars, rather than patronizingly punishing the locals by making it hard to get around the city?

            Reply
          9. emdx

            AlexH:

            EMDX: Actually, it’s two buses from Grenet to Montpellier, 64 to 121,

            Silly me, I read “Du Ruisseau”. Why don’t you get off at Bois Franc and take the train there???

            As for St Laurent, until the merger with Montreal it was pretty much the primo place to live and work.

            Not really. Any city where you are forced to have a car to live properly is not primo.

            Plenty of public transit, a large industrial park and base, great roads, and so on.

            I have worked a few jobs in St-Laurent, and actually, the public transit quite sucks there, as in any low-density, separated activity suburb.

            And it’s easy to have “great roads” when they haven’t been around for 100-150 years.

            The Decarie strip has always had good bus service (17 has run along there forever, and other routes cross it at both ends and once in the middle as well).

            The 17 still runs there. I know, because when I want to take the time to go to Diogène, I take the 17 all the way from St-Henri.

            There are also two CEGEP level schools not far away, plus every high school in the area has students dumped at one end for good measure as well. But business isn’t just about people walking by, and destination restaurants, banks, and the like all require at least some reasonable parking to support their business models.

            That’s only if the city is soo poorly planned to force people to have cars.

            St-Laurent is a mightily poorly planned city. You have dwellings in one place, business in another, stores in another. To go from one to the other is woefully impractical; you either need to blow a third of your pay to entertain a ton of scrap on wheels, or a third of your free time on slow, windy, not-coming-often, a-lot-of-transfers buses.

            St-Laurent is a prime example of the disastrous car-centric thinking that pervaded the rotted brains of city planners right after the war.

            As parking has shrunk, the number of businesses has shrunk as well. It’s not hard to draw a correlation. You can also look at the harm done to merchants on St Laurent boulevard in the last few years with all the road work, poor access, and lack of parking in those areas as well. It’s a real issue.

            Cry me a river. Now, start increasing the density in St-Laurent; bulldoze those unsighty duplexes or those godawful war vet cabins, and start building 3-4plexes, WITH SPACE FOR STORES ON THE GROUND-LEVEL! Now you’ll have a truly livable “PRIMO” city to live in. Oh, and don’t forget running buses every 10 minutes on every other street.

            A good example of proper land use is the city block I live on. Clockwise, you’ll find there: a garage, two strip joints, some nondescript office space (all those with dwellings above), a woodworking shop, many houses, a (small) movie studio, some more houses and condos and a plumbing shop. For the last 22 years, I worked for nearly 15 years about 1 kilometer away. I only ventured out for kicks because I could have access to all I needed by foot! You just can’t do that in St-Laurent. You are forced to have a car or to waste time in inefficient transit.

            Suburbs were planned without any thought for the future. Now that we are in the future, the piper has to get paid. And, boy is the bill ugly!!!

            Gutting the city for roads and parking only means that the work was done poorly and without consideration. Drapeau was as extreme that way as Tremblay is the other, and neither solution is the best.

            The main idea with gutting the city and force people to the ’burbs was mainly to punish the poor for just being poor. When they tore down thousands of houses to make Radio-Canada and the Ville-Marie expressway out east*, there was a lot of bitching and grumbling, to the point that the highway construction was outright stopped. But when they dug the Décarie hole, they also demolished hundreds of houses too (south of Queen-Mary — one of my oldest childhood memories is when they tore down the bank on the south side). But you never heard a peep about the Décarie expressway. Why? Because those were rich peoples’ houses, who promptly moved out to Beaconsfield or Greenfield Park or whatever with their expropriation money.

            If we want a city where public transit is the norm, the rules for buildings need to change to allow higher density, allowing more people to live in the city and for fewer to choose to live in the burbs.

            Well, then, why do you go to bat for St-Laurent, a prime example of unsustainable, wasteful “urbanism”? 60 years ago, St-Laurent was prime agricultural land, and it was all wasted for low-density housing. St-Laurent is the example of everything that is wrong with urbanism in Montréal, and it’s just slightly less visible because the Métro and the commuter train goes there.

            Here is another dumb example: downtown to Montpellier train station takes 15 minutes at most (beating the metro bus combo that can sometimes near 1 hour). Yet, between 4 and 6PM there are only 6 train departures, and they are often quite full.

            I know. For a long time, I worked in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, and taking the train to/from work mightily sucked. But blame the AMT for having a ’burb centric “transit” “system”. The whole system is geared towards evil low-density suburbanites, there is not a smidgeon of a thought for good high-density city people.

            The parking areas in Two Mountains are packed, as are other areas. If you want to get cars out of the city, why not address the source of the cars, rather than patronizingly punishing the locals by making it hard to get around the city?

            Even though St-Laurent is now Montréal, it is still evil low-density bad-planning. So, unless they get their act together and densify the place with proper mixed-use zoning, they will have to suffer. Socially being good has it’s advantages.

            * Disclaimer: I grew-up in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. For me, Westmount is in the “east”. Even though it was 36 years ago, the notion still haven’t left me (the more so that I am in St-Henri right now).

            Reply
          10. AlexH

            EMDX: For the train, I mentioned before I was meeting someone before the train ride.

            St Laurent has always had a very good public transit system. The only real gripes were the last of bus service in the Henri Bourassa west of Toupin area, and that was resolved years ago. Otherwise, you can get around pretty well from any point to any other point in the “city” without much difficulty, but yes a little time and perhaps a few blocks of walking.

            I would waste your time on the 17 going to Diogènes, considering they have been closed for more than 6 months already. Plus taking the bus from St Henri to St Laurent is the old fashioned was, as there is a metro station at both ends, and your previous destination was less than a block from the station.

            Your rants about housing in St Laurent and such is sort of misplaced. If anything, St Laurent is the home of some of the nicest condo projects, has a significant number of rental apartments, and probably the most ready access to public transit of any of the boroughs at this point. But it is also a destination area for travellers, and when you remove public parking, you just encourage people to go elsewhere. The effects of this on business on Decarie has been very clear.

            I do like your re-writing of the history of road building in Montreal. It’s a creative stretching of facts, not supported by much of anything except your anger at the existance of any roads at all.

            I like how you ignored my point about parking and the train system. Where do you think many of those cars in downtown come from each day? It isn’t from St Laurent, as much as it’s from Laval, the north, and the south. Why do you think there are huge traffic jams to get on island each day? If you want to change traffic in the city, you change the way that people come onto the island. It’s perhaps the best indication of how badly public transit fails the ‘burbs when these people pick an hour in traffic over whatever other options have been put on offer. Don’t you think that is better place to spend money instead of some of these other projects?

            As for denisification, as I mentioned before, St Laurent has plenty of high rise projects, condos, rental apartments, etc. In fact, has a good balance of all sorts of projects. But with height limits still in place, we will not see the type of projects that could financially justify taking some of the low rise areas and turning them into high rise condo projects. It is the incredible contradiction of Montreal, with the city pushing public transit and then not allowing the type of density in housing that would make the system more cost effective. St Laurent is setup about as well as it can be under those rules, and unless those rules change, there is no business plan that can allow this sort of thing to change.

            For that matter, you grew up in NDG. Perhaps plowing down a pile of those horrible low rise buildings there and adding a bunch of hi rises would help. 3 story buildings with mix commercial on the bottom are pretty much the failing part of the city, in part because there is never enough parking to support these businesses properly, and not enough population density to make them work either. Talk to me about 10-20 story buildings with 160-400 units per building, tight footprints, and some commercial mix on the ground floor, then you might have something. But suggesting that 3 floor walkups over commercial is a way to go is basically to ignore the realities of almost every old time commercial street in Montreal.

            Reply
          11. emdx

            EMDX: For the train, I mentioned before I was meeting someone before the train ride.

            That’s nothing a text message (­”hi! I’m in 3rd car”) can’t solve.

            I would waste your time on the 17 going to Diogènes, considering they have been closed for more than 6 months already.

            Oh, that sucks. Oh well, I guess we’ll have to settle for Place Lafayette in the Mile-End.

             Plus taking the bus from St Henri to St Laurent is the old fashioned was, as there is a metro station at both ends, and your previous destination was less than a block from the station.

            It’s true that the lifestyle needed to afford an expensive house in St-Laurent with the obligatory cars calls for someone to be continuously on the rush, because time is money… But what do I know about quality of life? After all, I only live downtown…

            Your rants about housing in St Laurent and such is sort of misplaced. If anything, St Laurent is the home of some of the nicest condo projects, has a significant number of rental apartments, and probably the most ready access to public transit of any of the boroughs at this point. 

            St-Laurent housing is PRECISELY the problem. There is only housing. Nothing else, forcing people to go elsewhere to do their errands, and since it’s so far away, you have to have a car because you will have to consilidate all your errands in one trip. St-Laurent is the prototypical evil community which separates activities. Don’t you see? Separation of activity is the ultimate evil, because they force people to have cars, which are also the ultimate evil.In Montréal (well, normal Montréal, not in the abnormal parts that were merged-in, such as St-Laurent, Pierrefonds and the like) shops, offices and houses are mixed up all over the place, which makes for a much better quality of life. The neighbourhoods are always alive instead of being the no-man’s land zones of dormitory suburbs.

            But it is also a destination area for travellers, and when you remove public parking, you just encourage people to go elsewhere. The effects of this on business on Decarie has been very clear.

            This is deliberate. And it will continue to happen until St-Laurent people straighten up their acts, and introduce shops and services in their pristine residential zones. We will show you how to plan a city properly!!!

            I do like your re-writing of the history of road building in Montreal. It’s a creative stretching of facts, not supported by much of anything except your anger at the existance of any roads at all.

            Oookay, so you deny that they tore down thousands of houses to build the Décarie & Ville-Marie autoroutes? You deny that it was poor people who were displaced from the east and rich people from Décarie? Please provide rebuttals for those denials. Thank-you.

            I like how you ignored my point about parking and the train system. 

            Well, you obviously want your cake and eat it too. Granted, it sucks big time to have to WALK to the infrequent bus that doesn’t connect too well with the train, because the parking lot at Du Ruisseau or at Bois-Franc is filled to the brim with Laval cars. But for as long as St-Laurent will not have decent mixed-use buildings that provides good density (good density is density that makes transit sustainable), transit in St-Laurent will have to suck, and people will be compelled to use cars that degrade our quality of life in Montréal.

            Where do you think many of those cars in downtown come from each day? It isn’t from St Laurent, as much as it’s from Laval, the north, and the south. Why do you think there are huge traffic jams to get on island each day? 

            Because there are too many cars, because their owners are too snobbish to take transit. If they really wanted to take transit, they’d pressure their politicians who would offer some.

            If you want to change traffic in the city, you change the way that people come onto the island. It’s perhaps the best indication of how badly public transit fails the ‘burbs when these people pick an hour in traffic over whatever other options have been put on offer. 

            The best way to change traffic is to prevent cars from coming in in the first place. Taking measures to discourage motorists is a good first step, such as changing the way Laurier goes, for example. Then, not repairing collapsing bridges is another very good way to force people onto the trains.Of course, people are gonna be pissed-off! Well, that’s the price to pay when you see that your unsustainable lifestyle meets it’s inevitable doom!

            Don’t you think that is better place to spend money instead of some of these other projects?

            Why should all the money go to freeloading suburbanites? In Montréal, we pay much higher taxes. So it’s normal that the biggest city’s population be catered to first.

            As for denisification, as I mentioned before, St Laurent has plenty of high rise projects, condos, rental apartments, etc. In fact, has a good balance of all sorts of projects. 

            But it’s still evil! You have huge swatches of land with nothing with housing, others with nothing but industrial places, and others with huge shopping malls with rebarbative parking lots. This kind of environment is designed to force people to buy cars if they want to have a minimally good life.What you need to do is tear every other duplex and build a 4 story building with a shop on the ground floor.

            But with height limits still in place, we will not see the type of projects that could financially justify taking some of the low rise areas and turning them into high rise condo projects. It is the incredible contradiction of Montreal, with the city pushing public transit and then not allowing the type of density in housing that would make the system more cost effective. 

            Montréal does not have much 10-story buildings; those are a recent development. Most neighbourhoods have 2-3 story x-plexes. It’s St-Laurent who put bungalows, split levels and duplexes all over the place. But most importantly, it’s St-Laurent who does activity separation, and that, even more than low-density is the evil thing.

            St Laurent is setup about as well as it can be under those rules, and unless those rules change, there is no business plan that can allow this sort of thing to change.

            St Laurent needs to introduce usage mixity first and foremost.

            For that matter, you grew up in NDG. Perhaps plowing down a pile of those horrible low rise buildings there and adding a bunch of hi rises would help. 3 story buildings with mix commercial on the bottom are pretty much the failing part of the city, in part because there is never enough parking to support these businesses properly, and not enough population density to make them work either. 

            Aha! You are just pissed-off that you can’t take your car everywhere. The Plateau is an overwhelming success story PRECISELY because it’s not St-Laurent: you do not need a car to go there!!!! The St-Laurent shops are failing because they are in a city that was designed around cars. But the old parts of Montréal were not designed around cars, which is why they thrive.You have to face the music: the automobile is unsustainable, and we are currently seeing the collapse of autocentric lifestyles. You just bet on the wrong horse, bud.

            Talk to me about 10-20 story buildings with 160-400 units per building, tight footprints, and some commercial mix on the ground floor, then you might have something. But suggesting that 3 floor walkups over commercial is a way to go is basically to ignore the realities of almost every old time commercial street in Montreal.

            Why do you think everyone is piling-up to live on the Plateau? Precisely because it is total WIN, thanks to it’s 3-floor walk-ups philosophy.You do not need a Shaughnessy-village-like density (reportedly, the highest in Canada) to succeed.

            Reply
        4. emdx

          WTF?

          It’s already bad enough that the law forces us to take the bike path if there is one on the street we are on even though it’s often unsafe, now if we’d be forced to go several street over to use one, no, this is not right.

          And it is doubtful it would pass legal scrutiny either.

          You are obviously a carhead that’s frustrated by the cyclists’ extra-mobility. Well, why don’t you stay in your suburb and stop coming polluting us with your box on wheels?

          Reply
      2. SN

        With recent Highway Safety Code changes, a cyclist is no longer required to use the bike way if there is one on a certain street, basically means cyclists can choose to ride with traffic on de Maisonneuve (which can be safer at some intersections where bikes get cut off).

        If bikes should be forced to use only certain roads with paths then car should be forced to use highways instead of parallel streets and service roads.

        Reply
      3. Stefan

        >> They are rarely enforced, and when they are, it’s enforcement Gestapo tactics that just piss people off.

        > You seem to be arguing that they’re underenforced and overenforced.

        I think he is talking about the general style of traffic enforcement in Quebec. The rules are very strict, but they get enforced very sparingly. Like with speed traps, you see them (outside of the usual AutoRoutes) for a couple of weeks in the late spring, and then 2 weeks in August around the construction holiday, everywhere, the rest of the year they are non-existent. Since everyone drives too fast in Quebec, if you ARE unlucky enough to get snared in a speed trap, your probably doubling the speed limit, and looking at a $2000 fine.

        Thats what he means by ‘under enforced, but with maximum penalty’.

        Chex in LaSalle.

        Reply
  2. ZDZedDee

    While on the STM subject, it it their 150 year anniversary, and to celebrate I took the bus-metro (normally I would drive or bike) to the other 150 year anniversary in town: 150 years since the unification of Italy to see the Expo Leonard exhibit: 50 models built directly from sketches in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. Leonardo is a geek god. Unfortunately the exhibit finishes this weekend june 5.

    I googled the route selecting “public transport” and the route it took was pretty good. Except it told me to get off the bus a kilometre early, which I thought very strange. This whole life-digital-integration thing is not perfected yet.

    Reply
    1. Faiz Imam

      The STM’s schedules are not open to be parsed by Google(yet).

      Im not sure how google gets it, but the result is that routes and timings are often missing and so the optimal solution is often not given.

      One more reason why i’m hoping that the open montreal folks gain some traction.

      Reply
        1. Ruemtl.com

          Open Montréal is a group hoping to make city data open-source as has been done in several other cities. This would allow researchers and companies like Google to collect city data and make interesting uses of it.

          Reply

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