Category Archives: West Island

Posted in My articles, Radio, West Island

CRTC approves Hudson/St. Lazare radio station

Coverage area of proposed FM station in Hudson/St. Lazare provided by Dufferin Communications

The Montreal area is getting another radio station. On Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved an application from Dufferin Communications Inc. for an English-language radio station in Hudson/St. Lazare.

The station would be a local one, with 500 watts of effective power, operating on 106.7 MHz and playing easy-listening music, similar to that of its other stations that are part of the Jewel network. (Dufferin says the station’s branding hasn’t been decided yet, but “Jewel” is an option.) The application called for 110 hours a week of local programming, including four hours and 22 minutes a week of “pure news”, of which half would be local to the area.

I summarize the decision in this story for The Gazette’s new Off Island section, which targets this community.

This will certainly mean jobs for journalists and radio workers in the region. Dufferin vice-president Carmela Laurignano tells me they plan to hire 15-20 people in total to work at the station. The proposed station’s financial projections show revenue gradually growing from $480,000 the first year to $1 million in the seventh year of its license. Expenses would start at $700,000 (including a $90,000 startup cost) and reach $850,000 in the seventh year.

About 95% of its advertising revenue is expected to be local, with 20-30,000 minutes sold a year at an average rate of between $22 and $34 a minute.  Under these projections, the station would start making money in Year 4 and pay for itself in the seventh year.

The application was not without opposition:

  • Cogeco objected that there wasn’t an open call for applications for what can be considered Montreal’s last available FM frequency. (The frequency was used by Aboriginal Voices Radio until it shut down here, then on an unlicensed basis by Kahnawake Keeps It Country until it got a formal licence for 89.9FM.)
  • Groupe CHCR, which owns ethnic stations CKDG-FM and CKIN-FM in Montreal, objected that the station would negatively affect its station and others
  • CJVD-FM, which is a French-language commercial station in Vaudreuil, objected that the region could not accomodate two local stations that would have to compete with the larger stations in Montreal.
  • Groupe Radio Enfant told the CRTC it planned its own application for a station at 106.7 (the group had a temporary permit to operate a transmitter on that frequency in late 2009). The CRTC says it has received no such application.

In the end, the CRTC dismissed the objections. The commission found that the station’s pattern would not significantly compete with large Montreal radio stations because the signal does not reach far into Montreal. It did not compete with CJVD-FM because they’re in different languages, and most importantly 106.7 FM is not a viable frequency to use in Montreal itself because it is too close to CHCR’s CKIN-FM 106.3 and would cause too much interference. (Though CHCR itself applied to move CKDG-FM to that frequency from 105.1, thinking it would get a better signal. It later withdrew that application.)

Dufferin Communications is also the company behind Radio Fierté, a French-language music and talk station aimed at Montreal’s LGBT community that got CRTC approval to broadcast at 990 AM after CKGM vacates that frequency. Laurignano said they expect to get moving on that station in the new year.

Though Radio Fierté has already been approved, the Hudson/St. Lazare station’s application predates it. It was first filed in February 2010.

Dufferin Communications has two years to get the station running unless it asks for an extension from the CRTC. That means it must be up by Oct. 19, 2014. The licence expires on Aug. 31, 2019. Laurignano said they expect to have it on the air by the fall of 2013.

And by the way, fans of National Public Radio can breathe. Dufferin had listed as an alternative frequency in its application 107.9FM, which is the frequency used by the Vermont Public Radio transmitter that covers northern Vermont and much of Montreal. Unless someone else applies for that frequency (which isn’t protected from interference here), VPR can still be heard on it.

Posted in Media, Technology, Video, West Island

“A credible delivery system”

It’s never not awkward selling yourself. It feels so vain, so self-important. And at times it can feel like you’re kidding yourself, giving yourself too much credit for minor accomplishments.

I take the humble route. When people praise me and my blog, I pretend they’re exaggerating. (But deep down we all know this is the greatest blog to have ever graced the Internet. Right?)

Anyway, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel in which some local radio people are selling themselves like they’re on an awkward video dating service. I don’t want to make them feel too embarrassed about it, but it’s too funny not to post:

Sharman Yarnell

Peter Anthony Holder

Andrew Peplowski (see him in action selling a USB drive)

The videos were done by KEMEdia, a West Island video production house run by Mike Reid, who judging from the website is trapped in the late 1990s.

(Note to KEMEdia: If you’re selling people as voice-over talent and yourself as a video production house, maybe don’t have their pitch videos done in the echo chamber of doom.)

Posted in Public transit, West Island

Analysis: STM’s new West Island express buses

On Friday, the STM finally gave details about its four new West Island express buses set to launch April 2, just over a week from now.

They were designed partly as a way to mitigate the coming traffic disaster that is the Turcot Interchange rebuilding, and partly to convince more West Islanders to start using public transit during rush hour.

As a West Island boy myself, and someone who commuted downtown for five years, I’m very familiar with the transit service there and understand the frustrations of people who live in that part of the island and work in the city. I had been waiting for years for a bus like the 470 Express Pierrefonds – a direct shuttle bus between the Fairview bus terminal and the Côte-Vertu metro station – and was very unsurprised when it turned into a huge hit with riders, quickly expanding from a rush-hour-only route to one that operates all day, seven days a week.

The Planibus schedules of the new routes are online. The 475 is here (PDF) and the rest are packaged together here (PDF). None of the buses run past 7pm or on weekends. But as we saw with the 470, if there is a lot of interest in these lines, the STM will eventually extend their service.

Here’s an idea of what each of the four new routes is like, and my feelings about them:

405 Express Bord-du-Lac

Route: From the MacDonald terminus near John Abbott College to Lionel-Groulx metro station. The route is virtually identical to the 211, so much so that I wonder what the point of it is. The only difference is that it takes Highway 20 non-stop from St. Charles Blvd. (it doesn’t stop at the Beaconsfield train station) to Dorval, except for a stop at St. Jean.

Schedule: Departures about every 20 minutes from 6am to 7pm in both directions.

Target clientele: People who live along Lakeshore/Beaconsfield west of St. Charles who find the 211 too slow.

Bottom line: The 211 is already an express bus east of Dorval, and it already has an express doubler in the 411 (formerly 221). The part of the 405 east of St. Charles is virtually identical to the 411, and the part west is identical to the 211. I have a hard time figuring out what this route offers that isn’t already available on the 211 or 411.

425 Express Anse-à-l’Orme

Route: From the Anse-à-l’Orme/Timberlea terminus down Chemin Sainte-Marie and Beaconsfield’s Sherbrooke St. to the Beaconsfield train station. East of Beaconsfield Blvd. and St. Charles, the route is identical to the 211, including the deviation through Carson St. in Dorval.

Schedule: Departures 20-30 minutes apart, eastbound from 5:40am to noon, westbound from noon to 7pm.

Target clientele: People who live in Kirkland and Beaconsfield between the two highways, in an area right now served only by the 217.

Bottom line: Because the 217 doesn’t go anywhere besides Fairview, this route should be a welcome addition for people who live near Chemin Sainte-Marie and Sherbrooke in Kirkland and Beaconsfield. But I don’t get the detour through Carson in Dorval, especially for an express bus (I don’t get why it’s done for the 211 either).

475 Express Dollard-des-Ormeaux

Route: From the Dollard Civic Centre near Lake and de Salaberry (where parking is being made available to commuters), along Highway 40 to the Côte Vertu metro station (south entrance, where West Island buses used to stop and Laval buses do now). The entire trip is 23 minutes.

Schedule: Every 15 minutes exactly from 6am to 9am eastbound and from 3:30pm to 6:30pm westbound.

Target clientele: People with cars who live in Dollard des Ormeaux near Sources Blvd.

Bottom line: Commuters who live east of St. Jean, and particularly near Sources, have had to either double back to Fairview to take the 470, or take buses like the 206, 208 or 209 or 214 and transfer at Roxboro or Dorval. An express network hasn’t really been built with them in mind. This new bus might prove to be more popular than the STM imagines, leading to a 470-like quick expansion (the schedule is rather disappointing, especially considering the service on the other new routes announced). But while the 470 stops at a major terminus, the only other bus serving the Dollard civic centre is the 208. Let’s hope the STM thought to put stops at Sources so there are transfer points with the 209 and 214.

485 Express Antoine Faucon

Route: From the new extension of Pierrefonds Blvd. past Château-Pierrefonds, via Antoine Faucon, St. Charles, Brunswick, de Salaberry, St. Jean (with a stop at Fairview), then non-stop along Highway 20 (except a stop at the Dorval terminus) until Lionel-Groulx.

Schedule: Varying from 10 to 30 minutes apart, from 5:30am to 7pm eastbound, and 6am to 7pm westbound. During the height of rush hour, only half the buses do the route west of Fairview.

Target clientele: People who live in western Pierrefonds but aren’t walking distance from the 470 on Pierrefonds Blvd. and/or who prefer a bus to a metro station closer to downtown.

Bottom line: The interesting part of this route isn’t the part west of Fairview, since the route is almost identical to that of the 218, but rather the fact that it’s the first time that the Fairview terminus is connected directly to a downtown metro station. Having often taken a 202/211 trip to Lionel-Groulx in the days before the 470, I can understand the benefit of this to people who work downtown. I could see this becoming very popular for that part (just like many people take the 470 only from Fairview to Côte-Vertu), which might encourage more people to take public transit and take some pressure off the 470 and 211/411. For people along the existing 218 route, and along St. Jean between the highways, this provides a transfer-less way downtown.

Reserved lanes

New routes are great, but of course they’re useless if everyone taking the buses just gets stuck in the same rush-hour traffic as everyone else. To mitigate that, reserved bus lanes are being installed:

  • St. Jean, from Pierrefonds to Highway 40: Buses and multiple-occupant vehicles (2+). Southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon. To be done this summer.
  • Pierrefonds, from Jacques Bizard to St. Jean: Buses and taxis only. Eastbound during the morning only. To be done this fall or spring 2013.
  • Highway 20, from 55th Ave. to 1st Ave.: Buses only. 24/7 in both directions. To be done this fall or spring 2013.

In addition, there’s existing reserved lanes on St. Patrick and Notre-Dame which will allow the buses serving Lionel-Groulx to avoid Highway 20 traffic east of 1st Ave.

The STM also says Lionel-Groulx will have a new terminus, that will accommodate these three new routes and make things easier (and maybe less confusing) for transit users.

Posted in Opinion, West Island

Traffic wars in Kirkland

I always laugh when I hear about people in suburbs complaining about traffic. It seems everyone wants giant highways heading into downtown, but they don’t want anyone but them using their streets.

In Kirkland, there’s a street called Henri-Daoust St., that acts as a shortcut between Antoine-Faucon St. and Brunswick Blvd., a bit west of St. Charles Blvd. It’s a simple two-lane street that serves as a small artery for the area, and is used by the STM’s 201 and 261 buses. But it was also used by a lot of people in western Pierrefonds to get around traffic on St. Charles.

Because western Pierrefonds is an area that is continuing to expand with new developments, the problem is only getting worse.

So residents on that street demanded traffic-calming measures, preventing cars from using it as a shortcut, at least during rush hour.

Complicating matters is that one end of the street is in Pierrefonds, a borough of the city of Montreal, while most of it is in Kirkland, an independent city. Pierrefonds had no interest in preventing its residents from using the street, and Kirkland could not legally block people.

Finally Kirkland decided to prohibit cars from turning left from Henri-Daoust onto Brunswick during the morning rush hour (and the reverse during the afternoon rush). Once drivers were aware of this restriction, they would stop using the street.

And, as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. More than 1,000 drivers stopped using the street as a shortcut, according to the city.

But residents still weren’t happy, and they went door-to-door trying to convince people to push the city for more action.

The city reacted alright, by telling residents they were removing the signs prohibiting left turns, effective Dec. 15. Residents say it’s “revenge”. The administration is being called “bullies”.

I don’t know whether this move is badass, or just being a total dick. It certainly seems a bit of a juvenile way to get one’s point across, if that’s the goal.

But the pamphlet being passed around by residents (PDF) clearly states that they don’t like the no-left-turns sign, that it wasn’t their idea but was only reluctantly accepted.

The truth is there is no way to make everyone happy. There are things to be done to calm traffic to make neighbourhoods more livable, but people who live in the suburbs have to come to realize that their way of life isn’t sustainable. Other people also want to live in the suburbs, and they will want to use your street.

And not every street can be a cul-de-sac.

Posted in Montreal, Public transit, West Island

STM to renumber bus routes in January

The STM’s fall bus schedule starts next Monday (Labour Day). The Planibus schedules are on its website, as are various press releases touting improvements to service.

But the biggest change to come out of this won’t take effect on Sept. 6. Instead, the STM is giving advance notice that 26 of its routes will be changing numbers in January, when the winter schedule takes effect.

The change, according to an internal publication that was posted to the metrodemontreal.com forum, is to make things easier for users to understand, by having the number indicate the type of bus route. Express and reserved-lane buses will be numbered 4XX, where XX matches the last two digits of the associated all-day route on the same axis. The 221, for example, is being renumbered 411, so people will see it as the express version of the 211. The 182, an express bus to Pointe aux Trembles, becomes the 486, or the express version of the 186.

The changes will also carve out a spot for seniors’ shuttles, which have awkwardly been given numbers mixed in with West Island routes. (The 261 is a West Island route, but the 260 and 262 are both seniors’ shuttles.)

Roughly speaking, here’s how the numbering system works now:

  • 1-9: Reserved for metro lines
  • 10-199: Regular bus routes
  • 200-299: West Island bus routes (and seniors’ shuttles)
  • 300-349: Unused
  • 350-399: Night bus routes
  • 400-499: Express (limited-stop) routes
  • 500-599: Reserved-lane routes (545 is used for special shuttles)
  • 600-699: Unused
  • 700-799: Special routes (so far only 747 is used, for the airport shuttle)
  • 800-899: Unused
  • 900-999: Unused

In January, the system will be reworked so it becomes more like this:

  • 1-9: Reserved for metro lines
  • 10-199: Regular bus routes
  • 200-249: West Island bus routes
  • 250-299: Seniors’ shuttles
  • 300-349: Unused
  • 350-399: Night bus routes
  • 400-499: Express, Metrobus, Trainbus and reserved-lane service
  • 500-599: Unused
  • 600-699: Unused
  • 700-799: Special routes (particularly those marketed to tourists)
  • 800-899: Unused
  • 900-999: Unused

Bus routes being reassigned into the 400 range:

Current route New number Matching route*
77 Cégep Marie-Victorin 444 44 Armand Bombardier
120 Lachine/LaSalle 495 195 Sherbrooke/Notre-Dame
143 Métrobus Charleroi 440 140 Fleury
148 Métrobus Maurice-Duplessis 448 48 Perras
159 Métrobus Henri-Bourassa 469 69 Gouin
173 Métrobus Victoria 496 196 Parc Industriel Lachine
182 Métrobus Sherbrooke 486 186 Sherbrooke Est
184 Métrobus Bout-de-l’Île 487 187 René-Lévesque
190 Métrobus Lachine 491 191 Broadway/Provost
194 Métrobus Rivière-des-Prairies 449 ???
199 Métrobus Lacordaire 432 32 Lacordaire
210 John Abbott 419 219 Chemin Sainte-Marie
214 Des Sources 409 209 Des Sources
221 Métrobus Lionel-Groulx 411 211 Bord-du-Lac
261 Trainbus Saint-Charles 401 201 Saint-Jean/Saint-Charles
265 Trainbus Île Bizard 407 207 Jacques-Bizard
268 Trainbus Pierrefonds 468 68 Pierrefonds
505 R-Bus Pie-IX 439 139 Pie-IX
506 R-Bus Newman 406 106 Newman
535 R-Bus Du Parc/Côte des Neiges 435 None

* Some of these are best guesses. There is no official list.

There are a few other changes as well. Three buses are being added to the 7xx range:

  • 167 Casino becomes 777 Casino (get it? Triple-sevens?) (No word on its alternate routes toward the Casino and beach)
  • 169 Île Ronde becomes 767 La Ronde (supposedly in reference to Expo 67)
  • 515 Vieux-Port/Vieux-Montréal becomes 715

As well, some routes are changing numbers so they fit in better with this scheme:

  • 132 Viau becomes 136 Viau, so there can be an express bus at 436 (the 432 is being used for the Lacordaire express, matching 32). a rapid bus transit system is being conceived along Viau.
  • 251 Sainte-Anne becomes 212 Sainte-Anne so the 250+ block can be reserved for seniors’ shuttles. The 251 is a special minibus that carries regular passengers through the narrow streets of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. The number it takes used to belong to the 212 Lakeshore, which was a rush-hour double of the 211 that took Lakeshore Rd. all the way to Dorval Ave.
  • 480 Pointe-Nord/Île des Soeurs becomes 178, presumably because they will no longer consider this route an express bus

As the 132 case shows, this new system of numbering has a simple flaw: There are more than 100 regular bus routes, which means there isn’t enough space in the 4xx range to accommodate them all. We’re adding 20 to the eight existing routes, which means a quarter of the numbers are already taken.

Plus, a lot of these 400-series express routes aren’t exact matches to the regular ones, which could confuse users. And then there’s the cost of replacing hundreds of bus stop signs.

Still, it’s not necessarily such a bad idea. It makes it easier to see at a glance whether a bus is a local or express bus, and giving reserved-lane buses their own category makes less sense now that we’re adding reserved bus lanes all over the island.

But some of these numbers have historical significance. The 210 has a special place in John Abbott lore. The 167 and 169 are no doubt on a lot of tourist information, and the 132, 182 and 184 have existed for many years.

But I guess people will just get used to it.

More evening service on three routes beginning Sept. 5/6

There are some changes, though most are minor, that are taking effect now. They are:

  • 77 Cégep Marie-Victorin gets 5 new departures northbound and 5 new departures southbound added to the end of its day, extending its service from 3pm to 7pm northbound and from 6:15pm to 9:45pm southbound. This represents an increase of 1,000 hours a year to this route, according to an STM press release. The route remains a school-day-only route.
  • 173 Métrobus Victoria gets evening service, now going to 10pm instead of 7pm in each direction. Nine new departures eastbound, with service about every 20 minutes during that span. Westbound, service during rush hour drops to every 15-20 minutes from every 10-15, so the total number of departures actually only goes up by one. Still, the STM says these changes will add 2,800 hours of service a year.
  • 194 Métrobus Rivière des Prairies gets evening service, running until 10pm weekdays instead of 7pm, in both directions. Six new departures in each direction will add 4,000 hours of service a year to the line, the STM says. It remains Monday-to-Friday only.

West Island routes to synchronize with trains

The STM has announced additional departures for West Island buses serving the Roxboro-Pierrefonds and Sunnybrooke train stations, so they are better synchronized with trains to and from Montreal during rush hour. As far as I can tell, these are not reflected in the posted schedules for these buses. Changes that are marked are noted below:

  • 205 Gouin gets two new departures eastbound – one in the morning and one in the early afternoon – so wait times are reduced. It gets a single new departure westbound at exactly 6pm (other departures remain unchanged), five minutes after the 5:25pm train from Central Station arrives. The STM says departures are being synchronized with the train, but if that’s the case it hasn’t been reflected in the fall schedule yet.
  • 206 Roger-Pilon gets three new departures eastbound in the morning rush-hour, and the times synchronize well with the Deux Montagnes train inbound, with buses arriving 5-10 minutes before the scheduled departure. Those taking this bus for the 9:12am departure are screwed though, as it comes in the middle of a bizarre 48-minute gap in service (otherwise it’s about every 20 minutes). Those people will have to take a bus that leaves Fairview at 8:04am (16 minutes earlier than the one they’d currently take) and wait about 45 minutes at the station.
  • 208 Brunswick gets two new departures westbound in the afternoon rush-hour and three new departures eastbound in the morning rush-hour. They don’t appear to be properly synchronized with train departures and arrivals.
  • 209 Des Sources gets three new departures southbound before 8:30am, dramatically reducing time between departures in the morning rush from about 30 minutes to about 15. Northbound schedule is identical. The route remains Mondays to Fridays only.

Major changes to seniors’ shuttles

Route changes, more stops and additional departures are some of the changes for seniors’ shuttles, which are minibuses that take zigzag routes to serve residences, shopping centres and other points of interest a senior might choose to go to.

  • 252 Navette Or Montréal-Nord will serve Place Bourassa and the local Wal-Mart with stops in their parking lots, reducing the distance seniors will have to walk. Otherwise the route is unchanged. (Press release)
  • 254 Navette Or Rosemont gets a major route change, so much so that it’s barely recognizable. Now instead of a circular route with service in one direction, it’s a linear route with two. Gone is service to the Viau metro station, the borough office on Iberville and the mall (and other stops) on Jean-Talon. Added are the CLSC Rosemont, Loblaws and Angus Square on Rachel St., and the Galeries d’Anjou. The number of departures also goes down, from 10 departures in one direction to eight departures in two (four in each direction). Departures are now two hours apart instead of about 45 minutes, though it will mean less of having to go round in an hour-long circle to get from Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital to Beaubien and Lacordaire. (Press release)
  • 256 Navette Or LaSalle has its route made a bit more complex, adding stops. It will also see an additional departure – westbound at 3:30pm – and the schedule changes a bit. (Press release)
  • 257 Navette Or Rivière des Prairies sees a route change, adding stops along Maurice Duplessis, and cutting the detour that takes it to the CLSC. It adds one departure eastbound at 3:35pm, making four in each direction. The departures are also a bit less predictable, no longer exactly two hours apart and leaving each terminus on the hour. (Note someone screwed up the Planibus, marking eastbound as westbound and vice-versa, and referring to its terminuses as Angrignon Blvd. and Jean-Milot St., which are the end points of the 256) (Press release)

Also of note

The Villa-Maria metro station reopens Tuesday.

Posted in Montreal, Public transit, West Island

STM’s night bus overhaul increases service by 73%

On Wednesday morning, the STM convened the media to announce its overhaul of the night bus network, the biggest changes to the night service in more than a decade.

STM's new night bus network (click to enlarge)

There are a lot of changes here, and they’re summarized below, but the major themes are these:

  • Three new routes (353, 354, 376), all of which existed before – and along similar routes – long ago when night service first began in Montreal. The 353 serves the northeast end of the island, while the other two are express buses to the West Island.
  • All routes now operate seven nights a week. No more Friday/Saturday-night-only routes.
  • With few exceptions, the maximum wait time between buses is reduced to 45 minutes from an hour.
  • The other two West Island routes take dramatic turns halfway through their routes to serve a north-south axis: the 356 along Sources and the 382 along Saint-Jean and Saint-Charles. Before this change, there was no north-south link west of Décarie, which means if someone stayed until 2am at a bar in Ste. Anne de Bellevue and wanted to go home to Pierrefonds, they’d have to take three night routes, including a stop at Atwater, getting home at 4:30am, if they were lucky.
  • Four routes are extended to serve the downtown core between Atwater and Frontenac, bringing the total to six. In addition to the 358 Sainte-Catherine and 360 des Pins (which was a Friday-Saturday route) are added the 350 Verdun/LaSalle, the 355 Pie-IX and the 364 Sherbrooke/Joseph-Renaud, all along René-Lévesque, and the 356 Lachine/Mtl-Trudeau/des Sources, which goes along Sherbrooke. This has two main benefits: People who take these routes to get home will require one less transfer, and there will be more night buses travelling through downtown, reducing waiting times for those who want to get to the major hubs of Atwater and Frontenac down to about 15 minutes.
  • Hochelaga-Maisonneuve gets night buses on more streets. Before there was just the 364 along Hochelaga and the 355 along Ontario and Ste. Catherine (depending on direction). Now, there are four buses on different streets: 364 on Sherbrooke, 362 on Hochelaga, 355 on Ontario (in both directions) and 353 on Ste. Catherine. All four connect with the Frontenac terminal.
  • The 378 Sauvé/Côte-Vertu is extended west to connect to the Trudeau airport terminal.
  • The 362 Hochelaga/Notre-Dame is extended west to Frontenac.

With the three new routes, the extension of three others from three to seven days a week, and the increase in frequency, the number of departures goes up pretty dramatically, from 1,368 to 2,009 per week, an increase of 47% (note that this is by my hand count, so it may be off by a few). This doesn’t count the nine routes whose length has been extended, in some cases dramatically. In terms of hours of service, the increase is probably more than 50% is from 46,000 to 80,000 hours a year, a 73% increase.

The STM calculates that 95% of the people in the Montreal agglomeration now live within one kilometre of a night bus stop. It also estimates that transfers will be reduced by 25%

All changes take effect the night of Monday, June 27, along with changes to day bus schedules. The STM has posted a cute little Flash app showing the various routes.

Why did it take so long?

These changes are a long time coming, and follow some serious public consultation. As a public transit user, it’s hard to be against a huge increase in service. My criticisms, laid out below, are minor compared to the praise for the new service. If anything, my biggest reaction is to ask why it took so long to make these changes, and why the routes we’re bringing back were removed in the first place. (I have the answer to the second question, unfortunately: Ill-advised budget cuts to public transit in the 90s).

As a regular night bus user, I can attest that the service is underused by casual users. There are a few reasons for this:

  • confusion – the routes don’t match day routes, and it’s not obvious which ones to take or how and where to transfer
  • wait time – in some cases up to an hour between buses, and long waits for transfers
  • lack of shelter – this is a problem particularly in winter, but there are few places where one can wait for a night bus indoors

Many people who don’t like what the night bus service offers use alternative forms of transportation. Many take cabs, which is expensive but very convenient (and relatively worry-free when you’re drunk). But many people also prefer to drive home from bars at night, which presents the very obvious risk of drunk driving (and an even higher risk of “buzzed” driving, from those who are convinced they’re just under the legal limit). I don’t know if increasing night bus service will have a major impact on drunk driving stats, but if even a handful of lives are saved because a few people took a night bus instead of driving after a long night at a bar, I’d say it’s worth it.

“It”, by the way, is about $4.4 million, according to STM chair Michel Labrecque.

A bus wrap advertising the new night network is one of the ways the STM is getting the word out.

The new network will come with an advertising campaign to inform riders, which includes wrapped buses, social media, and a campaign organized with Labatt.

Continue reading

Posted in Media, West Island

Bill Tierney replaces Huntley Addie as West Island Gazette columnist

Out: Huntley Addie

Those expecting to see the weekly column of Huntley Addie in the West Island Gazette last Thursday (you know, all four of you) might have been surprised to see someone else in that place: former Ste. Anne de Bellevue mayor Bill Tierney.

Tierney, who had been mayor of the city since 1994 (excluding the time it was a merged part of Montreal), lost the November election, apparently because citizens didn’t like his idea of having parking meters.

With all this free time on his hands now (tell me about it), he’s been invited to write a weekly column about West Island issues in the section of the Gazette distributed to subscribers in West Island and western off-island areas.

In: Bill Tierney

When asked what happened, Addie, a teacher at John Rennie High School in Pointe Claire, told me it sort of goes back to the Canwest creditor protection filing, which screwed him as much as it did every other freelancer. It made him realize that he’s doing far too much work for far too little pay (West Island Gazette columnists are paid $50 per 700-word piece, or about seven cents a word). So he kind of resigned, reluctantly. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that he gave up.

You can read Tierney’s first column here. His second column, published today, is about apathy in local politics.

Posted in Media, West Island

West Island newspaper editors give up on former jobs

A month after their positions were eliminated, and after surprising their bosses by saying they would not accept demotions, the editors of the West Island Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles have both confirmed that they’re not going back to their jobs. Negotiations between their union and Transcontinental Media general manager Serge Lemieux did not result in a decision favourable to them, and they’re leaving their newspapers.

For reasons that are still unclear, Lemieux apparently agreed to consider reinstating the editor position at Cités Nouvelles, but not the Chronicle. Both newspapers previously had one editor and one reporter. Even then, Marie-Claude Simard said she wouldn’t be interested in returning to her job at Cités Nouvelles.

So all that’s left for her and Albert Kramberger is to discuss their severance packages.

Of the four journalists at the two newspapers, only Olivier Laniel of Cités Nouvelles is still there. His reporting has been the only news in either paper since the beginning of January (his Cités Nouvelles articles are translated for the Chronicle). Raffy Boudjikanian, his former counterpart at the Chronicle, has already moved on and has been getting some work at the CBC.

One journalist covering the entire West Island for two newspapers.

It’s possible Transcontinental might choose to hire someone new, at least for the Chronicle. Maybe they’ll pick some eager kid straight out of university. And that kid will jump into a job with a lot of responsibility and little pay, and wonder: How did I get so lucky to land this job?

It’s amazing how much history can be erased with a simple turnover.

Posted in Media, Opinion, West Island

Chronicle, Cités Nouvelles editors refuse demotions

On Friday, the West Island Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles, the two Transcontinental-owned weeklies covering the West Island, each had two full-time editorial employees – an editor and a reporter.

On Monday, they may have none.

Layoffs announced just before Christmas of the papers’ reporters (Raffy Boudjikanian for the Chronicle, Olivier Laniel for Cités Nouvelles) took effect on Friday. Technically they’re not permanent, but for an indeterminant period. But Boudjikanian doesn’t expect to return to the job and is now unemployed. Laniel was a temporary worker, replacing a reporter on maternity leave.

Albert Kramberger

Hearing about the job cuts and their own demotions from editor to sole reporter (and sole journalist), Chronicle editor Albert Kramberger and Cités Nouvelles editor Marie-Claude Simard told their employer on Christmas Eve that they would refuse their demotions and wouldn’t work for their papers if they were expected to do so solo.

Their superiors “seemed shocked to get the news”, Simard said, and they have been holding meetings this week with the union to discuss the matter.

Whether those meetings will go anywhere is another matter. A decision could be weeks away, and the demotions take effect on Monday.

As far as Kramberger is concerned, unless some stunning reversal on the employer’s part takes place, he’s already worked his last shift at the Chronicle, and he’s looking for another job.

Wayne Larsen, who was also demoted from editor of the Westmount Examiner, saw the positive side of his new role and is expected to stay on.

The emptying of the Chronicle is particularly distressing. Only five years ago, I spent a week there as an intern, and it had a skeleton staff, but still a staff. News reporters, a sports reporter, an editor and a photographer. The Chronicle was a perennial winner at the Quebec Community Newspaper Association awards, mostly because they had more resources than the other papers.

Now they’re all gone.

Transcontinental might choose to hire a new reporter at each paper, perhaps some kid straight out of university or a laid-off journalist who’s desperate to make ends meet. But the loss of institutional memory would be huge. They would end up as shadows of the shadows they once were.

With the Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles on their last legs, a void opens up for West Island community coverage. The best of what’s left is the weekly West Island section of The Gazette, which has four full-time editorial employees and relies on the resources of the larger paper. Beyond that, there’s little. Unlike Westmount or NDG, there’s no mom-and-pop paper running out of someone’s basement trying to compete with the big guys. Even The Suburban hasn’t really reached out to the West Island yet.

Transcontinental may have seen this as just two layoffs, but they’ve essentially abdicated their responsibilities to the West Island.

Now, who will fill that void?

Other coverage from CTV Montreal and The Suburban

Posted in Montreal, West Island

Few campaigns in on-island suburbs (UPDATED)

Note: This post has been updated with full (preliminary) council numbers.

When they voted to break up One Island, One City, 15 municipalities on the island of Montreal, mostly in the West Island, argued that local democracy was one of the big reasons why. Their voices would get overruled in the larger city of Montreal.

Now, of course, these reconstituted municipalities have virtually no say in so-called “agglomeration” matters like public transit. Instead, the city of Montreal calls all the shots.

And as nominations closed Friday for mayor and city council positions, it seems healthy local democracy isn’t on the agenda either. Of the 15, six won’t have a vote for mayor on Nov. 1 because only one person (the incumbent, except in Westmount where it’s a friendly transition to a former mayor) applied for the job. In only one city (Beaconsfield) are there more than two candidates for mayor. And in only three (Beaconsfield, Montréal-Est and Mount Royal) are all council seats contested.

In Baie d’Urfé, they won’t even hold an election because not one position has more than one candidate.

Here are the preliminary numbers from the government:

  • Baie d’Urfé: Mayor Maria Tutino re-elected by acclamation. 0/6 districts contested
  • Beaconsfield: Three candidates for mayor: incumbent Bob Benedetti, Hela Labene, David Pollock. 6/6 districts contested (each by at least three candidates).
  • Côte St. Luc: Mayor Anthony Housefather re-elected by acclamation. 3/8 districts contested.
  • Dollard des Ormeaux: Two candidates for mayor: incumbent Ed Janiszewski, Shameen Siddiqui. 6/8 districts contested.
  • Dorval: Mayor Edgar Rouleau re-elected by acclamation. 3/6 districts contested.
  • Ile Dorval: N/A
  • Hampstead: Two candidates for mayor: incumbent William Steinberg, David Sternthal. 4/6 districts contested.
  • Kirkland: Mayor John Meaney re-elected by acclamation. 3/8 districts contested.
  • Montréal Est: Two candidates for mayor: incumbent Robert Coutu, Yvon Labrosse. 6/6 districts contested.
  • Montreal West: Two candidates for mayor: Beny Masella, Emile Subirana. 2/4 districts contested.
  • Mount Royal: Two candidates for mayor: incumbent Vera Danyluk, Andre Krepec. 6/6 districts contested.
  • Pointe-Claire: Mayor Bill McMurchie re-elected by acclamation. 1/8 districts contested.
  • Sainte Anne de Bellevue: Two candidates for mayor: incumbent Bill Tierney, Francis Deroo. 5/6 districts contested.
  • Senneville: Two candidates for mayor: incumbent George McLeish, Christopher Jackson. 5/6 districts contested.
  • Westmount: Peter Trent elected mayor by acclamation. 6/8 districts contested.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, six candidates for mayor and every single district has at least three candidates (one from each of the major parties). A total of 400 people are running for 103 positions.

It’s possible that people in these suburbs are just really happy with their current government. In the few places with opposition, like Beaconsfield and Hampstead, there are actual races. But a lack of even token opposition leads to politicians getting lazy, and that inevitably leads to corruption.

So tell me, who’s more democratic again?

Posted in Montreal, Public transit, West Island

New summer bus schedules

The STM has released summer schedules for its bus network. Among the notable changes that take effect June 22:

  • 70 Bois-Franc gets a significant boost in service to complete its schedule. Service now extends to midnight, seven days a week (before it ended about 7pm), and intervals during rush hour drop from 30 to 15 minutes in both directions.
  • 119 Rockland adds Sunday service in both directions. Previously it was a Monday-to-Saturday bus.
  • 164 Dudemaine‘s western terminus is extended by two blocks, ending at Steinberg St. instead of Bois-Franc, to serve an area the STM considered to have inadequate service.
  • 174 Côte-Vertu Ouest gets midday service on weekdays at half-hour intervals, as well as four new departures in the evening, extending its service from 6pm to 8pm.
  • 209 Des Sources now stops at the Trudeau Airport via the Dorval train station.
  • 210 John Abbott adds a stop inside the Kirkland shopping centre that includes the Colisée, for all the John Abbott students who want to watch a movie after school (or instead of?). The STM cites safety as a reason for this stop, which replaces one at Jean-Yves and the service road.
  • 219 Chemin Sainte-Marie gets the same modification, but only in the westbound direction.
  • 361 Saint-Denis moves to a summer schedule with more departures, particularly on Sunday nights when intervals drop from 45 minutes to 30.
  • 515 Vieux-Montréal-Vieux-Port takes on a summer schedule, which reduces wait times from 20 minutes, seven days a week to 13 minutes on weekdays and 10 minutes on weekends.

UPDATE: The Gazette has a story on the changes based off the STM press releases. Both misspell “Bois-Franc”.

Meanwhile, the AMT is reducing service on the new schedule for its Nuns’ Island express bus, increasing intervals from 20 minutes to 30. Mitigating this news somewhat is that the STM has just approved a new bus route, probably to take effect in the fall, connecting Nuns’ Island with the LaSalle metro station.

Posted in Pop quiz, West Island

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 39

MGT #39

‘Roundabout where is this?

UPDATE: Jason gets it right below. It’s the intersection of Sources Blvd. and Riverdale Blvd. in Pierrefonds, just beyond the tracks, one of the few roundabouts on the island.

Riverdale Blvd.: Behold the suburban conformity!

Riverdale Blvd.: Behold the suburban conformity!

The roundabout, which I crossed a while back on my bike, leads to a new development in the Parc des Rapides du Cheval Blanc that is so new the streets don’t have names, the driveways are made of gravel and grass hasn’t grown yet on the yards. I took a brief tour of the neighbourhood, noticed a lot of young families, many of Indian and south Asian descent.

I also noticed a lot of insects, reminding me that this development is encroaching on what was once their habitat.

Domaine des Brises

The Rapides du Cheval Blanc is one of the 10 Eco-territories on the island of Montreal, which some might assume to mean its territory is sacred and can’t be touched. But in 2007, the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro approved a development of 251 housing units (PDF), about half of which are in the form of single-family detached houses that all look alike. The developers had actually wanted to build 650 housing units, but pressure from the city forced them to scale back from 15 to 10 hectares. The revised project also talked a lot about “integrating” into the territory by using the same trees or something. Still, the development cut 21% of the green space out of the eco-territory.

Posted in Photos, West Island

How’s my driving?

Moving truck

I can’t begin to describe how illegal this driving is, except to note that the truck got into this position because it was trying to extricate itself from the bike path it had parked in … backwards.

Posted in Public transit, West Island

AMT wants to hear your rants

Does this picture send you into an uncontrollable fit of rage? Tell it to the Man!

Does this picture send you into an uncontrollable fit of rage? Tell it to the Man!

After lots of promises to setup public meetings so it could actually converse with its users, the Agence métropolitaine de transport held its first one on Tuesday night in Baie d’Urfé. There came the mini-announcement that the agence is planning to have text-message alerts of delayed trains and real-time updates on arrival times at train stations.

The AMT meets the public again next Tuesday, this time to hear about the Deux Montagnes train line. The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. in the building across the street from the Sunnybrooke train station.

Posted in Opinion, Public transit, West Island

Beaconsfield applies NIMBY to parking

Here’s a really short-sighted idea: Beaconsfield town council has approved a measure that would reserve 30 parking spaces near the Beaurepaire commuter train station only to permit-holding Beaconsfield residents.

While 30 spots at a station in Montreal’s equivalent to the middle of nowhere won’t make much of a difference in the long run, the worry is that this will become a trend. Other municipalities might enact similar measures, making it more difficult to park near train stations. Imagine if Pierrefonds restricted parking near the Roxboro and Sunnybrooke stations to only its residents, or if Montreal did the same for the Du Ruisseau station on the Deux-Montagnes line.

Such NIMBYism (while not foreign to Beaconsfield) is counter-productive to traffic problems and only serves to build walls between neighbouring towns.