Tag Archives: traffic

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.

CKAC Circulation 730: First impressions

Les Justiciers masqués predicted how all-traffic radio would work. Are they that far off?

I should start this off by pointing out that I don’t drive. Never have, and don’t have any plans to soon. I take public transit to get where I want to go most of the time. So for the most part an all-traffic radio station is useless to me. And I can’t offer my thoughts on whether or not it’s useful to a driver. I’d like to hear thoughts from other drivers, though, about whether and how they would make use of an all-traffic station like CKAC 730.

Though it had been rumoured for days, the formal decision came down last Friday that CKAC Sports would become Radio Circulation. It went all-music over the weekend, with only this announcement from VP Richard Lachance (MP3) explaining why sports talk had been replaced by Céline Dion et al.

The station went live at 4:30am on Tuesday morning, the day after Labour Day. It cut off Ginette Reno’s Fais moi la tendresse in mid-song as the clock hit 4:30 exactly, as you can hear in this excerpt of the first four minutes of Radio Circulation 730 (MP3).

From there, it took on its all-traffic format. It might be a bit harsh to judge it so quickly, considering the speed at which it was setup (announcers were hired less than a month before launch). Cogeco’s application for a CRTC license for an all-traffic station came out in May, and might have gotten one in time if it wasn’t for competitors arguing that there should be an open call for applications for the former frequencies of CINF Info 690 and CINW 940 News.

The CRTC set an Oct. 17 hearing date for those applications, but Cogeco decided it couldn’t wait that long (mainly because the government money tap would only open when an all-traffic station was on the air). So CKAC Sports, Cogeco’s only AM station (and the only francophone AM station, for that matter) was sacrificed to get Radio Circulation on the air.

Cogeco is going on with its 940 application for an English all-traffic station, but will have to fight with Tietolman-Tétrault for that channel. Three applications are still pending for 690, including a frequency change for CKGM (The Team) 990, which wants to move to a clear channel and improve its coverage.

Traffic every five minutes

I’ve listened to the new station on and off since it launched. It seems to run on a schedule that gives the traffic report every five minutes. In one five-minute block, it’s a four-minute traffic report followed by a minute of advertising. In another, it’s a two-minute traffic report focusing on the “points chauds” and two minutes of weather, followed by ads.

As a point of comparison, a commercial music or news-talk station will give traffic reports that last about 30 seconds, or 45 if you include all the sponsor info. And all those traffic reports tend to sound the same – rushed, fast-talking, and with its own special vocabulary designed to refer to locations as quickly as possible (“the two 15s” for example, referring to that area where Highway 15 and Highway 40 intersect and become the same road for a short stretch, or “the whiskey trench”, that area of Highway 138 in LaSalle formerly known for the overpowering smell of the adjacent brewery distillery).

In contrast, Radio Circulation is slow. There’s a lot of umms and ahhs. Sometimes it feels less like back-to-back traffic reports and more like a talk show whose subject is traffic. But it’s also comprehensive. It will talk about traffic on Taschereau Blvd. on the South Shore. It’ll talk about traffic on city streets. It doesn’t have to limit itself to five or six things in its traffic report.

During the evenings, when traffic is just about non-existent, the subject material switches. Instead of traffic jams, the announcers talk about road closures for overnight construction work. (I’m not quite sure what they’ll talk about overnight during the winter – snow clearing schedules?) Between 1am and 4:30am, the station runs recorded information about overnight construction and safety messages.

There were promises made about information on public transit service, but I have yet to hear any of those things while tuning in.

Some comparisons

I suppose the best thing to compare this station to would be the Weather Network, which has a simple function and doesn’t expect its viewers to tune in for more than a few minutes at a time (obsessive masturbating teenagers notwithstanding). They also operate on a schedule that minimizes the wait between the critical information (local forecast), while allowing some time to do something else, like talk about weather-related issues.

Of course, being television, the Weather Network can have nearly constant on-screen graphics showing the local short-term forecast while the rest of the screen discusses something else. There isn’t an easy way to do this in radio.

I also spent a bit of time listening to CHMJ AM730, Vancouver’s all-traffic station (coincidentally on the same frequency). The biggest difference between the two is that Vancouver’s station is privately-owned and has to actually earn its revenue.

The stations sounded about the same – a similar five-minute schedule for traffic, though Vancouver’s announcers were clearly a bit more comfortable, having been at their jobs for more than two days. The similarity shouldn’t be surprising – Cogeco mentions it specifically as a model to follow in its CRTC application.

One thing I noticed is that Vancouver’s station splits its traffic reports for bridges from the main traffic reports. This makes sense because bridges are less vital to Vancouver’s traffic scene than to Montreal’s. Vancouver’s station also offers reports on wait times for ferries (which doesn’t really apply here) and waits at the U.S. border (which might be useful here, but probably less so than in Vancouver).

And then there’s the fact that CHMJ provides information on police radar traps. That raised a question for me: Is a radio station that gets $1.5 million a year from the transport ministry in a position to do the same? The agreement between Cogeco and the MTQ obviously doesn’t require the station to provide radar warnings to drivers, but it doesn’t forbid it either. And while it’s true that the police forces don’t work for the transport ministry, it might be a bit embarrassing if the provincial government was funding an operation that undermined the provincial police force.

To me, this underlines once again why having a government-funded all-traffic radio station is a bad idea.

Nevertheless, it’s here, and if Cogeco is successful with the CRTC, we’ll get an English one within a couple of months. Radio Circulation’s website is running. Right now it’s just a live stream of the station audio and a Google map with Google’s traffic info overlay.

And just because I think the government funding is a bad idea doesn’t mean I don’t think we should have an all-traffic station in Montreal. We have enough free space on the AM band that if someone wanted to start a private station up that provides a useful service, there’s no reason we shouldn’t let them.

But I’m not sure if drivers will use it, either. So I put the question out to you drivers: Would you switch to an all-traffic radio station, which has a comprehensive traffic report every five minutes, or just listen to your favourite music/talk station and get the major traffic points every 10 minutes?

Is there a market for all-traffic radio in Montreal? And if so, does CKAC do a good job of capturing it?

Government pays for Cogeco to shut down CKAC Sports

Following two days of rumours (thanks mainly to Pierre Trudel), Cogeco this morning confirmed that it is switching formats for CKAC 730AM, Montreal’s only major commercial French-language AM station. It will go from being an all-sports station to an all-traffic station effective Tuesday morning. After the announcement, Cogeco immediately pulled the plug on sports broadcasting, and is running music until then, interrupted every half hour by a three-minute announcement by Cogeco VP Richard Lachance.

Listen to the announcement running on CKAC during the weekend (MP3)

Live sports broadcasts will be carried on Cogeco’s news-talk 98.5FM, and some (but not all) personalities will move there as well. Lachance tells LCN that seven employees will be affected, four of whom will find new functions at 98.5. Michel Villeneuve and Ron Fournier, notably, will have shows on 98.5, in the evening (when the station currently rebroadcasts shows from earlier in the day).

In a bitter and ridiculous press release, Cogeco mainly blamed its competitors, who opposed a fast-track process for Cogeco’s all-traffic licenses to be approved by the CRTC. It complained that nobody was interested in the vacant 690 and 940 frequencies formerly held by Corus’s all-news stations and purchased by Cogeco when it bought Corus Quebec, without addressing the claims by competitors like Bell Media that Cogeco was unwilling to negotiate selling the former stations’ transmission towers and other facilities.

But mostly it stresses that it had to establish an all-traffic station by the day after Labour Day, when supposedly the fall traffic season will begin. Waiting until October (or later) would be unacceptable. It’s “urgent” that it has to be up by September, Cogeco says. People relying on traffic reports every 10 minutes just isn’t enough.

What’s not said in the press release is that this is all about money. Cogeco’s not in a rush to get this all-traffic station on the air because it cares about Montreal drivers. It’s in a rush because it cares about the $1.5 million subsidy from the Quebec government. The agreement between Cogeco and the Ministry of Transport says the stations must be operating by Oct. 31, but the contract actually begins Sept. 1. (It doesn’t make clear what happens if Cogeco misses its deadline.) Once that happens, the station begins collecting $125,000 a month from the government to pay its staff.

Thankfully Cogeco doesn’t own a popular English-language AM station, so it can’t shut that down to turn it into an all-traffic station. Instead, it will wait for the CRTC to decide on 940AM, and is asking them to hurry in making a decision (they are hurrying, and had already tightened deadlines for applications for that frequency).

When this all-traffic station idea was announced in May, I panned it as a waste of $9 million of government money over three years for something that just about every radio station already provided for free ad nauseam. Cogeco’s competitors agreed, and demanded an open call for applications for those frequencies, which the CRTC granted.

Now it seems even more obvious how bad an idea it is. Cogeco has compared its $1.5-million subsidy against the ad revenue from CKAC and decided it would rather the government subsidy. The Quebec government is essentially using public money to push Cogeco into shutting down a popular all-sports radio station and replace it with something that is redundant to every other station in the market.

(One might ask if Cogeco didn’t want to shut down CKAC, why not apply for an all-sports radio station on 690AM and bring it back? The press release is silent on this.)

It’s a sad day for Montreal radio, and an even sadder day for common sense and government spending.

CKAC 730AM will go all-traffic Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 4:30am. The CRTC hears applications for 690 and 940AM (Cogeco has withdrawn its application for 690) on Oct. 17.

UPDATE: Similar commentary from Stéphane Laporte.

A Facebook page has been setup to protest the decision. CKAC Sports’s Facebook page has a brief note from the station: “Merci à chacun d’entre vous de nous avoir suivi, lu, et d’être venu commenter ainsi que partager votre passion pour le sport”, followed by a lot of angry comments.

You can also watch video of CKAC’s empty studio while listening to Céline Dion and other awful music.

Other coverage

All-traffic radio: A $9-million waste

Coverage map for CINW 940AM at 50,000 watts, as submitted to CRTC

Last week, news came out that Cogeco and the Quebec government have reached a deal that will see the creation of two new all-traffic AM radio stations in Montreal set to open in the fall. The project will cost taxpayers $9 million over three years.

It’s the most ridiculous use of $9 million I’ve seen in a while.

The history of 690 and 940 AM

Montreal has had two giant holes in its radio spectrum since January 2010. Both frequencies – 690 and 940 kHz – started out as CBC stations. CBM (CBC Montreal) moved to 940 and CBF (Radio-Canada Montreal) moved to 690 in 1941. They were among Canada’s oldest AM radio stations and each had clear-channel status, meaning that they could operate at 50,000 watts and did not have to reduce power overnight to avoid interference.

Clear-channel status is highly sought – or at least it was. There are only about a dozen such stations in Canada (CKAC is the only active one in Montreal), and the clear-channel status means they can be heard from very far away with a good enough antenna.

Despite this seemingly huge advantage, CBC decided in the late 90s to move its AM stations in Montreal to FM – 88.5 and 95.1 MHz – where they remain today as CBC Radio One and Première Chaîne). The argument was that FM provided better quality audio and the signal would be easier to capture in the city. The tradeoff – that the signal would no longer be carried by skywave to neighbouring provinces and territories – didn’t seem to be such a big deal. It was a controversial move at the time, particularly for CBC Radio listeners who had better reception with AM than FM.

In 1999, the decades-old CBC transmitters were shut down and the frequencies vacated. Métromédia (later Corus Quebec), which owned CIQC 600 AM and CKVL 850 AM, wasted no time in snapping the clear channels up, and moved those two stations to the vacated frequencies. They were reborn as all-news stations CINW (940 News) and CINF (Info 690).

We all know how that turned out. The anglo all-news station didn’t work out financially, so they changed it up into a news-talk format in 2005. When that didn’t work either, they fired everyone and started played music in 2008. (Info 690, meanwhile, kept going with their news format). Then, in January 2010, Corus pulled the plug on both stations and gave up. They returned their licenses to the CRTC.

Since then, the frequencies have remained vacant. Clear AM channels that it seems anyone could have had just by asking. But no takers.

In 2010, Corus agreed to sell its Quebec assets to Cogeco. This included the transmitters for CINW and CINF, even though they were inoperative and had no broadcast license. The deal was approved in December, giving Cogeco the equipment (and a lease on the transmitter site in Kahnawake until 2021) but no idea how to use it in a way that could make it profitable.

And here’s where the Quebec government comes in.

Congrats, Cogeco lobbyists

According to documents they submitted to the CRTC (you can download them yourself from here), Cogeco found out about the Quebec transport ministry wanting to improve the way it communicates information about traffic disruptions to the public. With all the construction work expected to come (the Turcot Interchange, for example), they wanted to minimize the pain to drivers by keeping them as well informed as possible.

Cogeco went to them and proposed a … let’s call it a partnership. Cogeco would provide the transmitter, the programming, the staff. The government would provide access to traffic information and lots and lots of money.

The government thought it was a great idea, and on April 14 they published their intention to award a contract to Cogeco. The deal was finally announced last week by the government and Cogeco (PDF) and the CRTC announced it would hold a hearing on the proposal to give the licenses back to CINW and CINF. News coverage was brief, most just regurgitating the press release:

The station, which according to the deal must be operational by Oct. 31 (though the target date is Sept. 1 pending CRTC approval), would broadcast live from 4:30am to 1am weekdays and 6am to 1am weekends and holidays. This information includes:

  • Traffic status on highways and bridges
  • Road conditions
  • Information on road work sites (it’s unclear if this is just those run by the transport ministry or all municipal sites as well)
  • Highway safety tips
  • Weather conditions

In other words, the kind of stuff you’d expect from any traffic information radio station. Missing from this list is an item about providing information on public transit service. It’s unclear why both sides left this out of their press releases, but it’s contained in their CRTC submission and in the contract between the government and Cogeco, and I would imagine the intention is to include such information in their broadcasts.

The deal also includes promotion of the station by Cogeco and 25 minutes a day of airtime for the ministry.

Cogeco says it plans to use CHMJ in Vancouver (owned by Corus) as a template. That’s also an all-traffic radio station, but with one major difference: It’s not funded by the government.

You could also compare it to The Weather Network and MétéoMédia, which provide all-weather programming, funded mainly by subscriber fees that all cable subscribers must pay for the channels.

Why this is a bad idea

I appreciate that the ministry wants to improve communication about traffic and road work. But they’re doing this by getting into the broadcast business. The figure of $3 million a year might not be much, but it represents about three-quarters of the stations’ proposed budgets. Cogeco also predicts that figure will rise if the contract is renewed beyond three years (the CRTC asks for seven-year projections for a station’s finances) to $3.3 million a year for the next three years.

Put simply, this is a solution to a problem that does not exist. I mean, seriously, is the biggest complaint about commercial radio that there aren’t enough traffic reports? Just about every station does traffic reports every 10 minutes during rush hours. CJAD does it all day. All this without any specific funding by the government to do so. Even CBC Radio One does traffic reports, including public transit updates. (The CBC is funded by the federal government, but that funding doesn’t come with a requirement to do traffic updates. CBC Radio does traffic reports because it knows that’s what rush-hour listeners want to hear.)

This isn’t to say an all-traffic radio station wouldn’t make sense. CHMJ is trying that format. And it’s a good idea for AM radio, because most portable music devices these days can’t receive AM radio, but most cars can. But if there’s a demand for it, then it can be done without government funding. And if there isn’t a demand for it, why bother?

Cogeco’s own submission to the CRTC says there are about 1.3 million vehicles travelling in the Montreal area during the afternoon rush hour (less in the morning), which means more than $2 per vehicle per year spent on these stations. They expect their market share will be 1.5% for the anglo station and 1.6% for the francophone station. Based on their estimated total weekly hours of listening, the English station would expect about 1,000 listeners on average (more, obviously, during rush hour) and the French station about 3,000 listeners.

And CRTC submissions are usually pretty optimistic.

Why this is overkill

The other thing that bugs me about this is the choice of channel. Cogeco wants to put both these stations on clear channels, and have both running 50,000 watts day and night. The reach of these stations, as you can see from the map at the top of this post, is not just the greater Montreal area, but as far as Gaspé, Moncton, southern Maine, Kingston, northern Ontario and even Labrador. The vast majority of its listening area couldn’t care less what happens on the Champlain Bridge.

Then again, if nobody else wants the frequency, I guess it’s better to do that than nothing at all. But surely we can find a better use for such a powerful signal than traffic reports for one city.

There are also some strange proposals, like having a roving reporter patrol the city to report from the scenes of major traffic events. Compare this to the private sector that has helicopters flying overhead to report on traffic and other issues. It’s a government employee doing a job that the private sector is already doing better.

What the government should spend its money on

In the grand scheme of things, $9 million isn’t a lot of money. But rather than spend it on duplicating a service the private sector already does for free, how about the transport ministry use it more wisely. Spend it on adding more traffic cameras, providing better real-time information to traffic reporters, better ways of getting information to smartphones and other portable devices, improving the Quebec 511 service. Create a database of road work (both provincial and municipal) that can be integrated into Google Maps and used to suggest better routes to drivers.

Or, you know, they could use it to improve the province’s highways. At least repave the kilometre or two closest to the Ontario border, which will give the most psychological bang for the buck and end those silly anecdotal cross-border comparisons.

The CRTC will be hearing the two applications for all-traffic radio stations on July 18 in Gatineau. Comments and interventions are being accepted until June 20. The contract is contingent on CRTC approval and would be cancelled if CRTC approval doesn’t materialize before Oct. 31.

UPDATE (May 31): A Gazette piece says that there was a call for bids in this deal. That’s not entirely accurate. On April 14, the transport ministry published its intent to give a contract to Cogeco (a document that starts off by saying “this is not a call for bids”), and gave competitors 10 days to indicate that they could provide a competing offer for the deal – something that if accepted would have led to a formal call for bids. After the deadline passed, the ministry gave the deal to Cogeco.

Victoria Bridge: The 8th Wonder

From the National Film Board’s archives, a cute little 1987 film by Michel Choquette about the history of the Victoria Bridge, starring the voices of Terry DiMonte and Patti Lorange on a pretend radio show for a fictional Montreal station.

And as a special related bonus, the 1972 Barrie Howells film Trafficopter, which follows CJAD traffic reporter Len Rowcliffe high above the city.

There, isn’t it good to learn something?

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.

Snow = slow

The first snowfall of the year hit the city this week, and the usual whining came quickly. So quickly that the National Post saw fit to make fun of us (even though nobody called in the army).

Because the storm was larger than expected, and because the worst of it hit during rush hour, traffic was backed up, and buses and plows couldn’t get through.

Patrick Lagacé asks: Is this normal?

Allow me to answer:

Yes this is normal!

Every year we get the same crap. People expect that ever block in the city has its own private snow-clearing team waiting for the first flakes to fall. Every year they forget that it takes a couple of days to clear snow off every street in the city.

The people who were unprepared for the first snowfall weren’t working for the city, they’re you. You without your winter tires. You without boots that have traction on ice. You who thought it would be a good idea to take your car downtown when the forecast called for snow. You who didn’t add extra time to your commuting schedule to account for delays caused by heavy snowfall.

I admit I’m a bit spoiled in all this. I take the metro exclusively to work (and during odd hours), so I rarely have to wait in line in the cold for a bus that’s half an hour late.

But even when I lived on the West Island and took an hour and a half to get downtown every day, I still understood that snowstorms cause delays. Why is it so hard for everyone else to understand the concept?

UPDATE (Dec. 14): Stéphane Laporte agrees with me: Winter happens. Get over it.

Why do taxis get special treatment?

Traffic sign gives taxis special privileges at Peel and René Lévesque

Traffic sign gives taxis special privileges at Peel and René Lévesque

So what is it about taxis, anyway, that gives them all this special treatment on our roads? Above, left turns are prohibited on René Lévesque Blvd. in order to keep traffic flowing smoothly. But taxis, for some reason, are exempt from this rule. So if a taxi wants to turn left, it can just sit there in the middle of the intersection waiting for an opportunity to do so.

But what’s more frustrating is that taxis get to use Montreal’s reserved bus lanes, whether or not they are carrying any passengers. Why is that? Are taxis considered small buses? Does a taxi carrying one person pollute less than a personal car carrying one person? Are taxis so vital to the economy that they should be exempt from downtown traffic?

My attempts to find an explanation have so far been fruitless. As far as I can tell, the reasoning behind it is the same as that which gives newspapers an exemption from Canada’s Do Not Call List regulations: Taxis have a very powerful lobby.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 8

(Bumped with new answery goodness)

There is a single traffic light in the City of Montreal where it is permitted to turn right on red (after making a complete stop, of course, following the code routière). But 75% of the time, this issue is moot.

Where is this traffic light, and why isn’t it an issue most of the time?

UPDATE (Jan. 16): The answer is at the corner of Jacques-Bizard Blvd. and Cherrier St.

Jacques Bizard and Cherrier

This intersection, just on the other side of the Jacques-Bizard bridge, is the only traffic light that’s inside the city (part of the Ile-Bizard/Ste-Geneviève borough) that’s not on the island (other islands like St. Helen’s Island don’t have enough traffic to justify a light, and Nuns’ Island has some philosophical objection to the idea of one). And since the right-turn-on-red exception is for the island of Montreal (and there are no signs specifically prohibiting right turns on red here), right turns are allowed.

But the issue is mostly moot, because for three of those directions there are short-cuts that avoid the light. Only traffic headed west on Cherrier turning north onto Jacques-Bizard would find this information useful.

Map: Jacques-Bizard and Cherrier

Of course, if you lived on Île Bizard, you’d know this already. You’re reminded of it each time you cross the only bridge off the island:

No rights on red on the island of Montreal

Self-centred drivers have short-sighted views

The Journal has a feature article today about a survey they organized which shows rush-hour drivers want heavy trucks banned from bridges during rush-hour. The article doesn’t include any interviews with truck drivers or transport companies or anyone else who might provide a balanced perspective.

Had they done so, they might have come up with this simple argument: Truck drivers don’t like rush hour any more than office workers do. They try to arrange their schedules, whenever possible, to avoid high-traffic situations which slow them down and eat into their productivity. When they travel during rush-hour it’s because they don’t have a choice.

The survey, with 71% in favour of creating such a restriction, is also misleading. All drivers want less rush hour traffic. If they could, they’d have everyone but them banned from the road. But if you explain the economic consequences of unnecessary regulation of truck traffic (like higher retail prices), you might start seeing those numbers change.

Unions can be sued for protest inconvenience

A judge has ruled that a 2003 blue-collar protest which tied up traffic downtown inconvenienced Montrealers significantly enough that they should be compensated. In a judgement on a class-action suit from Boris Coll, the judge ordered the union to give $1.16 million to charity (determining individual compensation was deemed too impractical).

Reaction has been mixed. The Gazette calls it a victory for regular people who should be able to travel freely without inconvenient traffic jams. Dennis Trudeau, meanwhile, worries about future protesters getting sued because their marches might cause traffic disruption.

Both sides have reasonable points, but I have to side with Trudeau. A traffic jam is an inconvenience, but there’s no constitutional right to free roadways. There is, however, a right to assemble, protest and express yourselves on political issues. The latter right should take precedence.

Protesters already wear masks and keep their routes secret because they fear police repression. Making these things actionable is just going to drive them further into lawlessness and make those protesters angrier.

The highway link to nowhere

Suburban mayors are going crazy over suggested solutions to the 440 West Island problem. Come, gather ’round the fireplace as I explain it to you.

440 link to the West Island

Many moons ago, the Quebec Transport Department figured out that expropriating land from homeowners to build highways was a very expensive and time-consuming process. To help solve it, they asked themselves: Wouldn’t it be a good idea to “buy” the land now for a highway development later?

Enter the 440. Expecting to eventually link this East-West Laval highway to Highway 40 in Kirkland, the government planned a route for it and reserved the land so nobody would build anything there. At the time, of course, the entire area was undeveloped forest and farmland. Now, with development all around the proposed route in both Laval and the West Island, it’s easy to see on a satellite picture where the highway is going to go: on the winding strip of green between those houses.

Hoping to alleviate the West Island’s rush-hour traffic problem, Pierrefonds wants to build an “urban boulevard” on the Montreal Island part of the link, between Gouin Blvd. and Highway 40. It would, Pierrefonds mayor Monique Worth says, alleviate traffic on the main north-south axes: St. Charles Blvd., St. John’s Blvd. and Sources Blvd.

North-South axes in the West Island

OK, I get St. Charles. But Sources? By what stretch of the imagination is some route that takes Sources now going to benefit by this new road 10 km west?

Anyway, Worth cut in to her own argument in a CTV News interview today when she admitted the obvious: That rush-hour travellers to downtown would “still hit traffic on the 40”. The other obviousness is that almost all of the northern West Island is east of this proposed boulevard, meaning they won’t use it to get downtown.

The idea isn’t necessarily bad. It will help alleviate traffic on St. Charles which heads between the northern West Island and western off-island areas. But it’s not going to help one bit with the Great West Island Trek Downtown, whose biggest traffic problem is the Decarie Circle (and Highway 20/Highway 13 merge).

As for Highway 440, the link would have some advantages, the biggest one being a fixed link between Ile Bizard and Laval. Currently, though there are three ferries, there is no fixed link from Highway 40 to the north shore between Highway 13 and Hawkesbury, Ontario. That makes some significant detours.

But the proposed link also runs right through Ile Bizard’s nature park. And cutting down all those trees to build a highway is not only unpretty, it kind of goes against the whole “environment” thing.

Let’s start with small steps, the first being a fixed link between Ile Bizard and Laval. When the roads along that route start overflowing with traffic, then we can talk about building a highway.

Until then, keep the right-of-way reserved for now. Maybe have a dirt path for people to bike through. It’s trees, and they’re good, mmm’kay.