Whoever said “there are no stupid questions” has probably never been to a public consultation meeting, where anyone from the general public, gifted only with a lot of free time, can ask any un-pre-screened question to important-looking bureaucrats in front of an audience.
Last week, I went to a public consultation of the STM in Côte-des-Neiges, hoping there would be some interesting developments to report about transit improvements to the area (and Montreal in general). I figured that even if the presentation was a bust, some of the questions from the public would spark interesting answers.
Naturally, I was disappointed.
But perhaps I’m being unfair calling them stupid questions. Because many of them weren’t questions.
Instead, they were 10-minute diatribes about how someone was late to work one morning and the bus didn’t show up that one time, or general demands for things the representatives there were obviously powerless to do anything about. Other demands seemed illogical or contradictory. Few of them were useful.
The meeting gave me quite a bit more respect for Marvin Rotrand, a city councillor and vice-president of the STM, who has to sit through these kinds of meetings on a regular basis, and clearly recognized many of the people he called up to speak as people who regularly take advantage of opportunities to speak their minds.
Still, some interesting tidbits did emerge from the hours-long meeting:
- Starting next month, service on the 11 Montagne route will be extended to midnight from its current 9pm daily, since services on the mountain are open until midnight. The bigger problem of buses unable to climb the steep Ridgewood Ave. during winter will hopefully be solved in the future by improvements to the buses.
- Service on the 103 Monkland will be improved outside of rush hour starting in September.
- More Abribus bus shelters are being installed on the network in NDG/Côte-des-Neiges, to bring the ratio from 37% to 40% of stops.
- Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg was particularly concerned about the 51 Boulevard Edouard-Montpetit bus route because he says it has a tendency to block the intersection of Queen Mary and Ellerdale (I’ve taken the bus through there many times and never seen it happen, but whatever). He wants it rerouted via Stratford and Cote-St-Luc to somehow avoid this problem, and he wants a guarantee that no articulated buses will be used on the route.
- Five buses will be added to the STM’s busiest rush-hour route, the 535 R-Bus Du Parc/Côte-des-Neiges, starting in September, in order to deal with crowding problems. 200 articulated buses (beyond the current test vehicles) will come into service starting later next year as the STM simultaneously increases its fleet from 1700 to 1950 buses.
- The STM is looking at installing bike racks on buses.
- One testy issue was about strollers. Moms are upset because there isn’t enough space on crowded buses for their giant strolling machines. In response, rather than asking clients to use simple foldable strollers, they’re turning the wheelchair area on low-floor buses into wheelchair/stroller areas.
- First-generation LFS low-floor buses (16, 17 and 18 series buses from 1996-98 which are considered lemons if not death traps) will be phased out by 2010. It’s unclear whether their retirements will come before those of the high-floor Classic buses which preceded them.
- Among the recommendations from the public:
- Limited-stop bus service between the two legs of the orange line (along Van Horne, Jean-Talon, Sauvé/Côte-Vertu, for example), doubling up on existing local routes. This may seem unnecessary because of the existence of the blue line, but I have found it easier to take the 121 between Sauvé and Côte-Vertu than to take a metro detour through three trains.
- Spend more money cleaning up bus shelters, because “once in a while isn’t good enough.” No recommendations, of course, on where this new money should come from. Higher fares? Higher taxes? Less service? All of those sound really appealing so we don’t see as much litter.
- Setup commuter train stations at Namur and Canora along the Montreal-Blainville line.
- There should be more reserved lanes so people can get to their destinations faster
- There should be fewer reserved lanes because they take away parking and hurt local businesses
- Bus stops should be spaced further apart so the buses stop less
- Bus stops should be spaced further together so people don’t have to walk as much
- Bus fares should be raised so that more money can be put into better services
- Bus fares should be decreased so that the poor have access to transit
- Poor people should have a special poor-people’s pass
- All non-PSA advertising should be removed from buses and metros (again, no recommendations of what should replace the loss of revenue or what services should be cut)
Another West Island-specific consultation will take place in Pierrefonds on June 11.
UPDATE (May 24): For the record, The Suburban also covered this meeting.