Monthly Archives: December 2009

PJ Stock too cool for Montreal

PJ Stock

P.J. Stock, a former journeyman NHL player turned hockey analyst, has come to the realization over the past few months that he was stretching himself a little too thin. His main gig at Hockey Night in Canada involved a lot of travelling between Toronto and Montreal on weekends.

Though he contributed regularly for CBMT’s evening newscast, he cut that weeks ago (CBC says it’s looking for a replacement). Last week, he said goodbye to an afternoon radio show on the Team 990. He’ll be replaced there by Randy Tieman of CFCF.

Stock says he wants to spend more time with his family. And admiring himself in the mirror.

A Mary Christmas

Speaking of people being fired before Christmas, hundreds of CBC employees and friends are rallying around Mary McGuire, a cafeteria employee at the Maison Radio-Canada, who was just told that her services won’t be needed by the catering service the CBC subcontracts to.

They’ve started up a Facebook group, whose members include Michel C. Auger and anglo CBCers Kristy Snell, Kristy Rich, and even some not named Kristy. They say after 36 years of serving them coffee, McGuire deserves to stick around.

UPDATE (Dec. 24):

A Christmas miracle! A day later, Mary has been un-fired.

CFQR adds to website

925theq.com screengrab

925theq.com

Only eight months after they rebranded themselves from “Q92” to “The Q”, CFQR has opened up its website to more interesting content.

New features include:

There’s also a schedule, which has scrubbed the name of Tammy Moyer from her late-morning show. She hasn’t been fired, says Program Director Brian DePoe. Rather, she’s “taken a leave from the Q to deal with some personal life issues.”

As they await more “clarity” on the situation, the show is being hosted temporarily by Chris Reiser.

Gazette, Devoir newspaper archives online

Gazette Stanley Cup 1986

The Gazette, May 26, 1986

Mike Rivest points out that archives of The Gazette, from 1878 to 1986, are now available for searching on Google News’s newspaper archive.

For those unfamiliar with the archive, it scans countless newspaper pages, subjects them to optical character recognition, and encodes it all in a vast database. From there, you can search for stuff and it’ll take you right to the newspaper page in question, highlighting the appropriate text.

The system isn’t perfect. Some dates are wrong, some newspapers mislabelled. And the text you’re looking for might have gotten garbled up in the OCR machine.

And not every issue is there, so you might get disappointed if you’re looking for a particular issue or article.

But considering the number of requests daily to The Gazette about accessing old newspaper archives, I’m sure this will come in handy to many. (Kristian Gravenor just creamed his pants, for one)

Some quick searching has found me the Habs’ 1986 Stanley Cup win (above), and these two below:

The Gazette, Oct. 15, 1966: Metro opens, but it's not the main story of the day.

The Gazette, July 21, 1969: Something about a ladder?

There’s also all 172 pages of the bicentennial edition in 1978.

Le Devoir’s archives are also online, though Google’s newspaper search algorithm seeks out block of what it considers legible text, so what comes out are those bits of English that have been published in the newspaper.

Also available are archives from:

Non-Quebec papers include the Toronto Star and Ottawa Citizen.

Happy hunting. (Just remember, if you’re searching for something significant, that newspapers are yesterday’s news, so you have to search for the day after.)

A photo pop quiz to get the gears moving

No geography trivia quiz this week (still looking for ideas in case anyone has any). Instead, a different kind of challenge:

What are these?

UPDATE: After a dozen interesting guesses, Pascal gets it right: They’re metro turnstiles.

Old metro turnstiles

A sea of old turnstiles behind a gate at Pie-IX metro

Turnstile innards, with unrelated celebratory horn

These photos were taken at the Pie-IX metro station, where dozens of the old turnstiles have gone to die. They have been replaced by new Opus-enabled turnstiles, except for the one at each station that was kept for transition purposes (those will be joining them soon) and some exit-only turnstiles that don’t need to be replaced.

Radio Enfant, 106.7FM

This post has been corrected.

A new radio station has snuck onto the airwaves in Montreal. It’s calling itself “Radio Enfant” and transmitting on 106.7 FM.

It’s an initiative of two schools, and is operating over the holidays until the beginning of January. It’s a low-power transmitter, so the signal is very weak, but I could pick it up for most of a late-night walk downtown after hearing about it on the Radio in Montreal group.

Radio Enfant recently launched a station in Gatineau at 1670 AM, at a CRTC-approved 1,000 Watts of power. It decided, apparently on its own, to start something up on 106.7FM in Montreal, after learning that this frequency was vacated by Aboriginal Voices Radio, which decided to surrender its license for CKAV-FM-10 on that frequency.

The only thing is that, unlike the Gatineau station, Radio Enfant hasn’t been issued a CRTC license to operate a radio station in Montreal. It says it’s planning to apply for one (or has already applied, but the CRTC hasn’t released that application yet), but that’s kind of backwards, and means the Montreal stations are technically pirates.

UPDATE (Jan. 7): Sheldon Harvey, a local radio enthusiast, informs me that they have an experimental operating license from Industry Canada, which means they are operating legally. My apologies.

Fortunately, Radio Enfant isn’t interfering with any existing stations. Boom FM, a station in St. Hyacinthe on 106.5FM, still comes in fine (which is good, because it’s an Astral Media Radio station, and Astral is a funding partner in Radio Enfant). There are no stations in the area at 106.9 – but there are in Trois Rivières, Sherbrooke and Ottawa that basically cancel each other out here.

An insult to Montreal’s smoked meat heritage

The other day, Wendy Kraus-Heitmann and her husband were up late and hankering for some food. “Because I fed him something nutritious and healthy for supper (seafood soup) he got hungry around midnight and we ordered some smoked meat and a poutine,” she said.

They called up a local restaurant called Pizza Expresso and soon thereafter the order was delivered.

“When he opened his smoked meat, we both looked at it. I blurted out ‘what the hell?!?!’ Pat was speechless. Finally I said ‘I need to get my camera.'”

She took this picture:

What Pizza Expresso considers a "smoked meat sandwich" (photo by Wendy Kraus-Heitmann)

“Does that look like rye bread to you? That’s because it’s not. And it’s about the worst mushiest tasteless wonder bread wannabe I’ve ever tasted in my life. These people should be run out of Montreal and shot on sight.”

Now, admittedly, you’re not going to get the best smoked meat in the city if you order it from a generic pizza place. But there are plenty of places that do a decent job (I get smoked meat from La Belle Province, and it’s good enough for me). You don’t have to offer it if you can’t make it, but if you’re going to have it on your menu, you really should prepare it properly.

Setting aside the taste (not good, reportedly) and the lacklustre presentation, who puts smoked meat on white bread?

Thank you for my donation

Hello Steven Faguy,

Welcome Hall Mission thanks you for you generosity. Your gift of 650.00 CAD will be processed by our accounting department and an income tax receipt will be issued shortly for any gift of $10 or more. We invite you to consult our website www.welcomehallmission.com to learn more about all the services provided by the Mission.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Cyril Morgan
Executive Director
Welcome Hall Mission

The Second Annual Fagstein Subscription Challenge is over. Thanks to everyone who participated.

From my calculations (which are not really exact science because FeedBurner’s stats go up and down pretty wildly), this blog picked up 37 subscribers over those two weeks (22 of whom used Google Reader, the most popular feed reader) to bring the total to 1,163. So that means the subscriber donation total is $563 + $37 = $600, which is a suspiciously round number.

I’ve also decided to tack on the $14 I saved by scamming the AMT earlier this year. I figure charity is a more fitting use for the money than either the transit agency of myself.

Throw on another dollar for all you wonderful new subscribers as a bonus (except you, you know who you are), and you get $563 + $37 + $14 + $36 = $650. And that’s the donation that has been made in your my name to the Welcome Hall Mission, where I understand they’re totally going to just blow it on hos and bling.

RTL slow with the news

The Réseau de transport de Longueuil became the last major transit agency in the area to announce its fare schedule for 2010 on Friday, based on a decision supposedly taken at a board meeting on Dec. 3 (which took 15 days to publicize?)

Here’s how it breaks down:

2009 2010 Difference
Cash fare $3 $3 No change
6 tickets (regular) $16.10 (6x$2.68) $16.50 (6x$2.75) +2.5%
6 tickets (reduced) $9.60 (6x$1.60) $9.60 (6x$1.67) +4.2%
Monthly pass (regular) $79 $81 +2.5%
Monthly pass (reduced) $47 $48.50 +3.2%

The policy of having cash fares that don’t allow transfers is being maintained, much to the dismay of groups that demand transfers be reinstated.

The RTL notes that 48% of its clients use an AMT multi-zone pass, most commonly Zone 3, which covers Longueuil.

STM sweetens late fare increase with money-savers

With only two (weekend) days left until people start buying passes for 2010, the STM finally announced its fare schedule for the new year, 17 days after what we would normally consider a deadline.

There are modest increases – the price of a regular monthly pass goes up 2.2% to $70 – but the price of a cash fare remains frozen at $2.75 ($1.75 reduced fare), and the price of one-day and three-day tourist passes is actually going down significantly.

The transit agency is also sweetening the deal with some incentives.

First, the table:

Regular Reduced
Monthly CAM $70 ($68.50+ 2.2%) $38.75 ($37 + 4.7%
Weekly CAM $20.50 ($20 + 2.5%) $11.50 ($11.25 + 2.2%)
Three-day tourist pass $14 ($17 – 17.6%) N/A
One-day tourist pass $7 ($9 – 22.2%) N/A
10 trips (Opus card only) $21 ($2.10/trip, $20 + 5%) $12 ($1.20/trip, $10.75 + 11.6%)
Six trips $13.25 ($2.21/trip, $12.75 + 3.9%) $7.50 ($1.25/trip, $6.75 + 11.1%)
Single fare $2.75 (no change) $1.75 (no change)

Like the AMT and STL, the STM is putting forward an annual Opus subscription that would save the hassle of waiting in line on the first of every month. However, unlike the STL and AMT system, the STM does not offer a 12th month free under this system. It has practical advantages, but no financial ones. (Also, ironically, because the STM was so late with this announcement, it’s too late to sign up for this for January.)

For those eligible for reduced fare, a similar system over four months does offer a financial advantage. In effect, those who pay the $148 in advance will be spared the fare increase and pay only $37 a month. Assuming they have $148 of unexpected mad money to spend, which all people on reduced fares obviously do.

For those who care, the STM is allowing people with Air Miles to use them to buy passes. It’s 610 for a regular-fare monthly pass, 330 for a reduced-fare pass. This works out to 20 miles a day, or 10 miles in each direction on a regular fare, which actually sounds pretty accurate when you think about it. The STM suggests this as a “great present” – presumably with a straight face. This will be available from Dec. 23, so you can use it for your January pass.

Cheaper to be a tourist

It’s kind of buried in the press release that the STM “with adjust the prices” of tourist passes, but they’re actually going down by a considerable amount (18% and 20%). This changes the dynamics of when to get these passes.

A one-day pass is worth 2.5 cash fares, or 3.3 trips when you buy them 10 at a time. Which means if you’re planning 3-4 trips in a day, it makes much more sense to get a one-day pass. Similarly, the three-day pass is $14, which is 5.1 cash fares or 6.7 Opus trips, working out to 1.7 and 2.2 trips per day respectively. So if you’re having a friend over from out of town, and planning to use public transit, the three-day pass makes much more sense now.

It also puts more distance between the three-day pass and the seven-day weekly pass at $20.50. Of course the weekly pass still has a set week (Monday to Sunday) even though it’s only available on Opus and changing that would seem easy enough to do. The three-day pass is over any three consecutive days.

And the politics

There’s a bunch of stuff about partnerships and service levels in the press release that even I glazed over. Feel free to read it if you like that stuff.

It should be noted that this fare increase was not approved at a public meeting of the STM board. I’m not sure what secret gathering occurred to come up with this, but it wasn’t done democratically.

And the opposition wasted no time speaking up issuing populist press releases. Richard Bergeron says the modest increases are still too much and he’s calling (after the fact) for a freeze in transit fares for 2010.

Vision’s Elsie Lefebvre just whines, saying hikes are “unacceptable” but implying they’d be okay with it if it was just the rate of inflation. This is particularly hypocritical considering Brenda Paris, who’s now with Vision Montreal, was on the STM’s board for all those years, and I didn’t hear a peep of complaint out of her when they approved all those fare increases.

Happy 150th, Victoria

Victoria Bridge

Thursday was the 150th anniversary of the first train crossing the Victoria Bridge. I took the opportunity to travel on it by train during what turned out to be a nice sunset.

The Gazette’s Andy Riga has a package of stories about the bridge, including a proposal to add light rail lines to its hangers (replacing the single lanes on each side being used by cars). I asked local rail expert Marc Dufour about that idea as we crossed the bridge, and he said it was silly, because there are already rail tracks on the bridge being used by commuter trains.

More Victoria links are on Riga’s blog.

Journalism’s feel-good story of the year

Henry Aubin has a nice piece in Thursday’s Gazette, praising a half-dozen investigative journalists as his persons of the year for uncovering corruption scandals at city hall.

There are two things I like about this:

First, there was no single newspaper, no single journalist, no single news agency that got the scoop. These are six journalists for five different – competing news outlets in Montreal, including the three paid daily newspapers not currently in a labour conflict (as La Presse’s Marc Cassivi notes, the Journal de Montréal contributed precisely nothing). They each uncovered another facet of the story. They each tried to get that “exclusive” badge of honour, but they also worked off each other’s findings. The competition among them produced a better story as a whole.

Second, it’s a strong argument in favour of professional journalism. Note that I use the term “professional” here, not “traditional” or “old”. Only half of these journalists are print reporters, and one works exclusively for an online publication. But they’re all professional. This is their job. (Here I differ with Aubin on an issue of pure semantics: there’s nothing about a blog that makes it unprofessional other than its reputation – it all depends on who is doing the writing.)

While I still think it’s unfortunate that Montreal gets so much attention but hundreds of other cities across Quebec get little or no attention from professional journalists, I’m glad the eyes of the people are on this one, at least.

So congratulations (in alphabetical order so as not to play favourites) to Fabrice de Pierrebourg (Rue Frontenac), Marie-Maude Denis and Alain Gravel (Radio-Canada), Linda Gyulai (The Gazette), Kathleen Lévesque (Le Devoir), and André Noël (La Presse). You did good.

(And then we went ahead and re-elected Tremblay.)

Transitways before tramways

Government mockup of rapid-transit corridor on Pie-IX

Government mockup of rapid-transit corridor on Pie-IX

La Presse has another one of their “Exclusif”s, which sounds like hard-hitting investigative journalism but is really just being tipped off to a press conference ahead of schedule.

This one reports that the city is going to announce the building of a dedicated transit corridor in the middle of Pie IX Blvd. This would replace the contra-flow rush-hour reserved bus lanes that were shut down in 2002 after they were deemed unsafe for pedestrians (and left shelters in the middle of the road vacant since).

A median between the transit corridor and the traffic lanes would be built between 2011 and 2013. And it would go up to the end of the island, eventually being extended into Laval.

This is a good idea. It’s safer than the old contraflow system, and it encourages quick public transit. And though the article makes no mention of tramways, the corridor could be more easily converted into a tram line once it’s setup. Pie-IX is one of the routes being considered for a tramway (long ago, it was even considered for a metro line, to the point where it appeared as a dotted line on metro maps).

I like transit corridors or transitways, roads that are reserved 24/7 strictly for use by public transit (essentially buses). They seemed to work well when I went through them in Ottawa. So why don’t we have more of them here?

Bus-only roads are good enough for Ottawa. Why not here?

Bus-only roads are good enough for Ottawa. Why not here?

I ask this question because transitways are a good middle ground between reserved bus lanes and tramways. If we’re planning on building tramways on Côte des Neiges Rd. and Park Ave., reserving lanes in both direction 24/7, then why aren’t we doing that already for buses? Why not build the median and setup a transitway that can be replaced by a tramway later?

This could also help test the waters before plunking down serious cash for a tram line that nobody might use. Like Mayor Tremblay’s plan for a loop going from downtown to the Old Port. The city setup a bus along the route – the 515 – which has been a huge disappointment in terms of ridership. Tremblay still thinks a tram here is a good idea, despite the evidence to the contrary. Setting up a transitway along this route would remove any lingering doubts about whether traffic is the reason people aren’t taking a liking to public transit here.

It just seems like a no-brainer to me: if you’re going to take that parking away and reserve space for public transit, don’t wait until the tramway is built and just give the space full-time to buses already.

So why isn’t anyone else considering it?

UPDATE: La Presse says a simple reserved bus lane would cost a third the price. But, of course, it wouldn’t be as efficient.

UPDATE (Dec. 29): The MTQ has posted the “fiche technique” of the proposal for Pie-IX (PDF). Bus stops would be after intersections, and the bus lanes would narrow to make room for the boarding platform (or, conversely, would widen when buses leave the platform and travel at a faster speed).

Chantal Desjardins replaces Kim Rossi on CHOM morning show

Chantal Desjardins and Mark Bergman put on their sad faces in announcing they're splitting up on Twitter

Chantal Desjardins and Mark Bergman put on their sad faces in announcing they're splitting up on Twitter

The game of musical chairs in local radio continues. Bob Harris, formerly the head honcho at Astral Media’s Montreal radio stations, is moving to take a similar job in Hamilton. His wife, CHOM morning host Kim Rossi, joins him and gets a job in St. Catharines.

Two weeks ago, Astral announced that each station would have its own program director and promotion director. Mark Bergman will take over Harris’s job at CJFM 95.9 (Virgin Radio 96).

Rossi’s job will instead be filled by Chantal Desjardins, Bergman’s afternoon cohost on CJFM.

Mike Cohen was the first with the news in The Suburban. Bergman and Desjardins made the announcement on Wednesday’s show. Desjardins joins the CHOM morning team of Ted Bird and Pete Marier on Jan. 4.

Before then, hopefully someone will figure out how to change the name of the Mark & Chantal Facebook fan page.

From her bio:

Chantal received a Communications degree from the University of Winnipeg and a Creative Communications diploma from Red River College. She then got her big media break as a sports anchor/reporter at CityTV Winnipeg.

Chantal got her first taste of radio thanks to a number of guest appearances on Winnipeg’s Q94FM and BOBFM’s morning shows. Once Chantal realized she could wear jeans and a ponytail every day to work, it was only a matter of time before her big TV hair and spray tan days were behind her.

Chantal’s lived in Montreal since 2006, reporting on the Montreal sports scene for CJAD800AM and helping people get home every afternoon as a traffic reporter for Astral Media Montreal.

Meanwhile Rossi, whose last day on CHOM’s morning show is this Friday, has a long post on her blog saying thanks to just about everyone she’s ever met.