Montreal, like many North American cities, is coming to grips with an ageing infrastructure. Water mains, roads and overpasses that were all built around the same time as the population grew are now in need of repair or replacement. Seemingly endless road closures beset citizens and tourists all summer, but the fact is there is no way to carry out the needed work without drastically altering many commuters favourite routes. Some of these detours are weeks long, some months while a few are going to be in effect until 2019! You just can’t make, or repair, an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
Sensibly those who are overseeing this massive project are encouraging commuters to take public transit whenever possible. It is early days yet, but I am interested to learn if that suggestion has been followed or if people have remained in their cars. Downtown Montreal, at the best of times, is not a terribly car-friendly place. Bixi – the bike-sharing service – stands, and restaurant terraces take up hundreds if not thousands of parking spots during the summer.
I am fortunate enough to be able to walk to most places that I need to get to on a regular basis but occasionally I do take public transportation if I am in a hurry or it is raining or very cold. The Montreal transit system is pretty good for the most part, but can always do with some updates. The Metro is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, it was built to help move the millions of visitors around the city and to and from EXPO67. The current network is much larger than was the original half a century ago, but more stations are needed as the population spreads to the suburbs.
As an occasional user of the transit system I do not purchase a monthly pass, but pay cash as needed. Herein lies my gripe. Just a few years ago the system of tickets and passes was overhauled with new machines being installed on all buses over time. The problem is that the fancy new technology is incapable of giving change. I can put a five dollar bill into vending machine and buy a chocolate bar for $1.75 and get back $3.25 in change. Why can’t I use a five or ten-dollar bill on the bus and get back change? I estimate that 98% of my purchases are made using a debit card. I can go for weeks without spending cash simply by using the Interac system.
I never seem to have $3.25 in change but can almost always find a five dollar bill. I am not suggesting a return to the days when bus drivers made change and actually sold tickets; I understand this made them easy marks for robbers. But a change-making update to the relatively new machines would increase this blogger’s use of the system.
You can take the Metro and a bus to the Casino de Montreal; I suggest the Societe de Transport de Montreal overseers do so and have a look at all those machines that provide change to gamblers. Surely some of that technology can be adapted for use on buses. Ideally the ability to pay by debit card would make things a whole lot more convenient, but I understand that would require buses to be WiFi equipped.