According to Wikipedia: With access to six universities and twelve junior colleges in an 8 kilometer (5 mi) radius, Montreal, Quebec (Canada) has the highest proportion of post-secondary students of all major cities in North America. This represents roughly 248,000 post-secondary students, one of the largest numbers in the world.
Many, certainly not all, of these students not only attend school in the city but also live there. There are numerous student residences and much housing geared to students. To say nothing of the plethora of condominium developments, of which a new one seems to pop up every day. This is just one of the ingredients that give Montreal an actual livable downtown. Unlike many cities in North America with downtown cores that are essentially abandoned once the business day is over, there is an entire group of Montrealers who live right downtown. A vibrant community that keeps the sidewalks from being rolled up at a certain time as is the case in many other cities.
However, the last few years have been hard on the downtown merchants. Several multi-year infrastructure repair projects, no doubt much required, have put a strain on many restaurants and bars. Some have seen their front doors blocked by an assortment of equipment while others have had their streets torn up for months on end, both of which make access to the business tricky if not impossible. In a city encrusted with bars and restaurants of all stripe, competition is fierce at the best of times. These poor owners must feel like a boxer with an arm tied behind his or her back.
A debate is currently brewing about a road that passes over the mountain (it isn’t really a mountain, more of a hill, but that’s what it’s called, Mont-Royal). The newly elected mayor and her cohorts have decided, without public consultation (there is a petition here), to end through traffic over Mont Royal. Instead, they would allow vehicles from the east to go only as far as one parking lot, and those coming from the east only as far as another lot.
Let’s say you wanted to take visiting friends to see the lovely large park that sits atop Mont Royal – designed by the same fellow who did New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted – you would have to enter from the west. If you then wanted to scoot along to the look-out on the other side of the mountain you would have to backtrack, circumnavigate Mont-Royal and enter from the east. Less traffic over the top, perhaps, but no doubt havoc on summer days on other streets.
But more than just an inconvenience, to close the road to through traffic would be just one more hindrance to gaining access to downtown. Granted not a major conduit to downtown’s bars and restaurants, but with so many other nuisances this is timed very poorly for long-suffering merchants.