Even electric vehicles need to park somewhere


Some, including myself, believe that Montreal is in a war (a losing one thus far) with cars. Our mayor has shown scorn for car owners by severely reducing the number of parking spots in the downtown core.  Her major reworking of a central artery, Ste. Catherine Street will see wider sidewalks, less room for vehicles, and thousands of fewer parking spots.

When it comes to automobiles Montreal is more Fresno than Oslo.

In tourism bumf, Montreal is often referred to as the Paris of North America. The language here is clearly not the same as the rest of the continent, even if you can pretty much always get by with English. But geographically we are, obviously, closer to other Canadian and American cities than we are to Paris or Berlin. Or even Oslo.

Oslo, Norway

In the Norwegian capital, the city administration is aiming to make the downtown core totally car-free. Yes, indeed, they want to have no vehicles at all. Lots of bikes and public transit.  In the early stages of this project, there was a significant backlash from car owners. (In Norway car ownership is about 30%.) They felt like second-class citizens, not wanted in their own city. So the city said, okay, we won’t ban cars, but we will ban parking.

(Oslo car owners) felt like second-class citizens, not wanted in their own city. So the city said, okay we won’t ban cars, but we will ban parking.

In Montreal, countless businesses, many long-established, have gone belly-up due to asinine long-term street closures that choke off incoming clients and force them to go to malls with ample free parking. On a recent episode of Montreal Now on Radio station CJAD, a survey finding was cited indicating that some 74% of Montrealers drive to work.

When it comes to automobiles, Montreal is more Fresno than Oslo.

Infamous Montreal construction cones and bagged parking meters

A friend of mine is a foreman with a construction company that often gets contracts to carry-out work on downtown streets. The city is very strict when it comes to time; on some occasions the job, depending on the severity of it, must be done on one day. The city sees to the parking meters being “bagged” and rendered out of order so the work can be done. Once the job is done, and the contractor leaves, it can take as long as two weeks for the city to remove the red bags from the meters, making those parking spots available again. This is not only an inconvenience for potential downtown shoppers, but is a loss of revenue for the city. But such is the attitude to cars in Montreal.

In Fresno, California, and for that matter most American cities, the car is king (the national average for car ownership is two cars per person!). I’m not suggesting that’s a good thing, but merely emphasizing that Montrealers’ attachment to vehicles is more along the lines of American cities than, say Oslo. In Quebec, we are linguistically different than the rest of North America; however, we are still very much influenced by the culture of our neighbours to the south, including their love of automobiles.

Even in an ideal situation, with 100% of vehicles being powered electrically, or by some other clean method yet to be discovered, those vehicles will still have to be put somewhere.

Montreal area shopping centre parking lot (Google Maps)

I believe that to think Montrealers will ever embrace the European shift to public transit and bicycles is pie in the sky. Moreover, to attempt to force this transfer by removing parking will prove to be folly, and will kill the once vibrant downtown core. Even in an ideal situation, with 100% of vehicles being powered electrically, or by some other clean method yet to be discovered, those vehicles will still have to be put somewhere. Unfortunately, I fear that that somewhere will be suburban mall parking lots.

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