Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Montreal, News, Opinion

Montreal Mayor Fears For Downtown – She Should

PlanteHeadline

Well, what do you know? Montreal’s Mayor Plante is now begging people to come downtown. This is the same mayor who has removed every parking spot from Ste. Catherine Street, downtown Montreal’s main commercial conduit.

Even if we forget about the pandemic for a moment, did it really not cross the Mayor’s mind that by reducing traffic to a single lane, eliminating hundreds of parking spots,  and widening already substantial sidewalks, would have a detrimental effect on businesses?

That was the plan from Day One of Plante’s term; to make downtown Montreal a pedestrian mall. It will never work.

Hopefully, this COVID induced situation will illustrate to the Mayor that when people can’t park, they don’t go downtown.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, she has been able to push-up her plan, albeit on a temporary basis, by reducing traffic on the entire street to one lane and having bollards placed to widen sidewalks. Hopefully, this COVID induced situation will illustrate to the Mayor that when people can’t park, they don’t go downtown. No amount of cultural pop-up performances is going to change that.

In a recent post, I mentioned a longtime Ste. Catherine Street restaurant that is suffering from the Mayor’s pipedream. As the owner pointed out to me, the sidewalks are already wide enough. This is Montreal, not Manhattan.

And now Mayor Plante and Tourism Montreal officials are begging people to come back downtown. They are offering reduced parking in a few buildings, one of which is a Metro ride from downtown.

Today (Prince Arthur) street is all but abandoned; no parking, no business. Like it or not, it’s just that simple.

I would suggest the Mayor and her colleagues take a long hard look at the Prince Arthur  Street story. A one-time vibrant street, in the early 1980s, lined with BYOW (bring your own wine) restaurants, the then-mayor Jean Drapeau decided to make the street a pedestrian mall. One of the draws of Prince Arthur, aside from BYOW places charging reduced prices, was the availability of ample free parking on side streets. Before too long the local residents were fed-up with having to drive around looking for a parking spot on their own street and a system of parking stickers was implemented.

Today the street is all but abandoned; no parking, no business. Like it or not, it’s just that simple.

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COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Food, Montreal, Opinion

Killing Montreal Restaurants

StarIndia

From Google Maps

Montreal is blessed with many great restaurants. But things have been tough on them over the last decade or so. Aside from the current COVID-19 shutdown, extended street closures for needed infrastructure repairs have spelled the end of many long-time eateries.

The Star of India is an establishment that I have visited countless times over the past few decades

Last evening my wife and I dropped by a local Indian restaurant. The Star of India is an establishment that I have visited countless times over the past few decades. Others have come and gone, but this place has remained. When I was a student at McGill and after my mother and I often visited, coming to be known to staff, although unbeknownst to us, as ‘Son and Mum’. Relying essentially on word of mouth the restaurant’s house specialty butter chicken has become a favourite of Montrealers.

Early last evening I was pleased to see that the restaurant is still open, albeit under strict COVID-19 reopening restrictions. Half the tables are gone, many bottles of hand sanitizer are available and, salt, pepper, and sugar have to be requested where once they were left on tables.

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Star of India Butter Chicken Photo courtesy Tripadvisor.ca by AprilleMariee (Jul. 2015)

The same gentleman who has been greeting customers since day one, I believe he is the owner, welcomed us. We were the only people there.

As if things were not bad enough, the closure of Ste. Catherine has dealt a significant blow to the Star of India, and other restaurants in the area

While our food was being prepared he chatted with us. He described how business had been hit hard, but with the availability of pick-up, they were managing to get by. That is until the City decided to close Ste. Catherine Street to traffic on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  And removed all parking spots at all times on what is the main downtown commercial street. No longer could patrons call in an order, then drive-by to pick it up at the front door.

As if things were not bad enough, the closure of Ste. Catherine has dealt a significant blow to the Star of India, and other restaurants in the area, no doubt. While we were eating the owner stood looking wistfully out of the window, and I could not help but wonder if we were having our last meal there.

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Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Montreal, News, Opinion

Downtown Montreal: Economic Revival and Parking

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The closed parking area at Parc Mont-Royal. PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, LA PRESSE

During the recent almost-total COVID-19 shutdown, many venues were affected. Not only stores, restaurants, bars, cinemas and, places of worship were closed, but parks as well.

The equation is simple: take away parking spots and people will be less than keen to visit

Montreal is blessed with many large green spaces, several of them on or around the mountain (truth be told it’s more of a hill than a mountain, but that’s what we locals call Mont-Royal). Closing a large park is easier said than done. There are, thankfully, no fences around the parks, no gates to close. Notices were posted at key entry points, but many people enter from other areas.

So someone somewhere got the bright idea to simply close the adjacent parking lots. This was a much more manageable task that reduced the number of people in Parc du Mont-Royal at any given time to almost nil. Even almost stir-crazy self-isolated people were not keen to schlep up the hill to the park. The equation is simple: take away parking spots and people will be less than keen to visit. When the intention was to limit or eliminate park visitors during the pandemic the removal of parking was a great success. Kudos to the mayor.

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However, why is it that the same mayor can’t figure out that a similar effect will be felt by store and restaurant owners in the downtown area where she has also removed a huge number of parking spots? Let alone the usual havoc caused by roadwork and emergency repairs to burst pipes, the systematic removal of hundreds of parking spots – metered spots that generated revenue – has caused many owners to fear for the future of their establishments.

However, why is it that the same mayor can’t figure out that a similar effect will be felt by store and restaurant owners in the downtown area where she has also removed a huge number of parking spots?

In January, before the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote about the mayor’s plan to widen the sidewalks on the main downtown shopping street. This would involve the removal of numerous parking places. Then along came the pandemic and the need to widen many sidewalks to allow proper physical distancing arose. Like manna from heaven, this afforded the mayor the opportunity to rush ahead with her project, if only via the installation of temporary bollards and cement blocks.

I suspect we will never see the return of these parking spots. I fear for the economic future of downtown Montreal as more and more commercial developments are slated for areas outside the core. Projects that provide free parking, ample free parking. If the big stores decide to vacate the downtown area can the smaller places survive?

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Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Montreal, Opinion, Politics, United States

When It Comes To Cars Montreal Is More Fresno Than Oslo

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Wider sidewalks, more trees and fewer lanes for drivers are part of the plan for Ste-Catherine Street. (City of Montreal)

Evidently, if a recent article in a local newspaper is accurate, Montreal is in a war (a losing one this 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 central artery Ste. Catherine Street will see wider sidewalks, less room for vehicles and hundreds of fewer parking spots.

But geographically we are, obviously, closer to other Canadian and American cities than we are to Paris or Berlin. Or Oslo.

In tourism bumf, Montreal is often referred to as the Paris of North America. The language is clearly not the same as the rest of the continent, even if you can 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 Oslo.

In the Norwegian capital, the city administration is aiming at making the downtown core 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 large 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.

… due to asinine long-term street closures that choke off incoming clients and force them to go to malls with ample free parking

In Montreal, countless businesses, many long-established, have gone broke due to asinine long-term street closures that choke off incoming clients and force them to go to malls with ample free parking.

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

In Fresno and 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 cars is more along the lines of American cities than, say Oslo. I believe our dear mayor is going to kill a once vibrant downtown area by making it nigh on impossible to get there and stay there.

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Sucking The Life Out Of Downtown Montreal One Parking Spot At A Time

Union

We are now well into the month of December. While many may lament the too early appearance of Christmas decorations in stores in November (October?), all bets are now off. Seasonal shopping is in full swing; decorated windows, street lights, and pretty much anything that does not move are now deemed fair play.

But now Sunday is the second busiest day, after Saturday, for shopping in downtown stores.

I can recall a time when downtown Montreal was a ghost town on Sundays. That was prior to 1985 when the Lord’s Day Act was struck down allowing stores to remain open. The streets were deserted with no stores open, and subsequentially no restaurants given the lack of sidewalk traffic. It goes without saying parking spots were plentiful.

But now Sunday is the second busiest day, after Saturday, for shopping in downtown stores. Not surprising really, most people have the day off, our society is more secular and restaurants eagerly await tired shoppers.

Yesterday I drove my wife downtown, dropped her off, and went in search of a parking spot. It was 11:30 A.M. which meant I had a full ninety minutes until the parking meters kicked in. In an ironic twist, when Sunday first became a shoppers’ dream, the parking meters were free all day. But it was soon discovered that taken spots were, for the most part, store employees who, arriving earlier than shoppers, snapped up the spots and held them all day. So the city broke-down – he said with tongue in cheek – and enforced the use of parking meters on Sunday. This led to downtown houses of worship crying foul that members of their congregations now had to pay to pray. So the city went back to the drawing board and decided that parking meters would only come into effect at 1:00 P.M. on Sundays to allow church-goers a chance to park free.

… why are so many evidently free streets reserved for something that may or may not occur?

Alas, at 11:30 A.M. yesterday there was not a parking spot to be found. Actually, that is misleading, there was in fact street after street of parking meters that were, for reasons unknown, deemed out of use (capped with the dreaded red bag). Other streets had been reserved for movie-making crews to park trucks and set-up equipment.  While many of the already rare parking spots were serving as meeting points for seemingly countless police vehicles keeping watch over a couple of demonstrations.

Did I mention this was one of perhaps three prime Sunday shopping days?

I understand that routine maintenance work is a necessity, but why are so many evidently free streets reserved for something that may or may not occur? I spoke with a contractor not so long ago. This gentleman is a foreman for a company that does much road maintenance for the city of Montreal. He told me that his company had been awarded a contract to carry out repairs of some sort on a downtown street. He explained that his company got the contract because they guaranteed they could do the job in one day. Only one single day of traffic disruption would be tolerated, or fines would be levied.

Unfortunately, it took the city at least two weeks to get around to removing the red bags. That’s two weeks of parking revenue lost …

His crew arrived early on the appointed day and found that both sides of the street had parking meters with red bags indicating no parking. They were able to get down to work right away and by day’s end were done and dusted. Unfortunately, it took the city at least two weeks to get around to removing the red bags. That’s two weeks of parking revenue lost (except for the tickets given to those frustrated drivers who took the chance and got nailed), and two weeks of inconvenience.

It is no secret that Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is at odds with downtown merchants and drivers with her massive restructuring of Ste. Catherine Street which, when completed, will have eaten up several hundred parking spots. The work is not yet complete and already long-standing businesses are going belly-up due to drastically reduced access to their establishments.

I fear this will backfire and only lead to shoppers taking their business elsewhere, to malls and outlets that provide ample free parking.

I believe the mayor has an image of Montreal that is comparable to several European cities, Madrid and Oslo among them when it comes to reducing the number of cars. However, Montreal is a whole lot closer to US cities where the car is king.

If it is the current administration’s intention to wean people off their cars by making them less welcome downtown, (i.e. getting rid of parking spots ) I fear this will backfire and only lead to shoppers taking their business elsewhere, to malls and outlets that provide ample free parking.

As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. If the city has any desire to see downtown Montreal flourish, they should encourage people to shop there by providing adequate parking, instead of trying to force them to use public transportation.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Humor, Montreal, Opinion, Public Transit

War On Montreal Parking Spots

Plante

If you have tried to find a parking spot in downtown Montreal lately you will understand my angst. So many places have been turned into Bixi bicycle stands or marked reserved due to evidently non-existent construction that driving around and around has become the norm.

During one such episode a few days ago, having spent forty-five minutes looking for a spot that was available, and finding three that looked fine, but were not accepting payment, I couldn’t help but imagine our anti-car Mayor Valerie Plante sporting one of the now ubiquitous red bags that cover far too many parking meters.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

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Release That Parking Spot

In the photo above we see a Montreal Parking Enforcement Officer’s car parked in a perfectly legal spot. Why? In a city with a dearth of legal parking spots, it seems to me that a car that will never be given a ticket – this goes for police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks as well –  should never take up a legal parking spot! Release that spot for a paying customer, please! There are plenty of illegal spots to park your car while you are out of it fining others for illegal parking. No need to make the search just that much harder.

 

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Humor, Montreal, Opinion, Wordpress

Montreal: Not Car Friendly In Summer

As summer-like weather arrives in Montreal, the last dregs of snow are being washed away by several days of rain. Flowers will soon start to bloom, overcoats will be replaced with shorts and sandals, and a sense of relief at having made it through another winter will descend on the citizens. Oh, and just like the old Pac-Man arcade game, the installation of Bixi stands (public bicycles that can be rented) and sidewalk terraces will eat up parking spots. Montreal, like any city of a certain size, has a shortage of parking spots.  This is exacerbated during the summer not only by Bixi and terraces, but by the many street closures for construction or festivals.

Many of Montreal’s much-loved terraces straddle the sidewalk and road. The metered parking spots that are taken up by the structure are paid by the establishment. The city loves these things as they are guaranteed the maximum return on the parking spots, but if you are looking for a place to park it can be extremely annoying!

 

Bixi bicycle stands also take up many parking spots – five in the photo above – the revenue from which one assumes is made up in rental fees. But again motorists are left out of the equation. Montreal in the summer certainly cannot be called a car friendly city.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

 

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