Updates from April, 2024 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 22:13 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

    The driver of an STM bus ordered all passengers off after one passenger raised their voice to him.

    • Blork 10:20 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      I suppose the strategy is to deter people from yelling because IT IS KNOWN that yelling at the driver will get everyone thrown off. But as a tactic it’s bad, because the driver is more likely to face aggression and possibly assault in the moment if he does that.

    • Ephraim 11:52 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      @Blork – The problem is… https://www.cnesst.gouv.qc.ca/en/prevention-and-safety/healthy-workplace/harassment-workplace Bus drivers facing verbal abuse may be entitled to legal protection orders barring riders from buses. (Problem being that they would need to file a police complaint and have the name and ID of the rider, which may not be that difficult to find out, being that we all tap in to the bus) My past job wrestled with this, as it meant barring someone from the building entirely.

    • CE 12:47 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      I was in Marseille years ago and the day I arrived, there were signs saying the tram drivers were on strike for the day due to “aggression”. I asked someone about it and apparently every time someone attacks an operator, they all immediately walk off the job for 24 hours. The person I spoke to said the strikes happen multiple times a year but the amount of aggression had gone down.

  • Kate 22:05 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

    Bixi is calling its experiment with winter cycling a success, and is going to make its bikes available all year.

    They’re also opening their regular season earlier than usual this year.

    And there will be more bike paths too.

    • Ephraim 11:55 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      Predictable. Can an independent audit verify profitability, ensuring this isn’t just about winter jobs for Bixi? Or am I just being predictably a cynic of all self-serving proclamations? (Like not trusting anything that the OIB says, the Chambre de Commerce says or Tourisme Montreal says?)

    • Nicholas 12:36 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      A review is good, but there are a lot of efficiencies to an all year system. You don’t have to switch out the stations, you don’t have to hire people for 8 months (which is not a great job, so you have to pay people a bit more to take it), and the money you make is mostly free. Changing the bikes is annoying (honestly I think it’s unnecessary), but other than that I assume the costs scale well with revenues. And it provides a service that is nice, becomes an all year replacement for owning a bike, really really helps the orange crush from Berri to Laurier, backup when the metro goes down, etc. Unless it was a complete disaster in the pilot, even if it lost money I can see it moving towards profitability once they figure out best practices.

    • Kate 14:09 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      Bixi is part of public transit here. It’s not meant to be a profit-making enterprise.

    • nau 14:24 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      No mention of whether they’re going to extend it south of the Lachine Canal. I wonder if Parks Canada’s refusal to clear that path will continue to block that.

    • dhomas 15:12 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      Gah!!! Why does everything have to be directly profitable? Garbage pickup isn’t profitable, but we still do it. Sewage treatment makes no moeny, nor does road maintenance.

      Public transit helps make a city more liveable. When a city is more liveable, more people want to live in it, which makes the city thrive and become more… profitable.

    • Ephraim 15:23 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      @Kate – Bixi treads (snicker) a fine line between serving the public good and being financially sustainable. As a not-for-profit, ideally it wouldn’t run deficits. Losses from winter months need to be balanced by revenue from other seasons, which might involve raising prices. Legally, Bixi is not supposed to directly compete with commercial daily bike rentals. Winter deficits they can’t afford threaten the entire system. There’s also the general principle that governments shouldn’t unfairly compete with profitable businesses. A Bixi that turns a profit wouldn’t need public funding, but deficits put it at risk of closure. Profits are reinvested to improve Bixi, but winter deficits could shrink these crucial funds. It’s a delicate balancing act: providing an affordable service while ensuring Bixi remains viable in the long term. But basically there should be an independent audit, even if it’s the city auditor general. The people running Bixi aren’t impartial and saying that it’s a success is in their interest… not the city or the citizens.

    • Ephraim 15:26 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      @dhomas – We pay for all those services with our property taxes. Bixi is supposed to be self-sustaining. Or do you want to pay even more property tax? I don’t know about you, but mine is damn high. Even if you rent, you are essentially paying property taxes.

    • Nicholas 19:31 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      @Ephraim, Bixi gets a subsidy from the city every year, and I don’t think it has ever made a profit (since being forced to sell the part of it that made bikes and sold them to other cities). I don’t think it should need to, but I agree that if it’s too much of a deficit you’ll see lots of pressure, and cuts or less expansion (look at the STM).

      It’s important to be clear-eyed that all these public services are subject to the political process and budget constraints. We can argue that they should all be paid for, but there’s never enough money for everything we want to fund, and if enough people vote for people who don’t want to fund them (or raise taxes to do so), they will get cut. The bigger the deficit for Bixi, the more enticing it is to cut it, or raise prices. In lean times we see reduction in park maintenance, road and sidewalk repair, even weekly garbage going to every other week in some cities (which honestly isn’t that bad if food waste is weekly). If we can insulate Bixi by keeping the deficit low or non-existent, we can be sure it’ll keep expanding, rather than start contracting, and that fares stay low.

    • Kate 20:24 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      Nicholas, you’re right about one thing. Transit is facing deep cuts here, but it’s a political choice. In their hearts, many neoliberals feel that those who take public transit are losers, disposable people – and the CAQ also knows that a lot of transit passengers aren’t even voters.

    • Chris 22:21 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      >Bixi is supposed to be self-sustaining.

      Says you. I say otherwise. Are the roads, sidewalks, buses, and trains self-sustaining? No. Same idea.

    • Bryan 22:44 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

      @Ephraim I know your question was directed at dhomas, but I would gladly pay more property tax to ensure that Bixi was supported as an integral part of our public transit system.

    • Ephraim 15:29 on 2024-04-04 Permalink

      @Chris – That was how it was originally presented and part of it, the not competing with bicycle rentals was part of the original contract that the city signed.

      @Bryan – And I would like to see more parking meters and requirements for parking permits on streets to pay for streets. And a toll on bridges and highways as well as on parking spaces to offset more of the cost of roadways. Manhattan just announced the first congestion charge in North America. (Well, Mexico city does it differently, which has caused more people to own more cars because it’s odd/even and people get an extra car…. talk about your silliness.)

      Buses are one of the few things that we know where subsidies actually benefit the poor more so than any other group. In fact, it’s likely the best subsidy that any city can provide. The upper middle class and the rich don’t generally get into a city bus.

    • Tim 15:53 on 2024-04-04 Permalink

      @ephraim: have you looked at their financials (https://s3.ca-central-1.amazonaws.com/cdn.bixi.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Etats-financiers-BIXI-2022-abreges.pdf)? On page 11, there is a high level breakdown. Bixi received just over $4M from the city, but turned a profit of $2.7M. They also got $16M in revenu directly from users. I was very critical of Bixi years ago when the city bought it (lack of yearly financials, giving bonuses when it was totally bankrupt). The city seems to have done a great job growing the service.

  • Kate 22:03 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

    Here we go again. Quebec says it will take Ottawa’s school lunch money bonus but refuses to accept any conditions – although no conditions have been named. But will they actually use the money for food, or devote it to more francisation?

    (Is there anything more bully-like than threatening to take someone’s lunch money?)

    • Kate 13:29 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

      A piece in Food&Wine magazine claims we have 20 large public markets and 41 breweries.

      • MarcG 08:54 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

        Seems like an overcount of markets and undercount of breweries.

      • Ephraim 11:57 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

        @MarcG – AI doesn’t understand fabrication=lying. When it can’t find an answer, it sometimes just “fabricates” the data. I once asked about my business, only to have it “name” owners because it didn’t actually know who they were.

      • Kevin 12:37 on 2024-04-04 Permalink

        I got to play around with a corporate AI LLM this week and it generated obvious falsehoods and impossibilities to every question I asked.

        But the thing is, I’m not sure the people who are using this stuff are intelligent or experienced enough in how the world actually works to realize that AI is lying.

    • Kate 11:59 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

      Plateau borough wants to put an end to the duplex conversions that abolish residential units permanently. Councillor Marie Plourde says that the borough lost 100 units this way over the last year.

      • Nicholas 13:07 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

        That’s probably like 0.2% of the number of housing units. Presumably many of them are growing families that can use the space, and would otherwise move, potentially far due to low amounts of 3+ bedroom units. Either way, it could be easily counteracted by building a few more net units a year (yes, the Plateau is mostly built up, but there are opportunities, and not just empty lots but, and I know this is heresy, rebuilding some duplexes as 4-5 storey apartments).

      • Ian 19:36 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

        A lot of people simply keep both addresses but occupy both floors. This is not a problem more rules will fix.

      • Ephraim 19:52 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

        It’s like the no condo conversion rule… that created co properties, then created more rules for co properties, then created more laws to deal with co properties… when we could have just be realistic and let them convert to condos if under 5 units.

        And now the newest thing, making rooming houses…. the city wants them, but doesn’t have any rules, so it creates $1000 a room rooming houses that the poor can’t afford.

      • Kate 20:28 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

        Ian, the glimpses I’ve had of these conversions are not just a family using both floors. They usually cut in an interior staircase, remove as many walls as they can on the ground floor and delete the kitchen on the upper floor, and of course – pièce de résistance – put in a kitchen island with a breakfast bar. End result is not something you could easily revert back to two distinct flats.

      • Nicholas 22:06 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

        There are two across the street from me: one they cut the wall to access the interior staircase (and put a large plant outside the non-used front door) and the other they actually walk outside and back in, usually in indoor clothes even in the winter. The city can not allow permits to do this, and it does mean you can’t claim both homes for the capital gains exemptions, but I agree, this won’t do much, especially given how small a problem it is.

      • DavidH 12:15 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

        Some of these conversions are turning duplexes into intergenerational houses. We considered doing the same with our duplex, moving the grandparents in closer to our kid when they started needing help. That actually solves a housing problem even if the number of units goes down.
        The way we would have done it is simply by putting a door inside between our front lobbies. Like Ian and Nicholas said, permit or not, it would’ve happened even without the city’s blessing.

      • PatrickC 12:55 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

        I know of a situation where one spouse lives in the upper, the other in the lower flat because each of them needs peace and quiet. Works great for them.
        Just the opposite of the unhappy pair in an old novel with the great title “The Semi-Detached Couple and the Semi-Attached House”

      • Ian 16:00 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

        TBH my wife and I have fantasized about precisely that scenario, especially when we both had WFH.

        Intergenerational actually makes a ton of sense, though. In the Hassidic community it is very common for the grandparents to live on the first floor and their kids’ families on the upper floor (s).

        So let’s say instead, you have two units in a duplex that are 2 beds each, and you have 5 kids…

        The problem is, as I’ve said before, that there are very few affordable spaces for families in the city, especially if you have kids – most people don’t want their teenage boys and girls sharing a bedroom, and I’m sure the kids wouldn’t much like it either, so if you have 2 kids you probably want a 3 bedroom apartment. Even if they are the same gender the convention of 2 kids to a bed has mostly fallen by the wayside.

        The obvious solution, as Nicholas points out, is to build more housing.

    • Kate 11:12 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

      The city is getting millions in provincial money to decontaminate land, mostly in the east end, so it can eventually be built up with desperately needed residential buildings.

      • Kate 11:04 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

        Cab drivers have launched a class-action lawsuit over Quebec’s passivity as Uber “disrupted” their trade and slashed the value of their expensive taxi permits.

        • Meezly 12:46 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          Don’t know if “passivity” had anything to do with it. Bill 17 was passed by the CAQ knowing full well that the taxi drivers would get royally screwed, despite protests from all opposition parties and the taxi industry.

          I remember a conversation with a taxi driver last year who was planning to retire some years ago when his permit had real value. Since Bill 17, his permit became worthless and what the government offered as compensation was nowhere near enough. I can’t imagine how absolutely crushing that must have been.

        • Kate 13:08 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          (Meezly, your comment was held for approval although it has no links, so I don’t know why. I saw that you tried twice and approved one. Sorry about that.)

          I guess I mean passivity in the sense that the Quebec government – it was the Liberal party then – seemed mesmerized by Uber, like a rabbit by a snake. It was like, if you can make money, that’s the holiest and highest thing a person can do, so our laws and regulations simply have to bend to make it easier for you.

          There was a lot of talk at the time about what a mess the taxi system was in, although I honestly didn’t see how it was so bad and I was convinced a lot of that talk was manufacturing consent for the arrival of Uber.

        • Joey 13:55 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          Once again, the business geniuses who run our province could not distinguish between “shiny and new” and “legitimate business model.” Uber used its size, notoriety and sort of international outlaw posture to convince governments all over the place that it could legitimately offer cheaper, faster, safer, better taxi service than existing cab companies. Anyone with a whiff of critical thinking at the time could easily tell that its business model was built on endless venture capital funding, no expectation to turn anything remotely resembling a sustainable profit, and exploitation of its workers. Not that cab companies were shining beacons of honest business, but at least some of the ‘normal’ rules of business applied. To your point, Kate, Uber didn’t even have to make money to complete its snake charm offensive!

          I think Uber finally turned a profit last year, but it never would have lasted if it had been required to play by some version of the rules.

        • Blork 14:47 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          We went through a period where the notion of “disruptive technologies” was seen as heroic and was held aloft as the thing that would fix all problems by shaking up embedded and immovable systems within our society. Obviously, if a system was old and percieved to be broken all we needed was a hot-shot startup to come save us.

          Well. Be careful what you disrupt. Disruptive technologies gave us Airbnb, and we all know what a shitshow that turned into. It also gave us all the food delivery platforms that on the one hand made it easier for us to get dinner delivered, but on the other hand yanked a huge amount of money out of the restaurant industry through high fees.

          Streaming services? Disruped the heck out of Cable TV, and now some people are paying more for streaming than they ever did for cable because it is so segmented that you need five or six services just to get the shows you want. Plus, by gutting the television industry, quality has gone down (the Golden Age of television is over), and a lot of older shows are disappearing because the streamers don’t want to have to pay residuals.

          And there’s Uber, which frankly is brilliant from the consumer’s POV (an easy to get and use app that everybody has, super easy to get a ride, etc.) but it has severely f*cked over a lot of people from the taxi industry (drivers, as Meezly pointed out) and introduced the idea of surge pricing to the masses, which is now starting to trickle across to other industries such as the food industry (your $5 latté will soon cost $6 between 7:30 and 9:30AM). Surge pricing makes sense in some contexts, but it can also be hacked and used to make everyone pay more and/or deny service to people when pricing is low.

          Teachers in the future will present early 21st century “disruptive technologies” as the last big smoke and mirrors cash grab from Silicon Valley before the whole thing collapsed and ate itself.

        • dhomas 17:59 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          The taxi industry before Uber was kinda shitty, to be frank.

          Many taxis would not accept credit cards unless REALLY pressed, preferring cash. I can’t count how many times I came home from a business trip from the airport on a 70$+ fare and the driver would ask me for cash. 2 reasons this would not work for me: 1) I was usually coming back from the US, so had no CAD on me, and 2) I needed to use my corporate credit card in order to get my expense approved. I would sometimes have to ask 2-3 times for the driver to pull out some old “clak-clak” machine to take a carbon copy of my credit card. The payment via app is a godsend in comparison.

          Another reason it sucked was because dispatching was terrible. You needed to know the taxi company with the closest “taxi stand” nearby in order to get quick service, and even then, you never knew when the taxi would arrive. Waiting 15 minutes in the cold for your taxi to arrive in the winter was never fun. Contrast that with Uber where you know the exact GPS location of your ride; it’s no contest.

          You also couldn’t track down any driver unless you memorized his taxi license number. With Uber, the app remembers and you can contact the driver if you forgot something in their car. You can also report drivers that are not behaving properly.

          That’s not to say Uber was a good thing, but its “disruption” should have lit a fire under the taxi industry’s ass. If they had spent as much effort on creating their own Uber-like app that would have grouped together all taxi companies as they did bitching to the government, they could have stood a chance. Even better would have been if the government would have legislated against Uber and created such an app themselves to force the taxi industry to modernize, without letting the Uber fox into the taxi henhouse. By the time Téo came along, it was already too late. Plus, since Uber was operating at a loss to consolidate market share, so too did Téo require some subsidy. Seeing how Alexandre Taillefer was behind Téo as well as being the campaign chair for the PLQ, his government subsidies (from le Ministère de l’environnement, le Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation, la Caisse de dépot, and le Fonds de solidarité) quickly dried up as soon as the CAQ got elected. (For reference, the CAQ was elected in October 2018, Téo folded in January 2019).

          I’m glad that Téo is back (even if it’s under PKP’s ownership) and use them whenever I need a taxi since I refuse to use anything Uber. I still think the government could make things right by expelling Uber and maybe licensing the Taxelco (Téo) tech to make all taxi companies have a singular platform for dispatch and payment. We see that it can scale since Téo added Taxi Diamond and Taxi Hochelaga into the fold, which now work seamlessly through the Téo app.

        • Blork 18:23 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          Oh, I am well aware of how bad the taxi industry is/was before Uber, for all the reasons you describe and then some. Téo was a good shakeup locally, and I was sad when it went under. I didn’t even know it had come back.

          What would have been great is an Uber-scale app that any taxi company anywhere can buy into. After all, another HUGE advantage of Uber is that it works everywhere. If I go to Toronto or Chicago or whatever, I can get a ride right away using a familiar and (more or less) trusted app. I do NOT want to have to research/download/learn a different taxi app for every city I visit, especially if I’m only there briefly or only need a ride once or twice.

          As it is, the only time I’ve used Uber (as payer) is in other cities, and it’s like a miracle for the reason I mention above. In Montreal I rarely need a taxi, and the last time I used one it was Téo. Now that I know it’s alive again I’m going to grab the app again for future reference.

        • Nicholas 22:45 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          One other advantage the big apps have is price certainty once booked (though yes, no surge pricing). It helps to make a decision when you know, right before booking, what it will cost, and, usually, how long until they arrive. With taxis (and it seems with Teo too? Their website doesn’t say unless I create an account!) that they use the taximeters, and don’t even give an estimate: is a trip from downtown to Pointe aux Trembles $30 or $70? Do they want me to do the math calculating km and time? I won’t know until I arrive, and if I get stuck in traffic it’ll get worse (which adds stress). Last time I took a taxi, to catch a last minute flight, he went through downtown during rush hour rather than use the highway and got stuck in traffic, and were it not the flat airport fare I’d have been annoyed if not stressed about missing the flight. I see that Teo also doesn’t guarantee reservations due to a driver shortage, so that’s not great.

          I agree the service sucked in the past, and it’s a bit better, but they really had to be dragged into the 21st century. The old model was limit the supply of drivers using medallions to keep take home pay high enough, but it meant they didn’t have to provide a good service. Now there are too many drivers, even though I believe people take taxis/ridehail more than before, so the pay is spread around too much, and the venture capital subsidies are going away. The Uber model is very predatory, and people are often bad at math, so drivers don’t take into account all the costs of driving before realizing the pay is too low, and then they’re replaced by new drivers who don’t know better.

          At the end of the day, it’s just not economical to pay someone to chauffeur you around individually in an expensive vehicle unless you do it very occasionally as a treat or emergency, or you’re well off. Robot cars are going to completely destroy the human-driven taxi industry in a decade or so, once most regular cars will have self-driving, especially given they can much more easily map out defined areas the taxis will stay in. It’s already happening in San Francisco, though they still have kinks to work out. It’s still going to be more than transit, but it’s coming, and mixed with CommunAuto I bet it’ll be cheaper than owning a car for even more people. (I should add I’ve never paid for an Uber or Lyft, though have twice driven in one in another city that a colleague booked. I rarely but occasionally use taxis, like once every few years.)

      • Kate 11:01 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

        L’Itinéraire has been operating for thirty years.

        • Kate 08:51 on 2024-04-02 Permalink | Reply  

          Work has been going on for nearly two years to renovate Berri‑UQAM station, and it’s now held up again. Several “surprises” have delayed various stages of the work.

          • Blork 10:27 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

            “Surprises” include:

            Can’t actually do the work in the time allotted and budget provided (which is actually no surprise at all).

            REM train keeps showing up, not knowing where TF it’s going.

            Gilbert Rozon, sporting his new “Back to Basics” tattoo, keeps getting in the way while trying to film gags on his iPhone.

            Suburbanites keep disrupting the work with protests because someone on Facebook said the work was to install bike paths in the Metro tunnels.

            Workers constantly being pushed down stairs.

          • Poutine Pundit 12:25 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

          • Kate 13:34 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

            True, but unless I misremember, it’s been done in different segments. They redid some of the platform walls to that dark red a long time ago, then it was adding elevators, then replacing some of the escalators, and later they announced work on the station’s waterproofing, which they’ve been having so many surprises about, what with water mains and other things in the way.

            As came up with the difficulty of building things around McGill station, it’s no one’s job to keep a full record of all the different excavations in the area. There are bound to be surprises underground.

          • dwgs 16:15 on 2024-04-02 Permalink

            It came up in a timeline that today is some sort of anniversary of the CN Tower, 26 months to build. Hmmm

          • Kate 12:09 on 2024-04-03 Permalink

            The building of the first part of the Montreal metro (which happened in parallel with the construction of Expo 67) also went very fast by modern standards.

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