Archive for January, 2009

Canadian Sledge for little onesWhen there is a good inch of snow on the ground pushchairs are useless as the wheels won’t turn. Effectively this means that a pushchair is useless in Montréal from December until April.

You won’t believe what’s used instead! A sledge of course! Once your little one can sit up straight, you dress them all warmly in:

  • hat – known as a toque
  • gloves – hint put them on before the coat or buy bigger ones to go over the sleeves
  • scarf or “cache cou”
  • boots – starts at size 20 so once a child is between 12 and 18 months
  • bunting suit

and they can follow you around in a sledge.

When you arrive in Montréal for your first winter you’ll realise that there is a lot ot buy. It’s worthwhile going to the Mountain Equipment Co-operative at Marché Central as they sell good quality stuff at a reasonable price.


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I was watching a video from TED.com the other day from a guy who was building a skycar. It’s a facinating video, but I expect it to be quite a few years until we’re all riding over the Saint Lawrence in such a vehicle.

One slide that Paul Moller, the head of Skycar, showed involved the cycle of transport infrastructure and he came to the conclusion that no more highways would be built.

This led me to think about the transport situation in Montréal. Essentially there are not enough roads for all of the cars that need to use them. Most of the bridges suffer congestion at peak times, so commutes can be long.

Public transport is growing at a good rate and there are some excellent initiatives such as reserving a lane for buses at peak times on the Champlain bridge. The island itself has reasonably good transit, there is the metro and buses are quite regular. However, many of the highways block frequently, the Metropolitain, the Trans-Canadian (known as the T-Can on the radio) and Décarie. So the buses get stuck in the traffic too.

Going out further into the suburbs are the AMT trains. This week there has been a terrible fuss about the poor service offered by the AMT who have responded well in my opinion to make quick improvements. There are 150 new railcars on the way to help improve the service too.

One of the big problems the AMT has is that it uses tracks that are owned by the two freight rail companies, CN and CP. Thus it has little control over the lines and can only run trains when CN and CP don’t need to. 

Frequencies tend to be alright at rush hour, but at other times there are very few trains running.

Suburbian buses are similar too. South shore services are offered by different companies depending upon the territory. Longueuil and Brossard are served by the RTL, La Prairie by CIT Le Richelain. Buses run reasonably often at rush hour, but outside these times there are very few services.

So coming back to Paul Moller’s presentation – he suggests that in order to cope with increasing traffic, the only thing that we can do is to use a skycar. I would suggest that the trend in Montréal is towards public transport, the need is understood and will probably be met before the skycar arrives at a driveway near you.

Here is the TED video of Paul Moller:


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Whilst you’re waiting to arrive in Montréal, or you want to learn a bit more about the city, it’s worthwhile checking out Spacing Montréal.

Spacing Montréal ia a blog with photographs of the urban environment of the island of Montréal. Really noteworthy is the work of Guillaume St-Jean who compares old turn of the century photographs with up to date images of the same location. You get a sense of the history of the city and understand more of what the city looks like today.


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Montréal receives quite some snow in winter covering it with a blanket of white. On average about 10 to 15cm of snow will fall per week, usually over one day. Locals will talk about snow “storms”; but in reality it just amounts to a lot of snow falling in one day.

Snow falls can be very beautiful; leaving a clean feeling to the environment.

However, once 2.5cm have fallen the city’s snow removal team will jump into action and start clearing the roads and sidewalks. They do this with snowploughs mounted on the front of trucks and by distributing salt on the roads. After this has happened, much of what was white has turned brown. The mountains of brown will then be slowly removed to dumps so that it can melt away. After 2007-2008’s near record snowfall, the dumps were still melting in August.

Generally it’s easy to drive around after the snow has fallen as it’s cleared pretty quickly, but people will drive more slowly so you need to allow more time to go anywhere.

What really make’s Montréal spectacular is the strength of the sun that shines down on it. Montréal has the same latitude as Bordeaux, so you have this wonderfully bright sun with deep blue skies illuminating the snow covered ground. Much nicer than grey and mild central European winters!

Here are some photographs of Old Montréal and the port a few days after snow fall.

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