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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:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/paul_moller_on_the_skycar.html

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When moving to a new city you have to find the things that you need to live your life how you like, and for some it means getting the right food. Montréal is a great city for this.

This weekend we went to both Little Italy and Chinatown.

Jean Talon market stall (Montrealfood.com)

Jean Talon market stall (Montrealfood.com)

Little Italy

Little Italy is centered around Boulevard St-Laurent’s intersection with Jean-Talon. It has several delis, bistros, supermarkets and of course the Marché Jean-Talon.

Jean-Talon is a huge fruit and vegetable market in building that was designed to be a bus station. The choice and freshness of the produce is incredible and it’s quite a bit cheaper than the supermarkets. I’ve never seen anywhere that gives a choice of around 10 different types of tomato in one place. It’s really worth a visit to this market and it may become your weekly shopping trip! The only moot point is the lack of organic fruit and vegetables, we only found one stall.

The Jean-Talon market has a car park on Avenue Casgrain, but it’s rather small and if you don’t want to queue to get in, arrive very early at the market! Officially the market opens at 8am.

 

Jean Talon Chillis (Montrealfood.com) 

Typical vegetable & fruit stall at Jean Talon (Montrealfood.com)

Typical vegetable & fruit stall at Jean Talon (Montrealfood.com)

Jean Talon Chillis (Montrealfood.com)

 

 

Elsewhere in little Italy there is the famous Italian supermarket called Milano. It’s a great supermarket with a large choice of mainly Italian products. There are even some fresh products available from the deli-counter. It’s well worth a trip here, especially for the pasta as it’s difficult to get a lot of Italian pasta in Montréal’s main supermarkets.

Milano supermarket: 6882 Saint-Laurent Boulevard

 

 

 

Chinatown

Montréal’s chinese community has been established for many years. Immigrants came over initially to build the railway line towards the west and the community has grown ever since.

Today, Chinatown is focused on Rue Gauchetière Ouest from St-Laurent boulevard. It’s about three to four blocks long and has restaurants and boutique shops. Noteworthy is the Harmonie Patisserie where you can taste asian cakes made with red beans and custard. Yummy! Be careful though, there are some which contain meat, unusual in western cuisine. 

A typical street in Montréal's Chinatown (urbanphoto.net)

Of course there are chinese supermarkets, and it’s very chinese with very little written in French, but a great variety of food. If you’d like even more choice, then you can take the car to the South-Shore and visit Brossard’s chinese stores. They are along Boulevard Taschereau from Blvd du Rome to Blvd du Matte.

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Brossard

Brossard is the area just over the Champlain bridge from Montréal. It’s mainly residential, very green with modern and new houses. Brossard is part of the town of Longueuil.
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In distance terms, Brossard is not far from downtown Montréal, however the need to cross a bridge can mean that communtes can take some time. This is probably one of the main disadvantages of the area. Houses are much cheaper than on the island, most are very well maintained and the streets are calm and very green. An ideal place to bring up children?

Around the main thoroughfairs there are a whole host of strip malls that are being developed, so shopping is there. There are big supermarkets from Loblaws and IGA.

Choosing a house is difficult, in many areas one can hear the rush of cars from the motorways, and there is a high tension electricity line that runs right through the middle of Brossard. One wouldn’t want to live too close to that. So there really is a sweet spot right in the middle!

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