Sandra Climan knows books, her customers, retail and her neighborhood. “This is going to kill us,” she told The Suburbanreferring to the reserved bus lane coming to Queen Mary.
As reported in The Suburban in May, the CDN-NDG borough announced the rush hour lane, from Côte des Neiges boulevard to Macdonald, would alternate: south side going east in the morning, north side going west in the afternoon.
Parking spots removed during rush hour will be relocated to side streets, but the owner of Bibliophile and others feel it’s overkill, as traffic problems east of Décarie cited as reason for a reserved lane are not as severe on the western portion, where after a few hundred meters the road becomes more residential with far less car traffic.
Indeed, traveling from Côte des Neiges to Décarie at rush hour can be grueling, particularly heavy at the intersection itself, but west of that it’s more sedate. “They say this will save bus users about six minutes but that will lose me clients,” she said, adding that hers is a niche store in a very accessible and diverse neighborhood that people frequent for quick drop-offs and pick-ups, especially after school and during afternoon commutes. “We’re just getting out of this pandemic. Why do they want to hit us with this? I’m an independent English bookstore in Montreal. Does the city want to shut me down?”
The Suburban asked Borough Mayor Grace Kasoki Katahwa about the concerns. Currently on vacation, her office responded that they are doing everything to keep merchants well informed. “The borough elected officials unanimously agreed to create a reserved Queen Mary bus lane,” that will provide 8,000 public transit users daily with a faster and more reliable service. The buses on the route, the 166 and 51, are among the city’s busiest, and many users have responded favorably to the plan, says the STM and the borough.
Katahwa’s office added that parking will still be allowed in the reserved section except for the afternoon rush hour on weekdays, when 40 spaces will be unavailable. “However, parking spaces will not be impacted on weekends.” Moreover, during weekday afternoon rush hour, parking on the eastbound side and center of Queen Mary Road will not be affected. The borough will also add more than 60 paid spots in the lane area to compensate for fewer spots during rush hour, to boost parking during the rest of the day and on weekends.
A petition circulating the neighborhood asking for a meeting with municipal authorities to address the impacts on small businesses in the three-block stretch from Décarie to Clanranald has garnered almost 300 signatures from merchants, area residents and shoppers. After a public meeting in May, signatories say their concerns were not properly addressed. “It feels like they’ve made up their minds,” laments Climan. “They are committed to getting more people to use buses. So no matter what we say it seems like they don’t care.”
The STM is responsible for the layout and estimates that the Décarie crossing delay requires a reserved lane on the west side to make up for it. The STM is arranging an informative door-to-door tour for this month. “Reserved bus lanes do not start or end with the most challenging area,” stated the mayor’s office, “they must be seen as a whole.” That irks Climan. “We’re not asking to redraw this whole map and take out the middle, were just saying shorten it, cut off the end.”