Archive for the ‘Public transit’ Category


There’s an interesting story in today’s Montreal Gazette about the impact of idling your car. Besides polluting and wasting fuel, it also damages the car engine because newer cars are designed in order not to have to be idled before you start driving, even in the winter.

Idle Threat

Bylaw rarely enforced. Only 106 out of 1.3 million tickets issued last year were for idling

Andy Riga, The Gazette

With some exceptions, it’s illegal to idle your car for more than three minutes in Montreal. But don’t worry too much about getting a ticket for the infraction.

In 2007 – the first year the bylaw was on the books in most boroughs – only 106 tickets were handed out for illegal idling. Of those, just two were in the downtown Ville Marie borough, the area with the heaviest traffic and most motorists needlessly idling.

They were among the 1.3 million tickets given for non-moving violations across the island.

Despite the low number of tickets, Alan DeSousa, the city executive committee member responsible for the environment, said he thinks the bylaw has reduced idling and raised awareness about its detrimental effects. The practice wastes fuel, causes pollution and creates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

If Montrealers are ever going to break the idling habit, however, experts suggest the first steps will be to debunk persistent myths about car engines and to convince motorists they should forego the luxury of toasty cars.

The rest of the story is here.


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I’ve been reading a couple of interesting things recently about the oil sands projects in Alberta.

The first is this series, published earlier this year in the Globe and Mail. The eight-day series looks at the development of the oil sands, and the environmental and social cost of the projects, which are estimated to have a worth of $90 billion.

The second is the book Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn’t Seem to Care) by William Marsden, a colleague of mine at the Montreal Gazette. Marsden, who is an investigative reporter, spins a great yarn about the development of the oil sands, from a loony plan to blast the oil from the sand with a nuclear bomb to the boom/bust/boom experience of a Calgary oil man.

Reading the book left me with an impending sense of doom. The amount of fossil fuels left on the planet is finite, yet we seem not to care, building more roads, buying more cars, and ignoring the environmental costs of harvesting energy this way.

Reading about the oil sands has been making me think about what our family can do to conserve fuel and oil around our house.

We switched to an electric furnace a couple of years ago to reduce our fossil-fuel consumption. Now our biggest fossil-fuel user is our minivan, and I’ve been trying to use it less. It has been more challenging than I thought.  I’m hoping once the weather warms up and I can get my bicycle and kids’ trailer back out on the road I’ll truly be able to reduce the amount of time we use our van.

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Our quest to leave our car in the driveway to reduce our family’s contribution to climate change continues.

I’ve learned it takes excellent organizational abilities, superior time-management capabilities and the skills of a cultural animator to persuade some people in my family that taking a wagon, or God forbid, walking, is a fun way to get where we’re going.

So far walking has gotten us late to school (once only) and to yoga class, but I figure the 20 minute walk made up for the first few minutes of the missed class.

But I’ve decided that we are going to not use the car for trips under one kilometer, which covers school and most after-school activities. In a one-kilometer radius of our house there are grocery stores, pharmacies, a coffee shop, bakeries, a dollar store, a bank and an excellent Italian butcher shop. 

We are definitely going against the flow on this one. New research by Statistics Canada found nearly 69 per cent of Canadians travel everywhere by car. The number is a bit lower in Montreal — 66 per cent — which experts attribute to the fact that Montreal is a high-density city and we live closer to the places we need to go.

Maybe we’re just afraid to walk. According to this story in the Montreal Gazette, increased traffic in the city is causing everything from miscarriages to cyclists being hit by cars to increased hospitalizations for respiratory problems.

There are four bus routes within a five minute walk from our house, but really, I’d much rather walk. At least with walking you know approximately when you’ll get there, which I wish was true for travelling with the STM. One of our local bus routes is totally unpredictable. The bus is almost always late, if it even shows up.

It takes a new way of thinking to get things done this way. You have to take into account the slow walking of a five-year-old. But on the upside we are having much better conversations than when we’re in the minivan, separated by three rows of seats and a radio that is always on. And it’s excellent exercise.

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I caught a couple of very entertaining green shows on HGTV last weekend. Both — Eco House Challenge and No Waste Like Home — are about families trying to live in a more environmentally aware way.

Eco House Challenge pits two Australian families against each other to see who can be the greenest, and the results are hilarious. It kicks off with each family losing — for 24 hours — their water, electricity, garbage cans and cars.

The family with the dad who is ex-Army is totally gung-ho, rigging up water collectors in the backyard to get water to flush their toilets and heading on the local bus to the beach to swim instead of taking showers.

The other family is devastated when they can’t use one of their many cars to drive their 11-year-old son to his birthday party. They call a taxi and have a hissy fit when it shows up 45 minutes late and much too small for all of them (heard of public transit???) Their teenaged daughter sits in the backyard swinging a hula hoop and complaining about having to unlearn everything she’s learned in her whole life — like relying on electricity and hot showers. The teenaged son complains that he can’t drive to meet his friends for drinks.

There was also a lot of complaining on the first episode of No Waste Like Home, where British environmentalist Penny Poyzer visits a family and gets them to give up their polluting ways. In this one, the family kept their thermostat at a whopping 28 degrees Celsius inside the house, the children dressed in beach clothes year round. The mother nearly had a nervous breakdown when she had to cut in half the number of loads of laundry she does each week and switch from hot to cold water to wash them. Don’t get her going on the texture of the towels that dried on the clothesline instead of in the dryer! On the upside, they managed to save 420 pounds in the two weeks that they followed Poyzer’s plans.

HGTV is also rebroadcasting Living with Ed, where actor Ed Begley Jr. and his wife Rachelle fight about his green lifestyle. She’s an actress who wants a Hollywood monster home while he’s the kind of guy who powers his toaster in the morning by hopping on an electricity-producing bike on his balcony. I liked the concept but found the bickering spouses boring.

 You can catch all three shows on HGTV on Sunday nights beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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Our worst offending anti-Earth behaviour must be driving our minivan. With five people in the family, it’s a handy way to get from here to there. Still, you can’t argue that it’s environmentally friendly.

My husband was kind enough to remind me of the damage our driving does after a recent shopping trip to the West Island. Heading for Joe Fresh, the mini-clothing boutique located inside a few select Maxi stores in Quebec, we racked up 70 km round trip. I tried to argue that we did our grocery shopping at the same time, so really, it was two trips, not one, but he didn’t seem convinced.

The next day I decided we should take public transit to a doctors’ appointment for our kids at the Jewish General Hospital. It’s a 13-km round trip from our house, and one that lately has been incredibly aggravating. On-street parking is practically non-existent there unless you want to park six long blocks away, and I usually have at least two kids in tow, that’s not a fun walk. I’ve been late for our appointments lately as I circle the hospital, prowling for a parking spot.

So we all hopped on the bus, at a total cost of about $10 round trip, which was less than we would have paid for parking, never mind gas. The only drag was that it took took us nearly 45 minutes to get there and 45 minutes more to get back. Even though I find the bus relaxing (if it’s not overcrowded), I felt like I really don’t have an hour and 30 minutes to blow sitting on the STM’s finest.

Still, I am going to try to leave the car home more often and switch to the BMW – bus, metro, walk. Oh and the train. I love the AMT commuter trains. Now sitting on that train with a good book in hand, and a tasty piece of chocolate would be a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

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