The first snow in Montreal is a beautiful white coat, dampening sound, hiding anything offensive with the easy sameness of an unpainted canvas. Then the horns of the tow trucks start and the caravans of removers follow. Cars skid, several inches of unnavigable slush forms at every sidewalk corner, and the bitter winds hurt. Winter gets old real fast.
There are a few places and websites to turn to that can make life a little easier for anyone who has to face a snowy Montreal winter.
Environment Canada is always first to let us know just how bad it can be with its alert system. Click on your region of choice (Southern Quebec for Montreal) and find out what’s going on. And if you want to report a severe weather condition, you can tweet it to #meteoqc or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a twitter feed as well at @QC_meteo.
While most of the time, snow doesn’t stop air traffic at Pierre Eliot Trudeau (YUL), those few times it does are inconvenient. Few things are more nerve-wracking than waiting to see if your flight will be cancelled and figuring out what to do if such an event should occur. The airport posts its departures and arrival schedule here (http://www.admtl.com/en/flights) and keeps it updated to the minute. Red means cancelled, yellow means delayed. Oh, and if you’re heading to the airport, give yourself extra time. Seriously.
Bus and Metro
The STM tries. They even have a twitter feed @stminfo that gives service status during exceptional events from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, if that is of any use. At any rate, I’m not sure how well they succeed in keeping riders up to date about what’s going on. Bus services get their page of updates: https://www.stm.info/en/info/service-updates/bus. Personally, I rely on 514-AUT-OBUS to figure out the next arrival of a bus at my stop. While the metro is unlikely to be affected by a snowstorm, just in case you want to check that as well, the website letting you know the state of the metro is https://www.stm.info/en/info/service-updates/metro. There is also a twitter feed for every metro line (@stm_Janue, @stm_Bleue, @stm_Orange, @stm_Verte). They have apps and such as well.
If the STM is doing it’s darndest to keep you informed, the AMT is shamefully not. At least the STM knows there are problems when it snows. The AMT seems to avoid the idea altogether on its website. Snow? What’s that??? Clearly it doesn’t snow in the suburbs. Like the STM, there are different ways to get updates about what’s going on. In theory, you can register with their “my AMT” service to get a train-alert that will let you know the service status of trains you use regularly (page not found, of course). There is a phone number: 287-8726 option 3 you can call. Twitter is at @amt_info. Perhaps their best service is their app: AMT Chrono, which allows trains to be tracked in real time.
City Snow Removal
Did you know that Montreal adopted a snow removal policy in August? I’m sure it was easy to think about how to handle snow back when it was summer. You can read the document here. It outlines how streets are cleared (according to priority), how long to expect for snow removal to happen based on the amount of snow, and environmental concerns.
Signs you can expect to see
With a penchant for odd signage, the city of Montreal likes to mark streets with a confusing array of signs related to snow removal. Sometimes the signs arrive in the hours before the removal happens, irritating every car owner who had no idea they would face a towing. In theory the signs go up before 3 p.m. on the day of operations of nighttime removal, and the signs go up before 8 p.m. the evening before daytime removal. Usually the signs suggest that there is no parking from either 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. (7h-19h Déneigement), or no parking from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (19h – 7 h Déneigement). Incidentally, to make your life confusing, the Montreal city website states that “These temporary signs take priority over permanent signage although not cancelling the latter if it is more restrictive.” In other words, the thing most likely to give you a ticket will take precedence.
The state of affairs
The city has a map indicating its state of snow removal (http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/snowremoval/map/). Temporary nighttime parking is also indicated, which might be useful for those with a car and nowhere to put it but the street.
With yet another app (clearly, owning a smart phone in Montreal is becoming a necessity, not an option), Montreal created INFO-Neige MTL to let you know what’s going on in a street by street way. It’s kind of cool and colours are used to idnicate what is going on. Blue means snow; orange means snow removal operations are being planned; red means snow removal is happening; purple means snow is being loaded; and green means the snow has been removed. As for gray… well, it means “we dunno yet.” Apparently street signage trumps any of these colorful marks on the app map, so pay attention! Finally, you can call Info Neige 514-634-3474 or 311.
Where to Put my Car
Got car? Well, you can try to prowl the streets looking for a spot, or take advantage of the overnight parking spaces. There are 3,379 off-street, overnight parking spaces (see by borough HERE) as well as 2,136 spaces in the Stationment de Montréal lots from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. I had a difficult time finding where these specific lots are located (all their lots are HERE) — perhaps they are all available???, but you can call 514-868-3737 to find out.
If you park on the street, chances are you will have to shovel that mofo out, or even shovel a space for yourself because someone else did the minimum for their Cooper Mini. Cars should be parked 30 cm away from the curb, parallel to the sidewalk.
Shit, I’ve been towed
Well, there’s a website, the Info-remourqage to find out where your car is (https://servicesenligne2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/sel/inforemorquage/index). You can search by your license plate or by where your car was parked originally. It takes about 15-20 minutes before your car’s data appears on the site and the city warns it may be incorrect. You can also walk around and try to find it. It’s usually a few blocks away from its original location. The city doesn’t move your rust trap for free. You get a beautiful city ticket for the honour. It costs around $80 for towing fees and $53 for the ticket. If you get stuck in an impound lot, there is also a daily impound fee of $15. No matter how you look at it, getting towed sucks.
Snow Removal Stats for the City
The city posts lots of cool information about snow removal on its website if you like statsy and trivia kind of information. The city uses an average of 140,000 tons of salt and abrasives to stop you from sliding. 180 vehicles salt the roads, 190 salt the sidewalks. The city runs 1000 vehicles for plowing streets and sidewalks. These are the sidewalk tractors, the graders, the snowplows, and front-end loaders. The city dumps 12 million cubed meters, or 300,000 truckloads of snow to its 28 disposal sites. It costs $17 million to remove 20 cm of snow from a snowstorm ($1 million plowing, $14 million loading, $2 million disposal). The budget is $155 million annually for snow removal. So that’s where some of my taxes go!
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