I've always thought the idea of closing down part of the centre of Montreal for a carless day was rather lame way to promote less realiance on cars. While providing photo ops, it did nothing to really encourage people to use public transit or--heaven forfend!--bike or walk.
But this year there'e a new idea afloat, coming from San Francisco where it's been in action for a few years. It's called Park(ing) Day, and the concept is simple: don't intefere with traffic either private or public, but take up parking places by paying the tarif and then sitting down with your lawn chairs and picnic. You get the photo ops, and don't interfere with buses or other forms environmentally friendly transit.
Montreal has some rather arcane regulations regarding the use of metered parking places. It seems you can't ordinarily use them for anything other than parking vehicles without special permission which doesn't permit the gloriously guerilla aspect of the San Francisco original. But the organizers and the city have worked out a deal where about 30 parking spaces in various neighborhoods will become mini-parks for the day. In additon there will be activities in the Old Port.
Some politicos have criticized this, saying that not shutting down streets is a mistake, that the suggested activities don't provide much. I disagree: Montreal traffic is so snarled because of road work, that I think 1) adding more snarls will only increase gas consumption and 2) unnecessarily piss off a lot of people who commute by car.
To make a real impact, however, why not offer reduce-fare or even free transit for the day?
Photo: Last year's Park(ing) Day in Munich.