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Road Through Time

by Mary Soderstrom

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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lots of People Not Going to Work Means Easy Traffic?

Montreal is becoming famous for its terrible traffic, along with its terrible mayors.  But one of the things that is lost in shuffle this week, as Mayor Michael Applebaum was first arrested and then resigned  is a general strike in the construction industry.

For the first time in more than 25 years, nearly all construction projects have shut down.  The strike began on Monday and the effect was felt immediately--on traffic.  Not only are the big trucks delivering materials to the sites off the road, so are the workers.  Their absence points up the problems of urban sprawl and housing affordability, although so far no official appears to have noticed.

I was amazed that during the year we were in reconstruction/restoration of our house after a house fire almost all the workers lived off the island of Montreal.  They would be here by 7 a.m., but that meant leaving home an hour earlier.  Even though they usually returned  before the afternoon rush hour, the time they spent on the road had to be immense.  The reason they gave was that you could get a lot better housing for the money outside the city.  A detatched house with a garden is unthinkable on the island for any family without two good incomes, but might be possible off-island for any ordinary Joe and his stay-at-home or part-time-working wife.

As it turns out, one of the points of contention in the labour dispute is attribution of work.  Workers, so their spokespersons said on the radio, can be called at 3:30 a.m. to show up at 7 p.m. and be asked to work until 5 or 6 p.m., or even later.  Impossible, inhuman, making us the next thing to slaves, they said.

I don't doubt it.  But just working out better work schedules is only a small part of the answer.  We need 1) more affordable housing in closer in neighborhoods and 2) a major promotion campaign to sell people on the advantages of living there.

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