entries filed under 'transportation' tag:
posted by Odin on Sep 06, 2010
'damon's car, meet snow' by hradcanska, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Now that summer is over, and winter is approaching, the tire change deadline looms on my mind, and reminds me of my experience last year.
As I am certain that nobody reads my infrequently-updated blog on a regular basis, I will remind the reader that I had bought a new car last year in September. A month later, I was surprised to learn that car owners were now obliged to put winter tires during the predefined winter season (I was living temporarily in France during the previous winter, so I was not aware of this law passing).
So now all car owners are required to factor in the price of two sets of tires when considering the total cost of ownership of their car. And of course, I had to buy a 17-inch wheeler, thus adding up significantly to this cost.
I had never really purchased any tires in Canada before, and so after shopping around a bit, I discovered that the tire market seems very narrow and highly non-competitive (as are all other markets in Canada apparently). The conclusion was that I could not find any decent 17-inch winter tire for under $150 a tire. So I was looking at a minimum price tag of $690 for the set, after taxes. No small amount by any measure.
But then I remembered that I was driving to New York City a couple weeks before the winter tire deadline. I was sure that I could get a better price down there. After a few minutes spent on TireRack.com, I found an amazing set of 17-inch tires for $95 each. The same ones went for $165 at Canadian Tire! How ridiculous is that? I am not going to factor in currency variations as the two dollars have been fluctuating close to parity for a while now.
I would have to be insane not to take advantage of the price difference. Over the entire set, I was looking at $380 instead of $660! Plus, I was below my Canadian customs quota of $400 for an absence over 48 hours, so I wouldn't have to pay any duties on bringing the tires in from the US.
So I placed the order, drove down to New York and was on my way back to Canada after having spent the weekend away. Obviously the customs agent couldn't help but notice four very large bags sitting in the back of my car (17-inchers, remember). He asked me how much they cost. I said $380 all inclusive. He didn't believe me. I didn't have a bill since the tires were ordered online.
After a bit of persuasion, he let me through. However, he also warned me that I should have printed the bill to prove the price. What annoys me is the lack of trust and the assumption he made that I "had" to be lying. Why else would I buy the tires from the US if it weren't for the fact that they are so much cheaper down there?
Anyhow, I hope that everyone in Quebec would follow my example and buy their winter tires from the US. We need to teach our local suppliers that we will find other ways of getting what we want if they insist on raising prices and controlling them.
The worst part is that winter tires are now mandatory, meaning they are no longer a "luxury". Shouldn't the government intervene and do something to prevent retailers and/or distributors from taking us consumers for a ride?
On that note, drive safely this winter!
posted by Odin on Jul 26, 2009
'decarie-evening' by afternoon_sunlight, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Am I really doing this to myself? Am I some sort of masochist? Fifteen months ago, right before leaving Montreal to work in Paris, I had sold my 10-year old car. I didn’t know how long I was going to be away from Montreal, so I figured “why leave this car to sit around and lose value indefinitely?". Plus, I live in Westmount, and have always either worked downtown or from home, so I thought I really wouldn’t need a car when I returned.
Now I am back and working from home again. I have easy enough access to anything I need. I have a bus stop for the 24 line right in front of my building, and the Atwater metro station is ten-minutes away on foot. I can go to Supermaché PA on du Fort for groceries, and get them delivered for $1. For almost anything else, I can go to Alexis Nihon (Pharmaprix, Canadian Tire, Zellers …). Therefore, obviously I don’t “need" a car.
However, after lulling over the issue for a bit, I am starting to want a car again. There are many things I got used to when I owed one before. How else am I going to get my favorite groceries from Adonis in Ville-Saint-Laurent? Or visit my in-laws in Candiac? Finally, I have come to enjoy a number of restaurants scattered around the island, but that are difficult to reach using public transit.
This blog entry isn’t just about cars. It is also another jab into the Montreal public transit system (or the lack of it). Had we had a better, more connected grid with more metro stations, maybe I could have done without a car. During the fifteen months I spent in Paris, I was really able to go anywhere without too much complication or distance to walk.
So now that I have actually started to look at car prices and what sort of deals are out there, my hate of all automotive-related professionals is coming back to me. Am I really going to put myself in a situation where I have to deal with all these clowns again? The SAAQ, dealers, mechanics, insurance agents! They’ve all given me a hard time in the past! Not to mention all the costs associated with owning and maintaining a car! And what about being stuck in traffic and not finding a parking spot? Do I really hate myself this bad?
Finally, there’s the whole “environment" issue. I consider myself eco-conscious to some extent, so I do feel a little bad owning a car for non-necessities. Maybe I can get a hybrid to feel better about myself, but they’re pretty expensive and the choices are few.
At this point, I still haven’t made up my mind for certain: do I get a car or not? However, of all the disadvantages, the one that worries me the most is having to deal with mechanics (especially at the dealer): their high prices, their “invented" problems with your car, their pressure tactics … Man, do I hate this bunch!
posted by Odin on Apr 30, 2009
'bixi' by ApollineR, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Just when I thought the city of Montreal couldn't make any more mistakes, I am proven wrong! Just when our public transit options couldn't get any worse, they actually do!
The Bixi public bicycle rental system is due for launch next month. The idea is simple; you pay an annual fee in order to access a network of public bicycles, parked at given stations. Various European cities, such as Paris, Munich and Barcelona, have had similar systems for a few years now.
The concept is great. Lord knows that during the year I've spent in Paris, I have used the Vélib system quite often and am now a devoted fan. What's not to like? Lots of bikes, lots of stations, incredible city coverage, cheap membership (30€ for the year)…
The Montreal system, on the other hand, seems riddled with problems from the onset. To start off, the annual membership fee goes for $78. This is no astronomical amount, but to keep things in perspective, you can buy a used bike for around $100. Also, how can the system cost way less in Paris, a much more expensive city?
Second, the distribution of the Bixi stations leaves much to be desired. A quick look at the map on the official website shows a massive network of stations scattered around downtown and the Plateau area. This raises two issues. First, do you really need THIS many stations next to each other? Seriously, some stations are actually only one block apart! Second, what about the rest of the city? I would have decreased the density a bit to provide some stations in surrounding areas such as Westmount, CDN, NDG, which seem to have been completely neglected.
Finally, we live in a cold city, where you can really only bike for a few months a year. I'm just not too sure it's wise to invest time, effort and money for an activity that will only benefit certain people during a short time window. There are supposedly 300 Bixi stations to start off. What exactly did we lose to provide for all of this space? Is it parking spaces? I sure hope not!
I am not a fan of cars, and would love to see fewer cars on our island. But, unfortunately, cars are everywhere and are here to stay for now. With all of the parking lots transformed into condo projects and the hike in parking meter rates, it has become very hard to find parking anywhere in our busy districts. Does it really make sense to take up even more spaces for Bixi stations? It just seems like we're benefiting the minority bikers at the expense of the majority car drivers, which by the way, need those parking spots ALL year long!
Once again, it seems our officials want to do well and head in the right direction. It just seems they fall short on almost every occasion.
posted by Odin on Apr 24, 2009
'VIA Train 60 entraining' by Bobolink, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
So I read an article a few weeks ago by Andy Riga from the Gazette about the proposed train shuttle between Trudeau airport and downtown, and I thought to myself "what a waste!"
I have always thought that Montreal lacked a lot when it came to public transportation, whether it was to the airport or elsewhere in general. And it definitely sounds like a good idea to add a fast way go get to the airport from downtown (something that most large cities of importance, especially in Europe, have always had).
BUT, at what cost? And to serve whose interests? Expected to cost $800 million, one wonders whether it's worth spending that much of our money on something that's only meant to serve commercial interests rather than your average Montrealer.
For let us not kid ourselves; the winners here are not the citizens of Montreal, who will undoubtedly pay this costly bill, but rather the conglomeration of corporations, hotels and businesses scattered around our commercial hub located around Central Station.
Businessmen and some tourists may find the shuttle a cheaper and faster alternative to getting to their office or hotel downtown. However, as a Montrealer, this new shuttle doesn't really help me out that much, unless I lived close to downtown or a metro station that is within reach from Central Station.
The question is; how am I supposed to take advantage of this new line when the rest of the island has such little metro/train coverage? Suppose I just got back from a trip, and I took the new line downtown; am I supposed to take an interminable metro/bus connection with my luggage to get home?
If you really think about it, it is only a small area lying in the middle of the island that can really benefit from this shuttle. Everybody else will still have to take a taxi or have someone drive them, since from Central Station you can only go so far by metro.
In Paris, for example, I can understand the need and benefit from a direct train ride from the airport to the middle of the city (which exists, by the way). From Châtelet-Les Halles, where the shuttle drops you, you can pretty much get anywhere by metro and/or RER (a crossover train-metro system that covers both the city and its suburbs).
We live in a relatively small city of only 2 million people. We really do not need to go all out and spend like crazy just to join the ranks of cities with 10+ million citizens. I say, increase our on-island coverage first and fix most of its current problems, then maybe we'll talk about this project.
To summarize, I am not against such a shuttle service; I'm just not sure if taxpayers should pay for it, since it will be mostly serve corporate and commercial interests. Why don’t THEY get slammed with the bill?
about the blog
MTLRants© is Seek Odin's brand new blog, bringing you entries from our staff and other contributors. The blog will cover topics and issues related to SeekOdin's central themes. Mostly, it will deal with the difficulties and frustrations of dealing with service-related businesses in Montreal.
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