The Commute from Hell

INRIX’s traffic polygon tells off-island commuters they’ll lose 70 hours a year to accidents, construction and weather. That doesn’t include the 130-165 minutes a day we can expect.

If you commute downtown, you won’t soon forget Monday Nov. 21 – the day the season’s first snowfall coincided with the largest lane closure in the Turcot Interchange rebuild.

– The eastbound 720, the main artery for traffic from the inbound 20 and Decarie, is now closed pending its demolition and reconstruction. Transport Quebec hopes for a spring 2018 reopening.

– Until then, four lanes of traffic funnel to two lanes on R-136, the temporary artery running alongside the Ville Marie Expressway.

Because Montreal’s highways were never designed with dedicated bus lanes, the bottleneck affects everyone equally – commuters alone in their cars, carpools, taxis and public transit buses.

For off-island commuters from Hudson, St. Lazare and Vaudreuil-Dorion, the most optimistic estimates add half an hour to the average daily commute.

According to traffic analysis provider INRIX, Montreal’s average off-island morning commute takes between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on the day of the week. The ride home averages between 60 and 75 minutes.

That was before the latest Turcot closure.

Beginning Nov. 21, the average off-island total daily commute increases to between 130 and 165 minutes – and that’s minus accidents, weather delays or other delay factors.

In 2014, INRIX’s scorecard ranked Montreal as Canada’s most congested city, with construction, accidents and congestion adding up to a 21.6% delay in the city’s collective trips per year. That translates into 38.1 hours wasted in traffic – an entire work week wasted in traffic every year.

The traffic data used to compile the scorecard was collected in 2013, prior to the Turcot and Ile aux Tourtes closures as well as dozens of other traffic-blocking measures.

Ile ‘o’ Torture bridge scene prior to addition of Jersey barrier lane. Accident or just the usual?

Montreal businesses voice concern about the cost of time wasted in traffic gridlock but they’re not about to admit they’re part of the problem. In reality, unless an employee is seriously late because of a major traffic meltdown, the employer doesn’t lose. The individual commuter is the one sacrificing quality of life and having to deal with daily stress — doubly so if they have a daycare or other deadline.

Not all costs are in dollars. There’s no way to compute the loss of time with family or the health cost of the stress of being trapped in traffic knowing you have to be somewhere.

I’ll never forget one of our job interviewees breaking down in tears when she described what the commute was doing to her life. She was supervising one of the major university hospital projects, a serious stressful job in itself. What was destroying her was the knowledge that her husband and school-age children were cooking, cleaning, and doing homework without her. She was proposing to give up her six-figure salary and career to be a wife and mom close to home.

Spare us the public-transit bullshit. The A40 shuttlebus between the AMT train station in Vaudreuil and the Côte Vertu metro terminus is scheduled to take between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the time of day. The shuttlebus saves time by taking bus lanes where they’re available and avoids the last 10 km into the downtown core. Even with all that going for it, the bus often runs late – as do the trains on the Hudson-Vaudreuil AMT line.

Forget repressive measures, such as concentric rings of tolls starting at the bridges. If commuters had practical alternatives, don’t you think they’d be leaving their cars at home? Montreal’s public transit would offer an alternative if it was convenient. It’s not — unless you work around the corner from a major terminus. If you take the A40 and work in the downtown core, add 45-60 minutes to your daily bus commute.

The Train de l’Ouest or the latest iteration, that light rail line connecting downtown, Trudeau International and the West Island? By the time the feds, Quebec and regional government agree on anything, the Trudeau Liberals will be in their third term.

The only logical solution to the growing inner-city traffic nightmare begins with enlightened employers rethinking work. A recent Chicago Tribune article cites Maven, a cloud-based software design firm with workers in five countries. Any of the company’s 60 employees can come into the office, but it’s not expected. Maven CEO Prasad Kanumury: ‘Work has transitioned from being a destination to an activity.’

I have a personal interest. This fall we opened Le, a co-working space in Hudson. We see co-working as the solution to our region’s greatest challenge — attracting entrepreneurs and professionals with quality jobs. As it now stands, the only jobs our region offers are in either entry-level sales and service or public/parapublic service, many of them off limits to anyone whose mother tongue isn’t French.

Hudson is a special case. Years of mismanagement and continued reckless spending have sunk the town so deep in debt, it can’t even afford to repave its cratered roads, let alone spruce up the downtown core. But there are positive signs of a resurgence: a 12-unit condo project (and several more in various stages of approval); a popular new brew pub, new management at the Chateau du Lac. There’s a sense things are starting to happen in Hudson.

My vision of Hudson’s future is of a town with a critical balance of full-time residents and services that will help defray rising costs. Hudson and its neighbours are dormitory communities of angry, desperate commuters fighting their way on and off the island, but I think the sheer misery of commuting will be the deciding factor in the move to a saner, happier lifestyle. Co-working and everything it offers – mentoring, support services and a sense of being part of something new and creative – will be a key piece of that puzzle.

On Friday, December 2, Le is offering employers and employees the opportunity to test drive our co-working concept.

Centrally located in Hudson, Le is minutes from Vaudreuil-Dorion and St. Lazare. We offer a plan and a workspace configuration for your needs and the flexibility to accommodate your schedule. We offer everything a modern professional workspace requires —Wi-fi, lounge areas, kitchen facilities and proximity to Hudson’s restaurants, coffee shops and the spectacular Sandy Beach Park trails.

It’s not a Friday off. It’s a commute-free Friday, more productive than hanging out in a coffee shop, less distracting than working from home.

Call us at 450-458-5353, visit us on Facebook or for more on our Can the Commute Day special – and share this or pass it on to your boss and fellow commuters. What have you — and your employer – got to lose?

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