Earlier today, Montreal City Weblog’s Kate McDonnell posted a story from the Toronto Star that compares the response to Sunday’s blizzard in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. While the two Ontario cities seem to be dealing with it fairly briskly, Montreal — which received nearly 40 centimetres of snow, by far the most of the three — is lagging behind. Two days after the storm, most snow has yet to be removed, even on busy thoroughfares. The city will only promise that the snow will be gone by Christmas.
Since I work from home, I’m mostly immune to the pain of post-storm commutes. Not today. This afternoon, I had to schlep myself to Hampstead for a meeting, so I walked down to Van Horne to catch the 161 bus. The bus, of course, was late, but the reason why only became obvious after a few minutes on board: from Outremont right through to Côte des Neiges, traffic on Van Horne was at a near-standstill. It took more than an hour to go from Park to Decarie, a trip that normally takes no more than 30 minutes.
After my meeting, when I saw that eastbound traffic on Van Horne was even worse, I decided to walk down to Queen Mary to catch the blue line. Outside Snowdon metro, the line for the westbound 51 bus stretched for at least 150 metres; every bus that arrived was already packed. I ducked inside the metro station, thankful that the metro runs entirely underground, and caught a Saint-Michel-bound train just as it was pulling into the station.
That’s when I made a mistake: rather than getting off at Outremont and walking back to Park Avenue, I decided to go to Parc station and catch the 80 bus. Needless to say, when I arrived at Parc, the scene wasn’t promising. Traffic on Jean Talon was barely moving; waiting for the Park bus at the corner of Hutchison — it was rerouted because of the snow — I watched as every possible bus route except the 80 crawled by. As an empty 93 bus passed, a man standing next to me muttered to himself what everyone else was thinking: “Fuck. What the fuck? They’re running an empty bus?” He raised his voice. “Turn that shit into an 80!”
The 80 never came. After waiting for thirty minutes, I ended up taking the metro back to Outremont and walking home along a gridlocked Van Horne. Traffic was moving slower than pedestrians — not a single car passed me as I walked from the metro to Park. Strangely, though, despite my cold feet and nightmarish commute, the evening had a strange allure. Wherever I went, sidewalks were packed by people who had given up on buses and decided to walk; it was like summer, only with subzero temperatures and six-foot snowbanks.