Montréal’s Official Opposition, the Ex aequo organization, and the Regroupement des usagers du transport adapté et accessible de l’île de Montréal (RUTA Montréal) held a press conference on Tuesday morning to draw attention to the winter travel issues faced by Montrealers with reduced mobility. All three groups are asking the Plante administration to rethink its snow-clearing practices to make going out in the winter safer and more accessible for these vulnerable people.
The Opposition is urging the Plante administration to integrate the principle of universal accessibility into its snow removal policy and all its snow removal contracts, as it promised to do five years ago. Despite the 2019 adoption of a motion proposed by Ensemble Montréal, curb ramps and passenger access aisles (loading zones) for people with disabilities are still not properly cleared of snow (i.e., along their entire length and all the way to the curb) when sidewalks are cleared. In addition, there are currently no penalties for non-compliance.
Developing expertise in snow removal and universal accessibility
Although boroughs are responsible for clearing snow from access zones, they depend on the city’s Rolling Stock department, which is currently struggling with a shortage of specialized equipment and manpower. To counter the problem, Ensemble Montréal proposes setting up a specialized team dedicated solely to snow removal in access zones across the entire city by signing contracts with one or more external companies. To improve employee awareness of the principles of universal accessibility, mandatory practical training is also needed for all city and contractor employees assigned to municipal snow removal.
In addition, the Plante administration must ensure that access aisles for people with disabilities are long enough to be properly cleared of snow (minimum 7.2 metres in length). Faced with the issue of underfunded boroughs, the Official Opposition proposes funding these upgrades through the Programme d’aménagement urbain inclusif to speed up the process. With $4.2 million allocated for 2024, this program is intended to integrate universal accessibility into urban development projects.
A motion to this effect will be tabled by Dimitrios Jim Beis, spokesperson for the Official Opposition at Montréal City Hall, at the next city council meeting on February 19. It will be supported by all Ensemble Montréal mayors.
“Universal accessibility and safe travel for people with reduced mobility must be a year-round priority in large northern cities”. It’s simply unacceptable that residents can’t leave their several homes for days after a snowstorm,” said Dimitrios Jim Beis, the Official Opposition’s spokesperson on snow removal.
“Snow removal is a major obstacle for thousands of people with reduced mobility: snowbanks piled up beside sidewalks or blocking accessible zones often present an impassable obstacle. I find it hard to believe that I’m still complaining about this problem in 2024, when it would take so little to fix it,” said Serge Poulin, Executive Director of RUTA-Montréal (the Regroupement des usagers du transport adapté et accessible de l’île de Montréal).
“Since 2017, Ex aequo has been reminding the City of Montréal it’s important to clear the snow from access zones for people with disabilities at the same time as they clear the sidewalks; it’s time they stop shovelling the problem into the future and make changes now,” pointed out Marie Turcotte, Executive Director of Ex aequo.
“Glaring shortcomings in snow removal cause serious consequences in the daily lives of people with disabilities. Missed medical appointments and difficulties in getting to school or work are just a few examples. No one should be a prisoner of winter, especially in northern cities like Montréal,” stressed Martin Lalonde, collective rights advocacy officer and housing and municipal life champion at Ex aequo.