Montreal merchants suffer revenue losses from less car traffic due to ‘sanitary corridors’

More and more Montreal streets are shunning cars to make way for so-called sanitary corridors, where cyclists and pedestrians have more room to maneuver.

In late July, the city reported record pedestrian traffic on Mont Royal, but the ombudsman’s office has received over 150 complaints concerning the pedestrian and cycling lanes.

“What’s happening essentially is that we are driving those commercial dollars out of Montreal and very soon we are going to have a very high vacancy rate on our commercial streets,” Coun. Marvin Rotrand said.

Mont-Royal Avenue is filled with small independent businesses like Boutique Factorie, which has been operating there since 2001.

READ MORE: City of Montreal touts success of ‘sanitary corridors,’ critics disagree

They are struggling with sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bike and pedestrian zones have made things worse, Boutique Factorie owner Daniel Danino said.

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“Our best customers, they come by car as they are not interested to come and take the metro and go underground to come here, they go to the bigger space,” Danino told Global News.

Danino fears that if things don’t improve, they may have to shut down.

“In one to two years, we may close the store. I hope not, but it might happen,” he said.

Some shop owners say the traffic in the area is keeping motorists away but they admit it’s not bad for everybody.

Some merchants are thriving, optician Jonathon Berrabi said.

“It’s good for the bars and restaurants to have a terrace,” Berrabi said. “We have a coffee shop next door and it’s good for them but for businesses like clothing and businesses like me, it would be better if the street was open.”

READ MORE: Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce creates more pedestrian walkways, shared streets

Business owners agree that the absence of car traffic on the street is keeping customers from out of town away.

“I personally don’t feel like I’m too affected, business-wise it has been affected for sure but the only people it does bother are the ones who come out of town regularly,” Trip de bouffe co-owner Richy Farkas. “Locals love it, we are in a fortunate situation but there’s no tourism.”

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“I have no tourists this summer so the business is 50 per cent less than the last year,” said Berrabi.

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