English speaking seniors have a lot to say about their municipal governments, they’re not shy about expressing themselves, and even in winter will turn out in substantial numbers to be heard.
This was among the most impressive aspects of the first of two consultations in English on the city’s new municipal action plan for seniors, which attracted some 270 people at an afternoon meeting last month hosted by the Cummings Centre. The second was to be held March 7, at the Pierrefonds Cultural Centre, 13,850 Gouin W.
There was some grumbling at the start with the format — participants at each table were asked to write down their two main concerns, for inclusion in a final report. Some had expected an open discussion. There also were complaints about weak English translations of the original French.
When it was all over, however, and some suggestions were outlined, many left satisfied with the process. There were calls for better snow clearance of streets and sidewalks, improved street signage, more help for seniors using adapted transit, more reserved parking for seniors, more information on the city’s websites posted in English, more affordable housing for seniors, lower elevator buttons in public buildings for those using wheelchairs, and free public transit for seniors.
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Among the most novel suggestions was one calling for a shuttle service for seniors living in Côte Saint-Luc, western NDG and Montreal West, to reach medical appointments in or near Côte-des-Neiges Rd.
In fact, veteran Côte Saint-Luc borough councilor Dida Berku has been working on just such a shuttle project for several years now.
Berku wants to transform an existing shuttle provided by the city transit authority, the Société du transport de Montréal (STM), that does not meet the more urgent needs of seniors in Côte Saint-Luc, western NDG, and Montreal West.
The Navette Or, or Golden Shuttle, now picks up seniors at several locations in Côte Saint-Luc and Montreal West and takes them all the way to the Angrignon shopping mall. While the service must please merchants, according to the STM, it is under-used.
Berku wants the goal to be about healthcare, not shopping. She wants it to take seniors to hospitals and doctors’ offices in “the hospital island” — to the Jewish General on Côte-Saint-Catherine, St. Mary’s on Lacombe, and Côte-des-Neiges Rd., where many doctors’ offices and clinics are located.
“Côte Saint-Luc is landlocked,” Berku says, referring to the fact it is far from the nearest metro and not well served by buses. In conversations with STM executives, Berku says she was told that the problem is the Decarie expressway, and access roads, often clogged with traffic.
“If we had a shuttle, traffic on Decarie would certainly diminish,” Berku counters.
The existing shuttle picks up people at Mackle, Caldwell, the Cavendish Mall, continues along Cavendish, to the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre, ends at the Angrignon mall, and takes them back.
STM spokesperson Amélie Régis said those who favour the shuttle idea should bring it up at consultations the STM plans for changes in its bus service. Asked when that would be, all she could say was sometime this year.