I'm in Montreal, Quebec with about 60 other Seattle-area business leaders and government officials. (For the record, I am paying all costs associated with this trip from my personal funds.) These inter-city study missions are sponsored by the City of Seattle and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce; the first was in 1983 (Baltimore).
We arrived in Montreal last night and return to Seattle Friday evening. The focus of the trip is Montreal's aerospace industry, transportation, health care, police services, especially anti-gang efforts, and the creative sector as a driver of economic growth.
Here are a few highlights so far . . .
Best Phrase: "Transportation cocktail," as in what cities need when engaged in transportation planning. The phrase was used this morning by Helen Fotopulos, mayor of the borough of Plateau Mont-Royal, one of 82 municipalities that make up greater Montreal. Mayor Fotopulos said: "The city has diversity in transportation options, everything from cars, subway, trollys, pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, a transportation cocktail really."
Note Mayor Greg Nickels in background to the left of Mayor Fotopulos. Councilmember Jean Godden is partially hidden on the far left.
This photo was taken during a walking tour this morning that included an old section of the borough that has been redeveloped with small shops, bars, and restaurants while preserving affordable housing.
Best New Service: Bixi Montreal is a new bicycle service launched two weeks ago in the central core of Montreal by the city government. Users pay $78 per year for unlimited use of a bicycle in 30 minutes increments; exceed 30 minutes and you pay $1.50 per minute as a penalty. The service is designed for short rides from point A to point B, not commuting or leisurely rides. Widely used in Europe, the service is aimed at commuters who use public transportation to get to work but might need a bicycle to run a quick errand or get across town for a meeting. Just over 3,000 users have signed up so far. By the end of May there will be 300 Bixi Montreal stations installed in the city. The photo to the right shows Seattle transportation director Grace Crunican examining one of the Bixi bikes. Bixi Montreal representatives are coming to Seattle in August to show off their bicycles and station technology.
I rode one of the Bixi bikes. They are made in Quebec just for Bixi, have three speeds, and are heavy. Thankfully, Montreal is relatively flat. Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and Mayor Greg Nickels even took a little test ride.
Best Experience: Coming up tonight when I ride with Montreal police gang unit officers starting at 9:30.