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Joel Ceausu – The Suburban LJI Reporter

It wouldn’t be a Montreal winter without the “walla walla walla” of city snow crew trucks, shocking folks of all ages off their seats or beds, warning everyone in the neighborhood that cars are about to be towed.

If you’ve thought those sirens are starting to sound more like ambulances than tow trucks, you’re right. Over the years those sirens have evolved from straight unique wails to sounding like emergency vehicles, prompting a different sense of alarm for residents. NDG resident Charlotte Calender finds the traditional horn-sounding alerts irritating, but finds this noise “unsettling and confusing,” she told Côte des Neiges–Notre Dame de Grâce borough council last month, and hears it at night. “I don’t know if I should be looking out for emergency vehicles, and sirens have a lot of meaning to me that there is something bad happening… Can we disallow tow trucks from using a siren sound for this purpose?”

Loyola councillor Despina Sourias says the borough gets a lot of feedback about siren noise during snow removal season, “and I understand that it can be unsettling.” Last week, the same loud siren noises were coming from trucks on the eastbound Connaught merge to Côte Saint-Luc road shortly after 6 a.m. “It is a siren, clearly!” an irate Adalbert Street resident told The Suburban, pointing to the pickup trucks.

Sourias referenced a Plateau Mont-Royal pilot project of not using any sirens. “It’s something we’re looking at closely to see if it would apply here.” CDN-NDG borough advisor Claire De Muns told The Suburban that “there was a shift to put in place sirens that make less of a constant sound, however the sound is still an obstruction for some,” and they are not supposed to be used after 10 p.m. She says the city deployed its Info-Neiges app to let Montrealers know when streets will be cleaned so drivers park accordingly and not where clearing operations are planned, and the Plateau project will be evaluated.

In the Plateau, there’s been no measurable difference since the beginning of winter 2020 when the borough eliminated sirens between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. “We know people were disturbed by it, that it woke people up,” Plateau council assistant Julien Deschênes told The Suburban. “We haven’t done in-depth research, but we did not see any change in continuity and rhythm of operations, so we take that as a positive.” That means no major impact on the number of cars illegally parked before clearing begins. Deschênes says the borough need only remind new contractors or employees of the standard before the first operation. “We know it’s working, and we’ve been getting a lot of positive comments from citizens who appreciate that sirens are used on a very limited basis.”

For its part, the city of Montreal says some 30,000 cars need to be towed each year, about 50 an hour, which can bring slow clearing operations to a halt, and they will look at the number of illegally parked cars removed with and without audible warnings to determine if sirens are still useful. n

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