Canadian cities spruce up transportation heading into 2020 | News | DW | 27.12.2019
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Canadian cities spruce up transportation heading into 2020

It's out with the (sometimes very) old and in with the new for a few Canadian cities. Horse-drawn carriages are leaving the streets of Montreal while, in Toronto, the city says goodbye to its historic streetcars.

It's "New year, new you" in the streets of Montreal and Toronto in Canada: From January 1, horse-drawn carriages will no longer trot the streets of Montreal. Farther west, Toronto is getting rid of its old-fashioned streetcars. 

$1,000 a horse

Horsedrawn-carriage — or "caleche" in the local French — rides are popular with visitors to Montreal who want to explore the city in an old-fashioned way.

But City Hall has ordered a stop to the practice. Following an initiative by animal rights activists, the city council passed a by-law in 2018 banning the practice, which goes into effect on December 31 this year.

Animal rights activists had long campaigned for an end to the rides, but the cause didn't win the support of Mayor Valeria Plante until 2018 when a horse died while pulling a carriage.

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"It is a tradition that has long been appreciated, but today I think it is time to move on," said Jean-François Parenteau, the city's representative in the case, adding that Montreal must "show concern for the animals."

Fifty coachmen and horses currently provide rides in the city. Once the ban goes into effect, they will be out of the job.

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To keep the horses from ending up in the slaughterhouse, the city has enacted a program that will pay horse owners Can$1,000 (US$763, € 686) for their animals and help place them in a shelter or with an adoptive family.

Luc Desparois, whose stable has 15 horses and employs 15 coachmen, said the offer is a "total insult." Currently, he charges $53 for a 30-minute carriage ride and $85 for an hour, usually providing between two and seven rides a day.

As of December 16, only one horse owner had accepted the offer.

In Toronto, the end of an era

Toronto, meanwhile, will retire its iconic streetcars before the year is out, replacing models that date back to the 1970s with brand new trams.

19th-century trolley cars in Canada's biggest city were originally pulled by horses. They were electrified in the 1920s.

The current model is tall and thin, with trademark red and white coloring. The entrance requires climbing three large steps; to request a stop, passengers pull on a yellow cord that runs the length of the car.

While the distinct trams have become an emblem of the city, over time they have worn down. They also don't cater to people with disabilities.

In 2009, the city contracted a Montreal-based company to provide 204 new streetcars. After several delays, the company says it will complete the order before the new year.

The new tramcars, many of which are already functional, are similar to models currently in use in European cities. They are larger with greater passenger capacity and have low floors and no step, making them more accessible to people with physical handicaps.

Streetcars were the main form of transportation in Montreal until World War II, when cars and buses grew in popularity and the city chose to remove many of its tram lines.

Today there are 11 routes in use in the city, serving around 65 million passengers a year.

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kp/sms (AFP, local media)

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