At Solomos, a store in Montreal's west end that specializes in smoked salmon, manager George Moussis says customers come in from everywhere but often struggle to find a place to park.
On top of that, he said, it feels like parking enforcement officers are just waiting for somebody to stop for a quick purchase.
"The guys give them tickets for literally just a second," he said. "It's insane."
On Friday, he learned that about 40 parking spots are going to vanish twice a day on his section of Queen Mary Road, near the Decarie Boulevard intersection — a bustling commercial district in the borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The borough says there will be a reserved bus lane in the eastbound direction from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. between MacDonald Avenue and Cedar Crescent. It'll head west in the afternoon between 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., covering the same route but on the other side of the road.
To do this, as is done in other parts of Montreal, parking will be banned during the lane's operating hours.
"They're going to be getting rid of more parking to make it easier for buses, so that's not really fun for us," he said.
"It's a small street with little parking already."
He expects customer traffic to "drastically drop" once the lanes are up and running this summer.
Carolina Ionel, who founded the nearby clothing store, Boutique Vip Couture, has similar sentiments.
"It's already difficult to find parking," she said, noting her business often pays for customers' parking so they have more time in the store, which doubles as a salon.
"Ninety per cent of my clients come to the store by car. I don't know how I can accommodate them."
Borough says it will work with merchants
In its statement, the borough says it is aware of merchants' concerns about parking and traffic flow, and officials will be meeting with them next week to explain the plan and discuss ways the borough will mitigate the lanes' impact on businesses.
"We have a plan to minimize the impacts and we are open to adjusting the plan," the statement says.
The bus lane will provide a faster and more reliable service for 8,000 public transit users a day without removing parking spaces, the statement said. Nearly 40 parking spaces will become unavailable during rush hour but additional paid parking will be added to some side streets, it said.
"This is because paid parking has greater turnover rates, maximizing the number of people who can patronize businesses on Queen Mary," the statement said.
"Public transit users are also consumers and by providing them more reliable access to Queen Mary, we are encouraging greater foot traffic along our commercial streets."
Ionel does not agree with the borough, saying she expects her business to suffer after struggling for two years to adjust to the pandemic. She said she pays business tax, and merchants like her should have been consulted first.
And Moussis said the borough already removed some parking spots recently and that officials make these decisions despite complaints from merchants.
More reserved lanes across city
The new reserved bus lane is part of the Montreal executive committee's larger plan to increase the number of reserved bus lanes in the city and allow cyclists to use 13 sections of those lanes, which are usually for buses and taxis only.
The new reserved lanes will be on Jarry Street East, Ray-Lawson Boulevard and Queen Mary Road.
The lane on Henri-Bourassa Boulevard West will be extended, the city said in a statement Friday.
In all, about 16 kilometres of new reserved bus lanes will be added, while the reserved lane on de la Commune Street, between McGill and Mill streets, will be taken out due to changes to bus lines in that sector.
"Public transit users want reliable, on-time and efficient service, and reserved lanes help meet those expectations," said Éric Alan Caldwell in the city's statement.
Improvements to the existing reserved lanes are also part of the plan.
For example, Sherbrooke Street East will get a passing lane near the intersection of de la Rousselière Boulevard.
Eventually, the network of reserved lanes in Montreal will extend over 306 kilometres and will allow 25,000 trips per day, the city says.