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Half of Montreal's downtown workers say they feel unsafe: survey

Downtown Montreal is seen Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi Downtown Montreal is seen Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi
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While the number of employees returning to the office in person continues to rise, a survey reveals that their sense of security in downtown Montreal is also very present.

Some 87 per cent of workers are in the office at least one day a week, according to a Léger survey commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) and published on Monday.

That's up from 81 per cent of workers who came to the office at least once a week in fall 2022, and 61 per cent in fall 2021.

For the first time, respondents were asked about their sense of security downtown, and a total of 48 per cent said they felt unsafe.

"Clearly, downtown is still recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic. We are seeing a resurgence of social issues related to homelessness and the opioid crisis, and the emergence of a feeling of insecurity downtown at night at 59 per cent, with the proportion rising to 64 per cent among women," said CCMM president and CEO Michel Leblanc in a press release.

According to Leblanc, a "potential vicious circle" needs to be avoided, because a drop in traffic could lead to a climate of insecurity. He pointed out that the business community has been invited to work with players on the ground to help vulnerable populations.

Another hot topic is downtown accessibility, which workers also criticized. A total of 53 per cent have a negative perception, but this perception varies greatly depending on how workers commute to the office. Workers who take public transit have a more positive perception of accessibility (58 per cent).

A total of 99 per cent of drivers said traffic congestion had a negative impact on their journeys. Public transit users are more critical of transit schedules and frequency (92 per cent).

"We reiterate the importance of ensuring sufficient funding for public transit to maintain an attractive service offering, especially as this is an essential means of achieving our objectives for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions," said Leblanc.

Similarly, residents who live on the Island of Montreal have a better perception of downtown accessibility than those on the North and South Shores.

The main incentive encouraging workers to return to the office is flexible working hours at 55 per cent, but the measure is only implemented by 18 per cent of managers.

Workers spend an average of three days a week in the office. Managers and workers both believe that the ideal number of in-person days is two to three per week.

Most managers require a presence of between one and four days a week at work (56 per cent), and almost a quarter impose no policy at all.

Nearly half of managers said they prefer to remain cautious to retain their workforce (42 per cent), and a third see no need to request a return to the office.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 6, 2023.

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