New AMT Windsor station hub examined

image-4CD0_4AFD697E

Image from The Gazette

This week the AMT released a plan to build a new transit hub directly south of Windsor Station, whichwould permit the historic train station to serve its original function. A passageway (pictured above) would connect the old train station to the new one.

This $520 million plan would be realized in partnership with the commercial real estate developer, Cadillac-Fairview, which currently owns Windsor Station and the vacant lot directly to the south. The plan is to move the terminus of the AMT’s Dorion-Rigaud line to this new hub – located at Peel and St. Antoine streets – as well as create a major terminus for buses coming into Montreal from the South Shore.

It would also serve as a hub for STM buses, the Old Port/Peel LRT (if it ever happens) and the downtown hub for the proposed airport rail link (if that ever happens). According to AMT President, Joel Gauthier, it would allow South Shore air travelers to connect seamlessly downtown to Trudeau airport.

One downside of this project is that it requires curving the AMT’s four sets of track from where they dead-end at the Bell Centre, arcing southeast across St. Antoine, into the new terminus. As one commenter on the Gazette’s article pointed out, this would create a viaduct possibly four times as long as the one that currently spans St. Antoine south of Bonaventure station.

The rendering above provided by the AMT shows the southwest corner of the Peel and St. Antoine, with Windsor station in the foreground, so this potential eyesore is out of the frame.

So what will the effect of this new viaduct structure really be? Using my limited graphical skills, and the free Google Earth and Google Sketchup software, I did a quick rendering of what the other side of this complex might look like. Bear in mind that the supported columns or arches are not drawn. Since there are four sets of tracks carrying heavy trains above, the supporting structures will have to be quite significant (similar to the Bonaventure viaduct).

After all the abuse already suffered in Little Burgundy and St. Henri/Westmount from the building of the Ville Marie, there are few residents left  living on this part of St. Antoine, which is probably a good thing. St. Antoine might feel like a tunnel when  it`s all done.

This project promises to spur development south of the CBD, primarily along Peel St. But will this wall have the opposite affect to the west?

AMT terminal

AMT terminal2

The updated image from emdx. This indeed looks more like a train station. All the Europeanb precedents of integrating viaducts aside, you’ve got to wonder how anything so massive – which will contain at least one exit from the Ville Marie highway – can ever be integrated into the surrounding fabric.

GareWindsor

25 comments

  1. If this were a move to link the commuter rail lines running on both the CP and the CN tracks I would be more enthusiastic.

    I also fail to see how this would connect commuters from the South Shore to the airport. According to the only plan I have seen, this video produced in 2005 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUQNnP6hDUk), the airport will be served by the Via Rail trains leaving from Central Station.

    We need a comprehensive plan that integrates the various modes of public transit.

  2. For whatever reason, the trains were removed from Old Windsor Station in the Seventies, making an-already longish walk from Central Station just that much longer and inconvenient!

    ( Of course, it was better than going all the way to Old Place Viger Station, or Moreau Station as was the case so long ago. )

    One of the pleasures of being a kid back in the Forties and Fifties was to be ‘Meeting’ friends or family on an incoming train at Windsor Station and waiting in the concourse.

    An adult always knew which track the arriving train would be on, and you would stand at the glass looking, looking, looking down the silver rails until a headlight on Bright, then Dim, would shine right into the station as the engine approached.

    Would he stop in time?, or come right into the building?

    Then the light went out, surrounded by steam, the doors opened, letting in the cold, smoke, and, at last, the ones you were waiting for.

    Then, home on a streetcar, or in a Taxi! ( A ride in a CAR!!), if the relatives were better off.

    Back in 1909 a train DID crash thru Windsor Station!

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D02E1DE1131E733A2575BC1A9659C946897D6CF

    It is a good idea to have all the transportation in one area, and, maybe the new plan will work out okay.

    Toronto has quite a viable network with the TTC Subway, GO Busses and Trains and VIA all together in Union Station.

    Like it or not, Lower Ontario would not function without them.

    One thing that is pleasant in Montreal is to ride a commuter train out of Lucien L’Lallier and pass at speed vehicles stopped on the adjacent expressway? leading West to Ville St Pierre, the West Island and Pont Mercier.

    No! they should have never taken the trains out of Old Windsor Station!

    Qui Sera, Sera.

  3. “serve its original function” – uh, if the trains and busses pull into a building across the street, wouldn’t the historic train station merely be a passageway?

  4. How about this: Demolish the Bell Center, and built a modern terminal in its place. The Bell Center was plopped in the worst possible spot. What idiot chose to put it there?

  5. Cdnloco is, again, right. They could have built the stupid Bell Centre anywhere. What a short-sighted decision to cut off Windsor Station.

  6. I agree. Get rid of the useless Bell Center and turn the Forum back into a multipurpose arena, like it used to be. This would also put the AMC Cinema and everything else in there out of its misery.

  7. This debate makes it clear just how little love there is for “new” AMC Forum. I certainly wouldn’t be sad to see it go either, unlikely though it may be.

    Looking at my drawings again, it’s clear that I drew the viaduct far too narrow. It would have to be almost twice as wide to support the four sets of track in the approach to the new station.

    The integration of the viaduct simiar to the S-Bahn in Berlin would be great, but this more like a long, wide train tunnel that’s being plopped down over St. Antoine.

  8. It seems to me that the track would probably be built in more of an S shape and would probably project out over those two parking lots. Until there’s an engineering study done and a potential path has been proposed, we should probably hold our judgment.

    As pointed out in the Human Transit link that Kyle shared above, it is possible to do a viaduct well, and with three enormous blocks to work with, there’s a lot of potential to create something pretty cool in this space without even dislocating anyone.

    So obviously, let’s be vigilant. But this plan is very far from complete.

  9. New York (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=new+york+city&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=49.223579,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=New+York&ll=40.70871,-73.958738&spn=0.005628,0.009645&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=40.708667,-73.958627&panoid=CxNZxm1B454TgaBmghXxvQ&cbp=12,114.85,,0,9.51) and Paris (http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=48.852291,2.290435&spn=0,359.961419&t=h&z=15&layer=c&cbll=48.852466,2.290579&panoid=XXqNYZOMV8OCpMsvS9Qpig&cbp=12,41.14,,0,-3.01) both seem to deal with elevated tracks alright.

    And this slice of Montreal isn’t really Paris or New York. (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=montreal&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=49.223579,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Montreal,+Communaut%C3%A9-Urbaine-de-Montr%C3%A9al,+Quebec,+Canada&ll=45.495165,-73.569029&spn=0.002681,0.004823&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=45.495527,-73.568567&panoid=6dUT0YsAZ8Xaq42ifkAxfg&cbp=12,129.04,,0,13.11)

    Barring the ludicrous non-starter of acquiring the Bell Centre–at astronomical cost–only to demolish it, I can’t think of a better place to put a transit hub. I challenge anyone to find any meaningful heritage value there, or any important viewsheds that would be diminished by the development. It’s a complete wasteland.

    As to the possible stymieing of development to the west, there’s little land there to develop. The area is already full of Drapeau-era social housing and greystones, the demolition of which seems unlikely to garner much support from this blog.

  10. While a nice idea to move the bell center…it seems somewhat improbable at this point in time.

    That being said, hopefully this project could be the start for many projects which have only been talked about and studied up until now: old port tram, airport commuter train and etc.

  11. Although interesting, the rendering fails to account for the nature of a rail terminal in terms of real-estate hungryness.
    A rail terminal is a big thing; each track will
    need to be at least 900 feet long (to accommodate a 10-car train+it’s engine), and two tracks plus a platform is 50 feet wide. So you’ll need 900feet by 250 feet for a 10 track station.
    And this is without the space needed for the “fan”, where the tracks fan-out from the mainline to form the station proper.
    Here is a corrected rendering of the space needed for a 10-track station:
    http://emdx.org/photos/cptdb/GareWindsor.jpeg

  12. A few points.
    – Trains were pushed westward at Windsor Station around 1974 (the railhead was aligned to Stanley), as CP wanted to tear-down Windsor station and build an office tower. Such plans were squished when Windsor station was declared a historical monument. It took the new forum folly to push back the trains one street further to Mountain street.
    Why wasn’t the new forum built on the empty lot north of Lagauchetiere instead???

    Building a new terminal south of Windsor is madness. It would be 60 feet up in the air. The cost would run well past a billion.

    Why not make a simpler 3-track viaduct towards Central Station? This way, the jokers who run the airport would have their shuttle end up at Central Station which then would be a truly Central Station…

  13. Wouldn’t it all be simpler to make a building just to the west of the Bell Center? Right on top of where the tracks end. No need to move tracks, deviate towards Central Station…
    Hey 500 M$ to 1 B$ is a lot, all the propositions are going to need major work. Fan the tracks a bit, build on top of the metro station and a bit south of the train tracks as they are and that’s it! 200-300 M$ and the walk to the metro is shortened by a lot.
    The only foreseable problem is the on-ramp for the 720 westbound… it’s a bit in the way.

  14. Could Central Station handle all of the suburban trains during rush hour? And even if so, wouldn’t bringing all the current trains there limit the possibilities for expanding the network?

    Seems to me building even a three-track viaduct all the way to Central Station has to be more expensive than simply covering over the current station at De la Montagne. Isn’t the AMT starved enough for funds?

  15. Aside from the frustration regarding the Bell Centre’s placement, regrettable though it may be, I don’t understand the opposition to this idea. There’s not much in the way of better options. Enclosing Lucien L’Allier Station doesn’t mitgate the issue of it’s poor location – a non-starter for the airport shuttle. A viaduct to to the CN tracks would take up more real estate and does not solve the eventual issue of platform capacity.

    Anyway, anyone who thinks acquiring the Bell Centre only to demolish it and rebuilt the stadium elsewhere is a financially viable idea has a very tenuous connection to reality. Even if you could bring trains into Windsor Station, you’re left with the dilemma of where to put buses and, one day, trams. (Not by retrofitting Windsor Station proper, I’m sure. That would be sacrilege.)

    So, given the need for a downtown transportation center, why not here? Issues of integrating the tracks into the urban fabric? There’s no meaningful urban fabric to speak of. This area is mind-warpingly ugly, a wasteland of empty lots, parking lots, and overly-wide roads. St. Antoine is desolate as it is, exposed and empty. As to Mr. Fish’s comment that, “The south side of Windsor Station, to be really appreciated, should have some air around it.” I can only chuckle. The station currently looks like a beached ocean liner, abandoned in the middle of some empty desert. Besides, a lack of “air” hasn’t killed Grand Central Terminal, or really any important rail station the world over. Ridiculous.

    Given the recent penchant for speculative renderings, here’s mine:

    http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/9919/windsorjpeg.jpg

    I did it on paint, I ain’t rich

  16. If the proposed AMT terminal were some sort ostentatious creation – like the Libeskind Crystal or the Louvre pyramid – something with the audacity to challenge one’s design senses, I say go for it. Revolutionize the whole area. But given the current penchant for lacklustre architecture in Montreal, I think the best options are:

    a) bury the tracks to create an underground complex with Windsor Station as the main hall
    b) tear down the Bell Centre
    c) build a new station for Lucien L’Allier

    my guess is AMT will choose d) the status quo

  17. “If the proposed AMT terminal were… something with the audacity to challenge one’s design senses”

    Who cares? It’s infrastructure – desperately needed infrastructure. What ever happened to form following function? Why the need for tacky starchitecture? A city isn’t a museum. New York has the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Paris has Gare Montparnasse, Rome has Termini. Neither New York, Paris nor Rome are constantly second-guessing whether their design and architecture is “World-Class” enough, either. They’ve gotten over it.

    Montreal heritage activists must be truly traumatized by the Drapeau years if a train station on an empty lot is a cause for concern. Montreal will build something truly “challenges one’s design senses” only when it has the confidence to give up re-drawing and vetting everything by committee.

  18. I don’t see how the current Lucien L’Allier location is worse than the proposed one. In fact, it’s closer to the metro, which is more important than proximity to where the South Shore buses terminate.

    While that part of St. Antoine is currently ugly, a viaduct there would mean a pretty good chance that it would remain ugly forever.

    I suspect Cadillac Fairview could do quite handsomely with a hotel, etc. on that site, including a new South Shore bus terminus, without bringing the trains to it as well. It’s a lot of money and bother just to (sort of) make Windsor Station a train station again.

  19. Mr Michael Fish, could you please contact me (too) at “mdufour@gmail.org”. Thank-you.

  20. Central station can handle many, many, many more trains. It has 14 tracks that can take passenger trains (it used to have 16; two tracks were converted to storage in 1995. It would be very easy to add those two tracks if needed).
    (Track plan here: http://emdx.org/rail/GareCentrale/PlanVoies.gif)

    When it opened in 1943, it easily handled more than 100 trains per day.

    So there is absolutely no question that it could easily handle all the trains that currently terminate at Windor, and then some more.

  21. So the plan is basically to stop any sort of development to the south of downtown, while spending a billion dollars to build a structure that people will want to tear down the day after it is put up. It would be simpler and beneficial in the long term, to build a train tunnel between St Marc and Windsor Station ending in the court yard between the Bell Center and Windsor Station with access to the tracks from the Windsor Station building.This would allow the AMT to create a western passenger rail gateway into the city from the West Island which ends in a building owned by Cadillac-Fairview across the street from the new development maintaining the project’s viability and satisfying the ADM’s requirement for an airport train terminus which is at the heart of downtown and up to its business clients standards.  If this sill does not satisfy the ADM the new Windsor station could be connected to Central Station via rail tunnel under rue de la Gauchetiere so the ADM’s trains can stop at both stations meeting the demands of both the ADM and Cadillac-Fairview. This setup is will cost more in upfront cost but provides several interesting incentives. 

    Firstly the land above the tunnel which is approximately four complete city blocks could be sold off to developers and the sale along with expected tax revenue would help pay for the tunnel. Moreover the new rail tunnels would pass under these new developments so co-ordination between the new developers and the AMT would cut costs for both parties as a tunnel isn’t built and then dug out to build a building around it. These developments could include residential, office, retail and hotel spaces as well as parks.
     Secondly it removes the barrier which has stalled development in the area bellow the train tracks between Guy and University which will increase tax revenue, boost property values and increase quality of life. It would also allow for downtown to bridge with the proposed Griffintown developments as the area to the south of the project is made up of parking lots and fields.
    Thirdly and create harmony within the transport network. Since a station closer to Central Station would bring the trains close to each other. This is especially the case for users of VIA and Amtrak services who want to transfer onto the airport shuttle. Furthermore if Mirabel were to ever reopen it is very likely that any rail connection to Mirabel would pass through the Mount Royal tunnel into Central Station. If the stations were closer together a connection between airports would also be much simpler. This would also be the case if the St. Hubert Airport were to ever find a niche inside Montreal’s air transportation market. The new bus and tram terminal to the south of Windsor station would offer an alternative for busses, as 1000 de la Gauchetiere is currently running at 100% capacity giving the area a vocation as an intermodal transit terminal and economic engine for downtown Montreal.
    The redevelopments in the area around Windsor station are necessary but overpasses in a downtown core are unacceptable, Montreal needs to move forward and learn from the past, so that when the project is completed, plans are not made to take it down. 
         

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