The idea took root last December during IPAM’s citizen agora on Metropolitan Planning. After two days of studying the map of Montreal’s metropolitan area, I had to two seemingly contradictory conclusions:
On one hand, there is very little political leadership at the regional level. Although the CMM is supposed to allow for big-picture planning, it is composed of 82 separate cities and towns whose local priorities often end up clashing or competing The experience of other cities like Boston shows that civil society and citizens must mobilize and champion regional planning issues. But to make matters worse, there is currently no mechanism for public consultation at this scale.
On the other hand, most people do not see themselves as citizens of a region. Our identities – and political leanings – tend to fracture along urban, suburban and rural divisions. While planners and academics advocate metropolitan planning for everything from public transit to protecting agricultural land, few people – professionals, academics, elected officials, or citizens – have any personal or experiential knowledge of the region as a whole. “For most of us it remains unknown, and therefore unloved, and therefore undefended,” I concluded last winter.
While I’m a passionate Montrealer, the idea of belonging to a place that includes Laval and the DixTrente conjures waves of revulsion. And yet the region is the fundamental unit of both ecological and economic well-being: it would be naive to trace the borders of home any closer.
What to do about this planning catch-22?
Mount an expedition, of course!
I”m thrilled that beginning this Friday I’ll be joining urban planners Laurent Lussier of Avenue Huit, Joel Thibert, and Bartek Komorowski on a 3-day voyage on foot across the Montreal Metropolitan Area, from Oka to Mont-Saint-Hilaire. We’ll be camping in Laval and Longueuil, and fueling up on the local cuisine (Barket moonlights as a restaurant reviewer and has been saddled with the job of finding the best local grub en route).
And most importantly, we’ll be tweeting our thoughts and impressions along the way (follow @alanahmtl and @joelthibert) and blogging about the voyage right here. If you’d like to join us for a part of the route, visit www.walktheregion.com to see the meeting points we have planned. We also have a press release here et ici.