Close a street, open a neighbourhood

Asphalt is Sexy

August begins and construction continues on boulevard St-Joseph, preventing commuters from heading south on rue St-Urbain.

The plan: Replace aging water infrastructure

The deadline: October 2011

I ask you: Is it selfish of me to hope that St-Urbain never reopens?

Summer Construction: Obstacles
I mean,

Barrelling cars have been replaced by playing children.
The whispers of trees now dominate over the groans of traffic.

On several occasions, the street has come alive with song and dance.
Bottles of wine suddenly uncork and begin to flow amongst the neighbours.
The formerly one-way street now welcomes cars, bikes, and people heading in every which direction.

I guess it’s not fair for commuters that the only route into downtown between St-Denis and Côte-des-Neiges is now off-limits.

But I don’t think I really care.

I can finally sleep with my window open.

Call me selfish: I hope St-Urbain never reopens.

Summer Construction: Opportunities


  1. I have that exact same thought every time I walk by the construction site: “I wish St-Urbain would stay closed”.

  2. Absolutely! I live right on St. Urbain and it’s becone so… pleasant. I think we should petition the city to make it a greenway :).

    Realistically the speed limit should be reduced to 40 though, this has happened on many streets in the Plateau but not St. Urbain (to my knowledge). It is a primarily residential street and in the morning when traffic flow to downtoen is a concern nobody can do more than 40 anyway.

    So who do we talk to?

  3. So, if I understand correctly, you want all the advantages of living in the city but none of the nuisance?

  4. Montreal, and most other cities, were much nicer places before wall-to-wall motor vehicles.

    The forties and the early fifties were very pleasant in that regard.

    A modicum of quiet.

    ‘Rush Hours’ of pedestrians in the morning, then a lull after school began.

    Peaceful thru the day.

    Milk and bread delivery. The ‘City’ trucks on the move to do housekeeping.

    Streets two-way.

    Cicadas buzzing in the trees. We called them ‘Heat Bugs.’

    The screech of clothes line pulleys as washing was hung out to dry.

    The bells on streetcars at Decarie and QM, far away.

    Looking North, Queen Mary and Decarie, 1949.

    The passing of a City water truck a BIG event for the kids during summer.

    When the driver stopped to fill the cistern at a hydrant, children appeared by magic.

    A little float rose from the top of the tank to let him know to shut off the water, but, he would let it overflow, soaking the kids.

    And, off he went, cooling the asphalt oh so briefly.

    Rush Hour was reversed in the evening, lasting, as it said, about an hour.

    ( Wonder how much electricity is consumed just by traffic lights? )

    Then it changed.

    There is no simple fix.

    The more that is built, is more to fall apart at a later date, at great cost and delay.

    Overpopulation and high-density housing is not a solution, as it adds more burden to physical plant of water, electricity and sewer.

    Green space once it is gone, is generally gone for good.

    It would be nice to go back, just for a few days.

    It might not be as nice as I think it was?

    Certain parts of the city were truly awful, and smelled.

    Horses were used for traction with their concomitant pollution.

    The flies!

    We were kept inside in the summer because of Polio.

    One electric light hung from a cord in the ceiling in each room.

    The hockey game on the radio, plugged into the light above.

    Older houses had a ‘Two-Wire’ electric service in from the pole.

    Dial telephones not yet universal in the City, Party Lines common well into the sixties, ‘account Plant Facilities’ said the Bell.

    Cooking meals on a coal stove was terrible in the summer, and the coal had to be brought in and the ashes taken out.

    Refrigeration by blocks of ice was cool, but, not cold.

    Freezers and air conditioning miracles in themselves, but, never in the public eye like TV and THE NEW CAR!!

    The spaghetti-work at the-then-still-single-span Pont Mercier over the Seaway a wonder of reinforced concrete ‘that will last for ever!’ they thought.

    A trip to Ormstown would now take no time at all, rather than an afternoon.

    The roads beyond St. Jerome often gravel, chains required in winter, and you followed the plough, a truck from the War, chains all the way around. Back and forth as he bucked the snow.

    The train to Huberdeau and Lac Remi or St. Jovite and Mont Laurier still the way to go.

    Warm, convivial, and mostly On Time. A steam whistle up ahead leading the way.

    A ride to the farm behind horses with a sleigh from the station.

    The bells WERE nice.

    The hotels has Bombardiers with tracks and skis to convey patrons to their lodging, long before Ski Doo.

    Example of large Bombardier.

    Hmmm. Now it takes all afternoon to get from downtown to the south shore.

    What next?

    Back then, much travel was because one HAD to. Now much travel seems to be because one CAN??

    Is tourism a good thing re. the environment?

    Thoughts on a hot summer’s day.

    Thank You.

  5. I wish my street (l’Esplanade between Bernard and Van Horne) was blocked off from traffic.  And this is coming from someone who has had a car, but sold it before moving to Montreal 3 years ago.  It is like when I lived in other large cities with good transportation (San Francisco for example), I did not have a vehicle.  However, when I lived in smaller out of the way towns, a car is essential.

    If I ruled the world, I’d put a pool in the street for public swimming and in the winter we could skate!  Mets-en!

    Not selfish of you at all.  Relish in the time you have.  I’m slightly jealous!

  6. I live one block north at Laurier and I’ve been able to enjoy the closure as well. Its fantastic to suddenly run into the impromptu music or garage sales that are in the street. Very happy making. Enjoy it while it lasts :)

  7. I live a bit further south on St-Urbain and have noticed the same consequences. And while most would argue that the current situation swings too much in one favour, is the “normal” situation of St-Urbain really the fair middle ground between cars and, uh, everyone else? Or do we just have to accept that a neighbourhood between the suburbs and downtown need a few major thoroughfares. I’m curious to find out how inconvenienced traffic flow and drivers have been by this closure now that they’ve gotten used to it and made adjustments to their routes. I guess ultimately the answer to my inevitable nostalgia for “The Summer St-Urbain Closed” is simply to move to a quieter street…

  8. Same here. Living near Saint-Urbain is, under normal circumstances, like living near a highway in slow motion. Why is that acceptable on a street that is largely residential?

  9. I have a car and I live in the Mile End, and I will admit to the occasional sin of driving Downtown for one reason or another. Having St-Urbain closed hasn’t caused too much of a fuss – Saint-Denis is right there, so is Parc, or if I’m going to the west side of town, I’ll drive through Outremont and over Côte-des-Neiges. However, I do wish the St-Urbain bus was running, because the 80/535 is MISERABLE and Rosemont metro is just as unpleasant to walk to as ever.

    The big winners of traffic reduction on Saint-Urbain wouldn’t necessarily be the people who live there, but rather the property owners. That street would be worth a fortune!

  10. Can’t say all the gridlock caused by rerouted traffic (Esplanade/Jeanne-Mance/Villeneuve, for instance) is a happy byproduct of the St. Urbain closure, though things were mellow during the construction holiday. 

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