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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Getting around town: recent transport news

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The air’s getting worse and it’s because the number of Montrealers who are driving is growing faster than those who use public transit. Between 2003 and 2006, an additional 50,000 cars were registered on the island of Montreal and 41,000 more cars were travelling into the city from off-island suburbs each day. Not coincidentally, the number of smog days continues to increase, averaging 64 per year between 2003 and 2006.

Although the city is expressing hope that, faced with gas at nearly $1.50 per litre, more and more people will opt for public transit, significant investments are needed in Montreal transit if there is going to be a significant shift in the way people get around. Earlier this week, three major projects were announced.

On Wednesday, the city revealed that work will start on the reconstruction of the Bonaventure Expressway next March. Eventually, the highway will be replaced with a surface-level boulevard lined by mixed-use development. Tuesday saw news that Georges-Vanier metro will be closed for extensive renovations all summer; a shuttle bus connecting Lionel-Groulx, Georges-Vanier and Lucien-L’Allier will run every 10 minutes until the station reopens. (If you ask me, that shuttle ought to operate all year — transit in Little Burgundy is woefully infrequent.) The creation of a bike path crossing Mount Royal was also announced.

For public transit, though, it’s service improvements that really count, and the STM has been gradually ramping up bus and metro service since the beginning of the year. Fagstein has consistently been the greatest source for news on these improvements: earlier this month, he reported on the creation of a new reserved-lane bus route, the 515 Vieux-Montréal/Vieux-Port, that will run along the path of the future Griffintown/Old Port tramway. He also blogged about the increased service on west end bus routes that will start in June, along with changes announced during a recent public consultation in Côte des Neiges.

Today, the big news is that Montreal will be asking for tolls to be implemented on inbound bridge traffic—a de facto congestion charge—in order to better fund public transit. It will also ask off-island suburbs to shell out more money to support transit in Montreal. The tolls would finance the construction of tramways and bike paths, the extension of the metro’s blue line as well as improvements to commuter train service.

It’s a positive step, but tolls are never popular, and there are still plenty of people in Montreal who think like the Nun’s Islanders who recently asked the STM to reduce bus service on the island. Sometimes it’s no wonder the number of cars in Montreal continues to increase — it seems some people still haven’t gotten the message.


  1. They get the message – don’t kid yourself. Most people are not going to give up their cars until they have to. It’s probably safe to say that most people who are willing to commute by trains are probably doing so already. I think that they have to create much larger parking, yes, perhaps those horrible muti-level things we see in urban downtowns, along train routes, and, are you ready for this, bus routes ( that go to the train stations)as well.

    It will be interesting to see how the reaction to congestion pricing will fly here. I tend to think that most folks will just guzzle it because, like I say, they really don’t want to give up driving their cars everywhere.

  2. While I dislike the idea of creating two “classes” of transport users, I also wonder whether Montreal has to get with the times and offer air conditioned, more comfortable buses if they want to lure suburbanites away from their cars and onto public transit.

  3. All of these efforts by the city and the STM seem pretty shabby to me; I don’t possibly see how many people are going to be convinced to exit their personal vehicles in favour of collective transport.

    Also, if 10% of driving Montrealers were to climb onto buses, trains and metros, the whole system would overflow, perhaps catastrophically -there is simply not enough room.

    I certainly applaud the move to toll the bridges however, something for which Tremblay’s city hall mocked Projet Montreal, when THEY first proposed it in 2005.

  4. That’s an excellent point, Craig. How ready is the STM for a dramatic increase in ridership?

  5. Also, let’s not forget that all the measures implemented to increase alternative transportation are completely neutralized by the millions of dollars this city continues to invest in huge car-loving infrastructures such as the Notre-Dame “boulevard”, the Turcot interchange and all the highways they are extending all over Quebec. Gas prices are soaring? So what, apparently.
    If ever those prices decrease, we (cyclists, pedestrians, humans who actually ilke to breathe fresh air and not die of pollution) are toast…

  6. Yeah, I dont like montrealers driving either. I heard they were gonna tear down the granola factory to make room for an exprssway, my gosh! we must do something!

  7. It’s an old joke, Joel. Like about 40 years old. But we all do indeed need to question our own motivations from time to time. Some people become extremely happy if they think “hippies” are having a bad day, others jumped for joy when the Canadiens got eliminated, and yet others fear for the whole country if people from “other” cultures are allowed to behave according to their own norms. There simply is no end to this disjointed lack of cohesion amongst human beings. The only chance at happy any of us have to is try and ensure the happiness of others. Life is ironic and it’s certainly never going to be fair. Still, we march onward…

  8. There’s not much dignity in being pressed together like sardines in a can. Until much greater investment is made to improve public transit service, a lot of people are not going to make the switch.

  9. I think that the more alternative transportation becomes the norm, the more people are willing to switch. Already, 65% of montrealers get around by car, whiching isn’t so bad of a rate – We are the biggest walking city in North America, which is also a good sign ( Study show that the increase in gas has had an affect on biking and the rate at which houses in the suburbs are selling is dropping whereas the rate of condos is gowing up. So less hippies on their bikes and more ordinary folk realising that trafic sucks. Step outside its nice.

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