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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Plateau-Mont-Royal borough releases traffic-calming plan

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As part of the city’s Plan de transport, an ambitious set of guidelines designed to decrease the number of cars on city streets and better facilitate traffic and public transport released last year, all 19 boroughs are required to submit a plan de déplacement, also known as a PDU.  The PDU released by the Plateau is proving to be very ambitious, containing 49 different actions designed to cut down traffic in and through the borough and to create a better environment for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit.  Some highlights from the plan include:

  • -Lowering the speed limit on secondary streets to 30 km/h.
  • -Building wider sidewalks.
  • -Creating more pedestrian-only streets and public spaces.
  • -Adding more taxi stands.
  • -Prohibiting parking five metres from the corners at about 50 intersections.
  • -Improving public transit.
  • -Increasing the number of bike lanes, reserved bus and taxi lanes, and build more speed bumps.
  • -Installing approximately 100 BIXI bike stands.
  • -Building a tramway on ave du Parc.

The plan, which will cost about $2 million per year, over 15 years will affect the 500 000 trips that are made through the borough every day.  The Plateau has some of the lowest rates of car ownership in the country so this plan will affect through traffic more than local traffic but will hopefully have an overall positive effect on the city as a whole by changing the habits of car drivers, improving public transit, and setting an example for other boroughs in the city.

A reporter from the McGill Daily recently contacted me to inquire about the plan for a story he was writing, forcing me to take some time to reflect on its pros and cons.  While I, and most readers of Spacing Montreal I assume can agree that lowering the number of cars on city streets is a good idea, much more than a small plan from a single borough is needed to make this happen.  While grandstanding and back-patting by borough councillors may win them votes from their constituency, the rest of us living and working outside of the Plateau also need a city-wide, comprehensive strategy to get cars off the streets and calm the traffic that remains.  Secondary streets across the city should have their speed limits lowered and sidewalks should be friendly and adequate on all streets, especially high traffic arterial street.  Most importantly, an infrastructure of good, accessible public transit needs to be built as an incentive for drivers to ditch their car in favour of the bus, metro, or train.  At an even higher level, neighbourhoods throughout the city, especially the suburbs, need to be built at a high density in order to make transit and pedestrianisation feasible.

The Plan de Transport takes much of this into account, however, it is still to be seen whether many of the actions taken by the Plateau will also be implemented in other parts of the city, many of which, quite frankly, are much more in need of them than the Plateau.



  1. Other parts of the city may need transportation plans, but the density and built form of the Plateau is probably just more conducive to not owning cars. To get people to adopt the same habits, maybe we should be Plateau-ifying the rest of the city with infill & replacement projects.

    How much money do you have in your wallet?

  2. Besides the vague “improving public transit” and the Tram, why the heck do they need FIFTEEN years to put that plan into action?

    How long does it take to change the speed limit signs, install a few speed bumps and block some streets to car traffic?!

    Oh, Mr. Erb, one small constructive note, I wish everyone was more careful when using “high density” as short-hand for “pedestrian and transit friendly neighbourhood”.

    High rise Corbusier-style condo towers, in cul-de-sacs, in a single-use residential subdivision and serviced by a nearby Power Center make for very high density. Yet, I don’t think such development would get people out of their cars.

    I was amazed when I learned that is Los Angeles is almost twice as dense as Montreal… This should prove that density, on its own, means nothing about a city’s pedestrian friendlyness. :-)

    — X

  3. […] maybe we should be Plateau-ifying the rest of the city with infill & replacement projects. […]

    Any ideas on how to achieve that politically without everybody freaking out about gentrification?

  4. It is one of those good little things that one can’t argue with too severely, but, yea, 15 years is a joke. And the borough by borough approach allows for a lot of slipping and sliding. It reminds me of those little shrubs that get called “green” even if they are besides a freeway or busy thoroughfare, lots of window dressing possibilities which politicians especially love in election years.

  5. Amen for pedestrian-only streets. I’d love to see statistics on how we fare compared to other cities. I mean, I can only think of 3 main ones in Montreal off the top of my head… What a shame. I wish people would finally take off their car-goggles and see that we’re suffocating!

  6. 15 years is such a typical political time scale. This way you don’t have to give away any votes because people can’t say “Well, you said you’d do it during your term, so where is it at?” and hold them accountable for it. And on the other hand, they can always put it off until they either get re-elected or until they get the boot, at which point they care.

    What ever happened to people having dreams and seeing them through? Do politicians dream at all anymore?!

    I should go into politics. *sigh*

  7. What ever happened to the idea that one person should not be allowed to commute alone in a car? I was coming into town yesterday during rush hour, going against the bumper to bumper traffic on the 40. It was crawling from blvd St-Jean all the way to l’Acadie, where we got off. I would say 90% of these cars had only 1 passenger, driver included. And probably a good percentage of these cars had driven through local neighbourhoods before getting onto the highway to get home to their suburban wastelands.

    Bottom line: we need to reduce the number of cars in the city. Bus, train and metro service to the West Island is barely servicable. We had been in Ottawa, which is dotted with dozens of Park and Go parking lots: commuters drive to parking lots and take Express busses into the city. The city core, therefore, is much less crowded with cars than it otherwise would be.

    It’s all well and nice to calm traffic in the Plateau, but what we really need to do is REDUCE traffic. And that means putting pressure on the suburbs to reduce traffic inflow into the city.

  8. What I don’t understand is, while the city is claiming that they’ll reduce the speed limit to 30 kmh, they’ve actually raised this limit to 50 kmh on St-Gregoire, *right next to the park.* So, while some a-holes will go about 20 kmh over the limit, I now see folks easily going 60-70 by that stretch of park.
    I don’t know what will happen this summer when some kid runs out to get his soccer ball, but I’m pretty sure someone’s going to get hurt.

  9. As for L.A. being denser than MTL: density is such a hard thing to define, isn’t it? I’d say that more of Montreal is WALKABLE than LA, and transit her is much better than there. Check out this blog that discusses LA vs. New York:

    Pedestrian-only streets are great, and we’re getting there — the Village in the summer for example. Since I’m ever the optimist, I say instead of complaining why don’t we have more, look at how willing Montreal is to close off its downtown streets for almost any reason. Or how much people do walk here, given its compact, pedestrian-friendly urban form. Compared to most American cities, Montreal is a dream; the 3-floor row housing density that makes up most of the inner neighbourhoods provides enough people to support local businesses and lively neighbourhoods, but with comfortable tree-lined walkable streets on a very human scale, not to mention larger apartments than many places that have chosen the density-through-towers approach. Add to that an extensive métro system and many people can choose a car-reduced or car-less lifestyle if they so wish.

  10. Density figures can obviously be misleading as that blog post suggests. It’s strange. When I was growing up in Verdun it had a population of 90,000 (third largest city in Quebec at one time too) at a time when no one lived on Nun’s Island. Today Verdun seems to be around 45,000 with almost a third of that being on Nun’s Island. Go figure.

  11. I’m really encouraged by this plan, but I agree that the 15-year timeline is pretty conservative, and that the rest of the city needs the same attention if Montrealers are going to be able to change their transportation habits in a meaningful way.

    Check out the pathetic sidewalk on Guy above Maisonneuve. Was it designed to discourage walking in this really dense and interesting part of downtown?

    I guess we can all rejoice in the idea that we might be able to bike between bagel factories in fifteen years time. (lol)

  12. Tristou,

    I know Montreal is about 1000 times more walkable than LA. :-)

    I was actually raising a concern about a lot of posts on this blog (or comments) that say “Densify!” when they should say “Walkify!” or “Public-transitify!”. I know density is a key factor, but density on it’s own achieves nothing… as the LA vs. Mtl example proves.

    Back to the main topic of this post, Projet Montreal did a very good critique of the Plateau preliminary PDU (Portrait et diagnostic des déplacements) last april. See it here:

    They make 3 big arguments:

    1- The “Portrait” implied that Plateau residents are responsible for their own woes… when in reality cars going through the Plateau (starting and ending their trip in a different borough) are responsible for 83% of peak-hours traffic.

    2- The “Portrait” implied that funelling cars or arterial and collector roads away from side streets was a big solution (as opposed to actually *reducing* the number of cars going through)… this seems to ignore the fact that about 40% of Plateau residents live on arterial and collector roads. I’m sure people living on Papineau, St-Denis, Sherbrooke, etc… are gonna be thrilled to see more cars pumped under their windows.

    3- The “Portrait” implied that pedestrians and cyclists were a large part of the problem regarding road safety… yet we’ve never heard of a motorist being killed by a pedestrian.

    It’s pretty funny to read the actual PDU that was released this month and see how the wording was changed to dodge the main gripes of the Projet Montreal analysis… yet most of the original concerns are still valid.

    All in all, the new Plateau PDU is great in spirit, but in practice is still very *very* timid…


  13. Si seulement St-Laurent et St-Denis étaient aussi piétons.

    Il faudrait peut être ensuite que le centre-ville soit sans voiture pour éviter ensuite que le débordement de Parc se retrouve dans les petites rues?

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