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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. I wasn’t even aware a new bridge was being built.

  2. This is a good thing for the Greater Montréal, gives more options to people, opens more land for development, keeps housing prices affordable.

    Montréal and Laval are islands, and last time I checked there’s no trucks, buses and cars that can drive on water.

  3. Newurbanshapes: Spacing MTL doesn’t have an editorial line, so there isn’t any “Spacing Montreal take” on the autoroute 25 bridge.

    Personally, I think it’s a bad thing, since it will increase traffic, noise and pollution in Montreal North and it will encourage new sprawl in Laval.

  4. J’ai d’ailleurs toujours pensé que l’étalement urbain était quelque chose que n’importe qui normalement constitué devrait vouloir et désirer.


  5. I also was not aware a new bridge was being built (that’s why I come here – for my happenings in Montreal)! I am curious to know more about the connections the bridge will make, and the planned bus routes natch!

  6. It is odd that there are people on a site about urbanism who favour urban sprawl. Perhaps they misunderstand the concept; sprawl does not mean “growth”, though growth does entail a city occupying a larger geographical area. Sprawl means spreading population, building and services out at a greater rate (reducing population density) and is an anethema to the urban form.

    Better public transport for both Laval and Montréal would have been a more planet-friendly option. This Earth-destroying crap gives the lie to the “green” discourses of government.

  7. What kind of scale will the connected autoroute have? Will the bridge be a dual-carridge freeway or more on the scale of the present Louis-H-Lafontaine Blvd?

  8. Basically, we continue to kill the planet because “it’s good for the economy”. If the Earth is not the Asshole Of The Universe, well, hard to believe there might be a species out there that is even more retarded than humans. Heh Heh.

  9. newurbanshapes, here’s my take: This is a bridge connecting Mtl East to the remaining active agricultural land in Laval, despite the fact that there is a low demand for transportation or either goods or people between these two points at this time. Montreal’s city council came out against the proejct saying we should prioritize commuter trains becore resorting to additional bridge-building. The BAPE environmental consultation process was botched because the private developer didn’t provide the detailed plans in time (this was Quebec’s 1st for into the realm of PPP – public-private partnership). Equiterre, Greenpeace and the Comité Régional de l’environnement got a lawyer on the case, but Charest gave the go-ahead to start construction before the case was even seen in court.

    In short, another unsustainable, undemocratic, and arguably unnecessary process brought to us by the MTQ.

    Samir – I’d argue that it takes more than affordable residential development for a metro region to thrive. Agricultural land is precious, especially as transportation of food will become more expensive with rising fuel costs.

  10. Alanah, those lands in Laval are part the 4500 acres of “zone permanente agricole”, they are subtracted to development (for a foreseeable future). In any case, if those lands become residential, it would still be better than having even more distant satellite suburbs like mirabel, st-lin, etc. Greater Montreal, thankfully, is still growing, and those lands will be needed with the current metropolitan migration trends.

    New bridge or not, people are still leaving the city of Montreal (another negative migration of 4500 in 2008), the real question here, do we want them to live 30-45kms from the center or 5-10-15kms. The real reason behind Montreal being opposed to this bridge is that it simply cannot compete with the suburbs and prefers obstructing anything that could remotely favour them, at the expense of the health of the greater region itself.

    Christopher: No editorial line? The title of this blog post is just telling the opposite!! The editorial line is clearly implicit on this blog, and it’s even more obvious when someone’s comment is against la mode du jour found here.

    This bridge is basically a link between the suburbs on the eastern part of the island of Montreal and the suburbs to the north, north-east. Easing traffic flow from the north-shores-laval to the south-shore, bypassing residential areas altogether.

    Finally, have you ever witnessed the traffic on Henri-Bourassa between highway 25 and today’s bridge? No, because you have never been there. People in those neighbourhoods will be relieved by the decrease of traffic on their thoroughfare. The citizens of that part of the island were in favour of that bridge… god forbid people knowing what’s better for them, someone from downtown has to tell them what to do… right?

    I love how the BAPE is evil when it goes against the will of the socialist-green-bien-pensants and all important when a project needs to be blocked for silly reasons… courts of law have made their decision clear in this case, get over it.

  11. Indeed. Laval has some of the best remaining “market garden” farmland in proximity to Montréal.

    And I don’t think that in future, affordable housing will be of the single-family house variety, also due to commuter transport and infrastructure costs after peak oil. Les Montréalais have lived in triplexes for many, many decades. It is fine. (Just improve the soundrproofing!).

  12. Being new to Montreal I thought this was some historical pic from circa 1982. A bridge here does not seem like a good use of money because of the points already raised, mainly:

    – it encourages further urban sprawl by making it even easier to move off island. Personally I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live off the isle de Montreal in todays world but…

    – it puts those very precious farmlands at risk. I’ve seen some of Canada’s best farmland get covered with tracts of cheaply build McHouses around Toronto and it’s one of the least sustainable things we could be doing right now.

    At the end of Samir’s post he says:
    “courts of law have made their decision clear in this case, get over it.”.

    Does this not go against the previously stated information that the case never made it to the courts? I thought this was pushed through by our ever popular leader.

    If people are against this type of thing (and I think in this case it depends on how it’s used) then they’ll have to do more than “get over it”. Next time they’ll have to fight.

  13. Even from an economics perspective, this bridge makes no sense.

    In a province where we had 2 overpasses collapse, overpasses pre-emptively destroyed/rebuilt, a 1.5+++ billion project to rebuild the Turcot, the Champlain bridge that’s looking pretty dicey, pot holes galore, etc… etc… what do we do? Build another bridge and more highway miles.

    With an estimated 220+ million for the bridge, the debt service for that amount, the maintenance associated with the bridge *forever*, and its implicit support of foreign built cars and foreign oil (affecting Quebec’s trade balance), this bridge better generate a whole lot of economic activity to pay for itself… let alone stimulate economic growth. (On the plus side there seems to be plans for a toll on the bridge).

    For real economic stimulus, *if* we *had* to build something, it should have been electric commuter rail running on Quebec made Hydro power and Quebec made trains. (Plus a 2 way railroad is probably much cheaper to maintain than a 6 lane paved road).

    The only thing this bridge will stimulate are votes and contributions from the developers who own land near that bridge in Laval.

    Oh, and Samir, to answer your question about how far do we want suburbanites to live:

    As far as they want. As long as they build actual *towns*, *villages* and *cities* instead of suburban subdivisions. That way, if their community had real jobs beyond the Couche-Tard, the gas station and working at the mall maybe their citizens wouldn’t have to commute 45km to “the city”.

    — X

  14. Xavier you can’t have it both ways – people don’t only want jobs, but also a yard a house with 4 bedrooms, quietness etc. That is society, and you all aren’t going to change it with you lord on high second coming of Christ will be in the Plateau attitudes.

    Secondly, I love how this idea of railways predominates this board. My grocery store has a set of tracks that roll up to its shipping bay, nothing is delivered by truck. Flowing traffic causes way way less population than stagnant traffic, better access and alternate routes is a perfectly viable way to reduce pollution. Public transit is not a solution for everyone even when readily available. You’ll note that the Mascoushe train will coincide with the opening of the bridge.

    Finally there are tons of jobs that are in the periphery – Merck Frosst didn’t setup in Kirkland for no reason, Bell Helicopter can’t really setup their plant on Papineau. Maybe to you those just aren’t real jobs, but I could name hundreds of companies with thousands of jobs.

  15. Thanks to Samir and GDS commenting on this issue from the pro-bridge perspective. I agree with Samir that this site editorial bias is pretty evident, however I think that we have to be realistic that this project (along with the modernization of Notre-Dame and autoroute 30 on the south shore) will make our road infrastructure competitive with other north american cities. If people actually paid attention to the project, there will be reserved bus lanes crossing the bridge and as well as the future commuter train to mascouche planned for 2010, one cannot argue that quebec’s approach to transportation has not been balanced. Growth to the Couronne nord suburbs will not stop but at least people will have better options, autoroute 25 bridge (tolled btw), better public transit, but please let’s not give those people better infrastructure.

  16. CC: Google is your best friend, but since you seem to be a tad lazy, here’s the judgment for your reading pleasure and for others that are oblivious that this is a 200M$+ project invested by the private sector to reap profits with the tolls collected:

    Xavier: where to begin with your “ignorance crasse”. I am the first one to want a strong Montreal center, but that’s exactly the opposite that is happening right now, and every decision the city is taking is helping Montreal grip to be broken off in regional centers!!

    Montreal has to strengthen it’s economic grip on the region by offering jobs, superior education, cultural centers and stay a shopping destination. This grip is done with doing everything possible to ease the mobility of everyone to the center, it’s done with a cocktail of transportation including metro, buses, train and *shock* highways and bridges!

    The suburbs have created 8 times more jobs since 2000 than in the center city! They have now satellites university campuses, more and more cultural happenings are now in the suburbs and Montrealers now flock to the suburbs to shop and leave those hungry park meters and green men behind.

    Do you really want the suburbs to be self-sufficient? If that happens, the only loser is the vitality of the city center. All that concentration of stores and restaurants in the city won’t be able to survive on its decreasing inhabitants alone. When was the last time an office tower was built in downtown Montreal(and not being artificially done by the govt)? Have you seen the explosion of office parks outside of downtown??? Sad.

  17. GDS,

    Wow… I guess I sounded preachier than I thought. :-)

    About your Plateau remark, I’m sure that people from Gaspésie, Côte-Nord and Abitibi aren’t thrilled to learn that all that money will be spent for that bridge. They probably could use it for things more useful to them.

    Also, I wasn’t saying don’t spend money on roads period. I was saying that given the abysmal state of road infrastructure in Quebec right now, adding more roads, overpasses and bridges is not a really wise decision. We can barely maintain the current ones… how the heck are we gonna take care of the new ones?

    Not sure by what you mean by “can’t have it both ways”? A small town can be a very good place to live, work and play in. It can include benefits you mentioned such as quietness, lawns and single family housing (mixed with other types of housing, a main street and some compatible businesses.) Unfortunately, that model got thrown out circa 1955 when mono-use Levittown-clone subdivisions became law thanks to almighty Zoning. If you hate the Plateau, then rejoice! It is now illegal (zoning laws) to build anything remotely similar to the Plateau in most of North America.

    About rail, if you look at the traffic jam on the 15 every morning, you’ll notice that about 5% of the traffic is from trucking. The other 95% is commuter traffic. That is what commuter rail should be adressing and why this is a recurring theme here.

    Traffic is not like a liquid that you can’t compress and must funnel one way or the other. It is like a gas: it takes the space you give it. In a bizarre paradox, more highways often create congestion instead of solving it (in the mid term). By chewing up land, it spreads people farther and makes everyone drive more distance… creating more congestion. It makes people go: “Cool! Now that new highway is built, we can buy a house out here… It’s just X minutes to my job”. Of course, every time, after a few years, the thing gets saturated and we’re back to square one. No matter how you spin it, a highway never creates “less pollution”.

    I know, of course, that there are some jobs outside the city. But have you visited the so-called downtown area of Laval? This is not a sleepy quiet little village here. This is the second largest city in the province. Yet… all you will find there are a few offices, 2 enormous malls, an enormous cineplex, the cosmodome… and surface parking. Lots and lots and lots of surface parking. (Are they ever full?) This says to me that they are not doing everything they can to give their own citizens local quality jobs (which would save them the trouble of commuting).

    — X

  18. Samir,

    Seems we both agree on the root of the problem: Montreal is leaking citizens and the threat of “Edge Cities” popping up in the suburbs replacing the activity in the core is real.

    We disagree about the solution though.

    Trying to compete with the suburbs using mega highways, 6 lane “boulevards” and all-you-can-eat free parking is a losing proposition. The suburbs will always be better than older, denser cities on those metrics. It has been tried numerous times in the 60s by ramming highways into city cores. The result is that a lot of cities got gutted to park all those cars that came from the highways. City cores became second tier suburbs… leaving citizens of the cities with a “worse of both worlds” scenario. Those who had the means quickly got out of there… leaving only the poorest citizens in the core… creating a very unhealthy death spiral for city cores.

    The cities I have lived in that had restricted auto access because of geographical boundaries had vibrant cores:

    San Francisco (the horror! Only 2 bridges to cross the bay!), Sydney (only 1 bridge and 1 tunnel to cross the harbour). Both have pretty hefty tolls too.

    By comparison, have you been to Atlanta? It’s got lots and lots of highways (yet… can’t solve congestion) and downtown is *dead*.

    >>>”The suburbs have created 8 times more jobs since 2000 than in the center city!”

    That’s an impressive stat (where does it come from?) What really matters, though, is what *kind* of jobs. Of course Quartier Dix30 will generate lots of jobs on paper. Can you house and feed a family living in Brossard on the salary of a Starbucks barista or the salesperson at Indigo?

    Anyways, to have a better comparison, the stat to look at would be jobs per capita… having a big growth percentage is easy when you start from a small number.

    >>>”Do you really want the suburbs to be self-sufficient?”

    YES! (Well… reasonably… I’m not expecting every city to be working in a vacuum). Gutting a city from its inhabitants to make room for suburbanite cars is a losing proposition. It’s been tried in a lot of major cities in North America and left a trail of “donut” cities in it’s wake.

    Building a residential subdivision and expecting 95% of it’s population to drive to the city core for work is a really weak way to develop… and a way that will come off the menu sooner than most think because of energy costs.

    What we do agree on, is that office parks are sad. :-)

    — X

  19. In response to X and Samir:

    Having worked in transportation demand management, I think that Samir is right on one count: there are more and more jobs – yes, even professional, high-paying jobs – in the suburbs. Engineering, pharmaceutical, communications… many big names are in big office parks in the suburbs.

    This leads to a lot of suburb-to-suburb commuting, which is a nightmare from a transportation planning point of view. Instead of everybody heading downtown, which easily lends itself to transit alternatives, you have people commuting from the South Shore to Ville-Saint-Laurent; from Laval to the West Island, etc… And because of the design of office parks, even nearby residents (who live in the same suburb, for instance) have a hard time cycling or taking transit to work.

    But will adding roads and bridges solve this problem, of just lead to more of the same?

    The city needs incentives to keep jobs downtown (more so, in my opinion, than we need ad campaigns to keep people in town). At the same time, transportation demand management needs to be incorporated into suburban planning before they go crying for more regional roads. And, perhaps above all, people need to take their commute into account when they chose their home and job. This economic study ( (pdf)) shows that many people fail to do so and consquently make economically irrational decisions that leave them with miserable commutes for years to come.

  20. Alanah,

    >> “But will adding roads and bridges solve this problem, of just lead to more of the same?”

    As long as current zoning laws are in place: more of the same.

    Typical suburban subdivisions (residential, office parks, shopping centres, civic centres…) are all severely segragated by use… by design. That’s the “miracle” of post 50s zoning laws.

    >> “The city needs incentives to keep jobs downtown (more so, in my opinion, than we need ad campaigns to keep people in town).”

    Well, we need people *and* jobs. That’s the whole point of a city.

    What Montreal needs is to be absolutely *stellar* in the way it manages the city if it wants to thrive. It needs to focus on it’s strengths (proximity, diversity of people and housing types, transit, public spaces, being able to not own a car (or two) if you wish, etc…). It must mitigate it’s weaknesses: noise, pollution, being dirty (bacs verts in a windy city… what could go wrong?).

    If it does everything right, it’s product will be compelling and people will choose to live here.

    If it does everything wrong: Detroit.

    On the other hand, we can’t expect suburbs to stand still and not create it’s own activity (jobs, cultural, education, etc…) That’s unrealistic.

    What is realistic, however, is to ask suburbs to change the way it physically lays out its ingredients (as noted by you and Samir) which are pretty much the same ones than the ones in the city.

    Montreal (and cities like it) is a pizza. Edge Cities (usually 3 or 4 different municipalities at the intersection of 2 highways) is a bunch of dough, pepperoni, cheese and peppers. Uncooked. :-) Same ingredients, different experience.

    If suburbs were built like actual towns, then there might be a chance of people walking, cycling or using transit to work in their own town.

    Since they have to drive *anyways* to the office park, doesn’t make a big difference to them to drive to an office park in a different suburb. (Which creates the transit nightmare you described)… and doesn’t leave Montreal better off.


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