On the Métro Impasse

2009 AMT proposal for Métro extensions - not the work of the author

There’s been a fair bit of talk about extending the Montréal Métro of late in the English Press. Typical; now removed from the halls of power the English media spends its time twiddling their thumbs and dreaming about what could be, while Angryphones come out of the woodwork to demand Métro access to the West Island. I’ve said it before and I’ll say a million more times – no West Island residents should expect Métro extensions until there’s a West Island city, one with a tax-base as large as the cities of Laval or Longueuil. That or the West Island communities seek voluntary annexation from the City of Montréal. Then, and only then would the citizens out there be in a position to demand Métro access. I personally think a Highway 40 corridor Métro line from De la Savanne station to Fairview (and possibly as far as Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue) would be an excellent way to cut back significantly on vehicular traffic on our major highways. However, such a new line should be mirrored on the eastern side of the island, such as with the recommended Blue Line extension to Anjou. That said, residential development on the eastern side is oriented on a more North-South axis than on the West Island, and thus the proposed Pie-IX line (running from Laval or Montréal-North south to the Centre-Sud/HoMa district) would likely handle more passengers than any West Island extension (but only if it in turn were connected to East-West lines at multiple points).

While an unfortunate number of people have complained the 2009 MTQ proposal (above) is ‘too focused on the East End’, I look at it as focused primarily on where the population density seems to be high and increasing. There are more than 400,000 people living in Laval and another 700,000 people living on the South Shore (spread out over several municipalities, with an estimated 230,000 people living in Longueuil alone). Moreover, there are 85,000 people living in Saint-Laurent borough and another 125,000 people living in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough. In total, the proposed extensions as demonstrated above could potentially serve almost 1 million people directly and indirectly.

So while it is nice to dream about ideal systems that serve the entire metropolitan region, or at least serve the City better, we need to consider what the government is proposing seriously.

What’s unfortunate is that this plan now seems to be in jeopardy, given that the respective mayors of Longueuil, Laval and Montréal had to take out full page advertisements in the local press some months ago announcing why their city should benefit from expansion. I’ve said it before – sicking the mayors against each other isn’t going to achieve much. The entire system needs to be expanded until the whole region is eventually covered. In essence, we need to follow the same planning philosophy used to design the Paris, New York, London or Moscow subway systems, wherein the project is considered incomplete until near-total coverage is achieved. We won’t grow nearly as quickly unless the Métro develops in such a fashion so as to increase transit efficiency within the region. Montréal’s successful urban communities wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are if it weren’t for the fact that they have Métro access. It is crucial for expansion and development.

In sum, we need to start planning as a unified metropolitan region wherein the interests of all citizens are considered simultaneously. Métro line development cannot be a reward for political loyalty. We’ve come a long way from the nepotism of the dark ages under Maurice Duplessis, so when the provincial government finks out and pits the suburbs of Montréal against the City for an individual line extension, the citizens of all communities must demand an end to such ridiculous partisanship. We can’t continue on like this. This is why our city is broken.

And just a reminder – completing the project illustrated above is pegged at 4 billion dollars. Cost of the new Champlain Bridge has been estimated at 5 billion dollars. Is it me or would it not be smarter to use that money to complete the proposed Métro expansion, and then spend a billion dollars renovating and improving the existing Champlain Bridge? A new Champlain Bridge will accommodate about 156,000 vehicle crossings per day. With this expansion, the Métro would be able to accommodate over 1.5 million passengers per day, which in turn will free up space on the highways, bridges, tunnels, buses and commuter trains, possibly even allowing some buses to be re-purposed to new routes, further improving the public transit system here in Montréal. To me it’s a no-brainer. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “On the Métro Impasse”

  1. I think every system has its rightful place in a complicated metropolitan area such as our own.

    All the different systems I can think of have optimal settings (in a manner of speaking) and can be best suited to a particular type of public transit requirement. For example, a Métro system is predominantly urban, high-capacity and high rate-of-operation, not to mention likely extended hours of operation. In our city, Métro is synonymous with Réso, with rapid inter-city connectivity. Buses, by contrast, are well designed for internal suburban public transport, in part due to their relative operational flexibility. Buses are equally good at providing low-density overnight service. Commuter trains funnel large numbers from the bedroom suburbs into the central business district – their advantages lie in high capacity and relatively high-speed out to the farthest reaches of the metropolitan area, albeit on a reduced schedule. Electric trams could be employed as the urban ‘tactical’ counterpart to the ‘strategic’ Métro system, replacing urban buses so they can be repurposed for suburban and semi-rural public transit expansion. Trams could become exceptionally effective in negating the requirement for automobiles in the urban core if they were given reserved lanes on our busy urban thoroughfares, or if they were used on otherwise ‘pedestrian only’ streets.

    And consider the other possibilities too. By European standards our bicycling infrastructure is hopelessly underfunded and underdeveloped. We’re a maritime city with no ferry service, in a province littered with lakes and yet no seaplane aerodrome either. We’ve actually dismantled and destroyed perfectly good public transit capabilities, like the Expo Express and Expo Minirail. It strikes me as incredibly foolish.

    In any event, I honestly believe in a massive expansion of public transportation in this city. There ought to be a method designed to allow every citizen in the metropolitan region convenient access to a comprehensive, single-fare public transit system, across multiple modes and connected to every corner of Greater Montreal, operational all day, every single day of the year.

  2. I guess my comment is a bit late, but I totally agree. The cost is obviously pretty high but the benefits would be pretty substantial as well. The one argument against the expansion that makes some sense, is the people that say the money would be better spent on expanding bus service. This isn’t a bad idea, but this does overlook the fact that not everyone who takes the Metro would be just as willing to take a bus. I’ll use myself as an example; I live near the Jean Talon station, I work downtown and I make a good salary, ie, I could afford a car if I wanted. I choose to take the Metro to get to work simply because I prefer the Metro to driving (and everything that comes with it, ie finding parking). I might still consider taking the bus if I lived somewhere else, but it certainly wouldn’t be as easy of a choice as Metro vs Car. Montreal doesn’t have such high Metro ridership for nothing, the current system is great and I think we would do well to build on this rather than go another direction. I am no expert however and that is just my opinion from experience.

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