The Line That Ended Expansion


From 1962 until 1988 a common sight – Métro tunnel construction – photo found on
urbanphoto

News from LaPresse today that Pauline Marois wants to prioritize an eastern extension of the Métro’s Blue Line towards Anjou, with a planned initial development of three stations in the direction of Lacordaire Boulevard from Saint-Michel station.

No word yet on planned delivery of the project, no timeline though a proposed (and certain to increase) budget of just under $1 billion according to Marvin Rotrand, vice-president of the STM and leader of the Union Montréal party.

For comparison, the three station extension into Laval cost $745 million in 2007.

The Métro’s Blue Line is arguably the least effective in the system. Ridership is at its lowest, the trains are shorter and service stops forty-five minutes earlier on this branch. Unlike the other three lines which funnel people from first and second ring suburbs into the urban core, the Blue Line is peripheral and connects two high-density, low-income large residential areas with one of the richest neighbourhoods in the city (in the middle), and not where their jobs might be. Moreover, though it could be useful in funnelling people towards either end of the Orange Line, the number 80, 165, 166 and 535 buses (to name but a few), seem to remain the preferred method to reach the city from the northern inner suburbs. For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the design, history, architecture, artwork, and technical aspects pertaining to the Blue Line (and every other line, fasset and component of the Montréal Métro), I recommend clicking here for the excellent Métro de Montréal fansite.

The line was originally conceived to extend past the Orange Line in both directions. Marois’ plan is to develop three stations towards the East, and none towards the West (insert mandatory statement about how Anglo needs are being ignored) and eventually build two additional stations terminating at the Galleries d’Anjou. I’m not sure why they’d plan to break the project into two separate developments, but I would assume that the province may want to wait and see if the initial extension drives up usage. This would not be the first time the Blue Line would be built in a separate, disjointed fashion – during the original line’s development, it was proposed that the segment connecting Edouard-Montpetit to Parc be cancelled given that ridership in between would be so low. It seems obvious to me that a five-station extension may actually serve to draw a considerably larger number of people, not to mention potentially allow the STM to re-design bus lines to potentially feed an even greater number of people, so why they’re planning on cutting it short off the bat is beyond me. The current eastern expansion will serve Rosemont, Saint-Leonard and Anjou, though plans dating back to the late-1970s wanted the Blue Line to extend towards the Northeast with a terminus at Amos (likely at Lacordaire Boulevard) which in turn would have also allowed access to the high-density, low-income neighbourhood of Montréal-Nord. This plan was modified when a Métro line under Pie-IX was proposed that would funnel people down to Pie-IX station on the Green Line. Both proposals were still on the table (even appearing on Métro maps) into the late-1980s, at which point the Liberal Government of Robert Bourassa placed a total moratorium on Métro expansion.


Conceptual rendering for a proposed intermodal station under Edouard-Montpetit

The principle reason for this moratorium was, among others, declining revenues and budgets, not to mention the fact that the heavily truncated Blue Line simply wasn’t pulling in new passengers nor did it ease congestion on other parts of the system. Part of the Blue Line’s undoing was that, as mentioned previously, it was still preferential and more convenient to use buses to get to and from the city (the 80 and 165 are two of my favourite bus routes; though they’re generally packed, if you manage to get a window, a pleasant and exciting voyage awaits). This may not have been the case if a planned inter-modal station at Edouard-Montpetit (connecting to the AMT’s Deux-Montagnes line within Mount Royal Tunnel) were completed. The principle technical difficulty was building a train station fifty meters under the existing Métro station, not to mention acquiring high-capacity, high-speed elevators, but the station itself was designed for the higher capacity.

If they had built this crucial component, the Blue Line could have also served to better connect the northern ridge suburbs with the city centre.

Therefore, any move to lengthen the line, east or west, should be done in conjunction with a connection to the Mount Royal Tunnel firmly in mind, so that the Blue Line could finally be used to ease traffic congestion elsewhere in the system.

Also, we’d be wise to voice two other considerations for our elected officials to consider. First, placing a moratorium on moratoriums and segmented construction. If we were to plan Métro development ten or twenty stations at a time instead of in threes or fives, we may be able to save money long-term through bulk purchases of materials, not to mention increasing operational efficiency as the project goes forward. Let’s end this self-retarding piecemeal development and plan continuous lines. The Pie-IX proposal, which would link the Olympic Park with Montréal North through Rosemont, Petit-Patrie and Saint-Leonard, should be given top priority for new line construction. Second, we might be wise to consider inter-lining the system so as to allow trains that start on the Blue Line to transfer onto the Orange, so that one could go from Saint-Michel to Bonaventure, or from Outremont Laval without changing trains. This is a very complicated proposal, but it would allow greater flexibility with the system we already have.


A future expansion map including talked about extensions and proposed lines; of all the different proposal maps I’ve seen, this one still seems very realistic, very useful.

4 thoughts on “The Line That Ended Expansion

  1. It’s really a shame that the NDG connection/extension was not made all the way to Montreal Ouest (West) train station. The Blue Line was short changed by not having this high density residential area plus Concordia-Loyola campus catchment. Not enough votes for PQ?

  2. At last, someone else who shares my enthusiasm for an intermodal station at Edouard-Monpetit. I’ve said it before, but I do think this would be a very good idea. The rap against the blue line has always been that it is relatively little-used and impractical. It has never achieved the ridership it ought to have because it does not yet reach the poles of attraction or offer the options to transfer that it should have from the start. An intermodal transfer at Edouard-Monpetit would diminish the latter problem. Extensions to Anjou and Montreal Ouest would do the rest. I acknowledge that this would be an engineering challenge, but I think the bigger obstacles are financial and political. Such a deep station would be an anomaly in our system, but anyone who has experienced other systems such as Washington D.C.’s metro where many of the stations are veritable mine shafts could see that it’s doable. I’d make the case that New York is currently attacking an even more formidable task with the ongoing construction of the 2nd Avenue subway up the east side of Manhattan. That project is attempting to thread the needle through an urban environment that it far more densely-built and complex than the leafy residential districts and commercial areas that encompass the blue line’s trajectory.

  3. Also worth noting that Anjou is Montreal’s third largest employment centre, after Downtown and Ville Saint Laurent.

    I think a large problem with the Blue Line is that they simply built the metro while not encouraging the development of different ‘pôles’ around the stations. The mixity of the Anjou area (in terms of residential and employment) makes it possible to infuse the blue line with more life… Now if only they could make the area a bit more pedestrian friendly…

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