Story out today in the Journal de Montréal about how the Azur Métro cars will be ‘too big and too heavy’ to operate in our Métro tunnels and that work had to be done to adjust the infrastructure so as to prevent trains from tipping over is about as good as it gets in terms of local media’s response to a slow news day.
The article is presented in such a fashion that makes it seem the STM only just found out about this and that these renovations may be somehow related to the delay in receiving the new Métro cars, which were initially due last July but now likely won’t be in service until the end of this year.
But according to the STM (and mentioned in the JdeM article), they new about the requirement to modify a 200 metre stretch of the Orange Line to accommodate the new trains from day one, and that the work has already been completed and factored into the overall budget.
If this is indeed the case and the STM isn’t perjuring itself then there isn’t much of a story in the first place. Yes, the new Bombardier-Alstom Azur Métro trains are heavier and bigger and will even consume more electricity than their predecessors but all of this was expected and understood since day one.
After all, these are entirely new vehicles. They are not carbon copies of the existing MR-63 and MR-73 trains. They’re bigger to accommodate more passengers. They utilize new technology. They will have a different layout and, perhaps most importantly, will permit transit users to move between Métro cars while the train is in motion. I think it’s safe to assume that, if you’re building something entirely new, it might not perfectly fit in a system it wasn’t designed for.
But, with all that in mind, the modification to the tunnels only seems to have involved 200 metres out of a total length of 71 kilometres.
In other words, less than half a percent of the Métro system needed to be modified for these vehicles. Peanuts. The STM knew this and made the decision to modify a portion of the tunnel rather than scrap the project and go back to the drawing board.
If we want to have a conversation about how private enterprise can’t ever seem to deliver a government project on time and under budget, this is another conversation (and one I’d say is well worth having). It seems to me that, time and again and at various levels of government, contractors working on government-sponsored mega projects are consistently late and chronically appealing for more money.
This is true about our new Métro cars, about the Train de l’Est project, about double-decker dual-power commuter trains, about fighter jets and maritime helicopters.
Every time government appeals to the private sector to work on public projects, they pitch it against an illogical assumption the alternative is to have the state build a factory and assume all related project costs. Over and over we’re told that appealing to the private sector saves money and will get the job done faster because of ‘the principles that guide the corporate world’ are ostensibly principles that prioritize efficiency and staying true to your word vis-a-vis project cost and delivery.
The private sector’s interest in government contracts big and small is twofold, but neither has anything to do with efficiency and/or cost control. The interest lies chiefly in that a) government typically continues throwing money at the project and extending deadlines to save face and b) there are no repercussions to the provider, regardless of how late or how over-budget the project is, because they typically arrange to be the sole provider for after the fact maintenance, not to mention the fact that they own type certificates and other key pieces of intellectual capital that will keep whatever’s being built working. If a government upsets the private firm, they have very little recourse and will likely pay dearly at the polls. It’s not terribly expedient for a politician to campaign on keeping government contractors in check. People respond much better to hearing how much a politician intends on spending rather than how they plan on saving money.
We want to feel wealthy, not cheap, and we want our politicians to reflect this.
Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things at a reasonable, audited cost on the timeline set by the people.
The rationale is that it will help convince the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO or OACI in French) to continue operating from our fair city, this after an audacious attempt by the Qatari government to convince the UN body to move its operations to the Persian Gulf state last year.
We need to keep in mind that Qatar withdrew its bid after a roughly week-long (and uncharacteristic) lobbying blitz orchestrated by the Federal Tories (with considerable cooperation from the then separatist government of Quebec) that ultimately resulted in a near unanimous decision by ICAO’s member nations to refuse the unsolicited Qatari proposal outright.
Kudos on a job well done. It just goes to show that with the right motivation even the most diametrically opposed governments can cooperate fully to achieve a common goal. It’s clear to everyone concerned ICAO is better off staying in Montreal where it provides about 500 ‘big league’ jobs to our city’s knowledge economy, not to mention an immeasurable amount of global clout. That ICAO is located in Montreal says something about our city. In my eyes, it says we’re a safe bet, a solid investment, the kind of city where the world comes together.
Based on the response to Qatar’s push, I’d argue the world knows and appreciates this as well. Quite frankly I’d be astonished if the international community permitted ICAO to be moved to an absolute monarchy where dissent is punishable by life sentences and where hundreds of thousands of South Asian migrants are worked to death building sports stadiums in de facto slavery.
Say what you will about the quality of our construction industry here in Montreal, at least we don’t use slave labour.
In any event, the point is this: the Qataris have a long way to go before they can make a serious bid, so why is the STM going to the trouble of re-naming Square-Victoria Métro station at all?
Is ICAO looking to move? Do they really need to be convinced to stay?
If ICAO were actually seriously considering moving from Montreal, are we to believe all it would take to get them to change their minds is renaming a Métro station (by making it longer and more cumbersome)? Give me a break.
Despite this, the STM is going forward with their plan to rename the station – with zero public input. Total cost: $125,000
According to the STM the cost pays for printing new Métro maps, new signage at the station as well as new audio recordings of the station’s name. I can imagine the overwhelming bulk of the sum is in fact going towards printing.
I think this is supremely wasteful. It’s unnecessary and it won’t accomplish anything concrete. Worse, the public wasn’t consulted – this is a unilateral decision of the STM – and, as if this wasn’t bad enough, the STM’s renaming policy is still in effect for all other Métro stations, despite public interest in getting other stations renamed.
It wouldn’t be quite as bad if the STM were to instead select a certain number of stations and solicit the public for suggestions on how they should be renamed. In doing so, not only would they have directly engaged with their clientele, but they would ultimately get a greater value for the money they’ve allocated to new printing.
Keep this in mind – the printing costs will remain about the same even if a dozen stations were to be renamed.
So with that in mind let me put it to you – what stations would you rename?
There are two proposals that come to mind already. First, there’s been pressure from Jewish and Black communities for several years to rename Lionel-Groulx. The reason is that, despite the Abbé Groulx’s contributions to writing the nationalist interpretation of French Canadian history, he was also a ell-known anti-Semite who founded a local fascist organization. As you might expect this doesn’t sit well with many people. Oscar Peterson, the ‘Maharaja of the keyboard’ who helped solidify this city’s position as a focal point for jazz music, is often mentioned as a preferred name choice, given Peterson’s legacy and his attachment to the area the station is located in.
Also, if I recall correctly, the Gay Village merchant’s association has proposed changing Beaudry station’s name to ‘Beaudry-Le-Village’. I’d prefer it simply be renamed Le Village.
I’d also like most of the religious station names, like Assomption or Pie-IX to be renamed, and I’m not too keen on First World War French generals (De Castelnau) or battle sites (Namur, Verdun) either.
Anyways – let me know what you think; which stations would you rename and why?
Most people don’t know who he is or why there’s a sizeable chunk of prime downtown property in a state of seemingly perpetual disrepair named after him.
In fact, it’s not even actually named after him, strictly speaking, as his actual name (in his native Venetian) was Zuan Chabotto.
In English and French, his name was John or Jean Cabot. In Italian it was Giovanni Caboto. In Portuguese he was known as Juan Caboto.
A man by any other name…
Perhaps it is because he is so unknown and comparatively unimportant to the lives of Montrealers that we have allowed the rather large urban park that bears his name to end up the mess that it is. Recent news is that the city is pledging $6.5 million to renovate and revitalize the park, more on which I’ll talk about later.
Hmmm, come to think of it, strictly speaking it’s not a park but a square. In fact, because it’s technically a square there’s no curfew. As far as I know it’s only parks and playgrounds that have curfews in this city.
Thus, this once proud square has become a repository for the city’s homeless, the kiosk has been boarded up for years and the Métro entrance is repository for the homeless in winter months. Lately, efforts to improve the overall aesthetic of the park has resulted in the installation of a multitude of sculptures. So now it’s a repository for post modern art as well.
Montrealers know there’s not much good going on in Cabot Square – at best it’s a poorly designed bus terminus. At it’s worst it’s a shocking example of endemic social inequity.
This is what I find particularly ironic – Cabot Square is generally associated with the city’s transient Aboriginal homeless population. The lasting negative effects of European colonization of North America can be seen just about every day gathered, inebriated, somewhere in the square dedicated incorrectly to a man who was once viewed as our equivalent to Columbus.
I suppose in some ways he is our Columbus. The American veneration of Columbus is as ridiculous as our former veneration of Cabot. Neither Columbus nor Cabot were the first Europeans to reach the Americas, this was done by the Viking Leif Ericson in the 11th century. And neither of them ‘discovered’ the Americas either – this was accomplished by the ancestors of our Aboriginal peoples some ten thousand years ago.
It’s the official position of the government of Canada and the United Kingdom that John Cabot landed in Newfoundland in 1497, so you’re right to wonder why on Earth one and a half acres in the Shaughnessy Village is dedicated in his name. He never had anything to do with Montreal.
And if that all isn’t bad enough, from atop his perch Cabot’s copper gaze is fixed forevermore on the architectural abomination that is the PepsiAMCCineplex (awaiting new management) Forum. Our city’s great failure to preserve our shrine to the greatest game is all he has to look at now.
So how did we get here?
The land that became Cabot Square was acquired from the Sulpicians in 1870 for the purposes of a public park in what was then the westernmost extent of the city. Initially it was called, simply, Western Park (the Montreal Children’s Hospital was formerly the ‘Western General Hospital’ if I recall correctly) and it served the large Anglo-Irish middle and upper-class that inhabited the area as a much needed common green. Originally, it featured a large fountain in the middle. The statue of John Cabot was a ‘gift’ from the Italian population of Canada to Montreal and was erected in 1935, though the square wouldn’t be officially recognized as Cabot Square until some time later.
For a good long while Cabot Square was as desirable a place to go as any other large urban space and served as a kind of ‘front yard’ for the Forum throughout that building’s storied time as home to the Montreal Canadiens. It was also immediately adjacent to what became the Montreal Children’s Hospital in 1956, and down the road from the former Reddy Memorial Hospital. The area was, by some estimates, at its peak in the 1960s and 1970s when Westmount Square and Place Alexis-Nihon were built atop and integrated into the Métro system, an early component of the Underground City. At the time, Atwater station was the western terminus of the Green Line and the integration of mass transit, large, contiguous shopping malls, the city’s main arena and residential and commercial towers was at the cutting edge of modern urban design. The Forum was expanded and modified into its ‘classic look’ in 1968 and throughout the next two decades was not only home to the most exciting franchise in the NHL, but was also served as the city’s main large-capacity performance venue. Even into the mid-late 1980s the general area around the square was developing and improving: commercial office towers were added to Place Alexis-Nihon in 1986, Dawson moved into its current home in 1988 and the CCA was completed the following year just down the road.
By the mid-1990s the situation had changed considerably. The Canadiens would leave in the Forum in 1996 and the subsequent ‘entertainment complex’ developed in the renovated building never quite took off as intended. The Reddy closed down about the same time as Ste-Catherine Street West began its steep decline into a bit of a ghost town, as storefronts remained vacant for well over a decade. Today there are still too many unoccupied buildings on that stretch of our city’s main commercial artery, another hospital is slated to close, and the Forum seems to be an even greater disappointment as former ‘anchor’ tenants pack up their bags.
The city’s plan to invest $6.5 million to renovate the square is definitely a step in the right direction – it needs a lot of work. But there are critics, notably City Councillor for the Peter-McGill district, Steve Shanahan. He argues that an aesthetic makeover won’t solve the square’s homeless problem.
He’s right, but then again, it’s not exactly the square’s homeless problem; it’s Montreal that has a general homeless problem. Mr. Shanahan is arguing that half the allocated sum be used to address the homeless issue as it specifically relates to Cabot Square – though he was particularly outraged the city’s plan doesn’t include the destruction of the aforementioned Métro entrance at the northwest corner of the square, immediately adjacent to the unused Vespasienne (which was, to my knowledge, never actually in use as a public pissoir, but used variously as a flower vendor and bistro or snack bar).
For people unfamiliar with the area, the Métro entrance is a rather cumbersome structure that features an oddly large vestibule and other space used variously by the STM. It’s an unnecessary structure (from a public transit perspective) that blocks access to the square and serves as a kind of homeless hangout.
This wasn’t always the case. When the Métro entrance was built it was, in my opinion, ingeniously well-designed. The entrance is oriented towards the centre of the square and this is important given the square’s former use as the Forum’s ‘front yard’ – large crowds could come out of the Forum and into the square instead of spilling out onto Atwater. Having people move into the square in turn facilitated dispersal amongst STM services – Métro on one side, the old bus terminus on Lambert-Closse on the other.
The placement of the bus terminus across from the Métro entrance also guaranteed a constant stream of foot traffic through the square, and generally speaking we tend to take decent enough care of that which we use most often.
But some years ago the decision was made to eliminate the bus terminus on Lambert-Closse, replacing them with several smaller glass shelters at multiple bus stops arranged around the square. Why this decision was made I’d really like to know. Buses still congregate on the eastern side of the square and, again somewhat ironically, the bus shelters have become makeshift pissoirs, used by the local drunks.
In the history of Cabot Square’s long demise, I think this was the first bad move. It removed people from the centre of the square and re-distributed them along its edge. Worse, the new shelters, along with hedges and decorative gates, made it difficult for see across the square, allowing people a degree of privacy inside the square. It was only a matter of time before it gained a regular homeless population – Berri Square (Place Emilie-Gamelin) suffers from exactly the same problem. When people can’t see clearly across a square, when there are aesthetic elements that block views, people generally stay out and keep to the edge. Policing these areas becomes difficult. In both cases police have resorted to simply parking their cruisers right in the middle of the squares in a show of force to drug dealers. Is it any wonder people stay out of these public spaces?
All this considered, I don’t think Cabot Square is a lost cause, the city just needs to realize it can’t throw money at the problem and hope it disappears. If we want a better functioning, more welcoming Cabot Square we have to consider what’s around the square too, and how the neighbourhood has changed in the last twenty years.
I’d argue the square could do without the current Métro entrance, but I wouldn’t recommend eliminating the entrance and the tunnel as well. Access to the Métro is a plus for any public space, but we could afford a less obtrusive entrance. Something closer to the Art Nouveau entrance at Square Victoria seems more appropriate.
It would be wise to return to one large bus terminus on Lambert-Closse, and remove all the obstructions along the edge of the square so that it can be accessed from all sides. It is a city square after all, it’s supposed to be ‘open concept’. The city’s current plan seeks to enlarge the square by expanding onto Lambert-Closse, eliminating two lanes. I’d prefer to see expansion to the south instead – that stretch of Tupper has always seemed a bit useless to me. Either way, the benefits of a single bus terminus are wide-ranging. Increased safety and security, concentration of activity, the option to build a large heated bus shelter, and that it would encourage transit users to cross through the square.
More broadly, the city needs to have a plan in place for the future of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. What will come of this massive building, arguably a heritage site worth preserving? I would hate to see it converted into condos, though I think this is unlikely. It’s institutional space and we need as much of that as we can get our hands on. Perhaps it will become a public retirement/assisted-living home, or maybe it will be bought up by Dawson College, given they’ve been over-capacity and renting space in the Forum for a while now.
At least part of the former hospital could potentially be used as a homeless shelter.
But all this will take some serious leadership from City Hall. A $6.5 million renovation plan is a good start, but the square needs rehabilitation as well. The western edge of the downtown has a lot going for it, but the city will have to develop a master plan that tackles a lot more than just the landscaping problems.
A place as ‘Westmount adjacent’ as Cabot Square should be a far more desirable place to be.
Not exactly the kind of news regular users of Montreal’s public transit system want to hear, but it looks like the city’s public transit agency is facing a budget shortfall of $20 million, and this apparently is going to result in service cuts – the first since the late 1990s despite increased usage. The city recently tabled it’s 2014 budget, which includes $12.5 million for the municipal transit agency, but this apparently isn’t enough to keep up current service rates according to STM President Philippe Schnobb.
I find it surprising that there’s money for new uniforms, however. You’d think the STM would use that money to keep buses moving and our Métro stations clean, given that it’s ridership that provides the primary revenue stream. Cutting back on the availability and quality of the principal service provided by the organization while spending money on new uniforms seems like a piss-poor idea to me. This wouldn’t happen in the private sector. Can you imagine the outrage if Air Canada cut back on flights and the general maintenance of their aircraft in a move to save money, all the while repainting the airplanes and buying new uniforms?
I guess that’s the key difference between the private and public sectors. Taxpayers aren’t shareholders, though we should be considered as such.
Above is a good example of why austerity measures don’t really work. It starts with cuts to cleanliness and maintenance, then security, and before you know it you’ve got the NYC Subway in the 1980s – filthy, unappealing, covered in graffiti and requiring police K9 units to maintain ‘law & order’. We shouldn’t follow their example. Rather we should learn from their mistakes.
Perhaps it’s political. Maybe there’ll be a back and forth and one day in a few weeks Mayor Coderre comes out and says, as a result of his fiscal prowess, the remainder of the STM’s budget shortfall will be covered by the city.
But I won’t be holding my breath. A 3% cut to service is just small enough it won’t result in mass demonstrations. Just frustration from the people most dependent on public transit, an unfortunately politically inconsequential demographic it seems.
I don’t know why they didn’t consider raising the fare. I think most public transit users would pay more to ensure, at the very least, that there are no cuts to upkeep, cleaning and maintenance.
It’s hard enough to keep our Métro stations and buses looking good – they need to be cleaned and maintained regularly or else they fall into disrepair. Haven’t we learned anything from the Champlain Bridge? Never cut back on regular maintenance – the problem not addressed today will be even more problematic tomorrow.
I included the photo above as an example. Métrovision is actually running ads boasting about the total number of screens installed throughout the system, but as most regular users will tell you, many of the screens seem to be defective. I took the above photo at Vendome a few nights back – each screen was similarly defective, some had those annoying black spots, evidence of someone having hit or thrown something at the LCD screen. At Lionel-Groulx all four projectors weren’t working on the upper deck of the station – they haven’t worked for months. At Guy-Concordia and Bonaventure the situation was much the same as at Vendome – the screens have either been busted by vandals and/or the image doesn’t display properly.
And the STM is going to cut back on maintenance?
I’d be less concerned if it weren’t for the STM’s ‘half-assing it’ approach to improving the public transit system we have. The Métrovision screens are just one example of a good idea so poorly and inefficiently executed it makes me wonder if it wasn’t done on purpose so as to ensure the need for long-term maintenance contracts. Then there’s the Métrovision screens installed behind concrete beams at Snowdon Métro, meaning it can only be seen if you’re standing directly underneath it (see photo at top). Another example, the new bus shelters at Lionel-Groulx. The STM built what I can only describe as the world’s most ineffective bus shelter:
Now, if Montreal were located 1,000 km south (and the average Montrealer stood ten feet tall) this might not be such a bad design. But such is not the case, and this is apparently, actually the best the STM could come up with.
If this is what austerity gets us, it would be best not to build at all. These shelters are useless, primarily because they don’t provide much shelter. It’s really just that simple.
I’d prefer the STM stops putting up fancy new bus shelters with interactive advertisements and just focus on making what we already have work better. Figure out a way to get rid of the slush accumulating in Guy-Concordia. Try to eliminate the pervasive stench of urine at Bonaventure. Encase all the TV screens in a plexiglas container (why wasn’t this done from the start?). Run more buses, run the Métro later etc. And for Christ’s sake – install some public washrooms!
Now, that aside, a few questions I have re: advertising.
Recently, I was dismayed to find Sherbrooke station, and several others, looking like this:
Again, who the hell at the STM thought this was a good idea?
If only I could nominate this for the worst advertising campaign in the Métro’s proud history.
I feel it demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the general aesthetic and architecture of the stations (let’s not forget, each was designed by its own team of architects, features its own art, layout etc.), not to mention serves as an excellent demonstration of how we treat our public spaces. That is, cheaply.
This is cheap, that’s the only word for it. We may as well cover all the station walls with cork board and hang staplers on the wall. Is it any wonder we also have to contend with vandals going out of their way to destroy what we have? If the people who run the system don’t appear to be terribly interested with keeping things presentable, how can they expect the people to treat it any better?
Isn’t there a slightly better way to generate advertising revenue than by pasting over the walls of our Métro stations with uninspired marketing gimmicks?
It doesn’t make any sense really. The STM is aces when it comes to designing their own branding, instructional and promotional materials, and I’d argue both the vehicles and the systems are all very well designed indeed. But when it comes to infrastructure, the simple stuff in the grand scheme of things, the STM proves to be maddeningly inconsistent. From garbage cans to benches, bus shelters to tunnels, advertising space, PA systems and TV screens, the STM has demonstrated a lack of imagination at best and incompetence at worst.
But as always, there are some interesting solutions to consider if we open ourselves to alternative ways of thinking.
There’s no question advertising is a key component of the STM’s overall plan to generate revenue, but it doesn’t have to be so much of the same old thing. As technology develops, advertising can move into interesting new territory. Take the above example. Rather than merely advertise a grocery store, TESCO brought the supermarket directly to the consumers as they wait to commute home at the end of the working day. Using your smartphone you simply scan the items you wish to purchase and place your order with online payment. The order is delivered by the end of the day. In time, developments such as a virtual store app linked to a credit or debit account could render the payment process automatic, and data provided by the user, the subway system and the smartphone could facilitate even more efficient delivery methods, timed to coincide with just after the user arrives home. The possibilities here are endless.
The TESCO virtual store model isn’t just impressive for its efficiency and the service it offers its customers, it’s also the best kind of advertising I could possibly imagine because it actually does something – it responds to my needs rather than telling me how a given store will satisfy my needs like no other. In terms of supermarkets and pharmacies the tired old pitch of incredible savings borders on the absurd (think about those idiotic Jean Coutu ads you hear on the radio set to the tune of Eine kleine Nachtmusik; ah, the refined elegance of simply unimaginable savings potential at my local chain-pharmacy! Gimme a break.)
I’d much rather have something like this serve as an advertisement. Something tells me you could easily justify slightly higher advertising rates in doing so. The STM shouldn’t wait for good design in advertising, they should push innovation in design as part of the broader image of the city as a design hub. Innovation of this type improves the overall experience enjoyed by public transit users due to the potential to save people the legitimate hassle of having to schlep to the supermarket. Yes it’s advertising, but it also provides a useful service too. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the South Koreans would be on top of this – generally speaking the mass transit systems of the Far East are prized by the citizenry, immaculately clean, punctual – a sign of modernity and progress to be enjoyed by everyone. Including a virtual supermarket in the South Korean context is simply the next step in providing an even more exceptional customer experience.
The Montreal Métro came into being eight years before the Seoul Metropolitan Subway commenced operations in 1974. Today we have a modest improvement of the original model and Seoul boasts the world’s largest, most comprehensive and most used subway system. Whereas we are complacent in our approval to cut back on station cleanliness and allow the provincial government to dictate how and when our Métro will be expanded, the Seoul system is internationally recognized for its polished look, air-conditioned cars and 4G LTE and WiFi service, in addition to overall ease of use.
We designed one of the world’s best mass transit systems over a decade before the South Koreans, and have pretty much rested on our laurels ever since. Today we’re riding 40 year-old trains and they’re operating a system generations ahead of our own.
Perhaps I’ve got a smidge too much time on my hands…
In any event, here’s my very own Montreal transit fantasy map. This is the mass transit system I’d like to see for my city, ideally within the next twenty years but hey, much sooner would be great too.
What you’re looking at is our existing Métro with the AMT system superimposed along with some improvements I think are both reasonable and would be effective at increasing use of public transit in general.
The Métro is represented much as you might expect with thick lines of green, blue, yellow and orange.
AMT commuter rail lines are indicated by the thin coloured lines and, in this graphic, only intermodal stations on those lines are indicated.
The thin red line with stations represents a possible light rail route.
White dots indicate ordinary Métro stations. Large white circles with black rings indicate Métro transfer stations, like Snowdon or Berri-UQAM. Medium size white circles with black rings indicate Métro stations that could be linked to a surface light rail system (LRT, which I’ll get into later on), while large white boxes indicate STM-AMT intermodal stations (i.e. a station in which passengers can switch from commuter rail to the Métro and vice-versa). Four stations are represented by large white boxes with rounded edges (like Bonaventure); these stations are like the aforementioned intermodal stations, though in this case there is a further connection to the proposed LRT.
Concerning extensions, I’ve used the existing AMT commuter rail network, including the soon to be completed Train de l’Est going towards Mascouche (indicated by the thin magenta line) and have added a possible route that, much like the Train de l’Est, shares part of the AMT’s Deux-Montagnes line. The turquoise-coloured line could potentially provide a third commuter rail line to the West Island, relieving the already congested and over-burdened Deux-Montagnes & Hudson lines and providing service almost as far as the Fairview Pointe-Claire shopping centre (though, admittedly, there’d be a lot of work to do to actually connect what remains of this branch with the shopping centre and it’s key bus terminus). Because so much of the Hymus Branch cuts through the Pointe-Claire industrial sector along Highway 40, it’s possible that a kind of ‘express’ service develop here (as there wouldn’t be much point developing stations between a potential terminus near Fairview and where the Hymus Branch links up with the Deux-Montagnes line). Alternatively, I suppose it wouldn’t make much difference if a train station were simply built where the line currently ends and STM buses connected it with Fairview’s bus terminal, but I digress.
I should mention I don’t favour extending the Métro to Fairview when there’s a rail corridor that could just as easily be repurposed. A third West Island rail line (especially one that would cut right through the middle of the West Island) could potentially remove tens of thousands of cars from our already overly congested roads while providing an added incentive to live on-island.
As to the Métro, I’ve included the planned Blue Line extension to Anjou, but have further included a Blue Line extension from Snowdon to the AMT’s Montreal West train station near Loyola College in NDG. Further, I’ve included a Blue Line extension through the Mount Royal Tunnel from Edouard-Montpetit to Bonaventure, so as to allow for the Blue Line to connect directly with the central business district and the downtown train stations. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, the Blue Line was originally intended to connect withe the downtown via the Mount Royal Tunnel, which is now being transferred from Canadian National to the AMT, which happens to plan both Métro and commuter rail development.
In a similar vein, I’ve prolonged the Green Line from Angrignon west through LaSalle to intersect the AMT’s Candiac line, providing an intermodal station right after the bridge, while the Orange Line has been extended north by two stops in Saint-Laurent with a new terminus at an intermodal station at Bois-Franc on the busy Deux-Montagnes Line (which currently accounts for 45% of the AMT’s passengers). The Yellow Line has also been extended to alleviate congestion on the Orange and Green lines that pass through the CBD. The new Yellow Line would have a station at (or near) the Bonsecours Market to provide better access to the Old Port and Old Montreal and would terminate at McGill rather than Berri-UQAM, with stops on Prince-Arthur (near St-Laurent in an effort to revitalize the pedestrian mall), Parc & Pine (to access the mountain, Parc Jeanne-Mance, Molson Stadium etc.) and somewhere along Milton to open up the McGill Ghetto.
And then I added the purple line along Pie-IX boulevard, running from Montreal North to the Olympic Stadium, with a transfer station where it intersects the Blue Line, and an intermodal station connecting to the AMT’s Mascouche line.
Where’s This Coming From?
Many of these extensions are based on proposals or extension studies carried out in the past. In fact, as recently as the last municipal election, Projet Montréal proposed western extensions of the Blue and Yellow lines in addition to the northern extension of the Orange line to Bois-Franc. So this map isn’t exactly original and for that reason I think it’s a safe bet we’re moving in this direction anyways, it’s just a matter of time.
In addition, using the Mount Royal Tunnel to get the Blue Line to the city, and building a new line under Pie-IX, have both been on the drawing board before (in fact, the official STM map from about 1980 to 1990 portrayed the Pie-IX line as the inevitable next step as a dotted white line).
Perhaps the most unique component of this transit map is the inclusion of a possible surface light-rail route, as indicated by the thin red line on the map, but in this case as well, I’m not exactly starting from scratch. Given that the new Champlain Bridge is supposed to have an LRT integrated into it, and that the most likely route from the bridge to the city is up the Bonaventure Corridor, I figured such a system could theoretically make use of much more of this city’s existing rail infrastructure.
Thus, the Red Line loops around the city – a light train could run from Lucien-L’Allier train station all the way to Bonaventure, the long way, and provide a kind of public transit ‘ring road’ that would connect all the extant Métro lines with all AMT commuter rail lines at multiple points of intersection.
I also added a second branch of the Red Line designed to mirror the old Expo Express Line, though my version would connect directly to the Longueuil Métro station and bus terminus, effectively providing residents of our major South Shore neighbour two convenient methods of accessing the city centre.
This would effectively turn Place Bonaventure into a major transit hub, linking the city’s two main train stations with the heart of the RÉSO and further becoming the main terminal for a potential light rail system.
Two Métro lines, six (possibly seven) commuter rail lines, an LRT system, local, commuter and regional bus service, access to the Underground City, VIA Rail and AMTRAK all concentrated into a very small, very well connected area.
I can imagine Place Bonaventure would be renamed Gare Bonaventure were such a thing to happen.
What’s the Point?
I don’t want our public transit system to become a victim of it’s own success. In the last decade use of the Métro and AMT commuter rail systems has increased dramatically, but because we’re not doing enough to expand and improve these systems along with increases in usage, we’re coming across new challenges. It’s rather ironic – our public transit system is congested. The system we devised to mitigate congestion on our roads and highways has itself become congested, and that in turn is turning people away from our public mass transit system.
I don’t think there’s a single solution, but integrating the multiple solutions we come up with is probably the right move. The Red Line LRT could provide two new mass transit connections to the South Shore, alleviating congestion on the Métro and bridges and providing an alternative to the commuter rail line. It would also help to connect various parts of the city without forcing additional passengers into the central portions of the Orange and Green lines. Similarly, modifying the Mount Royal Tunnel for Métro use and extending the Yellow Line would mean four Métro lines (rather than two) would have direct access to the massive transit hub in the heart of the financial district.
As I mentioned before, this LRT route would further be useful in linking outer segments of otherwise disconnected Métro lines and help bridge ‘high capacity transit deserts’ in some of the first ring urban residential zones.
I look at this map and I see the potential for a city that is much better connected to itself, evolving past our current model which is effectively only designed to move commuters at two different rates of operation and along two different scales of distance. The system I’ve envisioned is designed to connect as much of the city as possible to high-speed, high-capacity mass transit, while further permitting a greater amount of the most heavily populated part of the island to exist within a well-defined ‘high-access’ zone. With eleven intermodal stations, more of urban Montreal becomes accessible to suburban commuters, which in turn could provide prospective suburban home owners with many more options to choose from.
And in the city, well, imagine a system such as this along with more buses, reserved bus lanes and even bus rapid transit (BRT) replacing traditional bus routes.
Would anyone living in downtown Montreal really need a car with such a system?
Ultimately, and regardless of cleaner, more fuel efficient or otherwise electric engines, congestion is still going to be a major concern. We have to realize that our street system was designed, for the most part, in a horse-drawn era in which mass transit was the norm for everyone. Our roads aren’t really built to handle the number of cars currently using them and this is why it costs so much to repair and maintain them each and every year. Removing cars and (simultaneously) improving our public mass transit system is in my opinion the only logical way forward for our city. It wouldn’t just be good for the environment, but would be good for our pocket books as well.
In any event, something to think about. Please comment!
The mayoral contest officially kicked off today with Projet Montréal taking a strong lead, winning the idiotically-named ‘poster war’ thanks primarily to the fact the party is fielding 103 candidates and an immense volunteer effort. Aside from Projet’s street sign ubiquity, Mélanie Joly may have come in second place (who’s counting?) with her unconventional Super Woman pose and dark background posters.
In fact, the PQ has announced that they’ve set aside $38.8 million for a planning office with a two year mandate. Whether the PQ lasts that long is another issue.
So don’t get your hopes up – this isn’t a ‘shovel-in-hand’ announcement of the immediate construction of Métro tunnels. It’s more an announcement of intent to eventually do something.
When it comes to the Métro, that’s pretty much all we’ve gotten for years anyways. The Charest government made a similar announcement back in 2009 though nothing came of it, and the idea to extend the Blue Line further east dates back to the mid-1980s when the line was first developed. Of note, Charest’s 2009 plan called for closing the Orange Line loop, as well as extensions in both directions of the Yellow Line, in addition to the Blue Line extension, as you can see in the above image. Today’s announcement mentioned that a Yellow Line extension would be contemplated once the Blue Line project is completed.
Why not do both?
Why not do the 2009 plan?
Wouldn’t we save money in the long run if we streamline one big Métro expansion, rather than small, piecemeal extensions? It would certainly streamline bidding processes and purchasing, no?
The Blue Line’s proposed eastern extension to Anjou (specifically, to an intermodal terminus at the Galleries d’Anjou suburban shopping complex) will undoubtedly alleviate congestion on the Metropolitan Expressway and extend a convenient and efficient mass transit system into a broad medium density residential area. There’s no question about whether the extension is the right way to go, but we need to be vigilant regarding the estimated cost.
The PQ is projecting a $250 to $300 million cost per kilometre and a total extended length of six kilometres (about the distance from University to the Olympic Stadium along Sherbrooke) with five stations. On the outside that’s a $1.8 billion extension to serve a combined population of about 120,000 Montrealers living in the boroughs of Saint-Leonard and Anjou, one hell of an investment in a relatively small number of citizens.
The cost to extend the Orange Line to Laval by three stations cost about half that amount per kilometre, and that project was announced in the late 1990s but only completed in 2007. As you might expect, post-industrial Québec takes a lot longer to get anything done.
So don’t expect this Blue Line extension any time soon; those making the announcement today were indicating ‘the beginning of the 2020s’ for ‘full operations’.
Christ; I’ll be old by then.
I’ll say it one more time – we built 26 stations between 1962 and 1967 across three lines and it cost just under $1.5 billion (or 213.7 million in 1966 dollars).
Granted I’m obviously not an economist, but I would like to know why the cost of construction has increased so much in the past decade in particular. You’d figure we’d be getting some kind of rebate in Post Charb Commish Quebec, but this is as expensive as ever.
And we’re not exactly reinventing the wheel either – so how the hell did it suddenly become so expensive to build basic mass transit systems in our city?
There’s another issue we should consider when thinking about the Blue Line and any potential future extensions. It has the lowest ridership of all four lines and the trains are shorter by three cars (you’ll notice that the platforms at Blue Line stations have barricades at either end as the stations were designed to operate ‘full’ nine-car trains). I think this is as a consequence of the line not directly connecting with the city centre.
As long as we’re re-hashing old ideas, why not take a closer look at the original design of Edouard-Montpetit station, which was intended to act as a transfer point between the Blue Line and the commuter rail line passing fifty meters under the Métro in the Mount Royal Tunnel (as you can see in the station’s original design plan above). The tunnel is now owned and operated by the Agence Métropolitain de Transport and is in need of upgrading to support new dual-power locomotives inasmuch as some kind of emergency exit at some point in between the tunnel entrances. I would argue strongly in favour of developing a connection between the Métro and the Mount Royal Tunnel as a means to transfer passengers on the Blue Line to Gare Centrale. This would not only require high-speed, high-capacity elevators (as they have at some Parisian Métro stations), but the potential construction of a short ‘by-pass’ tunnel deep underground. A difficult job no doubt, but far from impossible.
The benefit is that the Blue Line becomes a lot more useful with this upgrade. I’d even argue prioritizing this element of the original design before any eastern extension. If this connection were made, transferring at Edouard-Montpetit would give Blue Line passengers access to the Orange and Green lines via the Gare Centrale and Place Ville-Marie portion of the Underground City. For the hundreds of thousands of people living along the line’s route, Downtown Montreal suddenly becomes much, much closer – about five minutes from Université de Montréal to the heart of the financial district.
Such a development could lead to increased land values of properties within proximity of the Blue Line, not to mention give the Blue Line’s extension a more practical raison-d’etre. Call me a cynic, but I smell subtle vote-buying.
Don’t get me wrong – expanding eastwards is a good if very costly idea, and I’d like to know why this is taking so long and costing so much.
But if we’re going to extend the Blue Line’s reach, why not also expand its capacity and increase its utility as well?
I have a feeling realizing the original plan would have the effect of increasing ridership on the Blue Line to such an extent that the STM upgrades to nine-car trains on the line, thus giving the line the ability to truly operate at full capacity.
In any event, I should close with a thought.
There was once a time in which elected officials had to deliver on promises made, otherwise they’d lose the public’s confidence and the right to govern.
This is not the case today. The people are so incredibly disengaged and cynical we don’t expect anything from our supposed leaders at all. We carry on despite them. Sometimes they do something good, most of the time they’re an annoyance, occasionally they’re discovered to be outright criminals.
I don’t know what was so different about life in this city back in the 1960s and 1970s that made the people here demand action and quick results for their political support. I don’t know what lit a fire under people’s asses to get shit done. I know many people suggest Expo and Olympics being the sole motivating factors, but surely this can’t be the case. The people wanted action and their will was respected. We elected, and kept electing, a visionary mayor, who paid us back by giving us a truly global city to live, love and play in.
Today we get flashy press conferences that ultimately only promise more study and preparation for some interminable project whose only purpose seems to be to sap whatever confidence the people have in their elected officials.
I suppose my question is why the PQ isn’t coming to us with a plan to actually begin development?
I wish government had the self-respect and restraint to only bother the people with announcements of actual accomplishments.