Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Good News, Bad News the Day after Montreal's Real Car-less Day

Yesterday was traffic Hell, one of the worst rush hours in memory. Or so said the traffic reporters this morning. Things went well on Monday in the wake of the second big snow storm in two week because people either stayed home or took public transit, but on Tuesday it was gridlock city. At 3:30 p.m., after 20 minutes on a nearly immobilized bus on Park Avenue, I saw that a woman was walking faster than the bus was crawling, so I got out and walked too. When I caught up with her, we both laughed at how much better time we were making on foot.

Yet there was some good transit news yesterday: Quebec Transport Minister Julie Boulet and Joël Gauthier, head of the regional transport authority (the Agence métropolitaine de transport or AGM) announced contracts for 160 new double decker train cars to be built by Bombardier’s La Pocatière plant. The $136 million investment will serve Montreal’s suburban commuter train lines: with the first cars scheduled to be delivered in 2009.

The AGM has seen its ridership go up by 120 per cent over the last 10 years, in spite of the fact that its 193 cars are at least 40 years old. Currently about 65,000 passengers take AGM train during rush hours, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who take buses and the Métro (the STM—Société de transport de Montréal—records more than 2.2 million trips a day.)

The new train cars, however, will be (maybe ironically) a step in the right direction.

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