Thursday, 12 June 2008

Montreal Transit News: Mayor Desires a Streetcar, and Judge Rules that Impact Hearings Are Not Another Bridge to Cross

More on transit: the Montreal executive committee approves calling for tenders on tramway studies at the same time that a judge turns down an injunction aimed at stopping construction of a new bridge out of the city.

While the first item might sound like good news, it seems to me that it is just about as depressing as in the second case. In it Judge Pierre Béliveau decided that the province has the right to proceed with its project to extend an autoroute into the city even though the details were unknown when environmental impact hearings were held three years ago. Several environmental groups argued that approval had been given based on such incomplete information that the impact should be studied again. The judge also refused to waive the fees that the groups are required to pay since they lost their case.

In the first case, Mayor Gérald Tremblay seemed extremely pleased to announce the first steps toward three new tramway lines. One, to open in 2013, would circle part of the downtown, from Griffintown to the Old Port and back up to the theatre district. Two others, scheduled for later, would run up Park Avenue and Côte des Neiges boulevard into heavily settled parts of town.

Tremblay also announced that a bus line following the proposed route of the first trolley would start running June 23. Predicting a ridership of 15,000 a day, he suggested it would show the need for the tram.

Possibly, but it is already clear that the buses on Park Avenue and Côte de Neiges carry far more passengers than that, and also that building a tram could actually make things worse on them.

While in each case the trolley could run for part of its distance along a wide boulevard, just at the point where better service would useful—that is, where people live—the two streets become much narrower. Already they are congested with traffic, and it is hard to see how devoting the road space necessary for the tracks would make matters any better. Widening the streets to accommodate the tracks would destroy vibrant shopping streets, while stopping the tram line before reaching the narrow portion would mean that passengers would have to transfer to buses for the rest of their trips.

Far better to improve bus service, by simply running far more buses on these two lines. If Montreal mayors want to have a tramway to compare with Paris and Toronto, they’d be better to think of building one to the suburbs on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river and supporting better commuter rail service from north and west of the center city.


Muzition said...

I think a lot of transit problems can be lessened by improving bus services. And by "improving", I mean having more buses come more often on the most crowded routes.

Anonymous said...

I respecfully disagree. Trams can carry far more pedestrians than buses can, and are much more pleasant (you can read on them, they don't make you carsick). There are at least 14 lines in Amsterdam (probably more) and many of them run along narrow streets for part of the way. They displace cars. More trams, fewer cars (make them more expensive to run) and have truck deliveries during certain hours. Works fine there.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Are the trams in Amsterdam recent or decades old? In the Hague they've been there since before the automobile became king, I believe, which means the city has evolved around them. Putting trams down existing streets is considerably more difficult. In Paris the new line follows for the most part a swath of land which was the site of a wall, meaning that the changes to the fabric of the city was much less than it would be if you ran a line down Park Avenue.

Trolley lines to Brossard from the Lionel Groulx metro might be a good idea, or down the middle of Henri Bourassa (quite wide medians) to connect the two metro lines going north on the island.

And increased use of bicycles would be great all round.


Anonymous said...


Montreal grew up around streetcar tracks too before the automobile became king. The difference is that Amsterdam left them there while we tore them up or paved them over. The three routes (Mont Royal Blvd., Park, Cote-des-Neiges)the Mayor wants, were all served by streetcars with the exception of Cote-des-Neiges north of Queen Mary.