Thursday, 6 October 2011

New Bridge across the St. Lawrence Must Have Public Transit As Well as Tolls

Federal, provincial and municipal authorities announced yesterday that one of the most heavily used links between the island of Montreal and the rest of the world, the Champlain Bridge, will be replaced by a toll bridge.

The reaction was generally favourable: the bridge, opened in the 1960s, has suffered considerable erosion and repairs don't seem to be keeping up with damage. Three aspects of the proposal have raised questions though: its reliance on a public-private partnership for financing, the proposed use of tolls, and the absence, so far, of provision for public transport in the plans.

The use of PPPs for hospital and other projects is increasingly coming under fire: governments can borrow at lower rates than private enterprise and its supposed "efficiency " is frequently outweighed by the profit motive. But if any sector of PPP construction has worked, it is road construction.

As for tolls, they are being promoted as a brake on urban sprawl, and a way of reducing traffic in city centers. However, since this bridge will link an area already well-developed to the city, how much tolls would reduce the attraction of the South Shore is not clear.

But what is clear is that any project must promote public transport. According to Transit Alliance, quoted in today's Montreal Gazette. the single lane reserved for commuter buses carry 19,000 passengers each morning rush hour. That's as many as carried by the three other lanes of private vehicle traffic combined, as well as commuters using the Metro from the South Shore Longueuil state.

Transit Alliance advocates a light rail link, while another group, Transit 2000, wants suggests splitting the number of lanes equally between cars and public transit, with two lanes for cars, two lanes for light-rail, buses and carpooling.

Construction of the bridge is still several years away, but now's the time for all the governments concerned to insist on more public transit.

1 comment:

lagatta à montréal said...

They also must make provision for cyclists, as our numbers are increasing. Perhaps the most feasable way of doing this is accommodating cyclists (as well as people who are otherwise travelling as pedestrians, obviously) in the light-rail cars, though a biycle lane would also be nice.

Like Laval, the South Shore suburbs just opposite Montréal should be viewed as urban or urbanizable areas and densified to Montréal levels (note what is happening near the Montmorency métro in Laval, and what occurred around the Longueuil métro) to mitigate further sprawl. The real disaster is much farther out, and a social and environmental absurdity.