I couldn’t possibly have prepared myself to meet Jason Prince.

The unyielding torrent of information that came out of him was bewildering at first – who the hell is this guy?

Turns out I was interviewing a university professor, a specialist in social economics, collective entrepreneurship and community banking and above all an individual with his ear to the ground in a manner I haven’t seen before. Jason Prince is hoping to be borough mayor of the Sud Ouest borough, one of Montreal’s most unique and complex mega-neighbourhoods and he seems to know it better than just about anyone else. But it’s his perspective that gets me.

We talked for over three hours and worked through more coffee than I was intending to consume past 9pm. At one point he began illustrating some of his ideas by drawing on the flip side of his placemat. It was magic.

By the end of it all I think we were both completely exhausted, but at the very least I left the conversation with a far, far better idea of what’s going on in my borough and what some of the big-picture grassroots issues are. If that seems inherently contradictory, I’ll tell you now you’re wrong. And suggest strongly you speak with Mr. Prince.

We should be so lucky to bend his ear for an hour or two… Utterly fascinating in every way.

What do you want for this city?

Well, there was something I was just thinking about, like an AirBnB but for apartments in our city. Like if you have an apartment in St. Henri but you’ve always wanted to live in the Mile End you could organize a swap online. Something of that sort would be kinda neat no?

That’s a million dollar idea right there…

I’ll tell you what I want. I want a bus, an articulated bus, running on highway 20 from the far end of the West Island going all the way downtown. I want it to run in a reserved lane, on an express schedule, stopping at a select number of stops. During rush hour, I want one of these buses running every five to ten minutes.

Sounds like a BRT.

Yeah, except mine will be painted bright pink.

Come again?

To attract attention. You won’t miss that, no one will. And on the side of this bus, or perhaps integrated into its outlandish overall aesthetic, would be the following three phrases, in both official languages of course: free wifi, free newspapers, free coffee.

Free coffee?

Free with your STM-branded plastic travel mug of course.

You want a barista on the bus?

Ha. Well that might be a bit much, perhaps we’ll have to start off with those super-sized carafes for the first little bit, but I can imagine such a system as I’d like to see would have new, purpose-built buses. So perhaps we could make some room for an actual person who could serve the highest-octane coffee money can buy.

This is one hell of a bus!

Yeah. I think it’s the kind that will actually get people to give up their cars. Imagine all those people sitting in traffic each and every day on the 20. Imagine sitting there going nowhere fast, and every five minutes this big pink bus just blasts past you. And each one is filled with happy people comfortably zooming off to work. No traffic, no parking, no bad road conditions and no hassle.

This. This is how you get 40-50 000 people to give up commuting with their own car. If we can offer this kind of service to car-crazy suburbia, the STM will succeed not only in securing their own prosperous future, but will further have served the public good by taking a big chunk out of our yearly carbon emissions.

And it’s such a win-win situation. Less traffic means our roads and transport infrastructure lasts longer, means your car lasts longer and costs less to maintain. It means our streets get cleared faster after a snowstorm. It means fewer accidents. And best of all it will improve air quality and the overall quality of life.

Driving is fun, no one’s going to deny that. But commuting by car in Montreal is just idiotic, especially if there are other viable options. Who has two hours a day to give up, just to crawl along in traffic? We want people to take public transit, but in order to secure new ridership, we have to offer new options.

So you want BRTs over tram systems?

No, not necessarily. I think there’s room for both. But for starters, lets get some nifty new super buses on reserved lanes on our highways. Let’s do what we can to really cut down on commuter traffic.

redpath sugar
The former Redpath Sugar refinery in St-Henri (photo mybis.net)

This borough presents a lot of contrasts and people keep jawin’ on about how it’s going to be the ‘Next Plateau’ or something of the sort. There’s been a lot of gentrification already, but the shadow of de-industrialization looms long and large. What will propel this borough into the next plateau of liveability and economic sustainability. In sum, what will bring the jobs back to the Sud-Ouest?

We need to maximize all the potential economic benefits of the new superhospital. I’ve been working on getting the MUHC to incorporate a strategy for economic development and consider the hospital’s effect on employment, traffic, housing etc.

What caught my attention is the potential for former industrial space in Saint Henri to get recycled for the purposes of medical technology companies. Unlike Westmount and Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the Sud-Ouest borough has a lot of room to handle medical technology firms, research and development labs and a host of related economic activities. In sum, there may be a silver lining to this project many thought would be another white elephant.

But aside from that, did you know there are 240 manufacturers located in the Sud-Ouest?

That’s many more than I would have assumed…

Right, because they’re all much smaller than the giants that once powered the local economy. But what’s left isn’t nothing, it’s much more than that. It’s a foundation that can be built upon.

I believe Saint Henri’s future may not be strictly residential. We must avoid a condo ghetto here and that means taking a serious look at the economic agents which power balanced neighbourhoods.

We need to establish target goals and a preferred mix of activities and then plug in what’s needed to accomplish what’s best for this borough. While the MUHC hasn’t formally agreed to any specific economic spin-off model for the new superhospital, if elected, I’d certainly make it a priority to get them to adhere to a mutually beneficial model, one that allows Québec Inc. to plug into the MUHC and use the Sud-Ouest for new economic activity.

What does the Sud-Ouest need, more than anything else, from their next mayor and from the next municipal administration?

Access to good quality, affordable housing. Whatever the borough’s future, affordable housing must be maintained.

It’s unfortunate that the Régie de logement isn’t working as well as it used to, that the former administrations provided so many loopholes for developers to completely ignore the real housing needs of the city and that the CMHC doesn’t actually build affordable housing any more.

They don’t?

Nope, haven’t for some time either. And Harper’s mentioned he wants to scrap it outright, which could lead us to a mortgage crisis like they had in the States. But that’s another issue.

You always need to be wary of press releases and newsers on Fridays. A couple Fridays back Premier Marois announced ‘a significant expansion’ of the Métro. Typically Fridays are when governments or corporations release bad news (because we’ll forget about it over the weekend), although in this case I think it was calculated to drive up positive sentiment towards the government by giving us a weekend to consider the possibilities of a major investment in public infrastructure.

Madame Marois has been, as you doubtlessly already know, taking quite a bit of flack for her proposed Québec Values Charter, to which all four Montreal mayoral candidates quickly denounced both the charter and the ministers responsible for it. And so, with an election looming on the horizon, Ms. Marois has decided to try and win hearts and minds with a Blue Line extension, east, to the Galleries d’Anjou or thereabouts.

Estimated cost: $2 billion.

But here’s the catch: it won’t be open until ‘sometime in the 2020s’ and all that’s been set aside for the moment is $40 million for a planning office with a two year mandate. So all the hullaballoo for nothing; we’re not going to see any action for quite some time, and I have my suspicions Ms. Marois’ government won’t see 2014.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely cynical. It’s just that we’ve gone through these motions before, as recently as 2009 in fact. On September 16th of that year ex-Premier Charest and ex-Mayor Tremblay announced a (comparatively) massive Métro expansion involving extensions of the Blue Line east to Anjou, in addition to extensions of the Yellow Line through Longueuil and closing the Orange Line loop across Laval and down through Cartierville.

And nothing came of that project either. Worse, costs were estimated about half what we’re being told it will cost per kilometre, about $300 million.

The last Métro extension, three stations into Laval completed in 2007, cost three-quarters of a billion dollars and was both severely delayed and grossly over budget.

The last Métro line to be completed (incidentally, the Blue Line) was so over-budget it actually resulted in a provincial moratorium on Métro expansion, one that lasted from 1988 until 2004. The Blue Line was originally designed to connect with the Mount Royal Tunnel, which passes directly underneath Edouard-Montpetit station, so it could provide access to downtown Montreal, but this was cancelled due to high cost. As you might imagine, the original design of the Blue Line extended all the way to – you guessed it – Anjou.

Edouard Monpetit Metro - original design
Edouard Monpetit Metro – original design

I’m not anti-expansion per se, but I think we need to be a lot smarter about it. I want the next mayor of Montreal to put a wholly new Métro financing and development system into place, one that is self-sustaining and has a single mission: to continuously expand the Métro into the higher density boroughs until much of the island, Laval and South Shore are fully inter-connected.

We need something like a crown corporation at the city level that would be responsible for building new tunnels and stations on an accelerated schedule and would employ engineers, architects, technicians and construction workers directly, so as to eliminate subcontracting out to private firms. Doing so has so far only resulted in graft, nepotism and fraud.

It would cost less if the city simply did the work itself. Unlike the private sphere, the public’s interest is to reduce, not inflate, costs.

We need to ask ourselves what we want our Métro to look like in twenty, thirty and forty years and determine where is best to expand. Much of the work has already been done for us so we don’t need to be too creative, the question is figuring out how to get it all done as quickly as possible, how to streamline the operation etc. At $300 million per kilometre we’re already within the ‘cost prohibitive’ range; if costs continue to spiral out of control (or if we continue to use an antiquated and inefficient development funding method) we simply won’t be able to expand the Métro at all.

And not being able to expand to meet current needs will preclude future urban densification, a stated goal of just about all the current mayoral candidates.

The Métro map I want to look at in twenty years time features a Blue Line connected to the city through the Mount Royal Tunnel, extending east to Anjou and west from Snowdon to an inter-modal station in Montreal-West, an addition of about five stations on each end. The future map has a much longer Yellow Line, extended by four or five stations to CEGEP Edouard-Montpetit, with another extension of this line up through the Latin Quarter towards Parc and Pine, before going back down to McGill Station.

This north-western extension of the Yellow Line from Berri-UQAM would alleviate congestion on the Green and Orange Line segments that pass through the downtown core. The Orange Line loop would be closed with inter-modal stations at Bois-Franc to alleviate congestion on the AMT’s Deux-Montagnes commuter-rail line.

I can also imagine the need for between two and three wholly new Métro lines. Based on population density alone, I’d argue we need a Métro line to run from Cote-Vertu east through Bordeaux and Ahuntsic, intersecting with Sauvé station on the Orange Line and continuing through Montréal-Nord with a terminus at CEGEP Marie-Victorin.

The AMT’s new ‘Train de l’Est’ will pass through here, but the cost of a monthly AMT pass may be too expensive for some of the poorer residents of the area. Moreover, it will likely be crowded with passengers coming in from farther east, so I think a ‘northern ridge’ Métro line would be a logical next step. It would provide Métro access to about 400 000 people. Another new line would likely need to be built in the East End, running from the Back River to the Green Line, along either Pie-IX or Lacordaire/Dickson.

Ultimately, we can’t continue building our Métro in a piecemeal fashion and the city has expanded beyond the range of the existing system. By developing the Métro within the existing high-density urban and semi-urban environments, we can further seek to increase on-island property values inasmuch as increase residential density.

* Top image from DashSpeed’s Fantasy Metro Expansion

In an FTB SmartPhone Community Report, Emily Campbell speaks with Projet Montreal City Councillor Peter McQueen (Notre-Dame-de-Grace) and community activist Marlo Turner Ritchie who aren’t impressed with traffic plans surrounding the new McGill University Health Centre Super-Hospital. They and other local pedestrians, public transit users and cyclists don’t want to be cut off from an entire neighbourhood…

Dear clients, your attention please,” the announcement (in French) rang out with a sense of self-importance and urgency across the platform, “we are currently testing the announcement system.” Fair enough, I guess, though a little amusing in how it was so anti-climactic. Then it hit me: the voice had just called us clients.

We weren’t in a store. We were waiting for a train in a Montreal metro station, part of a public transportaion network spanning the island. The operative word being public. Yes, I did pay my fare to ride, as did everyone else on the platform (in theory), but that doesn’t make me a customer.

Call me passenger, traveller, transit system user, citizen even, just please don’t call me a client. I’m not. Just like the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) isn’t a business, or at least it shouldn’t see itself as one.

It’s a public utility that does need to charge a fee to function. It also should balance its books, but it should not be run like a for profit corporation.

Unfortunately that’s not how the brass sees it. Just look at how they’re policing the network: with real city cops. Now while the Montreal Police are, presumably, dealing with actual crime in the transit system (as they should), every time I see them, they’re doing something else, namely checking for proof of payment. They stand in lines four or five deep, stopping people entering and leaving the metro. I’ve even seen them board buses to check for that little ticket stub that you’re supposed to keep (whatever happened to faith in the driver, but I digress).

The logic put forth by those behind this scheme, or at least by those tasked with enforcing it, is that (as one cop told a friend of mine) the system loses money to fare jumpers. But how much money are they wasting dedicating resources and paying salaries to prevent those lost revenues? Surely more than they lose. Well, not if you factor in the hefty fines the cops give out to those they catch.

This isn’t about stopping passengers who are trying to avoid paying $3, it’s about generating large amounts of revenue through punishments. It’s not about saving money, it’s about making it from the public and using an actual police force to do it, intimidation tactics and all.

Let’s put this in perspective. Imagine a private business, say a clothing store, using actual cops to protect its business interests. Not fair, right? What makes that business worthy of public, armed security and the flower shop down the street not?

But wait, proponents of the armed cop ticket checkers on the transit system may argue, it is fair because the metro and bus network isn’t some ordinary private business, it’s a public utility and therefore, a public police force is a justifiable organization to use as security.

I’m confused. If they’re arging that it’s a public utility, which it is, then they may be able to justify the use of cops, but they can’t in any way, shape or form, justify using those cops to generate profits from travellers as though they were customers. Nor can they call members of the public who use this public utility clients or customers, as apparently they have started doing.

I realize they’re not the only utility that behaves like this. Hydro, for example, has been treating everyone as customers for years, but that’s a much larger nut to crack and one that people living in a modern urban setting really can’t avoid (well, there is off-grid, but that’s tricky). Public transit isn’t in the same boat.

Some people have cars, some people have bikes, some people have money for taxis and many have use of their feet. There are options. Public transit is an option that should be encouraged and promoted. Many agree with that notion, but not all of them, or more specifically not most of those in power to change things, realize that the way to promote a public utility isn’t through an ad campaign, it’s through making the service accessible to as many as possible and not making people feel like they are entering a profit-driven police state every time they head underground to get around.

Higher transit fares discourage people from riding. Getting rid of the six ticket pack (check it out, it just happened) doesn’t help either. Neither does not accepting monthly or weekly passes or even the two ticket discount when entering the Montreal metro system from off-island. Yes, I know that it involves a deal with one of the two other transit systems, but I think it’s worth it to either negotiate a better deal or else bite the bullet and pay the small expense that makes it possible for people to not have to pay different rates depending on where they enter the metro. Think about it, unified pricing helped strengthen the New York subway and the subway helped build the city.

At the very least, the STM should realize it doesn’t have a monopoly and start acting like a true public utility that works for the benefit of the public. It needs to realize that the citizens who use the service may be many things, but are in no way mere exploitable clients. Then, the statement in the following song would ring true…

Back in October, Taylor Noakes brought up the Conservative “stimulus” plan for the Champlain bridge. Now he looks deeper and sees that this is more than just a bad idea, but rather a symptom of the larger problem of corruption within the system…

I’m not an accountant but I can’t believe that the cost of constructing a $5 billion bridge can be done without cost to the taxpayers. Where will the initial capital come from? Who will pay for the design, materials, salaries, equipment etc?

The Tories have stated that an initially two-dollar toll will be collected and that will pay off the bridge “without cost to the taxpayer”. The toll may one day recoup the initial capital investment, but that investment will most certainly be coming out of the pockets of the taxpayers up-front, unless the fed and province feel initial capital can be covered through investment from the private sector. In that case, we need to figure out what the interest will be on such an immense loan.

All of this aside, we haven’t left the box yet; what if I were to tell you that keeping the bridge serviceable for the next decade has been pegged at only $25 million? And what if I were to further tell you that replacing the Champlain Bridge (without expansion) was estimated to only cost $1.3 billion back in 2007? Moreover, if adjusted for inflation, the cost of the Champlain Bridge in today’s money would only be about $250 million, though this figure doesn’t account for the rise of construction costs (which may be artificially high and thus kind of useless given the established corruption in the Québec construction industry).

And all of this is secondary to the main issue: what is the bridge designed for? The simple answer is that it allows about 159,000 vehicles to cross the Saint Lawrence each day and that is about as much daily traffic as it can handle. So if more than 159,000 people need to use their cars to get into the city, the city, province and fed need to find a way to get those people onto the island in a more convenient and less ecologically damaging manner.

Consider a 2009 plan prepared by the provincial government estimated to cost $4 billion to add 20km and between ten and twelve new stations to the Montréal Métro, extending the Blue and Yellow Lines, and closing the Orange Line. That plan spread the cost across the entire metropolitan region, across three cities, and would likely draw at least one hundred thousand new riders from the South Shore alone.

All of a sudden the lifespan of all the existing bridges would in turn increase, given the drop in automobile traffic across all spans, and the Champlain would no longer be in dire need of replacement. Two megaprojects of similar cost, though extending the Métro benefits far more citizens and guarantees a better dollar value for the taxpayers. This is stimulus done right because it is far-sighted, benefits a majority as opposed to a minority and further allows for stimulus in a niche domain, in this case Métro design and construction.

But when stimulus spending is viewed as a source of financial reward to party stalwarts, the project tends to be organized and designed as though it were a consumable object. And so, instead of designing a bridge to last forever, we design infrastructure to require near-constant maintenance, or take a very long time and very large budget to complete.

Every infrastructure project necessarily becomes a megaproject for the status it brings, for its marketability and political connotations. Thus, those responsible for us are tasked by the public’s failing comprehension of the purpose of government to simply demand as much money as they possibly can so that they “get what’s theirs” first and foremost.

How many Canadian voted strategically in favour of a Conservative candidate during the last election because it’s a fait accompli that Tory and otherwise strategic ridings generally get a disproportionate amount of financial stimulus money? Perhaps we’re searching for a strange equilibrium where eventually every electoral district in Canada gets a $5 billion cash infusion, though it seems as though those on the receiving end of the stimuli don’t change all too often with Tory administrations.

Ask Tony Clement how it’s paid off for the needy constituents of Toronto’s cottage country. And ask yourself if you think this is a financially tenable economic model, whether it can be sustained, or whether we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

The astounding thing is that this kind of behaviour is lambasted as “excessive socialist spending” and “corruption disguised as socialism” when proposed by a Liberal or NDP member of parliament, and “investing in Canadian families” when proposed by the Tories. They benefit from manipulating elements of our ideology towards their own self-interests and then have the audacity to call us thieves seeking to ruin the economy to fulfill some kind of anarchistic desire to hasten the collapse of our society. Trying to untangle this misguided web of rhetoric leaves me feeling hung over, but the progressively inclined have no choice but to imbibe each time we’re confronted with the spastic outbursts and double-speak of so many glossy-eyed young Conservatives, fed talking points by master puppeteers.

A guy about my age accosted me at a restaurant about a week before the last election when he overheard me talking about my NDP leanings with several similarly minded individuals. He was clearly looking for a fight, and was agitated, as though he felt compelled to exorcise my socialist sympathies for fear of my own damnation. It was frustrating and very off-putting. But what could we do, we had to step up to the trough of life and take in a big sip of crazy.

The People have a right to move.

So too, does the State it’s vital that the State have the ability to move large numbers of people and quantities of materiel to support the population whenever they call for it. And the People and the State are one given that the State would not exist without the People. I find it odd that I would have to go through this diatribe, but given the state of political discourse in this country, this world, it is vital too that the people recognize the State in a democracy must work in the service of the collective. Yes, our society is based on Socialist principles.

A populist appeal, a vision for strategic State economic-planning and the real threat of losing our national sovereignty compelled John A. Macdonald, our beloved drunken-buffoon of a first Prime Minister, to work towards completing Canada’s first transcontinental rail link. It was done as a means to encourage British Columbia to join Confederation, not to mention that a transcontinental link was necessary for continued economic expansion and would further solidify the foundation of the fragile young state. Despite a near chronic lack of funding and the Pacific Scandal, the link was completed by the mid-1880s, and Canada was bound by a railway. Canada today has not one, but two major international rail carriers; they are in fact among the largest transportation companies and networks in the entire world.

But when it comes to moving people in Canada, well, we’re coming up short. That’s being overly polite we’ve shat the bed. Canada, once a world leader in railway design and associated technologies & services, is today considerably behind the times. We have no high-speed link none and nowhere in Canada do trains travel in excess of 200km/hour. In fact, most don’t go faster than 150km/hour, and that’s painfully slow given the speed of modern trains. Compared to a growing list of nations, such as France, the UK, Germany, Japan and China, Canada lags behind and lacks something largely becoming vital to a first world transportation system a high-speed electric train. What’s worse is that we have the technology and the industry not to mention the wide-open expanses to build a system that could link the nation in incomparable ways. And it would make sense that we ought to have one too except that time and time again, the Canadian People choose the path of least resistance, and choose the party that looks best on camera. This party, whether wearing Grit Red or Tory Blue, has no real plans for high-speed rail in Canada because they exist in a state of perpetual TV-readiness; prepared to argue, never to act.

It would seem that the Canadian People, much like our American cousins, have lost sight of their responsibility to demand progressive action from their elected representatives. Whom they elect, they elect to fight to build what is missing, provide what is lacking instead, our political battles aren’t over projects anymore, they’re over nuances in policy, in personal attacks and the promotion of an endless cavalcade of wars on apparent immoralities. Who has time to build a world-class high-speed train network when you’re caught up fighting for abstinence-only sex education in some rural backwater middle school, right?

There was once a time when the Prime Minister felt a personal responsibility to build a transcontinental rail link as a means to connect the whole country though also to propel the development of smaller provincial and city networks as well so that all Canadians could easily move around our great nation. Today, trying to do the same on VIA if you want a berth that is will cost you thousands of dollars and take several days. The only people who seem to be able to afford the privilege of crossing our country by rail are retired middle-class types who think it might be romantic. Good lord! Are you telling me there’s no practical need?

I think it’s obvious our country has to invest in affordable high-speed rail transit, and provide all Canadians a quick and efficient means to get across this vast nation. I think it’s a right shared by all of us, and the State has a responsibility to provide it to us. But we’re clearly going to have to make it a priority for them. Once again, the State works towards the benefit of the People always.

Consider what your life would be like if you could hop on a regularly scheduled bullet train from Montréal to Toronto and the trip took less than three hours, was perfectly comfortable, and cost a fraction of a current regular fare ticket. A high-speed line serving the Windsor-Québec City corridor would attract large numbers of riders based on novelty and geography alone and in so doing, just such a system could potentially move massive quantities of people throughout this region each day. If the distance from Montréal to Toronto is about 600 km, and some French and Japanese bullet train models currently travel in excess of 350km/hour, then it is foreseeable that a future high-speed network in Canada may reach even higher speeds. Imagine a ten-hour trip to Vancouver from Montréal? It’s technically possible now, and the sheer volume of people that could be moved by just such a system would allow significant savings for travellers, which in turn would pay back the initial investment. What’s more, a high-speed link connecting major cities across the country could itself spur the development of new provincial systems to allow even greater rail coverage.

Rail seems to me to be an inherently socially conscious means of transit. It’s big, it’s fast, it can move a lot of people, who in turn share the limited space within. Most importantly, it can be ecologically and economically sustainable, and was initially instituted in this nation because our elected leaders felt they owed it to the People to link up as many small towns and big cities as possible to the same, shared network.

There’s no reason not to invest in rail. We need to establish a far better degree of inter-connectivity in Canada, and should further encourage people to abandon more polluting technologies in favour of the State-sponsored socially conscious alternative. We need to make it easy for people to get out and visit the country we don’t do this nearly enough, and it isn’t getting any easier. Canadians need to realize that their nation is massive and diverse, and if it was cheap to get around I’m certain many more of us would jump at the opportunity to get out and explore it. But it will take the will of the People to elect a State that seeks to invest in itself, as that is the best method to encourage new growth and a stronger economy.

We need a transportation revolution in Canada to improve all our lives, but we must also be willing to pay for it, and recognize that strategic planning does not bestow much instantaneous gratification. And perhaps this is why so few of our politicians promote it they likely won’t be around to reap the benefits of their petitioning as their political career is a mere stepping stone into the world of corporate governance.

And that is the great sad truth of our era, and something I hope we’ll one day do without, because I’m getting sick and tired of spending seven to ten hours travelling to Toronto on the Megabus. Seriously, what’s up with that twenty minute mad-dash at the Kingston Bus Terminal Tim Horton’s anyways?



A rail shuttle to Montreal's airport may be on the way if a decision can ever be made as to which track to use (photo from railpictures.net)

While I and most would prefer to jet off to faraway lands during a Montreal January, many of us get our holidays during the summer months. We in the Montreal area have an admitted problem with our (lack of a) transportation corridor between downtown and the Dorval Airport *caugh* Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (can I call it Petia?).

Any well-off person will consider taking a taxi. Unfortunately they’ll likely fall victim to the constant traffic problems on the 20 autoroute. Taking the bus will yield the same results as there are no reserved bus or taxi lanes on this stretch of road. Another problem with taking STM busses to the airport is that unless you board the new 747 Express bus, which idiotically does not

From the Dorval bus station and existing train stations you can see the airport, but you'll certainly have to wait to get there (photo from barrysbest.net)

stop at the Dorval bus station, you’ll have to wait for the 204 (the only other bus that stops at the airport) at the Dorval station, which only comes about every half an hour. And this while the airport is within eyesight.

Having already begun montrositizing the Dorval Circle for increased single occupancy vehicles capacity, the people who oversee transportation have agreed that they would like to add a train shuttle to Petia. Seems simple enough. But in Montreal nothing is ever simple.

Planners, politicians and residents are presented with a dilemma of which track to use. From downtown to the airport the shuttle could use: The CP track, on the north side, which is currently used by CP (duh!) for freight and by the AMT for commuter rail service. It runs from Lucien l’Allier metro station to the West Island and beyond and trains would have access to all existing AMT train stations. The CN tracks are to the south and are used by CN for freight and by Via Rail for longer-distance commuter services like going to Ottawa or Toronto on a Via train.

My proposal: Extend CP line to Petia. Use existing quick, efficient route. The AMT seems to agree with me at the moment.

The CP line (yellow) and CN line (red): (photo from The Gazette)

Westmounters however live along the CP line and love the NIMBY philosophy, wanting no more rail traffic anywhere near them. I fail to see how they are more important than everyone along the CN line in St-Henri, Point St-Charles and Griffintown combined.

While Westmount’s city hall has decided to spend millions to build a brand new, underground NHL-sized hockey arena, which will be the city’s 2nd full-size indoor rink, they won’t put together whatever measly sum is needed for a proper noise barrier along the CP line. At some point we know someone in the Westmount administration had some sense, as part of such a wall was started at the bottom of Abbott Street but the project was never expanded.

Common sense should dictate that an existing train line going from Lucien L’allier and the Bell Centre, being the quickest route to Dorval, could be extended easily to the airport. From a logistical point of view it’s easier simply because it’s on the north side of the two lines and the airport also happens to be on the north. No need for any awkward train interchanges or overpasses. Just build a noise wall for Westmount. The CP track is the shorter, faster line. Just look at a map and see for yourself.

Many are instead arguing to drag our plane-bound along the CN tracks, including Gerard Tremblay and the Petia management. This plan would be far more expensive and would drag passengers slowly through the neighbourhoods of Griffintown, Point St-Charles and St-Henri, then under whatever mess of the Turcot Interchange happens to be in store for us, along the ridiculous stretch of track between two lanes of the 20 autoroute in the Turcot Yards, then finally alongside the CP tracks. They think it is ever-so-important for the airport shuttle to have its downtown terminal at Windsor Station or Gare Centrale rather than the Bell Centre.

Honestly though, with all the AMT commuter trains that are going to stop there anyway, why not invest some money and build a proper train station between Lucien l’Allier and the Bell Centre? Anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to have to walk between the Bell Centre and Lucien l’Allier metro will tell you they’re not really connected. Replacing that ridiculous walkway with a real train station would make both spaces, as well as that whole block (for I

The Lucien-l'Allier metro station and Bell Centre: The area could use some work and beautification, and could make a good home for a real train station (photo from metrodemontreal.com)

don’t dare call it a neighbourhood) so much nicer. We’re trying to improve the city here as an overall goal, right?

Besides, with the CN line being used for the airport shuttle, what will happen when the train gets close to Petia and needs to cross over the CP tracks to get to the airport? Will they put a stoplight on the railroad tracks for the freight and commuter trains to stop at when the airport shuttle comes close? Maybe we’ll get a railway interchange, and they could style it like they’re planning to do the Turcot Interchange.

Richard Bergeron of Projet Montreal came up with a plan using the CP line. He unfortunately botched it by then extending it beyond the Bell Centre to Bonaventure and Square Victoria. This would mean having to build train tracks all over Ste-Antoine Street essentially making a long section of that street a tunnel and then plunging further tracks underground and into the financial hell of Montreal mega-projects. Again, why not build a proper train station between the Bell Centre and Lucien l’Allier? Maybe it could help lead to a neighbourhood developing around the Habs’ home.

Should no better solution be reached, we could always demolish the Bell Centre which would solve all of the downtown train problems. Did no one think anyone would ever ride a train again when they built it? The Habs could go back to the Forum. The Forum could be expanded onto the block just west of it to make it big enough. No one uses Lambert-Closse Street much and most of that block is abandoned now. Someone tell Mr. Bronfman not to go ahead with his condo plan for that block anytime soon.