The Plateau approved a 49-step, 15-year plan last week in an effort to help the city transition from cars to more sustainable alteratives for public transportation, cyclists, and pedestrians.
The Plan de Déplacement Urbain (PDU), the product of three years of research and public consultation, aims to shift often dangerous, fast-moving traffic toward arterial roads such as Parc, St. Laurent, and St. Denis so that side streets are free for slow local traffic, bikes, and pedestrians.
“The first step is to slow down the cars in the local network, slowing traffic around schools and parks, making green neighbourhoods, making large intersections…[to make a better] transport cocktail,” said Michel Labrecque, a Mile End borough Councillor, the new Société de transport de Montréal (STM) chief, and a major proponent of the Plateau PDU.
During and after the public consultation process, neighbourhood groups such as the Congestion Committee of the Maison d’Aurore, a citizens’ group, were skeptical that the plan will not effect lasting change.
“There are very few [actions in the PDU] that will lead to a reduction in circulation,” said Isabelle Gaudette, the group’s coordinator, in French. “There need to be measures that reduce the vehicular capacity on the roads at the same time that we’re adding public transportation.”
While Chris Erb, a writer from urban blog Spacing Montreal, also feels the Plateau’s plan will not suffice, he sees it as a step in the right direction.
“These local initiatives are a really good first step; they can create the necessary dialogue to create these big changes in the city.”
PDU calls first for lowered speed limits, increased radar coverage, and speed bumps on side streets in the Plateau. Later, more substantial changes will take place, such as widened sidewalks, more bike and bus lanes, and the replacement of car traffic with pedestrian walkways.
“We have established the first PDU with a 15-year scope, because we don’t have the money,” Labrecque said. “It is not sustainable to tear up and rebuild the streets and sidewalks; it will be an ongoing process.”
During the two-year data collection phase of the plan, researchers studied how people moved within the Plateau. The research revealed that over 60 per cent of Plateau dwellers used active or mass transit.
“We are implementing the PDU to build on what we’ve got – to build on the trends around sustainable development and sustainable transit in the Plateau,” said Labrecque.
Yet just 12 days ago, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay announced that the city is cutting $40-million from the STM, a move that has been heavily criticized. Labrecque, who now presides over the STM, stressed the City was still able to maintain STM fares and service at current levels despite the cuts.
Labrecque and a panel of experts are meeting weekly to look for ways to save money and to monitor ridership.
“Mass transit at this moment is more important than ever,” said Labrecque. “If people lose their jobs, if petrol costs go up, we need to be there full throttle.”
The new Montreal master transport plan calls for a PDU to be developed in every borough of Montreal, but the Plateau is the first to develop a PDU.
Erb said that alone, the Plateau’s plan, “will not encourage that many people to get out of their cars. It will just move the traffic out of the Plateau. There has been a push to get more people into transit, more buses in rush hour.
“The current administration in the Plateau seems pretty progressive,” Erb said. “But you have different levels of government fighting each other for infrastructure projects, which ultimately causes nothing to get done. You need to take political risks to get people out of cars.”