On September 16, Quebec premier Jean Charest announced a public transportation project to extend metro lines in Montreal’s metropolitan area. The project’s estimated budget of $4 billion will first be reviewed in feasibility studies conducted by a board of Agence métropolitaine de transport and Ministère des transports representatives. The investigation is slated to take up to three years, and cost $12 million dollars.
The proposed plan, which includes connecting orange line termini Côte-Vertu and Henri Bourassa, as well as extending the blue line past Saint-Michel into Anjou and the yellow line into Vieux-Longueuil, has already raised objections. Though the Ministère des transports requested Laval, Longueuil, and Montreal to submit a public tranport proposal, West Island municipalities such as Beaconsfield and Dollard-des-Ormeaux have been left out of the project.
Transport 2000 Quebec, a non-profit organization and consumer based advocacy group, has criticized the project. It favours investing in already existing rail and bus services, or reviving a less costly and labour-intensive form of transit such as the tramway, which was taken off the road in 1959.
McGill graduate student Robyn Penney, who often commutes into the city from her parents’ residence at Pierrefonds in the West Island, felt that the metro is not the most effective means of public transit in her borough.
“Like many West Islanders, I used to think semi-seriously that the refusal to expand the metro to our area was just discrimination against anglos. But…the metros do not move as fast as the train. In only 25 minutes, I’m in the heart of town,” she said.
Penney added, though, that trains can be few and far between, and on weekends they sometimes run no more than three to four times a day.
Raphaël Fischler, an urban planning professor at McGill, felt that while the expansion made sense at first sight, he questioned the wisdom of some of the proposed expansions.
“The original plan for the metro network, drawn up in the sixties and seventies, had the blue line go to Montréal-Nord, an area with a high density of population and with a population that is poorer on average than the population of the city in general and is more dependent on public transit for its mobility,” Fischler said. “So why the change to Anjou, where the population density is lower on average, where incomes are higher on average, and where use of public transit is weaker on average? These are important questions.”
Fischler viewed the project, headed by Quebec’s Liberal Party, as a political gesture. “The main reason for this announcement is to send out the signal that the government cares about Montreal, city and region, and its needs; that it cares about sustainable development and public transit; and that it intends to invest in public infrastructure and create jobs in the process at a time of economic slowdown,” Fischler said.
He noted though that the project – which will add 20 kilometres to the metro network – is not expected to be completed for another 15 years, a timeframe which suggests that the political priority given to the public transit plan is, as of yet, mainly nominal.
Recent wheelchair-friendly installation of elevators in metro stations Lionel-Groulx and Berri-UQAM has also met with some skepticism. Michel Labrecque, former Société de transport de Montréal Chair, has estimated it will take another 25 years before all stations are accessible to people with disabilities.