Posted in Montreal, Video

Traffic problem: solved.

Matt Forsythe points out this video from the NFB’s archives, talking to Mayor Jean Drapeau about plans to improve traffic in the city, which has by now grown so much it’s on the other side of the mountain.

Among the plans discussed are, of course, the widening of thoroughfares like Dorchester Blvd. and Henri-Bourassa Blvd. (but don’t worry, they’ll still have sidewalks) and the creation of a new elevated expressway on the north side of the island, which will be totally awesome and maintain our status as Canada’s largest city.

Oh 1955…

(That sound you’re hearing right now is Richard Bergeron having a stroke.)

29 thoughts on “Traffic problem: solved.

  1. Benoit

    Other traffic-relief ideas planned at the time:
    – building an expressway parallel to St-Denis. following Berri
    – building an expressay in the Old Port, where de la Commune street is

    with ideas like these, we’d have a nice Detroit-of-the-North by now. Good thing they didn’t have the $’s to do everything that they had planned…

    Reply
  2. kyle

    Ha! Yeah, I watched this video the other day and can’t help but think the idea that we need to SOLVE traffic problems is what creates them in the first place. The idea is dated, and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, most of the influence and decisions is still being made by people born before 1955, when talk like this was gospel in schools and planning classes! Augment, or change the focus of traffic, is more the approach that needs to happen.

    Reply
  3. Homer

    Speaking of roads…

    Reserve Bus Lanes on the highway are necessary. I believe over $100M was spent redoing Highway 40 from Decarie westward to (I think) Boul. St-Charles. Sure, it’s a nice highway, but NO RESERVE BUS or EVEN a CARPOOL lane. The 470 sits in traffic to get to Cote Vertu Metro, what should be a 15 minute ride takes upwards of 40 minutes. the response of “rich” suburbanites who own a car: “fine, i’ll just drive”. I’d love to bike or drive (in the winter) to Fairview and take the 470 to Cote-Vertu metro. It’s a great bus and after rush hour, it can take about 45-50 minutes (without a car) to get home. A reserve bus lane with some new accordion buses from Vaudreuil to Cote-Vertu Metro would be incredible. Who cares if it cuts the highway down to 2 lanes for drivers. Anyone stupid enough to drive during rush hour and not just take the bus deserves to be stuck in traffic.

    With 3 lanes though, I have had to drive downtown on occasion and unfortunately for the moment I can drive from my house to Mcgill college in the middle of rush hour and it only takes 1 hour (that’s nothing in the world of suburban commuting). The bus + metro ride takes at LEAST 1h15 if not more and I probably won’t sit down.

    Reply
    1. Becks

      LOLOL..Homer…you say you can get from your house to Mcgill College in 1 hour during rush hour and that it takes you at least 1 hour 15 minutes or longer to do the same trip with public transit and standing while you do it and yet you call suburbanites stupid for driving their cars…LoLoL!!!!

      Reply
    2. John

      The 40 west of Decarie has a very wide right of way; they should increase the limit on the service roads to 80km/h from the current speed-trap limit of 50km/h to encourage local traffic to drive there. Then they can add 2 additional lanes to the main highway on each side for bus and HOV without needing additional right of way. That would be plenty of capacity.

      Reply
  4. Laurence Miall

    We need to strongly consider a congestion charge to get onto the Island of Montreal. Set it high enough and people will make the switch to public transit. But an awful lot of money will have to be invested into public transit first to make this feasible. I would agree that standing up on a bus and/or Metro for 45 minutes or more is not a very appealing alternative for any sane person.

    I feel so lucky I can walk to work most days!

    Reply
    1. Marc

      I’ve held that thought for years. A toll on all the bridges: $4 from 6-10 and 3-7 during the week; and $2 all other times. However, we need accountability that the money will indeed go where it should go.

      Reply
  5. emdx

    Homer, why don’t you take the commuter train to go downtown? There are two lines serving the West-Island. With the Deux-Montagnes line, it takes less than 30 minutes to go from Roxboro to Downtown.
    * * *
    Yesterday, I took a little train trip to Laval, just for fun. Every highway we crossed or followed was jam-packed with cars not moving at all. Yet we zipped by at 50 mph, stopping at a few stations. Today, I put-putted in town doing errands with my father, and we were stuck in traffic most of the time. I guess Drapeau wasn’t successful at solving traffic problems 50 years ago, eh?
    * * *
    Ever wondered why Papineau looks like crap with all those second-hand furniture and appliance stores and shaolin temple?
    That’s because it was supposed to be the eastern counterpart to Décarie boulevard, connecting with the Jacques-Cartier (in english: “Jimmy Carter”) bridge.
    So, Papineau did not receive much planning attention because it was supposed to be torn down for a highway and this is why it is such an eyesore nowadays.
    Pop quizz: why does Décarie is in a trench below ground while Métropolitain is on a viaduct? The original plan for Métropolitain was to have it in a trench like Décarie; why wasn’t it done that way???
    * * *
    Whenever someone laments the Ville-Marie expressway, I tell them that the highway that was built is totally fantastic compared to what was planned: nothing else than two stories of highway above ground that would be roughly above Notre-Dame and de la Commune in Old-Montréal. It would have been as attractive as the Gardiner Expressway is in Toronto!
    The house were I live now would have been knocked down to make that monster go accross St-Henri.
    Over Turcot, there would have been a gigantic roundabout in the sky. Can you imagine the traffic hell it would have been 15 years later (in 1970)??? Another roundabout in the sky would have been built under the Jimmy-Carter bridge, demolishing more houses between Dorchester and Ste-Catherine.
    So the highway hugging the falaise St-Jacques and burrowing under Griffintown and getting out near Chinatown and the faubourg à m’lasse is very fine compared to what Drapeau initially wanted, thank-you very much.
    Drapeau and his ilk is of the generation that thought that cars are the greatest invention ever (instead of what they are really: the worst calamity after religion ever to befell Mankind), and they wanted to get cars all over the place, which made the extensive suburbs that drain the lifelyhood of Montréal possible.
    Drapeau the moron said that it was the commuter trains that drained the people to the suburbs; this is why he was adamantly against commuter trains, and systematically sought to derail anything that wanted to improve commuter train service. Never mind that Laval and the South Shore had no commuter trains, except for the extreme west end of Laval and St-Lambert/St-Hubert/St-Bruno. No, what made the big suburban gooey mess we have now was the highways Drapeau never could have enough.
    Drapeau was so much against commuter trains that back in 1984, a report on rebuilding the Deux-Montagnes line came out (it was nearly like what was done 15 years later, except for the double-track to Roxboro); well Drapeau used all his political weight to derail the project and he managed to do so!
    Thanks to Drapeau, the downtown core has been gutted to let highways (Bonaventure and Ville-Marie; after all, they gutted Chinatown to let it through) go through and to “build” parking lots. Drapeau basically let Montréal to be destroyed by suburban cars.
    50 years later, René-Lévesque still looks like a bombed-out city in some places.
    * * *
    Streetcars now.
    Montréal had one of the most extensive streetcar networks in the world with more than 1000 miles of tracks. At it’s heyday, the streetcars carried 1 million people daily.
    Just like the Métro does today.
    100 years ago, Montréal was the most progressive city in terms of streetcars; Montréal pionnered many things:
    – First system with “Pay As You Enter”; you paid your fare when you boarded. Previously, the conductor had to go around the car and collect fares; needless to say, “PAYE” greatly speeded-up the service.
    – First all-steel streetcars.
    – First articulated streetcars. Yup. Those babies were invented here; now that the STM has bendy-buses, it’s not something new in Montréal.
    – First tourist streetcars. Yup, those beloved Golden Chariots (four were built, and they all still run in museums) were a Montréal invention.
    Drapeau did not invent the Métro. In fact, they had been talking of a Métro more than 100 years ago; the first project came about in 1910. Then another project came in 1944 and another in 1955 (See here for the various projects). But Drapeau would have had none of this; he wanted a monorail, to be sure it would not be “confiscated by CNR”… (How many cities have monorails? If monorails were so great, there would be dozens all over the world. Yet, cities prefer to stick with metros… Here is the reason why monorails just won’t ever cut it.).
    Eventually, Drapeau stumbled accross the new rubber tyre Métro line in Paris, and decided that’s what he wanted. This is how we got to get the contraption we hare right now in Montréal.
    The Métro is useless, really. It’s expensive, and it’s not very practical. It serves a tiny area, forcing a lot of transfers to serve most people. Back in the 1970’s-1980’s, under Drapeau rule, bus service deteriorated to abysmally low levels. More and more people got cars to compensate for the really crappy bus service.
    The Métro is only good in very dense areas, like downtown (Atwater_Papineau/Sherbrooke_St-Jacques or the St-Lawrence east of Mc-Gill). Elsewhere, it is wasteful to dig tunnels to get the trains around. The pharaonic cost of the Laval extension is a prime example.
    What should have been done instead is a complete rebuild of the streetcar system. New tracks, new streetcars, and tunnels to let them go downtown. For the same price of a new Métro system, we would have had a much more efficient system that both served more people and had built-in reduntancy: if the St-Laurent carline was interrupted, people could still go on the Park-Avenue and St-Denis lines. Contrast this to the Métro which is stuck when one train goes down somewhere. An improved streetcar system would have looked like this, and would have immediately serve far more people than the puny Métro system that opened back in 1966.
    But nooooo, you could not have streetcars block the way of the sacrosanct holy automobile!!! Noooo, people had to be able to drive in the city!!! And streetcar looked so oooooooold (never mind that you could have had modern streetcars)…
    * * *
    The car is the worst calamity (after religion) that ever befell Humanity. Cars killed more people in “accidents” than all the wars of History. Automobiles don’t make a dime of economic sense; salaries have to be artificially inflated to enable workers to have the indispensable automobile because you can’t have a decent life with public transit alone. Ever wondered why factories close and jobs are exported to China? That’s because chinese workers don’t need to be paid much so they can buy automobiles. You can thank the automobile for all those deserted factories and all those unemployed people.
    The automobile (and road transport) sucks 20% of the Québec gross domestic product out of Québec. It’s not me who says that, but nobody else than Richard Bergeron himself! Montréal has the head-office of the largest passenger rail manufacturer of the world, yet is totally neglecting public transit.
    Back when government did not splurge untold millions on roads, railroads carried people and stuff and made a profit. Then cars came about, but they were useless without roads no private company would ever pay for. So government had to step-in and take the taxpayer’s money to subsidize half the automobile transportation system.
    And now, that transportation system sucks 20% of our life, blood, tears and energy out.
    We really are screwed up, and we really need to get totally rid of that automobile addiction. We cannot go on like this indefinitely.

    Reply
  6. MM

    People who demand more public transit and less car use simple have no idea how much more useful a car is. This whole public transit argument is simply a cover up in removing the individuals right to determine what is best for their situation. Forced social conformity will not work.

    The streetcar idea is completely stupid, as are bike lanes. Montreal simply needs to expand the Blue Metro line. This line is very under used. Has been since the day it opened up. Other than that, it’s really a great waste.

    This city is pretty much dead. First with it’s politics (provincial politics really), and now with a inner looking mindset intent on having the middle ages come back.

    Reply
    1. emdx

      People who demand more public transit and less car use simple have no idea how much more useful a car is.

      People who want to drive cars everywhere have no idea how cars are disruptive, intrusive, dangerous and bothersome.

      This whole public transit argument is simply a cover up in removing the individuals right to determine what is best for their situation.

      This whole car argument is simply a cover up in removing the individual to have a good life without having to blow-up ¼ of his income to further pollution and social alienation (do you think that all those people stuck in traffic alone in their cars are not driven insane by the isolation?), not to mention economic ruin (how are the US carmakers faring right now????).

      Forced social conformity will not work.

      Forcing people to buy cars by gutting public transit clearly has not worked.

      The streetcar idea is completely stupid, as are bike lanes.

      Car lanes are the epitome of stupidity. In a car, a person takes dozen of times more room than someone on a bike, and hundreds of times more room than people in public transit. In the city, where real-estate is at a premium, it means that car users get a free ride at the expense of everybody else.
      Hey! Let’s charge car uses for the real-estate they need to ride their jalopies. Now we’ll see how many carheads queue-up to take the bus…

      Montreal simply needs to expand the Blue Metro line.

      Well, do you know what you want? First, you want to drive your car all over the place, and now you ask to lengthen Métro line 5. To where? Dorval? Wanna be cooped-up in a tunnel for 45 minutes? This may suit a caveman, but for me? Non merci.

      This line is very under used.

      This is great. You advocate lengthening an underused Métro line? Are we a bit short in terms of fiscally responsible logic here???

      Has been since the day it opened up. Other than that, it’s really a great waste. This city is pretty much dead.

      Dead? Since when?

      First with it’s politics (provincial politics really), and now with a inner looking mindset intent on having the middle ages come back.

      If there is something middle-ageous, it’s the car. It’s asocial, it’s retarded, it’s primitive.

      Reply
  7. Homer

    Becky, I meant when I have no choice (i.e. I need my car after work). 95% of the time, I don’t drive into town because parking + gas + wear/tear makes it a stupid thing to do on a regular basis. Add to that the pointless environmental dammage and yeah, people who drive in EVERY DAY are stupid.

    What I’m trying to say is that the people who don’t care about the environment + those who can afford to, have to have some kind of incentive to NOT take their cars. Since expense and the environment don’t seem to be working, how about time savings. If it was FASTER to take public transport, and a bit more comfortable I think we could make a better case.

    Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    Reply
  8. Stewart Clamen

    A nice time capsule.

    Notice that the prototype M√©tropolitain is called an “autostrade” in the video. At some point Quebec decided to go with the French rather than the Italian name…

    Reply
  9. morcego

    Going around by car IS social conformity. If you really wanted the most freedom you’d be on a bike. You wouldn’t be dependent on how the rest of traffic is going or the availability of parking space.

    Unless the freedom you want is to live away from the city you depend on, the car offers nothing more than its alternatives (well, polluton, noise, isolation and aggravated injuries aside that is). But living and supporting one community while your livelyhood is in another is condemning one to failure and that is what has brought us the sad currrent state of Montreal. As emdx showed, cars are in great part responsible for urban sprawl (and thus the diminishing tax-base of the city). Clearly developping car transportation cannot be the main option anymore.

    Reply
  10. Homer

    FYI, I take the Deux-Montanges commuter Train to work almost every day. I can count on one hand the number of times I have driven downtown and paid 15 bucks for parking. Ugh.

    Reply
  11. Michael Dunkelman

    It really is too bad that Montreal did not go for a tram/subway hybrid system. One can see such a system in Brussels. The city has both traditional subway and tram lines, but some of the tram lines are partially buried and integrated with several subway stations. The transfers really don’t help public transit’s case in this city.

    Reply
  12. SMS

    Ironically the guys making our buses at the plant in St-Eustache drive as evident by the huge parking lot… god forbid they ride one of their own creations…

    Reply
  13. Kyle

    So to save face and avoid being hypocrites, I guess Novabus should build a factory downtown so that all employees can get to work by public transit That should only increase the cost of buses by 200 % or 300 %, which will be justified because at least they won’t appear to be liars. Also, Bixi is located in an industrial park in St Laurent, where land is cheap and the stations can be stored cheaply for the winter. Are you also suggesting all Bixi employees should ride Bixis along freeways to work?

    Reply
  14. Kyle

    Yeah, but we didn’t. So now we have a fast and effective metro system and a city wide network of buses. What do you propose we do from this point forward?

    Reply
  15. Kyle

    Anyone who is into this stuff absolutely must read the Get to Know Drapeau post over on spacing: http://spacingmontreal.ca/2009/10/21/get-to-know-your-jean-drapeau/

    And

    The accompanying paper by Richard Bergeron about Jean Drapeau: http://en.projetmontreal.org/en.php/document/82

    The paper paints Drapeau as the leader of a city which was in the 1950s regarded as a backwater which he did drastic things to enhance its world image (Autroutes/Skyscrapers/Metro/Expo 67) and some of the the too far reaching scope of some of these later things (Olympics/neighborhood demolition) helped the city enter a state of decline, only to then scramble and in the late 70s and early 80s to try and lure lost residents back with social housing schemes. Hmmm, sound familiar to anyone?

    Reply
  16. Becks

    “The paper paints Drapeau as the leader of a city which was in the 1950s regarded as a backwater”

    So i’m curious..Montreal was a backwater compared to what? Toronto…I don’t think so…Edmonton?,Calgary?,the Peg?..nahhh…must have been a backwater compared to Vancouver or Halifax…thats it!!! it was a backwater to Halifax LOLOL!!!

    Reply
  17. Xavier

    Wow… very detailed post. Thanks.

    I’d like to know more about the planned highways next to St-Denis and over De La Commune. Any links?

    — Xavier

    PS: could you clarify your position regarding cars? Not sure where you stand on the issue exactly. :-)

    Reply
    1. Marc Dufour

      I’d like to know more about the planned highways next to St-Denis and over De La Commune. Any links?

      I know of none around St-Denis. As of above De La Commune, the plan was actually featured in the «Montréal voit grand» CCA exhibition. But for years, it was lying in a corner of the central library, on a pile of various maps and plans (including the original Métropolitain boulevard plans in a trench and both the 1944 and 1953 Métro projects). I would often leaf through it, staring with some kind of awed horror (the same kind you will watch an accident video on You Tube) the way the autostrade would wind destructively above the streets of St-Henri, Little Burgundy, Griffintown, Old Montréal and the eastern faubourgs.
      Unfortunately, the document “disappeared” following the emergency rebuild of the central library (some 10 years ago). Right now, it must be well classified somewhere in the “great” library.
      Specifically, in Griffintown, it veered southward from Notre-Dame (carefully avoiding the Dow Brewery) to reach Commons street around Peel, then simply go right above it all the way to St-Denis, where it started to veer north to reach Dorchester just before the Jacques-Cartier (Jimmy Carter in english) bridge, underwhich it would go in a roundabout to interchange with it with horrible hairpin-curved ramps, then keep going east as clumsily as the Ville-Marie does nowadays.
      The horror of the scheme was that the thing would have had the two directions stacked above each other, in the fashion of the infamous Embarcadero freeway in San-Francisco thankfully brought down by the earthquake. And, of course, the pitiful roundabouts at Décarie and Jacques-Cartier would have been hopelessly choked-up mere years later had they been built…
      As of the Papineau highway, I only saw reference in some master plan; I never saw any detailed plans, of those were ever made.

      Reply
  18. emdx

    So to save face and avoid being hypocrites, I guess Novabus should build a factory downtown so that all employees can get to work by public transit That should only increase the cost of buses by 200 % or 300 %, which will be justified because at least they won’t appear to be liars. Also, Bixi is located in an industrial park in St Laurent, where land is cheap and the stations can be stored cheaply for the winter. Are you also suggesting all Bixi employees should ride Bixis along freeways to work?

    Eat your own dog food.
    Likewise, Bombardier, the world’s largest manufacturer of passenger rail transit rolling stock has wisely put it’s head-office in the boondocks of Chien-Bruno* where public transit isn’t exactly stellar (it is actually non-existent).
    Oddly enough, Novabus and Bombardier don’t exactly go out of their way to make sure “their” municipalities have good transit systems… And in anycase, what good would it do? The transit system offers next to nothing to those who live in the civilization and work in the boondocks.
    * An ex south-shorer friend of mine, who since moved here because he was sick and tired of the south-shore disorganization (and crossing the bridge), used to call the snotty uppity ’burbs of St-Bruno, St-Lambert, Ste-Julie «Chien Lambert» and co. (In french, “chien” [dog] is an insult).

    Reply
  19. SMS

    SURF serves the area. They operate Novas (and school buses, and Classics, and RTS but I digress).
    Assuming people come from Laval or even Montreal to work – why not a shuttle from Deux-Montagnes train station?

    I guess that’s too much to expect on this blog!

    BTW Bixi in the winter… that’s a hoot… first let’s see the borough of Saint-Laurent get their Bixi stations first! And if we’re gonna play the smartass game, ya it’s possible if the STM wants to “rack and roll” (google it)

    Reply
  20. Homer

    I think the city should consider one-day traffic experiments. Car-Pool day, all cars must have a minimum of 2 people between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. That could do more for reducing air pollution than any car-free day in the downtown core.

    Reply

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