Saturday’s Gazette has a feature from transportation reporter Andy Riga about whether trams are the future of transportation in Montreal.
There are two schools of thought on the matter. On the one hand are people like Projet Montréal’s Richard Bergeron, who get a hard on every time he hears the word and thinks there should be thousands of them (250 km worth) criss-crossing the city. He even has a proposal to replace Mont-Royal Ave. with a tram. Tram proponents (which also include Mayor Gérald Tremblay) say they’re clean, they’re fast and they’re fun, and they’ll attract tourists as well as those who think buses are too crowded and smelly.
On the other hand, there are those who think trams are too expensive for their purported benefits. They’re inflexible, require large infrastructure costs, and won’t actually pull more people out of their cars even as they necessarily reduce the amount of roadway available to traffic. The Gazette’s Henry Aubin, for example, thinks that trolley buses, which are also electric but can navigate around roadblocks and don’t require tracks, are a less sexy but much more sensible option.
The story comes in many parts, in print and online:
- The main feature
- Arguments pro and con from two urban planning experts
- A look back at Montreal’s streetcar network (and why it was dismantled)
- Some arguments about where the first tramways should be installed
- A gallery of old streetcar pictures along with pictures from the Exporail museum in St. Constant
- Links to tram proposals from Montreal’s three major parties
- An audio interview (MP3) with amateur tramway historian Daniel Laurendeau of the Club des amis des tramways de Montréal
- A map of the streetcar network at its peak in 1948
- Clippings from the Gazette and Montreal Star from when the network was dismantled, along with other links and resources
- Videos of modern streetcars in other cities
Having heard arguments on both sides, I’m still on the fence about tramways. I like the coolness factor and appreciate how efficient they are, but I also agree with the argument that trolley buses are more flexible. The idea of testing them out on routes that are simple, straight and begging for transit infrastructure (like Pie-IX) makes sense to me. If it’s successful, then we can ponder more complicated routes like Côte des Neiges, Park and Mont-Royal.