The barrier stays

The barrier segregating Montreal West from the Ville Saint Pierre district of Lachine is here to stay. The Quebec Court of Appeal this week upheld a lower court ruling that Montreal West was within its rights to setup a barrier to car traffic between the two towns. Though Montreal (which the Lachine borough is part of now) may appeal, I’d wager their chances of getting heard at the Supreme Court level are slim. If the barrier comes down, it’ll be because of a deal among neighbours, not because a hand was forced by the courts.

Montreal West argues this isn’t about building a wall between rich and poor (there’s no restriction on pedestrian travel), but the only issue is safety. I couldn’t find any evidence of a problem when I checked it out two years ago. But it seems to be enough to convince people that it’s necessary. And that’s why it’s the same argument used by other cities who erect barriers between neighbours.

View Fences among municipal neighbours in a larger map

This Google map shows a handful of examples of traffic barriers that happen to land right on municipal boundaries. They range from a concrete block with do-not-enter sign to a locked fence.

Most cases aren’t quite so conspicuous. Look at an aerial map and you can draw boundaries between cities (or former cities) by simply looking at where the roads stop connecting to each other, where two streets run parallel to each other for a long time without any connecting streets. It makes it easier to justify separating cities physically when there are limited access points to block off, as is the case in Montreal West.

And then there are all the connections that aren’t built because of a mixture of NIMBYism and other fears: the Cavendish extension, the second bridge to Nuns’ Island.

We won’t solve these issues through lawsuits. We’ll solve them when people in their suburban fortresses realize that road safety will be achieved by traffic calming, better urban planning, increased public transit and more transportation options.

Putting barriers between neighbouring cities only serves to divide us.

21 thoughts on “The barrier stays

  1. Joseph

    WTF? A locked fence between Kirkland and Pierrefonds. All the more reason to wish death on all those who live in Kirkland and the West Island in general.

    1. Shawn

      … which would therefore include wishing death on all the West Islanders in Pierrefonds? Outstanding, well thought out comment. And thank you, Steve, for making sure we continue to be exposed to reasoned observations such as this.

  2. Maria Gatti

    I’m glad you tackled this topic – it really annoys me. A friend bought a wee “veteran’s bungalow” in Park-Ex – he has made his tiny house and garden so nice – and always laughs about the infamous fence between Park-Ex and TMR along boulevard de l’Acadie “to keep the rich people out”.

    I was working on research that involved looking at documents at the Jewish Public Library, temporarily relocated to premises at the Cavendish Mall. It was hell getting there, although there is a bus directly from Rosemont m├ętro – took forever. Awful to cycle there too. Cavendish extension is long overdue.

  3. Gilles

    I can’t help thinking that it is human nature for some people to simply overreact when they see a fence separating one city from another. Although I do understand the knee jerk reactions – this cold blooded insulting that I see on this blog directed by some comes off as simple green envy.

    No doubt if these same people lived in those same suburbs – they might not be quite as upset as they seem on this blog.

    The fact is that all over the free world there are fences separating various regions of cities.

    What is particularly irritating is this political posturing based on some kind of moral pretension.

    And I am well aware there are economic status issues – such as property values – separating one city – and… so what…

      1. Shawn

        Not to throw cold water on the call to arms, here, but the TMR fence isn’t just between rich and poor, it’s between a quiet residential area and L’Acadie: for all intents and purposes a highway.

        I’m not familiar with the Pierrefonds/Kirkland fence but I can tell you from personal experience that both places are uniformly suburban middle class.

      2. Gilles

        It is not that cut and dry an issue in my view. For instance; when people move away from the city – generally it involves several factors. One being a quieter area (as compared to the city) with generally less traffic.

        No doubt some of the barriers on the island (and there are more than 3) are meant to redirect traffic. I find nothing wrong with this. By the way – people will pay more for an area that has a more tranquil setting. I will leave it to others to react but I have no issues with this.

        In addition the lifestyle is more sedate outside the urban areas and what would pass for big city life might not be part of the makeup of the more suburban life.
        Noise in particular – is just one issue that might vary from one area to the next… Again I have no problems with a physical barrier for a multitude of reasons.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          That’s the problem though: everyone wants to live at the end of a cul-de-sac. They don’t want anyone driving past their homes, but they want to be able to drive past other people’s homes without so much as a speed bump.

          Plenty of new developments try their best to maximize the number of dead ends to please suburban homeowners, but that creates ridiculous mazes and requires the building of arterial roads and highways.

    1. Marc

      This is not an issue of “good fences make good neighbors.” It’s one of pure douchebaggery for the sake of being so. Nowhere is this more common than in Douchebagville itself, aka. TMR. This is the place where you can’t post a lost dog notice. Where logos or business names, etc on vehicles aren’t allowed to be parked outdoors overnight – must be in the garage. Where you can’t move a rosebush in your yard without a construction permit. Where people walking around with a camera are harassed by the security dept. And on and on it goes.

      1. Shawn

        I cycle through TMR on a regular basis and it’s also one of the loveliest and best kept areas in all of Montreal. If I was into suburban living and had the scratch, I’d want to live there.

  4. Jim J.

    …and yet, my perception is that many Montrealers are generally comfortable with the idea of charging tolls (which is, essentially, a non-physical barrier) to residents of the South Shore and Laval who want to bring their cars onto the island.

    So, if a barrier is erected for the “right” reasons (i.e., promoting a green agenda), it would be okay. If it’s done for the “wrong” reasons (i.e., perceived separation of a higher-class and lower-class community), then it’s bad.

  5. Fassero

    Maybe I’ll discuss the actual barrier Steve is talking about.

    I think the whole thing is a joke. It’s not even a “rich vs. poor” battle there as there are practically no homes on the Ville St-Pierre side of the barrier. In nothing flat you hit a huge industrial area (where, only now, a few new townhouses are being built as well.) Montreal West’s arguments were idiotic. If somebody had done an actual traffic study of the point in question, it would be a virtual certainty that the traffic is comprised of Montreal West and west end Cote Saint-Luc residences using the road to get to Rue Norman and shorter and faster access to the 20 than driving through the low speed limit, one lane, multiple stop intersections along St. Jacques in St. Pierre (compounded by all the construction that has been taking place at the westbound highway entrance next to the Burstall impound yard. And even all this is really only during the morning rush hour period.

    In other words it was really Montreal Westers blocking themselves but at least “themselves” have reasonable alternatives. They really screwed over what amounts to a handful of Lachine residents who now stuck with polluting the atmosphere by being left with a large rounding route if they want to drive towards Ville Marie.

    At worst, all that “needs” to be done is ban southbound traffic through the area from 7-9 am (nothing wrong with northbound since there really isn’t any at that time.) Whatever little pocket of Montreal Westers who don’t like that should move elsewhere with no need to close the door on the way out. It’s not like there hasn’t been a number of large schools (i.e. Royal West Academy) and assorted rail right-of-ways (including the nearby Montreal West station on Westminister) for decades never mind the neverending threat of developing the nearby southern part of the Meadowbrook golf course into a massive housing project. If that ever happened, Lachine could really get some big traffic vengeance.

  6. Jaye

    There’s a most bizarre barrier between two very affluent areas of Dollard — it’s on Aesop between Radisson and Alouette. I’ve yet to figure out what it protects….

    1. Shawn

      I had to go on Google Streetview to see what you meant. Yes, how bizarre:,+Dollard+des+Ormeaux,+Quebec&sll=45.51164,-73.642044&sspn=0.300734,0.617294&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Rue+Radisson,+Dollard-des-Ormeaux,+Communaut%C3%A9-Urbaine-de-Montr%C3%A9al,+Quebec&ll=45.491619,-73.836534&spn=0.001175,0.002411&z=19&layer=c&cbll=45.49184,-73.836128&panoid=dBwp6sy-GgclHS-WQPYmEQ&cbp=12,235.57,,0,19.76

      1. Jim J.

        I would surmise that the barrier is intended to force cars to travel east/west along avenue Anselme-Lavigne to get to/from blvd. Saint-Jean and, to a lesser extent, blvd. des Sources, rather than cutting through neighbouring housing developments.

        Just a guess.

  7. Melissa

    To Fassero – have you actually driven down the street that is now closed to vehicular traffic?
    There is an entire development of townhouses going up where there will be hundreds of new residents moveing in on an almost daily basis. And the city of Lachine is now building a second route for the residents to leave from given thier current options are not sufficent for the number of homes they are bilding.
    There is traffic that uses this route as a short-cut to the 20 when in reality it is no shortcut at all, if you consider shaving 20 seconds off your driving time as a shortcut.
    There have been accidents, trucks driving through and kids driving too fast in this residential area.
    It has never been a class issue. Last time I checked, MoWest was still a down to earth affordable place to live where the neighbors hold block parties, where we have a community newspaper produced by the citizens of MoWest and a thriving recreation association. We don’t have million dollar homes and elitest issues.
    Just safety issues.

    1. Marc

      MoWest was still a down to earth affordable place to live where the neighbors hold block parties, where we have a community newspaper produced by the citizens of MoWest and a thriving recreation association.

      I couldn’t agree more. And that why the barrier is inconsistent with the traditionally non-douchebaggy ways of MoWest.

      There is traffic that uses this route as a short-cut to the 20

      Idiots would consider this a shortcut. I tried it once for the sake of timing and it took longer.

  8. MD

    To Fassero and to Fagstein:

    As a MoWester, may I suggest that if you’re going to report or comment on the issue involving Devil’s Hill that you actually read the Superior Court decision rendered in 2008 or the recent Court of Appeal decision. In addition, you may want to consult the traffic studies on hand including the City of Montreal 2003 CIMA traffic study in connection with Devil’s Hill. Better yet, you may want to re-read the press communique issued jointly by then Borough Mayor Robert Libman and Claude Dauphin of Lachine where Dauphin acknowledges the problem with Devil’s Hill. Oh, and you may want to actually read the definition of barrier – there is no barrier in place. There are traffic signs that do not allow access. For the record, emergency access is always allowed.

    Before you weigh-in, try to avoid being lazy shits and try to actually do your homework. There’s so much more I can say, but you get the point.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t dispute that emergency vehicles have access through the barrier (which does include a physical element even if it does not completely block the street). Nor do I dispute the fact that the city of Montreal West has the right to erect it since it is on that city’s territory.

      But I stand by the observation that the traffic down Devil’s Hill is not sufficient to require such a drastic measure (especially because of the traffic calming measures taken by both Montreal West and Lachine recently), and that even if it was, Montreal West’s decision to erect it on the border with Ville Saint Pierre sends the wrong message.

      1. Fassero

        Oh please – you’re just spouting the same robotic clap-trap that Campbell Stuart and the rest have used as justification for years. Of COURSE they’ll tell anybody in sight to go find and read a CIMA study because, after all, why actually disclose the key information in those reports which basically confirm that the actual traffic volume itself in the area is quite low and was well below Montreal’s standards for imposing traffic restrictions?

        The Superior Court decision rendered in January 2008 (which was affirmed later by the Court of Appeal) actually makes no citation or founding that there is any kind of traffic problem. It strictly ruled that an incorporated town has the right to construct a barrier within it’s own borders (a ruling that overturned an injunction that had been handed down by the lower court). In fact, the only time the CIMA study was introduced (and, by the way, that study was done in 2002, not 2003) was brought up in Lachine’s argument whereby it rightly pointed out that MoWest (by it’s own acknowledgement) actually erected the barrier IGNORING recommendations presented in the study (one good reason why Mr. Stuart’ and his minions spout their “go read” lines rather than just reporting it themselves – makes them actually sound well versed enough that no-one will actually bother to look but rather take their word for it.) But, oh, that can’t be true because us “lazy shits” are incapable of having been versed in

        The “joint communique” from Libman and Dolphin came about prior to MoWest’s demerger (or re-demerger) from Montreal (i.e. before MoWest decided to go on it’s unilateral little area rampage) and didn’t cite any concerns about actual volume in the area but rather the speed of the few vehicles that do go through it. Big deal. I’m sure you could get two bodies to come and announce that “hey, it rains sometimes” and give it a nice moniker like “communique” to make it appear like it’s a major policy announcement.

        The heart of the matter is pure and simple NIMBYism at it’s finest. You see it right away when the barrier apologists throw up these so-called “townhouses” being built in Ville Saint-Pierre. There isn’t “hundreds” and probably won’t be for many years. There are a couple of small developments that, if lucky, have about 40 units between them and many of which are still sitting unoccupied. The area itself is actually either barren or containing long abandoned commercial buildings (part of the reason the townhouses, prices for which you’ll never see in MoWest any time soon, aren’t exactly selling like poutine). And even if there was, those residents are not going to be driving cars all day and night to get to the 20 (heck, if they’re going west, why would they even go up the hill when they could quickly get to Norman?). Thus, again, I would guarantee that any actual detailed study of the subject would confirm that whatever traffic there is is almost entirely on weekdays during the morning rush hour period and almost entirely southbound, NOT north. At that time of the day there should not be any “small children” (another routine defence) playing on Broughton. And, no offence, but Broughton’s design wasn’t some magic creation that came up in the last five years. Industrial development and Royal West Academy have been in proximity to the strip for decades.

        Fagstein was bang on. MoWest is free to erect it’s silly barrier within it’s fiefdom (which features the most oversized city council this side of, well, Montreal although the latter at least has a geographic size greater than half a postage stamp). But it sends a wrong message (and a cowardly one based on where it was erected and how). Funny thing that on Westminster – where there truly IS traffic to talk about during weekday rush hour periods – we didn’t see MoWest throw up barricades to block out traffic from, say, Cote Saint-Luc or NDG. For that, they merely made the whole stretch between the tracks a 30 km/h zone. They could have easily done the same on Broughton.

        By the way, a “barrier” is defined as a hindrance, obstruction, or impediment. Even MoWest acknowledges such when they say that it’s construction “only adds” 30 seconds to travel between any point A or B where it becomes a factor. The definition doesn’t distinguish by time involved.


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