The airport-train link: Let’s put our cards on the table

It seems like forever that we’ve been arguing over which route should be taken by the new train linking Trudeau airport with downtown. In fact, I wrote about the debate almost two years ago.

Airport train's possible routes: CP route to Lucien L'Allier (red) and CN route to Central Station (blue)

Using existing railways, there are two possible routes, each of which ends at a different terminus:

  • Using CP tracks that go through NDG and Westmount, ending at Lucien L’Allier station just outside the Bell Centre. This is the same path used by the Dorion/Rigaud train line.
  • Using mainly CN tracks, passing through the Turcot interchange and St. Henri and ending at Central Station. This is the path used by VIA trains to Toronto and Ottawa.

This debate is in the news again because Aéroports de Montréal (which runs the airport) and the Agence métropolitaine de transport (which runs the commuter trains) are having a pissing match, refusing to give in on their choices. The AMT wants to use the CP route, because it’s cheaper and because it uses tracks (and stations) already used by the AMT. ADM wants to use the CN route because it leads to Central Station and downtown hotels.

Both camps are now using quantitative data to make their cases. Joël Gauthier, of the AMT, points to the fact that the CP route is significantly less expensive – $786 million vs. $1.1 billion. James Cherry, of the ADM, points to a study that shows ridership would be 22 per cent higher if the train ended at Central Station.

Various third parties are also jumping in, some on Cherry’s side making the Central Station argument, others on Gauthier’s side for Lucien L’Allier.

Despite what both these men think, the issue is neither obvious nor is there a desperate need to make a snappy decision. Yeah, it’s been years, but these studies are only coming to light now, and this kind of study is the difference between a billion-dollar project and a billion-dollar boondoggle.

That said, unless there’s some other serious study that needs to be done, it’s about time to make a decision. So let’s put all our cards on the table. Here are, from what I can see, the benefits of each route:

CP route (Lucien L’Allier)

  • It’s about 30% cheaper (though ADM says private financing would cover the excess cost of the CN route)
  • The route is shorter, and will probably be a few minutes faster
  • It uses tracks used exclusively by commuter trains, which means there’s no conflict with freight trains east of Lachine
  • There are already commuter train stations along the route, which means it would connect not only downtown and the airport, but also Montreal West and NDG
  • Because it uses the same route, it could be merged with the Dorion/Rigaud line
  • There’s space at Lucien L’Allier station to accommodate more trains (two tracks currently sit unused, its rails broken)
  • Downtown terminus sits directly atop a metro station, with another direct connection at Vendôme
  • Taking the AMT plan would put control of the project in the hands of the government instead of the arrogant ADM who have no desire to improve service to the West Island

CN route (Central Station)

  • Better connection to the underground city and large downtown buildings (particularly Place Ville-Marie) and hotels
  • Better connection with VIA/Amtrak inter-city trains
  • A sheltered taxi stand is mere feet from the gates
  • Just as the CP route could be integrated with commuter trains, the CN route could be integrated with VIA
  • Warmer/more comfortable in the winter or rain, particularly if a lounge is built in Central Station similar to one used by first-class VIA passengers
  • No worries about being caught behind commuter trains during rush hour (particularly if the airport train is to be a non-stop express)
  • Could lead to the establishment of new commuter stations in St. Henri that would improve public transit in that area
  • More likely to please rich Westmount people who don’t like trains in their backyards
  • Following the ADM’s plan would involve more private financing, and the plan would be a privately-run system that would finance itself
  • Central Station is pretty (though not that pretty)

Although I’m not 100% committed, looking at the list above I’m tempted to pick the CP option. It’s cheaper, it’s faster and it works better with existing commuter service.

Plus, one of the chief arguments against it, that Lucien L’Allier isn’t “central” enough, doesn’t really work for me.

The myth of the “central” station

Downtown train stations are marked in orange, metro stations in blue.

I’ve done the walk many times between Bonaventure and Central Station, and between Lucien L’Allier metro and train stations. Not only is Lucien L’Allier simpler (as soon as you exit the station you see trains) compared to the meandering underground route to Central Station, but it’s faster and requires less walking. And this entirely ignores a second direct transfer point at the Vendôme station, which would be worked on anyway with the new superhospital coming.

Lucien L’Allier would probably require some work if it gets high train traffic (an elevator from track level to metro level would help), but it’s definitely a better connection. If we assume a large number of people taking a shuttle train downtown will switch to the metro, Lucien L’Allier becomes a much better choice.

That isn’t to say Central Station isn’t better located for those walking to their destinations. Place Ville-Marie is an escalator ride away, and more large downtown hotels are within walking distance, as the ADM explains in their slick video. The ADM study says the Central Station option would see more use, but I don’t know how much of that is real and how much is perception. (And if that were the case, why don’t all commuter trains go to Central Station?)

The stupid option

I should clarify something about the CP route: It’s not exactly what AMT is proposing.

Instead of ending at Lucien L’Allier, the AMT is proposing that the railway deviate slightly near the end, and cross a yet-to-be-built bridge to reach a yet-to-be-built intermodal terminus on the south side of St. Antoine.

It’s at this point that people bring up the fact that if the Bell Centre hadn’t been constructed in the way, the commuter trains would end at Windsor Station and we wouldn’t need to build a new terminal.

Though the terminal would be mainly financed privately, it would still be incredibly expensive – not to mention ugly – compared to the simple solution of just having the trains use the two unused tracks at Lucien L’Allier that sit right next to the entrance to the metro station.

Some of the criticism of the CP route is actually just criticism of this silly idea of the AMT’s, which involves a lot of wishful thinking and can easily go very wrong.

What’s wrong with just running a train from Lucien L’Allier to the airport? Or having the Dorion/Rigaud line run an airport detour? The installation of an elevator to the metro and a shelter above the platforms would make things a bit easier on travellers, but I don’t think the option is so awful, so out of the way that it has to be dismissed at great expense.

It’s the simplest answer. So why isn’t it the correct one?

UPDATE (May 26): Henry Aubin also comes out in favour of the CP route.

53 thoughts on “The airport-train link: Let’s put our cards on the table

  1. Margo

    I want to say “geez, the two stations are like 2 seconds away from each other, who cares? Take the cheaper (in the long run) route”
    But if they can’t even add more trains to the Dorion/Rigaud line due to too much freight traffic, how would they be able to add an airport route?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The freight traffic is only for the part west of the Taschereau yards in Lachine. The track east of there is used exclusively by the AMT because it leads only to Lucien L’Allier station.

      Both plans would use the CP track through Dorval, and would involve either reserving an existing track for passenger use or creating a new reserved track.

  2. Tux

    Fagstein, you are absolutely right on the money. And why isn’t your excellent solution, which is tightly integrated into the existing infrastructure AND thrifty the correct one? I’m not sure, but I suspect it involves a lot of people who get paid way more than they’re worth.

    1. Circeus

      I agree. I live on Rue Souvenir with my bedroom window to the back. Vehicles on Villes-Marie are louder (and AT ALL TIME) than the trains, and a shorter train would be much less inconvenient than the commuter ones.

  3. telso

    Westmounters are actually mostly now in favour of the CP option, as they’ve realised that quieter trains running on CWR will be better than loud trains running on normal jointed tracks, regardless of how many more trains pass each day.

    A two- or three-car train (with no separate engine car) leaving every 15-20 minutes (with every other train continuing on to the West Island, say) would seem ideal. Another interesting idea, since we’re looking at tram-like light rail, would be to have the train join the orange line at Vendôme (hopefully done before the superhospital is built) and continue downtown, meaning instead of one stop downtown we’d have seven, with a cross-the-platform transfer to the rest. Only problem is we’d need to convert the metro to steel tracks; too bad we have no other reason to do that….

  4. wkh

    as a traveller, I think ending at Lucien L’allier sucks.
    as a commuter I think the central station route sounds ridiculously complicated, especially in light of the fact they’re three feet from one another.

  5. MTLskyline

    The only reason I think the CP line plan is better is because of the proposed inter-modal terminus . That block of downtown is an absolute embarrassment. Boarded up buildings, parking lots, weed covered grass, etc. Revitalizing that block instantly makes this option the clear winner. And it gives Windsor Station purpose.

    However, if the terminus/Cadillac-Fairview complex won’t be built, it would be better to use the CN’s tracks to Central Station. At least then its indoors, and also has the bonus of being slightly more central.

    The former CP-line option of using the outdoor Lucien-L’Allier station, is laughable for a modern city (especially one in our kind of climate). Why would anyone (businesspeople or families for instance) want to wait outside for a train to the airport in the middle of January? This is by far the worst option.

      1. Paul

        “The waiting room at Lucien L’Allier is indoors.”

        At least it was when I was there last week. :)

        Either option sounds equally good to me, as long as the airport-to-downtown train ride is a “direct flight” and costs under, say, $15.

        I’m just getting used to and liking the new 747 bus service and not having to choose between a $50 cab ride or a 1.5 hour multi-transfer, drag-the-luggage-2KM confusing public transport trip to downtown.

        For frequent visitors to Montreal, the Lucien stop might be better since the Metro is almost literally steps away (well, OK, also about 1000 metres below) while the Bonaventure stop might be better for tourist types.


    1. emdx

      Central-station could have a kick-ass intermodal terminal real close to it. All it would need is to scrap the parking lot, and then you could have a 2 story bus terminal with entrances on both levels (via Lagauchetière for the lower level and Belmont for the upper level) directly accessible from University avenue.

      No more embarrassing “dalhousie corridor”.

  6. Bobby

    It boggles the mind that the train terminal at Windsor station was closed for the Bell Centre building, and all that was left was the barren lucien l’allier “station”. CP was on a mission to monetize the windsor station property and we now pay the price. We been robbed!

    I am certain the simple lowest cost and logical option will not be the selected option.

    1. qatzelok

      The most logical thing to do might be to rebuild a new forum on the old Pepsi Forum site, demolish the ugly Bell Center, and return the trains to Windsor Station with/without a multimodal component.

      The selection of “on top of the tracks leading to Windsor Station” as the site of a hockey arena is an example of corporate vandalism of Montreal.

      The sooner it is corrected, the sooner Montrealers will be able to proudly brag about “controlling the mafia” in order to build a city that actually functions for the residents.

      So I choose the CP option, with the demolition of the Bell Center as its centerpiece, along with the revitalization of the West End of downtown around a new forum.

      1. Fagstein Post author

        The Bell Centre is insanely expensive and very profitable. It’s not coming down any time soon. It will probably be obsolete in a couple of decades though, and at that point the tracks to Windsor Station can be restored.

        As much as building the arena there might have been a bad idea in hindsight, I don’t think that was obvious at the time. Windsor Station was only being used by one train line when the decision to build the Molson Centre was made. And the Lucien L’Allier station performs its function adequately right now, with room to spare.

  7. Christopher

    Bring it into Lucien-L’Allier and use this as an opportunity to put in proper underground infrastructure between the two stations to make one huge transit hub with two train stations and two metro stations.

  8. emdx

    Wow. There’s so many things to say I do not know where to start.

    First of all, it has to be understood that the Tories (not the current joke that usurped the name) have “sold” the airport (no not, sold, but rented) to a coterie of businessmen who do not have to answer to anybody.

    For the money they have SUNK into the Dorval airport, they could have built a high-speed train to Mirabel, and closed Dorval. Just how much that land would be worth if redevelopped??? With all the problems with urban sprawl, it is pretty stupid to have that big block of land that is used to land planes; and in addition, the planes are noisy, and not just in St-Laurent or Pointe-Claire. I often go at a friend who lives in Villeray, and the aircraft noise bothers me. Even though “newer aircraft are quieter”, there are plenty of old hacks flying about, especially with U.S. airlines (before deregulation, the US had the newest fleet in the world. After deregulation, instead of buying aircraft, they bought airlines. Now the US has the oldest fleet in the world).

    But for now, it seems we’re stuck with Dorval.

    So, it is at the hands of a coterie of businessmen who answer to no one, so they can gouge the travelling public with exorbitant parking fees, outrageous concession prices and astronomical “airport improvement fees”. And now, those people want to run a train to downtown.

    Well, if they really wanted, there could be a train running in mere weeks; all it takes is to lay down a kilometer of tracks from the CP mainline to the new airport building built southwest of the old one. The fact that they are still dithering over that goes a long way to prove that the coterie of businessmen who “administer” Dorval airport who answer to no one (let’s call them the “COBWADAWATNO” from now on) do not have the public welfare in mind.

    Okay. Now let’s tackle what was presented by Mr Fagstein.

    The CP route versus the CN route.

    It has only advantages. Freights only run from Dorval to Ballantyne*, a distance of 2.7 miles (4.32km). Compare this to the CN, where freights run from Dorval Est to Pointe-St-Charles†, a distance of 9.7 miles (15.5 km).

    So you would have shuttle trains jockeying with VIA rail trains and CN freights on 16 km of line with anywhere from 2 to 4 tracks, at speeds going from zero to 60 mph. It may not be a scheduling nightmare (60 years ago, there was at least 20 times as much trains going there, all dispatched without the aid of computerized assistance), but it will be a big deal to keep the shuttles on time. Heck, the 747 shuttle bus will have a better time even when mired in the 2-20 traffic!!!

    It may be argued that Central Station is, well, more “central”. Perhaps. But there are hotels besides the Queen Elizabeth… And office towers besides Place Ville-Marie.

    The main argument against Central Station, for a suitcase-laden traveller is that at Windsor station (okay, Lucien l’Allier), one will not have to climb stairs with luggage to exit the station. And the silly square with the hockey player statues between the station and Lagauchetière street could have a taxi stand.

    But that’s all talk, and what seems to move people about is the perspective of a big project.

    So the AMT is floating that ”new Windsor station” idea.

    This is completely, totally, utterly silly and ridiculous. A train station is no mini-mall. Currently, Lucien L’Allier has 8 tracks (6, with two out of commission) and has to accommodate 12 car trains. A 12 car train is (85*12+70=)1090 feet long. Two tracks plus a platform are 40 feet wide. So to have the same capacity as the current station, you will need a 1100 feet by 160 feet platform, and this will have to be built between 40 and 50 feet up in the air. Given that one train will weight something like 750 tons, this will call for a hefty structure going from Peel Street all the way to Versailles street.

    Here is what I estimate it will look like:

    And now, this is ONLY to duplicate the current capacity of Lucien L’Allier. If you want more trains, it will have to be bigger!!!

    This is 2 blocks away from Central Station.

    The crazy option:

    Well, here is my crazy option, which would be better than the stupid option. You get all the advantages of the CP route without the disadvantages of the CN route, and the passengers will have the immense pleasure of lugging their baggage up the stairs into the classy Central Station concourse.

    Let’s link the CP line to Central Station with a viaduct. This is feasible, with absolutely minimal demolition.

    Here is the plan (but first, everyone take a valium):

    Now, all commuter trains could terminate at Central Station, which would then really be worthy of it’s name. The viaduct will be much less expensive than the new station 50 feet up in the air. VIA rail trains could conceivably use CP tracks to go westward (to Dorion for Toronto and De Beaujeu for Ottawa — totally avoiding CN except between Hawthorne and Ottawa) and avoid the CN freight congestion.

    Avoiding CN could be a good impetus to develop faster rail service.

    * I am using the official railroad company operating timetables station (a station is a named point anywhere on the rail network, it can be only a post with a name on it and often trains never stop there) name nomenclature; Ballantyne is at the very west end of the Meadowbrook golf course.

    † Immediately south of the Lachine Canal.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Setting aside the fact that your solution to the ugliness of a Turcot-like railway in the sky is a longer Turcot-like viaduct, there is also the problem that there aren’t any free gates at Central Station, while there are at Lucien L’Allier. In order to accommodate a shuttle to the airport, it would need to take a gate (realistically at least two) from the either the AMT or VIA, and I’m pretty sure neither has any to spare.

      1. emdx

        There are lots of free gates in Central Station.

        If you refer to the Central Station track plan:

        you will notice that there are 14 (fourteen — quatorze — vierzehn) tracks with platforms, and that number could be raised to 16 in a cinch — just put back the stairs that went down to tracks 7 & 8.

        An additionnal track, #23, could conceivably be added (it currently is being used for business car storage), and the “Turbo Bay” mantenance area could also add 3 extra tracks, too, for a grand total of 20 tracks (applause).

        20 tracks is a huge station with a tremenduous capacity. By comparison, the Paris Gare de Lyon (of original TGV fame) has 22 tracks, and sees something like 500 trains per day.

        When Central Station opened in 1943, it had absolutely no problems handling about 300 trains per day.

        Currently, it handles a maximum of 91 trains per day, which is 6.5 trains per track per day.

        By comparison, Union Station in Toronto has also 14 tracks, and handles far more trains than Central.

        If someone says that “central station is overloaded”, it’s either an ignorant, or a lazy employee who doesn’t want to turn trains around fast (laughs).

        Go any time in Central station, and you’ll notice that very often, on the platform, you can see from one end of the station all the way to the other end: there are no trains in there!

        1. Fagstein Post author

          I suppose bringing gates 7 and 8 back wouldn’t be too difficult, assuming you can get Bureau en Gros to move. But that just adds to the cost, even if it’s just pocket change by comparison.

          1. emdx

            No need to move Bureau en Gros, the stairs emerged well in front of the store entrance.

            If you look carefully, you’ll see a newer patch of terrazzo in front of it; that’s where the stairs used to be.

    2. Paul

      edmx, I was hoping that you’d use the word, “coterie” one more time but I ended up being disappointed.


  9. Ant6n

    Why do they need a station at the airport?
    All they really need to do is flesh out service on the Dorion line, and add a 1km sheltered conveyor belt across the airport parking lot. That way they could continue the fleshed out service westward, and the west island could profit from the extra service.
    In the long term the Lucien Allier situation has to be fixed, anyway. I believe sooner or later (I mean later) they will probably run a tunnel through downtown and connect with the existing freight rail in the old port to create a through-running commuter service. Paris did it to build it’s RER, and Montreal likes to copy Paris (Berlin, Munich did it, too btw).

    1. Fagstein Post author

      In order to be safe, this conveyor belt would have to be pretty slow. The bus would end up being faster.

      Besides, they’ve already built the terminal for the train. It’s just a question of building the track and connecting it.

      1. Marc

        It doesn’t mean that since the train station is built, trains will come… this isn’t Fields of Dreams! Just look at the Mirabel Airport, they built it but no trains or hwy 13 went to it…
        Wichever they pick doesn’t matter, it’s the picking that counts! They can’t seem to do the simplest thing right. Choose!

      2. homer

        Why can’t they just build a light rail from the Dorval VIA terminal tot he train and have a few short VIA trains make the jaunt? I connected from AMTRACK to Newark via Monorail, it was quite simple and efficient.

        1. emdx

          You want to minimize transfers, they are much more a pain in the arse than a longer trip mired in traffic.

          The 747 bus is a prime example of it: even though it is often stuck in 2-20 traffic, it is bursting at the seams. The direct ride is much better than the 2 transfer ride with the 204/209+211+Métro…

          1. Ant6n

            That’s why I think a moving walkway would work best. No construction of rail required, the chance to continue service westward, and no switching at Dorval. It also means that since a moving belt would be part of the airport, you could use your baggage carts all the way to the Dorval station.

      3. Ant6n

        Yes, but you still have to connect it. And then you get a terminal at the airport. I believe this would only make sense if they turned the turned the terminus into a stop, and loop the track back onto the Dorion line. And one would have to keep the stop in Dorval. Otherwise you loose the chance to improve the overall transportation situation in the West Island.

        Moving walkways can run at fairly high speed if they are built correctly. Modern ones that start slow but speed up get up to like 12km/h, so you could do the 1km in 5 minutes. And it would run all the time, meaning you wouldn’t have to wait for the bus — which makes it faster on average.

  10. David Tighe

    Why does nobody mention the crucial question: how can an express running every 20 minutes be filled just with air passengers? This is not Europe: American business travellers, in particular, will usually take a taxi to go downtoown, especially, as often happens, if two or more travel together. How many passengers anyway originate or terminate downtown?

    Many world cities with far bigger airports use stopping trains to link to the centre (Paris, London). London has premium express service but it costs a fortune. Who will pay for the operating deficit in Montréal?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      These trains won’t be the length of commuter trains. The plan is to have maybe three cars, which would be self-propelled.

      And considering the amount of traffic that goes to the airport, I think there’s a case to be made for a lot of people taking the train there. The bus shuttle is already wildly successful.

    2. Karine

      Habits change. If the train service is fast and/or convenient, people will use it. Considering the line ups I’ve seen at Lionel-Groulx waiting for the 747, I think the train service would find it’s clientele.

      I’ve traveled to London’s Gathwick airport, bought my round trip ticket and arrived at the main tube station 30mins later. In Sydney Australia, the metro goes straight to the airport. And over there the walk to the metro was no more complicated then the Gare Centrale to Lucien-L’Allier. I vote for ADM’s plan, there is nothing around Lucien-L’Allier unless you have them get out though the Bell Centre.

  11. Fassero

    It’s the battle by the boys for the fancy toys. But you’re dead right on this one. The fact of the matter is, by the time everything is put together, the ADM proposal will probably be about $400-$500 million more. The mid-to-higher-end hotel traveller is not going to give a whit about how far the “walk” is to the hotel because he/she won’t do it to begin with and, at either stop, you can bet that the hotels will be piling over each other offering shuttle services right from the door. Actually, the only real concern I had with the ATM proposal is what the situation will be like at Lucien-Allier during points in time when event spectators are coming in and exiting the Bell Centre but proper scheduling can fix that.

    The price is too much cheaper to ignore and, undoubtedly, the ride will be quicker on the CP tracks. A real non-issue made into one by the, yet again, egotistical ADM whom really need to spend time figuring out how not to keep losing passengers to Burlington and Plattsburgh because of their silly fees (a good part of which are their own.)

  12. Alex L.

    Je me demande bien pourquoi il faut absolument by-passer le centre Bell pour construire une nouvelle station à Lucien-l’Allier; pourquoi ne pas la construire tout simplement au-dessus de la station de métro et par-dessus / au-dessous des rails existants (entre les rues de la Montagne / Lucien-l’Allier / Saint-Antoine)?

    Après tout les rails y passent et l’accès au métro y serait beaucoup plus facile, en plus d’offrir la possibilité d’éliminer le viaduc qui passe au-dessus de la rue de la Montagne (au lieu de l’élargir), ou de le rapetisser pour le rendre uniquement piétonnier et faciliter l’accès au centre Bell. Les arbres présents sur le site pourraient être déplacés au sud près de la rue Torrance où une nouvelle place pourrait être créée…

    Simplement histoire de ne pas créer cette horreur prévue par l’AMT… tout en créant une nouvelle station et en évitant de déplacer le centre Bell…

    1. emdx

      Une gare, c’est assez gros. Le terrain nécéssaire juste pour DUPLIQUER la gare actuelle de Lucien L’Allier mesure 1110 pieds par 160 pieds (176000 pieds²). C’est presque aussi gros que le quadrilatère occupé par la Place Ville Marie!!!

      1. Kaycee

        That’s to cover the whole area, but if they brought the airport shuttle in on the “northern”-most track, then they could provide a station with a covered area for three cars simply by building on top of Lucien L’Allier metro station and the little used parking lot between it and De la Montagne. Plus, if they expropriated the adjacent Pars Tours building, there could be taxi access via Montagne/Gauchetière.

  13. homer

    Though I relish the thought of putting a train through rich westmounter’s backyards, I fear that’s a battle we will lose and will result in an overall decline of service on that line.

    The last few flights Flights get in around midnight, assuming we give people the time to get their luggage, the last flights can get delayed and crossing through the backyards of high powered Westmount folks could really hurt our chances at accessible train line.

    I mean what would be an acceptable train frequency at the airport. In London it’s every 12 minutes… you think Westmounters would tolerate that? (even thought the tracks were there before they were).

    Also, while Lucien Lallier is physically centered, it isn’t very well connected to the main business district. Sure, there is a metro, but have you ever tried to get there it’s a 10 minute walk up and down stairs and 3 escalators. Not exactly wheel chair friendly or to anyone with 2 large bags and a carry on. At Least Central Station is better equipped in that regard and has some facilities for managing bags. There are also restaurants, cafes, etc nearby and connected, the extra traffic would benefit those businesses as well.

    While it might be more expensive, i think the CN route to Central Station makes more sense.

    1. emdx

      The people in Westmount whose backyard look upon the CP tracks are the poorer people of Westmount. The rabble, if you want.

  14. maZe

    A few comments :

    1)There is a copy of the 1971 study on fast train linking Mirabel and downtown in 21 minutes at the BNQ. The train station was built in the airport. Too bad we closed Mirabel (what a bad decision that was…).

    2)I challenge you to go to Dorval station, with 2 heavy suitcases and take the train to Lucien Lallier and then get to the W hotel let’s say. Or even the QE Hotel. In the winter. Lucien Lallier is not a long-haul traveller friendly station. Plus of course, in the winter, all of this is really lovely – Welcome to Canada. To change this and create a real, covered station Gauthier from AMT is talking about roughly $250 millions. So basically, there is a final price difference of about $50 millions between the two projects.

    3)AMT has been researching and researching and studying and thinking about this link for what… 10, 15 years? I can fully understand why ADM is tired of waiting and want some action. No kidding. Bombardier builds some of the best trains in the world, how come they can make entire rail systems work in various country but we can’t get a direct, 20-min airport train going? That’s a bit shameful really.

    4)Is AMT service reliable? Really? Do we REALLY want to give them more to manage? It seems to me as they can’t quite manage what they have already and obviously haven’t shown to the population they can be trusted with even more trains. For some reasons, “on time” and AMT don’t go together in my mind. Thinking AMT would be able to operate trains every 20 minutes 7 days a week sounds overly naive to me.

    5)I’ve traveled by transit to/from airport in Berlin, London, Paris, Barcelona, Glasgow, Amsterdam and elsewhere. Lucien Lallier is not a positive entrance to the city core. It looks like bad urban planning. It screams “woops, sorry about that, didn’t thought about where to put the Bell Center”. Compare it to Bombardier’s WILKOMEN IN BERLIN giant sign at Haupfbahnhof station in Berlin…it makes us look really bad and Montreal looks like a 2nd-class city. Central station is not THAT great but at least it’s better…

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Is AMT service reliable?

      It depends on what service you’re talking about. The Deux-Montagnes line, which is on mostly reserved track and fully electrified, is actually very reliable. The Dorion/Rigaud line had reliability problems during the winter, though that was a mix of problems with equipment (which the AMT is desperate to upgrade), problems with maintenance (which is done by CP) and other issues that may or may not be under AMT’s control. There’s plenty of issues with the AMT to criticize, but I don’t think the reliability issues we’ve seen are evidence of widespread incompetence.

    2. emdx

      2) If you can afford the W hotel, you can afford a limousine ride from the Aéropet…

      3) AMT only does what it has funding for. The airport shuttle has been deemed non-essential until very recently so no money has been allocated to it.

      4) AMT can operate trains every 20 minutes provided it has the funding for it.

      6) And Central Station is any better, arriving in an underground foxhole? At least, arriving via the CP, you have a wonderful panoramic view of the southwest of the city.

  15. Tim

    I think the views from the CN line must be fantastic (Lachine canal, viaduct entering downtown). Gare Centrale however definitely needs to be redone and made pedestrian friendly.

    My utopic option is this: Electrify all commuter lines. Not have an airport train, but rather have the commuter line with a stop at the airport. For all the commuter trains using the CP tracks ending at Lucien L’allier, the tracks would go underground (starting after Atwater), go under the Bell center, and have the terminus next to Bonaventure metro station and connecting with it. Windsor station could be used as the entrance for this terminus. It would be beside the metro, use Windsor station, be close to the suburban bus terminus and close to Gare Centrale for intercity trains. (Maybe to make this option a little more realistic, the land above where the tracks currently are could be sold for developement.)

  16. Neath

    Interesting situation. I ve been saying for years that you can’t rebuild Turcot without knowing which line the airport express train is going to take, but no one listens to me :P

    Any train that hooks up with the Green Metro line would be a huge success I am sure!

    1. Ant6n

      Both routes have a potential way to hook up to the green line.

      The gare central option could continue in the tunnel going under the mountain. This tunnel passes between Peel and McGill far underground. One could built a station there, with long escalators that connect either directly at Peel or McGill.

      The Lucien L’Allier option passes over the green line in Westmount, over that long stretch between Atwater and Lionel Groulx. One could built a station at that point, for both the green line and the train line.

      Both options mean building stations underground, in tunnels that might be slightly inclined (I don’t know for sure though), so that would probably mean something like 200…400 million dollars.

      Again this means that if one builds this shuttle with improvement to the West Island (and Montreal West, and NDG) in mind, then all people there will get a more direct access to the green line as well.

  17. Jamo

    I just got back from Seattle and a light rail line from the airport via electrified elevated tracks to downtown which is underground through their transit tunnel. It costs 2.50 which is a lot better than the $7 for the 747 bus route. This distance is about the same. Get this throughout the downtown area all public transportation is free!! It’s easy for tourists to get around for free. It was a great visit and a really clean city!!

  18. Jason

    Here is my $ 0.02

    Personally, I like Central Station over Lucien-Allee. I use both train lines (Dorion & Two Mountains) every week. Central Station is defiantly a nicer station and in my case is slightly closer to the bus (535) then Lucien L’Allier is. I get to walk indoors almost all the way to the stop. There is even a Tim Horton’s inside! :)

    The CP line to me makes more sense as it is shorter. The CN route could also allow a new intermodel station to be created at Place St. Henri Metro as the train line is very near by.

    In conclusion, I can’t pick! They both have too many advantages and disadvantages.

    Its a shame that nobody has considered the third route. Going north along the edge of the airport until it reaches the 13 and the connecting this line to where the two Mountains train is. More or less where the doney spur is.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Not only would the Doney Spur be an even more circuitous route from the airport to downtown, but it’s much farther from the airport terminal than the CP and CN tracks are.

      1. Jason

        Granted, but it should not make the overall trip much more than 30min. Its only 20min from Bois-Franc to downtown. I can’t image the trip from the Airport to Bois Franc more than 10 minuets (15min MAX).

        Other advantages: 1) You could electric trains. You would only need to electric the route until Highway 13, the rest is already done. 2). What is the AMT going to do with the leftover electric trains once the switch over to the Bi-level Cars? I read an article in the Gazette many years ago that the Doney Spur route could use the left over cars. They are still relatively new after all. 3) The ADM has a hard-on for Central Station so this train would go there as well. 4) If/when the STM gets their butts in gear and creates the Metro at Bois-Franc you have a superfast connection from the airport.

        Other disadvantages: 1) Doesn’t help the poor West Islanders (like myself), 2) It won’t be feasible to create the new line until the AMT creates the over/under-pass in St. Laurent (just south of the Montpellier station).

        1. Fagstein Post author

          The difference between a 20-minute trip and a 30-minute trip is pretty huge, especially when the longer one isn’t necessary and more expensive.

          1. Jason

            I don’t know if it will really be THAT much more expensive as half the route is already done but perhaps you are right. I still like my idea more. :P

  19. Goaltender Interference

    Why has this project been held up for years to decide between two stations that are 600 METRES FROM EACH OTHER? You can walk between the stations in 10 minutes (5 minutes if you’re cold) or drive from one to the other in 30 seconds. I’m sure that whatever net benefit to the city one station has over the other, has been lost from not having the train at all during this timewasting.

    I now live in a town of 65,000 people and we have better public transport from our airport than Montreal does. The only major city I’ve visited that has worse public transit connection than Montreal is Jerusalem, and that’s because it uses Tel Aviv’s airport.

    People are flocking to bus 747, even though it costs three times as much as a regular bus and still is subject to Highway 20 traffic. That tells you how much Montreal needs this train. The Quebec government has to pick one of these routes, this afternoon if possible.

    If the directors of the ADM or AMT don’t like the decision, who cares? What are they going to do, not run again for re-election? (Oh, wait…)

      1. Goaltender Interference

        Do you mean the majority owners of the Liberal Party of Quebec: LPQ Supporters Construction Financing Ltd.? Even they can’t be happy. How can you graft off a construction project if it never gets approved? And the PQ’s majority owners, FTQ, can’t be too happy either, because their employees can’t start having 36-hour long coffee breaks if there’s no construction site to stand around on.

        No, this entire holdup is due to enormous bureaucratic egos at ADM and AMT and their unhealthy interests with land developers. And even though they’re both losing revenue that would come with a good train link to the airport, they both can afford it, because they are both government-guaranteed monopolies! The only people who are screwed is the public of Montreal, and who cares about them? What are they going to do about it, make it a campaign issue and vote over it? Not likely, because Montrealers are too scared or distrustful to vote for a party that holds a different federalism/sovereignty viewpoint than they have! The only thing the public can do to protest terrible infrastructure is slowly leave the city in dribs and drabs over several decades, and I can’t think of any long-term problems that would cause.

  20. Jason

    Why don’t the two bozos (AMT & ADM) just combine the two idea.
    Have the train start at Saint-Anne and end at Central Station?

    I know that would mean two trains in the West Island, one going to Lucien and one going to Central, but what’s the big deal?
    In fact, why stop at Lucien at all, why not have all the bloody trains just go to central instead?

    Electrify the tacks from the airport forward and use the same dual-power engines that the East Train is suppose to use.

    If you MUST go to Vendome, how about connecting the tracks you past vendome. “As the crow flies”, the two sets of tracks are a bit less than 2000 feet away. Go right under the Glenn yards. Easier to build the tunnel right now without the hospital sitting on top.

    Good or bad, I am just throwing ideas people.

  21. Max

    Has anybody taken the VIA rail train from Gare Centrale? It’s horribly slow, takes 30 minutes to get to Dorval station. Train moves at like 15 km/h. People seem to forget that the CN line is old and curvy, and the speed of trains traversing it must be slower.
    The CP option seems to the be the only viable one. The flow through station at the airport also appears more valuable, since it incorporates local transit and may benefit West-Islanders bound for the airport. Unfortunately, it seems that ADM has already built a terminus-only station.


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