December 09 2013

Closure of The Champlain Bridge: Transportation Sustainability in Montreal, Quebec

The Champlain Bridge in Montreal, Canada.

It’s hard to look past the topic of the week: the Champlain Bridge! The closure of several lanes on the bridge deck caused huge traffic jams over several kilometers at the beginning of the week, with the same happening at all road accesses crossing the St. Lawrence River.

And that is only the start of it. The closures will probably increase non-stop between now and the arrival of a new structure in four, five, or seven years, according to whichever scenario the federal government decides upon. And above all, this partial closure of the Champlain Bridge has succeeded in once again demonstrating at least two political shortcomings:

  1. Long-term planning is not one of the strengths of our officials, nor is the upkeep of our infrastructure. We always think of the short term, that is to say, about the next election, and not about future generations.

  1. The logic behind using automobiles is breaking down. Take away one road, and whoops, it is chaos for the one-man car. We can add roads and expand our highways however much we like, but they will inevitably reach their saturation point in several years… even with roads fourteen lanes wide!

Public transportation prospects must be improved with sustainable mobility policies for the entirety of the Montreal metropolitan area. No more allocating a bit of money here and there, as the government of Quebec currently does. Plans have been made public for the expansion of a highway, funding for special lanes, and a metro line expansion, too. What is the common thread between these announcements that will ensure coherent development?

Traffic in Montreal

Author Karel Mayrand summarized the situation especially well in a recent open letter entitled, “Message to Users of the Champlain Bridge: Buy a Car!” where he writes:

This is how the MTQ (Ministry of Transport of Quebec) will continue to make 85% of its investments in roads, and only 15% in public transportation. “Buy yourselves cars, we will provide the roads free of charge.” This is also how the average household ends up spending 18% of their income for transportation alone, namely the automobile and fuel. Nearly one dollar in five earned by Quebecers goes up in smoke. [...] The primary obstacle for shifting towards public transportation is not motorists, but the MTQ itself.

But popular support does not seem to suffice for our dear politicians. It has been repeated non-stop for years, but nothing happens. Or, hardly anything. However, the logic behind public transportation is not difficult to understand, as evidenced by a 2009 photographic montage from the Toronto Transit Commission.

Can the promotion and improvement of public transportation lead to more sustainable practices in other North American cities where automobile use predominates?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Marcus Khoury

Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing to his experiences with a variety of cultures, languages, and environments, he has always been keenly interested in how the exchange of ideas between different cities, regions, and countries helps to shape both physical and cultural landscapes. His linguistic background, in addition to his interest in the diversity of international urban environments and experiences, has led Marcus to fill the position of French Language Translator at The Grid, where he will be translating and presenting French language material involving environmental design.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 9th, 2013 at 9:33 am and is filed under Government/Politics, Infrastructure, Marcus Khoury, Social/Demographics, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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