Mobility in the city: The state of Peter-McGill BY: Martin Paraire

By Martin Paraire

Translated by Philippe Fines

This piece was submitted to the Citizen Journal project of the Peter-McGill Community Council. Please note that the opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of our organization. This project aims to create space for the voices of residents, students and friends of the neighbourhood through articles, photos, videos, and podcasts in any language. Are you interested in contributing? Contact us at benevolat@petermcgill.org!

Commuting is a big part of the ordinary working day. Especially in this time of soaring energy prices, alternatives to individual cars have become steadily more appreciated. Cities sought to make themselves more accessible to vehicles and particular, motorized transport. Now, every urban strategy emphasizes transitioning away from automobiles to alternatives, and the district of Peter-McGill will likely observe similar trends. 
However, Montreal and the district of Peter-McGill don’t reflect this growing importance of alternative means: Due to historical trends and climatic circumstances, the district is behind in the transition, further delayed by the transportation axis designed to funnel out-of-district workers.

Historically, Montreal discarded all streetcar systems after 1945 and transitioned to the full-blown Parisian-influenced metro system that we know today. Although this project permitted the gaining of surface spaces to construct above ground, it conversely isolated many neighbours from city scaled train transportation.

Tramway Montreal (1920)
The Peter-McGill district lost connections that allowed residents to move around the neighbourhood and other parts of Montreal Collective transportation.
In the current organization of underground public transportation, Peter-McGill has five metro stops, with four on the green line and one on the orange line. However, Metro stations now only serve to move through the district, not around the community. As a result, most inhabitants live more than 500m away from a metro station, the usual European standard.
Public transport in Peter-McGill District

Nonetheless, buses – to some, the emblem of all that is slow – is the key to city transit within the district:

While the district is not well equipped with underground subways, bus lanes make up for the lack of underground transportation, both in terms of travel within the district and connection between other districts.

Public transport in Peter-McGill district 2

Ingenious planification of public transport in the city has located most bus lane nodes near metro stations for effective transition between the two means. Nevertheless, the density of public transportation shows that the southern part of the district is better served by public transit than the northern part.

Public transport in Peter-McGill district 3

Yet, the remaining individual alternatives to cars are not plentiful within the district, nor do they make the rest of the district very accessible and easy to go around:

The district exhibits a cycling lane deficit, with only two large-scale cycling lanes horizontally piercing through the district, the others being primarily for recreational purposes on the Mont-Royal. Although we may  think these cycling lanes were designed to pass through the district from the Plateau and other parts of Ville-Marie, they do not allow for fast travelling within.

Furthermore, the number of cycles reported in the district shows large numbers of cyclists only during summertime, with the highest frequencies between May and September. Winter temperatures would explain why Montrealers do not use the bike all year round and prefer car transportation during wintertime. A resident of the Peter-McGill district then relies mainly on walking to travel around the district.

Cyclists in Peter-McGill district

Therefore, the state of transportation of Peter-McGill reveals a redundant macro-design of all types of transport: alternatives to the car within the district are intended to allow fluid passage through the district, primarily for daily workers.

Although such designs lessen the burden of cars on the roads in the district, they leave residents without fast and reliable transportation to move around the district. Though the district’s size doesn’t restrain the residents from circulating, this lack of transportation can still prevent easy access to certain parts of the district, mainly in the northern region.

Although the construction of new metro stations or lines is already on the current city government’s agenda, they are not planned to pass through Peter-McGill. Metro construction is a titanic and costly adventure and isn’t a short-term solution. Alternatively, on the model of north European countries, a municipal-led adaptation of cyclists to wintertime and opening of new in-district biking lanes could be valuable short-term solutions to this continual problem.