Through traffic: Mixed reactions at meeting on Mount Royal survey

Through traffic: Mixed reactions at meeting on Mount Royal survey
Tempers flare as city unveils controversial Mount Royal pilot project results
The crowd had gathered in downtown Montreal Thursday night to hear the Office de consultation publique de Montréals early findings.

Cars drive recently on section of Remembrance Rd. on Mount Royal that was closed from June 2 to Oct. 31. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

It was only a few minutes into the presentation that the already impatient crowd boiled over with sarcastic laughs and light heckling.

“I understand it’s a subject that brings up a lot of emotions,” the moderator interjected, speaking up to calm the room. “But please, let the presenter finish.”

The crowd had gathered in downtown Montreal Thursday night to hear the Office de consultation publique de Montréal’s early findings on the controversial Mount Royal through-traffic pilot project.

When the OCPM presented one of its findings from a survey — that roughly 55 per cent of respondents “completely agree” the project reduced traffic on the mountain — the crowd, it appeared, had heard enough.

Fifty-nine per cent of participants thought the pilot project was “a very bad idea,” the OCPM said. Sixty-two per cent agreed it made it more difficult to travel between the mountain’s different points of interest, and 67 per cent found it increased traffic in the “areas surrounding the mountain.”

The OCPM was mandated by the city to look into the future of access roads to Mount Royal and to evaluate the pilot project itself.

The project, which ran from June 1 to Oct. 31, eliminated through traffic on Mount Royal, preventing vehicles from using Camillien-Houde Way and Remembrance Rd. as a crosstown artery.

It came to be after the death of 18-year-old cyclist Clément Ouimet on Camillien-Houde Way a year ago sparked demands to make the road safer. Controversial from the outset, it led to a 36,000-name petition opposing it and an 8,292-name one in favour.

In its presentation Thursday night, the OCPM said the consultation process on the project has drawn one of the greatest participation rates in its history, with more than 10,000 people weighing in on it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the office explained in its presentation, results from its surveys differed depending on the respondent’s main mode of transportation: 83 per cent of motorists qualified it as a “very bad idea” while 62 per cent of cyclists considered it a “very good idea.”

Earlier this week, after releasing a preliminary report on the project — which was also presented at Thursday night’s meeting — the city of Montreal praised it as a success, hailing the fact there were no accidents during the five-month period and noting an increase in the number of cyclists using the mountain.

“When you were on the mountain this summer, you felt the difference. You felt the peace, you felt the tranquillity, you felt the contact with nature,” Luc Ferrandez, the executive committee member responsible for large parks, told reporters.

“In which way are motorists considered for this pilot project?” asked Plateau-Mont-Royal resident Jean Thompson as an open question period began following the presentation.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce resident Michael Silas, who says he opposed the project from day one, called the city’s report meaningless.

“It’s a completely biased point of view,” he said. “You’re asking someone how they felt about their own pilot project. Of course they’re going to say it’s a great success.”

Silas was encouraged by the OCPM’s findings trending in a different direction, but said he was baffled by some of the statistics the city presented.

“We don’t care how many people there were or weren’t at an intersection,” he said. “The question is do we want to continue using that road? And it’s clear people do not want to stop through traffic over Mount Royal. They want to keep using the road.”

Addressing the panel, Raymond Cherrier, from Côte-des-Neiges, shared a similar opinion.

“I see a majority of respondents indicated an interest in keeping cohabitation in the traffic lane, but when we see the city’s report, the adjectives used don’t reflect that desire,” he said. “Will it be considered?”

“The very reason why the city mandated the OCPM was to consult the population,” Brodeur said. “On one side we have the city’s report. On the other, we have what the citizens and users of the mountain have to tell us about their perception of the project. That’s why we’re holding a consultation. It will be considered.”

The Plante administrations Mount Royal pilot project remains a polarizing issue as the city releases its findings at the second phase of public consultations. As Brayden Jagger Haines reports, many citizens remain unsatisfied with the results.

City officials and speakers had a hard time controlling the room at the second phase of public consultations Thursday night for the Mount Royal pilot project.

Emotions frequently flared up as city officials unveiled data from the findings collected during the controversial six-month pilot project which closed through traffic on Mount Royal.

The Public Consultations Office reveled its findings which were conducted from a survey of 10,000 participants, a record for the PCO, according to president Dominique Olliver.

Although she descried the results of the survey as nuance, Olliver agreed “lots of people think it’s a bad idea.”

“Many understand there might be a need to have less vehicles on the mountain and they have ideas but they don’t agree with the pilot project,” Olliver said.

According the PCO survey, 58 per cent of participants thought the pilot project prohibiting through traffic on the mountain was a “very bad idea.”

A cheer of approval could be heard from the crowd in attendance at the consultation meeting when that statistic was announced.

Olliver says she did find it shocking that, no matter the means of transportation, when participants were asked on-site, their answers were more positive.

The online portion of the survey found that 83 per cent of drivers disagreed with the pilot project compared to 66 per cent of cyclists who believe it is was a “very good idea.”

According to the survey, 67 per cent of respondents completely agree that the pilot project has increased traffic on and around the mountain.

That is contrary to the city’s findings, which say the alternative routes north and south of the mountain were at but never exceeding capacity.

The city officials deemed the project a success to the dismay of the crowd and Pierre-Lousi Houle, who frequents the mountain.

“They seem to be coming to a forgone conclusion that this was a success. If your definition of success is water is wet, then yes it is,” Houle said mockingly.

The goals of reducing transit traffic and the numbers of vehicles on the mountain was achieved, according to the city’s findings.

They also reported decreasing speed limits to 40 kilometers an hour created an environment that was conducive to sharing the road.

The consultation process will continue with several sessions where the public may voice their opinion in person or online at the PCO website.

The public has until Nov. 22 to register online to participate in public hearings, which will be held on Nov. 28.

As for a final result concerning through traffic on the mountain, that is expected late Spring of next year.