Quebec transport minister rides Metros orange line with Montreal mayor – Global News

Quebec transport minister rides Metros orange line with Montreal mayor - Global News
Quebecs transport minister fails to see Pink after ride on Orange line
Mayor Valérie Plante and Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel took a ride on the Montreal Metro together Tuesday morning.

Plante said she wanted to show Bonnardel just how packed the orange line gets during rush hour — in hopes of convincing the provincial government to support the idea of a new pink line.

She said she wasn’t sure the message was getting across, and so invited Bonnardel back in February for a rush hour ride on the orange line.

Earlier this month Plante said she had concerns about plans to expand the REM light rail network thats currently under construction, saying she believes it would overload the existing metro network. Bonnardel said nothing is set in stone and the government is waiting for proposals from the Caisse de Depots infrastructure wing on what the expansion could look like. 

“It was a little packed this morning,” he said, after riding the Metro from the Laurier to Champ-de-Mars stations.

“It’s not like I was thinking, but there are no students in the subway this morning.”

"It was a little packed this morning," Bonnardel acknowledged, noting that with many university students done classes for summer, the situation could have been worse. "Its a situation that well consider seriously. Well see what projects well prioritize in the future."

She campaigned on the promise of building a new north-south Metro line to relieve pressure on the orange line.

Bonnardels voyage came at the invitation of Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, whose proposal of building a new pink line for the metro has received a lukewarm response from the Coalition Avenir Quebec government. Plante has called Bonnardel out of touch for dismissing the project.

“It’s after a long weekend, it’s nice outside, people are taking bikes and Bixis, which is great. There are less students, university and college is over.”

“We’re all like sardines inside of there. He should be taking the Metro in September, October when school starts back. Then he’ll realize that we need it.”

At a CAQ national convention in May 2018 before his election as premier, CAQ leader Francois Legault said the party had not worked the pink line into its financial framework, saying there are already two metro lines for Montreals downtown.

“There are times where I’ve had to wait for two or more trains before I can board the train,” he said.

The STM will add more trains to the orange line later this year and an express bus from Beaubien to Papineau later this fall – but those are long short-term solutions said transit advocate Francois Pepin of Trajectoire Quebec.

When the Coaltion Avenir Québec (CAQ) insisted a new Metro line was not a priority, Plante accused Bonnardel of being out of touch.

“I know the situation in Montreal. I lived in Montreal the first 20 years of my life,” he said, preferring to talk about other transport projects in the works.

“It’s a situation we consider seriously and we have a lot of projects for Montreal. The SRB Pie-IX, the blue line for future, so we’ll see what we prioritize for the future for Montreal.”

Plante, Bonnardel and Minister Responsible for the Montreal Region Chantal Rouleau travelled on the orange line before attending a press briefing.

Bonnardel talked about the new Société de transport de Montreal (STM) garage set to be built at the Cote-Vertu station, but downplayed concerns that a possible extension of the new light rail  train network north and south of Montreal may make things even more difficult for orange line travelers.

Quebec Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel rode the rails of Montreals metro system during rush hour on Tuesday morning.

READ MORE: STM creating new express bus line, adding trains to Metros orange line to alleviate congestion

“I already understood the situation,” Bonnardel told reporters outside Champ-de-Mars métro station, noting he has seen photos and videos of jam-packed métro cars on the Orange Line and knows the Green Line from when he lived in Verdun 30 years ago. “I know just how popular the métro is in Montreal.”

“Ultimately, whatever the colour or the transport method, what I’m looking for is options. I need to hear that the government is conscious that it is difficult on the orange line,” said Plante.

Two weeks ago, when the mayor complained about the CAQ government’s “worrisome” idea of extending the REM to distant suburbs, Rouleau fired back. She said more transit in the region would be good news for Montrealers, adding she didn’t understand Plante’s “mood swing” on the issue.

The Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) said it is still studying the potential pink line. On his end, Bonnardel said he will be paying attention to the results.

Orange Line overcrowding is “a situation that we consider seriously and we have a lot of projects for Montreal,” Bonnardel said, pointing to the métro’s Blue Line extension, an under-construction rapid-bus system on Pie-IX Blvd. and the new métro garage at Côte-Vertu station.

Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel finally took a ride on the Metro's packed Orange line, but it didn't convince him the Pink line is necessary.

The two ministers joined Plante for a four-station, 11-minute métro ride, from Laurier to Champ-de-Mars. It was not as crowded as usual because university and CEGEP classes are over and it was a nice day, with some commuters opting to walk or bike.

Bonnardel said after a trip during the morning rush hour the province is working to alleviate pressure and "we have many projects on the table."

When asked about the Pink line, Bonnardel said the province already has a plan in place to improve mobility.

Her goal: to show them the métro network’s busiest route is overcrowded and needs relief — perhaps via her coveted multibillion-dollar, 29-station Pink Line, linking Montreal North and Lachine, with two links to the Orange Line.

Bonnardel acknowledged the Metro wasn't necessarily as busy as usual, given it was a sunny day after a long weekend and many university students have wrapped up classes.

"That being said, we know, I mean we've all seen pictures and videos being posted of how crowded it can get," he told reporters.

Bonnardel also dismissed Plante’s contention that the CAQ’s proposed Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light-rail extensions to Laval, Chambly and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu will exacerbate congestion on the Orange Line.

Tuesday's ride came after repeated invitations from Mayor Valérie Plante to take the Orange line during peak hours.

But after their ride, Transport Minister François Bonnardel and Chantal Rouleau, the minister responsible for the Montreal region, stood by their government’s existing plan, which does not include the Pink Line.

She had suggested that the minister was "out of touch" when he dismissed her proposed Pink line.

Plante, for her part, said she hopes the métro journey will help the ministers understand the plight of métro users and the need to improve the situation so more car drivers are convinced to switch to transit.

Bonnardel previously stated the Pink line was not "a priority in the short, medium and long term."

Plante said Tuesday it was important that the transport minister witness the problem on the Orange line first hand. 

“We don’t think so,” Bonnardel said, adding that the government will be guided by studies to be conducted by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

She said it's good news that more people are relying on public transit to get to work but, at the same time, the congestion shows improvements are needed.

The proposed Pink line would link Montréal-Nord to downtown with nearly 20 stations without going through Berri-UQAM station.

Quebec Premier François Legault, however, has said he favours expanding the Blue line to the east and hasn't earmarked any money for the Pink line.

She leaves early with hopes of beating the rush, but she often finds herself waiting every morning for a few trains to pass before she finds room.

"I leave at 6:30 in the morning to be able to avoid the 7:30 jam inside the Metro," she told CBC News on Tuesday. "You sometimes get a seat."

Hearing that the transport minister was taking the Metro for a ride, she said it will give him a chance to see what Montrealers go through every day just to get to work.

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