Montreal challenges – What is the future design of Ste. Catherine?
It was the first year for Mayor Valerie Plante, the first female to hold the position in the city, and the assessment of her administration and her Projet Montréal party tends to be mixed. At the beginning of 2018 a convoluted explanation for the fact that city taxes have had an increase larger than the one promised during the campaign –city taxes proper increased within limits announced by Plante, but then water taxes were added, and the sum of the two went over the inflation rate– provided the first black eye to the new administration. This situation hasn’t repeated this year: when the city announced the new taxes for 2019, the increases will be kept within the inflation rate. On the positive side the city has implemented some policies aiming at dealing with environmental protection, and toward the end of the year announced an action plan to help integrate immigrants into this society.
However, the assessment turns more critical, and even negative, when it comes to some decisions where the will of the citizens was not apparently considered. A case in point was the pilot plan that saw the thoroughfare on Mount Royal (Remembrance and Camillien Houde Roads) closed to cars during the summer. Compounded by the fact that Dr. Penfield Ave. was closed at the corner of Peel, the road closing on Mount Royal resulted in long traffic jams on Sherbrooke St., traffic delays that affected equally private cars and buses, i.e. users of public transit, which the new administration claims to favour, were also affected by the pilot plan.
Among the decisions that the ruling party in City Hall must do this year is the one concerning the future of that pilot plan on Mount Royal: are they going to keep it for the summer? Will it be a permanent change, as some in her party namely Plateau Mont-Royal Mayor Luc Ferrandez, also the councillor in charge of parks, would like? The Mayor has said that regarding the future of car circulation on Mount Royal, she would accept the recommendations of the Office de consultations publiques de Montréal, but that may also depend on how defenders of the two contradicting positions are able to mobilize to air their views before the OCPM.
The city must also make important decisions on public transit on the island, which has come under sharp criticism during 2018, especially the deficiencies in the bus routes. On the other hand, the projected Pink Line of the metro, although now under study, is still a long shot, since the new provincial authorities have not indicated support for the idea. In the meantime, extensions to existing lines, particularly the Blue Line in the east to reach Anjou, and perhaps, the Orange Line in the north-west, still don’t show any sign of progress. The CAQ government is on record supporting the building of some tramway lines, but again, there are no concrete moves regarding that plan yet.
On the other hand, the city has implemented positive moves regarding street lighting, replacing the old sodium lamps which emit a yellowish light that distorts objects and provide insufficient illumination, for neutral-white LED lights. However, not all the areas have benefitted from the same quality of lighting: while De Maisonneuve between Peel and St. Mathieu got high-quality lamps including sidewalk lights too, on the sections east of Peel and west of St. Mathieu the bulbs are less powerful, and no lighting for the sidewalks was installed. Many residents in the sectors affected ask, why?
Of course, managing a big city is not an easy thing, keeping its citizens happy is even harder. But if one thing is at the roots of many of these problems is that Mayor Plante and her party need consulting the citizens in a more meaningful way (i.e. taking into account what people say). Let’s hope this will happen this year.
Feature image: The future design of Ste. Catherine should be decided this year