Early in the 20th century, as tramway traffic developed around Montreal’s downtown area, the idea of an underground transport system surfaced – but it did not go very far. The great stock market crash in October of 1929 put the idea on the back burner as the Great Depression of the 1930’s set in. It wasn’t until 1944 when the Montreal Tramways Company brought the idea back as a ‘Metro’ project, but with World War Two and further research required for the project, it did not move forward. It was not until the 1960’s when the project was finally given approval and as we know, it moved ahead. Now in 2019, we are witnessing the creation of a light-rail transit system – the REM, which will change the way we move about the Greater Montreal area and lead us forward.
METRO SYSTEM PROPOSED 1953-1961:
In 1953, the new Montreal Transportation Commission proposed its own Metro project. The first phase would have involved the construction of a 12.5 km line under Saint-Denis, Saint-Jacques and Sainte-Catherine streets with a price tag of $117 million. However, it wasn’t until October of 1961, under Mayor Jean Drapeau’s reign that a blueprint for three lines were presented: the Green line running east-west, the Orange line running north-south, with a third ‘RED’ line running under Mount Royal – but it was abandoned in 1971 with the advent of a Blue line becoming a priority instead. The Red line eventually became what is known today as the Yellow line, the fourth line, from Berri-UQAM to Longueuil on the South Shore. On November 3rd 1961, the City of Montreal officially announced the project, with Lucien L’Allier as senior engineer – and a price tag of $132 million.
METRO PROJECT MOVES FORWARD 1962-1965:
In May of 1962, construction work began on Berri St. south of Jarry and the cost of the project had grown to $213 million, mostly attributed to the addition of the Yellow line. The network was to be built entirely underground, with a different architectural design for each station and the metro trains running only on rubber tires. On August 24th 1965, the Canadian Vickers company was awarded the contract to build the first 369 metro cars – the MR-63.
FIRST NETWORK AND STATIONS INAUGURATED 1966- 1967:
On October 14th 1966, the first 20 Metro stations were inaugurated, with around one million people trying out the system. By the spring of 1967, the very first metro network was completed with 26 stations: the Green linerunning from the Atwater station to Frontenac, the Orange line from the Henri-Bourassa station to Bonaventure and the Yellow line running from Berri-De Montigny (known today as Berri-UQAM) to the Longueuil station.
LINE EXTENSIONS AND METRO CARS 1970-1980’s:
In October of 1971, work began on extending the network to what we know it as today. The Green line would eventually be extended from Honoré-Beaugrand to the Angrignon station, the Orange line from Cote Vertu all the way tothe Montmorency station in Laval and a new fourth line, the Blue line would run from Saint-Michel station to Snowdon. Due to delays in construction and inflation, the cost of the extensions rose from an estimated $430 million in 1971 to a disconcerting $1.6 billion dollars by 1975 – causing the Provincial government to impose a moratorium on the extensions that would only be lifted during the next decade. During that time, new Metro cars were needed and Bombardier was awarded the contract to build 423 MR-73 cars, with the first deliveries starting in July of 1976 and put into service by December.
METRO IMPROVEMENTS AND INTO THE FUTURE:
In 1990, the MR-63 cars, the very first cars on the tracks, were renovated. Work to extend the the Orange line in Laval finally started in March of 2002 and by April of 2007, the new Cartier, De la Concorde and Montmorency stations were officially inaugurated. By the end of the decade, Bombardier-Alstom was given a contract to build 468 MPM-10 cars, known as the Azur trains. In February of 2016, the new cars were put into service on the Orange line – and by 2018, the entire MR-63 fleet was retired. The new REM light-rail transit system will write its own pages in Montreal’s transit history – with four lines connecting to downtown, the South Shore, North Shore, West Island and the Airport – and integrated into the existing public transit system. At a cost (to date) of $6.3 billion, the first of 240 cars are expected to be on the tracks by the summer of 2021 and the full fleet in operation by the end of 2023… leading transport into the future.