Will Montreal finally get a modern tram?

Richard Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montreal, has been lobbying hard in his election campaign to bring the tram back to the streets of Montreal. But is it feasible?

Richard Bergeron promises functional tram by 2017 if elected

The return of the tram is proving a big issue in Montreal's municipal elections. 2:21

Looming elections often bring promises of a tram renaissance, and the upcoming municipal election is no different.

A CBC Montreal viewer in Côte-des-Neiges told us via the Street Politics map that it’s time to bring back the tram.

And the idea for bringing the tram back to Montreal has been batted around a lot by both politicians and average citizens in the past decade or so.

Richard Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montreal, agrees. He’s been lobbying hard in his election campaign to bring the tram back to the streets of Montreal. But is it feasible?

Studies, including one commissioned by the city, show trams have led to a renewal in other cities by cutting car use and attracting people to the downtown area.

“It would reduce the need for parking lots in highly sensitive districts,” says Normand Parisien, a transport expert with Transport 2000.

Montreal used to have a tram, but it died out in the late 1950s and ‘60s and was replaced by the Metro, which opened in the lead up to Expo 67.

Bergeron says a modern electric tram for Montreal would cost between $40-60 million per kilometre, comparable to one being built in Nice, France.

In comparison, the recently announced extension of the Metro’s blue line is expected to cost between $250-300 million per kilometre.

The five-kilometre extension of the orange line into Laval, completed in 2007, cost a total of $745-million.

Bergeron is proposing a 12.5-kilometre tram line connecting Côte-des-Neiges, Old Montreal and the downtown core. The project would cost between $500-million and $1-billion.

Stéphane Kruschitz, who works in urban planning for the City of Laval, says Côte-des-Neiges sorely needs a tram.

“The buses are all lined up in Côte-des-Neiges. The traffic jams are crazy. It’s just the logical solution,” he says.

But the price tag, along with the urgent need to replace the Turcot Interchange, has dissuaded other mayoral candidates from a tramway project.

“A tramway? Forget that,” Denis Coderre has said, while Marcel Côté called a tramway a “lack of judgment.”

Bergeron promises that, if elected, he would ensure a tram was up and running by Montreal’s 375th anniversary, in 2017.

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