Montreal presses forward with Pink line despite province's ambivalence

Montreal will set aside $1 million in its next budget to begin drawing up plans for the Pink line, an ambitious public transit project that would connect the city's north and southwest neighbourhoods.

Mayor Valérie Plante called Projet Montréal's transit project 'a serious solution to serious problems'

Monday's announcement by Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, right, comes amid questions about the new provincial government's willingness to invest in public transit projects. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Montreal will spend $1 million making the case for an ambitious expansion of its public transit network, hoping to persuade a new provincial government already skeptical about the idea.  

Mayor Valérie Plante announced Monday that her administration is creating a project office to study the benefits of the Pink line, which would connect Montreal North to Lachine.

Her administration also created an advisory committee of six experts to offer additional suggestions about the project, which was a key promise of Plante's mayoral campaign last year.

Pointing to Montreal's overburdened Metro system, Plante called the Pink line the "city's most needed mobility project." 

The Pink line was initially proposed as an expansion of the Metro network. The Montreal area's regional transport agency (ARTM) began studying the technical aspects of the suggested route in July.

Plante said her administration would decide whether it should take the form of an underground subway or some other mode of transit, based on the ARTM's findings.

Pointing to Montreal's overburdened Metro system, Plante called the Pink line the "city's most needed mobility project." (Projet Montréal)

The goal of the project office, she added, will be to study the economic, environmental and urban-planning benefits of the Pink line. 

"For us, the Pink line is much more than a mobility project that will have a crucial impact in our fight against greenhouse gas emissions," Plante said during a news conference at city hall.

She argued the current proposed route would give underserved parts of the island better access to employment hubs and reduce the cost of congestion, estimated at $4 billion per year.  

"It's a serious solution to serious problems," Plante said.

Cool reception from Quebec City

Monday's announcement comes amid uncertainty about the provincial government's willingness to invest in public transit projects. 

Premier François Legault was cool to the Pink line during the provincial campaign, and his new transport minister, François Bonnardel, so far doesn't sound any warmer to the idea.

"We want a government in the service of citizens, and we have to think of drivers before anything," Bonnardel said last week, shortly after being sworn in.

The minister responsible for Montreal, Chantal Rouleau, also reiterated her party's opposition to the Pink line as a Metro extension. 

"It would cost a lot, a lot, a lot of money," said Rouleau, an opposition city councillor in Montreal before the provincial election.

'We're more in favour of surface transit,' said the Quebec government's minister for Montreal, Chantal Rouleau. (Radio-Canada/Mathieu Potvin)

"We're more in favour of surface transit. In the 21st century, there are other technologies that might be more efficient."

But Rouleau also said she was eager to see the results of the studies that will emerge from the Pink line project office. 

Plante, for her part, insisted that she wasn't seeking confrontation with Legault's government by pushing forward with the project. 

"I'm in collaboration mode," she said, adding the city would need the province's help in order to build the Pink line, in whatever form it takes.

"Of course, I'm open to compromise. That's what my job is about."

Plante expects the project office to begin releasing studies by the spring.

With files from Cathy Senay


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