A conspicuous absence of Pink as Quebec commissions $5M Orange line study

An announcement of new funds to seek solutions for the Metro system's chronic congestion problems makes no mention of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's proposal for a new Pink line.

Announcement made two days after transport minister's ride on Metro

There are currently about 21,500 riders hopping on the Orange line between the Berri-UQAM and Beaubien stations — just five stops apart — during morning rush hour, the STM says. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Two days after Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel took a ride on the Metro's Orange line, the government has allocated new funds to mitigate the system's chronic congestion problems.

But there's no mention of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's proposed Pink line as a possible solution.

On Thursday, the office of Chantal Rouleau, Quebec's junior transport minister and the minister responsible for the Montreal region, announced that the ministry had commissioned Montreal's regional transit authority (ARTM) to do a $5-million study of solutions for the overcrowded Orange line.

Plante called the announcement "good news," even though the ARTM is already in the middle of studying her Pink line proposal.

"I'm happy that Quebec has heard my message," Plante said in an impromptu press conference Thursday morning.

"If we are told that there is another solution that is not a Metro, ultimately, I'm very open. I'm not dogmatic. Neither on colour of the line nor on technology."

The ARTM study of the Pink line project, which proposes to connect Montréal-Nord to Lachine without going through Berri-UQAM, was commissioned by the provincial Liberal government in July 2018.

The Pink line was central to the 2017 campaign of Projet Montréal, Plante's party.

Earlier in May, STM chair Philippe Schnobb, background, and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced a new plan to relieve pressure on the Orange line, including adding Metro trains and buses. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The results of the Pink line study should be reflected in a 30-year strategic transportation plan for greater Montreal that the ARTM is slated to submit by the end of the year. Montreal also set aside $1 million in its most recent budget to study the Pink line plan.

The words "Pink line" are nowhere to be found in Thursday's press release, which refers instead to studies "answering the issues concerning the congestion of the Orange line."

It also refers to "technical analysis aimed at identifying and quantifying" current and future needs of users and the impact renovations to the network will have in the coming years.

The new studies commissioned by the province should take place over the next year and a half, with the results expected near the end of 2020.

ARTM experts will have to pay particular attention to Berri-UQAM station — the core of the Metro network. Another preliminary study is already planned to look at an extension of the Yellow line, which would increase traffic.

The provincial government's actions suggest it could be seeking alternatives to a new Metro line.

Two weeks ago, the Legault government announced that the Caisse de dépôt et placement (CDPQ) will be examining three new public transit scenarios, including a "new public transit system to connect Montreal's east end with the CEGEP Marie-Victorin sector in downtown" — one of the objectives of Plante's proposed Pink line.

With files from Radio-Canada's Jérôme Labbé


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