Where Quebec's political parties stand on Montreal's ambitious transit plans

Quebec's leading provincial parties have put forward vastly different transit plans that are, in some cases, at odds with the Plante administration’s vision for Montreal. Here's a closer look at what they're promising.

Party leading in the polls isn’t projected to win a seat on the island. What does that mean for the city?

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante came to power last fall on a promise to improve public transit and get the traffic-clogged city moving again, but the leaders of the provincial parties are offering up vastly different plans that are, at times, at odds with her administration's priorities. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Public transit has emerged as a key issue in the Quebec election campaign. But all four parties have put forward vastly different plans — arguably based on where their support lies.

"We used to say, 'We buy votes with paved roads.' Are we now buying votes with buses?" asks Philippe Cousineau Morin, the head of the public transit advocacy group Trajectoire Québec.

Cousineau Morin is glad the parties are all talking about public transit, but he says what the province needs is a comprehensive plan.

"We need specialists to look at the overall system," he said, with goals in mind such as cutting greenhouse gases, reducing commute times or containing urban sprawl.

Philippe Cousineau-Morin is a spokesperson for the public transit advocacy group Trajectoire Québec. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante came to power last fall on a promise to improve public transit and get the traffic-clogged city moving again.

Yet the parties have put forward vastly different transit plans that are, in some cases, at odds with her administration's vision for the city (some of those plans include new paved roads, too).

Here's what the four leading parties are offering, starting with the party leading in the polls.

CAQ focuses on suburbanites

The CAQ, which could win the Oct. 1 provincial election without taking a single seat on the island of Montreal, puts an emphasis on the suburbs in its transit plan.

Priorities include extending the light-rail transit (REM) line to Chambly on the South Shore and to Laval, north of Montreal — a plan that environmentalists worry would encourage further sprawl.

The party would also extend Highway 19 in Laval and provide tax breaks for carpooling.

Leader François Legault opposes Plante's proposal for a new Pink Metro line, which would run from northeast Montreal to the southwest.

"We have concluded it's not the priority," Legault told reporters at his party's convention in May.

When Legault met Plante earlier this month, he softened his stance on the Pink line, saying he'd be prepared to support the idea on two conditions: that there is a consensus between mayors on and off island when it comes to transit priorities, and that the Pink line be some form of public transit other than an underground Metro line.

A Metro line, he said, costs much more than above-ground transit, so "you look at the cost-benefit of each proposal."

The CAQ also supports the extension of the Blue line and wants to build a tramway along Notre-Dame Street in the city's east end.

Liberals back Pink line

The Quebec Liberal Party made its transit priorities clear well ahead of the campaign, while in government.

Leader Philippe Couillard earned praise from transit advocates earlier this year for committing to put an additional $2.9 billion into public transit, much of it earmarked for the province's largest cities.

He also drew scorn for committing to the extension of Highway 19 from Laval to Bois-des-Filion — a proposal also backed by the CAQ.

The Liberals' big priorities are the REM light-rail project and the extension of the Metro Blue line.

Couillard also committed to studying the Plante administration's proposed Pink line but offered no firm timeline for getting it built — calling it a "good idea" after meeting with the Montreal mayor.

During this campaign, the Liberals have promised to make public transit free for all seniors and full-time students.

Couillard said the province would compensate transit agencies for lost revenue, at a cost to taxpayers of about $200 million a year.

PQ would scrap light-rail project

The PQ wants to scrap the REM light-rail project to the West island and is promising more investment to the eastern part of the island.

PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée has called Montreal's east end the Liberals' "forgotten child," accusing them of ignoring the area because its constituents don't support the party.

The PQ plan, dubbed the "Grand Déblocage," aims to cut congestion in the greater Montreal area by 10 per cent.

It would also add nine express bus routes in the greater Montreal area.

Lisée offered up more details about his plan on Thursday, saying the PQ would reduce public transit rates of 60 per cent for trips outside of rush hour.

Québec Solidaire would pour cash into transit

In their meeting earlier this week, Manon Massé and Valérie Plante had plenty of common ground.

Québec Solidaire, which has strong support in the densest parts of Montreal, has the most elaborate (and costly) transit plan for the city, which it calls the "Greater Montreal Express."

Quebec Solidaire's $25 billion plan would see 38 new metro stations built by 2030. (Québec Solidaire)

At a projected cost of $25 billion, the party wants to build the proposed Pink Metro line, extend all existing Metro lines, building two new tramways, add passenger ferries to the north and south shores and more dedicated express bus lanes.

Massé said her party would invest $10 billion in its first mandate and $25 billion in total by 2030.

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Benjamin Shingler is a senior writer based in Montreal. He specializes in health and social issues, and previously worked at The Canadian Press and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.