Will Hudson miss the train again?

 

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Schematic for the Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM), an integrated 67-km public transit network linking downtown Montréal, the South Shore, the West Island, the North Shore (Laval and Deux-Montagnes) and the airport through an automated electric light rail transit (LRT) system. Will Quebec extend the REM to include LRT service across the new Ile aux Tourtes Bridge to Vaudreuil and points west? They’d be stupid not to, says former Hudson councillor and Caisse de dépot VP Tom Birch. The existing Vaudreuil-Hudson line is in red.

When mayor Ed Prévost told a Global reporter Hudson was looking at ways to get out of the Montreal Metropolitan Community and its master development plan, Prévost showed he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (Pythonesque, June 6)

For Hudson to secede from the MMC and its new public transit creation, the Réseau de transport métropolitain, Hudson would have to prove that fewer than 7% of Hudson’s total population work somewhere else in the MMC. The town would have to drop out of the CIT la Presqu-île, serve notice to the Agence Métropolitain de transport it no longer wanted train service and convince Transport Canada it’s in the community’s interest to force the AMT to lift the existing tracks and abandon the right of way.

What I find far more disturbing is Prévost’s lack of vision, a shortcoming shared by far too many Hudson residents.

Accompany me on this rail commute into the future to see what I’m seeing:

It’s 2025. The Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM), an integrated 67-km public transit network linking downtown Montréal, the South Shore, the West Island, the North Shore (Laval and Deux-Montagnes) and the airport through an automated electric light rail transit (LRT) system, has been running for five years. The old AMT trains de banlieu, which includes the Vaudreuil/Hudson line, are still running but ridership is dropping because the LRT is so much faster and more efficient. It’s easier to drive to the Ste. Anne LRT station.

Driving into town has become an ordeal not even the most dedicated motorist looks forward to. The average peak drive commute in and out of downtown Montreal takes over 100 minutes. Tolls on bridges and highways into the city, along with reserved lanes for taxis, buses and car-poolers discourage single-driver vehicles. If you’re driving into the city without a transponder and a downtown parking pass, be prepared to fork out $50.

The big news today is the grand opening of the double LRT line in the centre of the new Ile aux Tourtes bridge. This line is an extension of the original LRT system which opened in 2020. At Vaudreuil station it splits, with one branch continuing southwest to serve the booming southern tier municipalities of Les Cèdres, Côteau du lac and Les Coteaux. The other branch continues west to the new Hudson station. Eventually, it may continue on to Ottawa.

Yesterday was the last day riders caught the 7 a.m. diesel-powered train at the old Hudson station. Much fanfare and a few tears greeted the historic occasion. Hudson residents came close to giving up their train service until a visionary mayor and council realized they had the support of St. Lazare residents for a station closer and more convenient than Vaudreuil.

Plans for a central public transit hub in Hudson’s east end go back to the start of the millennium. While Liberal appointee Joël Gauthier headed the Agence métropolitain de transport, a map on his office wall showing a train/shuttlebus terminal located near where Montée Manson crosses the former Canadian Pacific right of way (ROW).

Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor Guy Pilon lobbied long and hard to make Vaudreuil the end of the off-island line, but the explosive population growth along the county’s southern tier and rush-hour congestion on Highway 20 convinced REM planners to extend the line southwest.

Here we are at Hudson’s new station. It’s on a beautiful road that runs through farmland from the foot of Bédard to the Como Ferry. The provincial transport ministry paid for it because the ferry has been declared an integral part of the highway network and someone had to put an end to the ridiculous traffic jams on Bellevue and Main Road. Benoît Laporte, on whose land the road is located, backed the project because Quebec allowed him to subdivide his farmland into 10 to 20-acre farmettes, a godsend for Hudson’s booming micro-agricultural industries.

Hudson has big plans for the original Canadian Pacific right of way between Montée Manson and the old station. Transport Canada and the RTM must approve the town’s request to abandon the line, lift the rails and ties and grant the town a lease or sell it outright. The big debate is whether to turn it into an aerobic corridor for cyclists, walkers, runners, skaters and skiers or create a new east-west route into the centre of town to take traffic off Main Road and Chemin de l’Anse.

Ahh, here’s the train now. It’ll take us less than an hour to downtown. The RTM offers recharging stations for electric cars, so let’s grab that parking spot, plug in and climb aboard.

This is fiction based on fact. The Caisse de dépot et de placement announced June 15 that the Trudeau government has committed to a 24.5% share of the $6.04B REM project. Quebec has already poneyed up its $1.283B share. The Caisse holds control with 51% of the project. It is to be a public-private partnership and the call for tenders to companies and consortia was issued in February. It is hoped to have trains running by the end of 2020.

The Ile aux Tourtes connection comes from the May 2, 2017 issue of Canadian Consulting Engineer which reported that a engineering consortium headed by consultants exp, Stantec and CIMA+ had been awarded the contract “to plan work on the existing [Ile aux Tourtes Bridge] structures over a five-year period to maintain traffic safety until the 50-year-old bridge is fully replaced over a 10-year horizon.”

The contract, awarded by the Ministère des Transports, Mobilité durable et Électrification des transports, will keep the crumbling structure open to some 85,000 vehicles a day while the new bridge is built alongside. Given the timelines, it appears the MTQ hopes to open the new bridge around 2025.

I asked former Hudson councillor Tom Birch whether he thought the MTQ would include an LRT line in the design for the new span. “They’d be stupid not to,” Birch said.

He comes at this from a unique position. Until 2008, he served as Mayor Elizabeth Corker’s councillor in charge of the infrastructure and public transport files. He’s now the vice-president for funds and technology with the Caisse’s Quebec Private Equity team, with net assets of $270B and a yield that averaged 10.2% over the last five years. [Birch has no connection with CDPQ Infra, the unit overseeing the REM project; the Caisse has stressed the information firewall separating the Infra project from its private and public equity, fixed income, real estate, infrastructure and Quebec investment teams.]

As councillor, Birch swung Hudson’s support behind the CIT La Presqu’île when the regional shuttle bus service was just getting going. He lobbied hard for a second weekday train to and from Hudson, noting it would have cost the town $14,000 a year compared to the $330,000 it would cost Vaudreuil-Dorion.

He worked with former St. Lazare mayor Pierre Kary to counter Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor Guy Pilon’s lobbying efforts to make Vaudreuil the last stop on the line with a proposal to build a new Hudson train station at the foot of Bédard, offering St. Lazare commuters a convenient alternative to having to drive to Vaudreuil or Hudson.

Birch says watching the town not being proactive on the public transportation file for the last eight years has driven him crazy. He predicts the LRT network is “seven or eight years out of the CIT” and will likely be extended south and west to Les Cèdres.

Birch doesn’t think current transit alternatives offer commuters sufficient convenience to abandon their cars. The A40 Express bus takes 40 minutes to deliver you to the Côte Vertu Metro, from where you’ll spend another half hour on the subway.

Birch’s parting shot: if Hudson had followed through with a plan for a new east-end station, there would have been a lot less incentive at the MMC and MRC levels to create a transport-oriented development in a densified downtown Hudson. The TOD would have been moved to a far more logical location along that stretch of Harwood between Bédard and the Galeries Hudson exit off the 40.

In Vaudreuil-Dorion.

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8 thoughts on “Will Hudson miss the train again?

  1. Hudson has, for far too long, seen itself as “different and misunderstood”. Our leaders have, for much of this time, not participated effectively in the various upper levels of government.

    Too often, we see Mayors and Councillors who lack the understanding of the various levels, especially from a possible benefit side. We’ve grudgingly accepted paying for what we must and dreaming of escapes from the CMM and MRC that are just impossible dreams.

    In short, much of the problems of Hudson 2017 have come from electing Mayors and Councils with a closed vision rather than open minds.

    We need new leadership with an outward vision for a future for Hudson, leadership that can find a place in this new world for a self-stunted little town with its eyes clamped shut..

    Change is inevitable, to deny change in a modern world is to change yourself for the worse.

    Watching the world around us run past us is one component of the anger in Hudson.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As long as it is not change for change’s sake…

    To be done well, tastefully and respectfully, change requires careful and concerted planning.

    No more 1990s Disney Land wishlists. That may have worked then in Mont Tremblant, however we already have our own heritage. We don’t need to fabricate it. We need to house, to care for and showcase our wares and talents with collective pride and fanfair.

    We need to have people stay longer than a few hours, we need to slow people’s passing through Hudson and have them come back as often as possible as to eventually stay and choose to invest in the urban core as it is becoming the next happening regional hub.

    Indeed, Hudson needs to step up its game to be a political player of weight and substance at the regional table, and beyond.

    We have so much more to offer than retirement and day-tourism.
    Don’t you think?

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    1. Hudson once was a completely self-contained snall town, a regional destination with a viable, sustaining commercial core. It was an hour’s rail commute from downtown Montreal via a dozen trains a day. Young families could afford to live in Hudson and enjoy the mature infrastructure – schools, clubs, organizations like the Player’s Club, War Memorial Library and a whole lot more. Vestiges remain, fiercely protected. But we have lost so much, it’s a question now of where to start and concentrate our efforts. I think the re-establishment of a sustainable commercial core should be a priority. It takes more than an SDC.. It takes a decision to reinvest, lower business and commercial property taxes. It takes smart infill decisions that protect commercial space. It takes a willingness to allow competition. It takes a level playing field where parking isn’t an acquired right but a zero-based economic equation.
      I could go on but this is a far bigger discussion than the two of us.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Well , Jim , that’ll have our councillors and Mayor with their heads cocked in dull-eyed surprise It has been since Liz’s adm. and the forward thinking Mr.Birch that any brainstorming agility has been exhibited at a municipal level. TPAC used to consider agricultural micro-farming models, town and county wide greenbelts , as well as transport hubs. Now it’s signs and shed approvals. That group you co-led , Sentiers Vaudreuil had good input into our green spaces. We all fought tooth and nail amongst ourselves and with developers but it was in the chase for an idealized future. Some ideas were good, some were flushed but there was passion. Now our elected crow(Natalie Best) about the very important legal battle we “won” (really?) against Catherine Haulard. Nobody won , we all lost. That’s what they consider responsible governance and we need to get them out.Good words by you , Mr.Duff.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hudson needs a purpose, the old one is dead. Hudson needs confidence in itself, our own terrible oversight and lack of management failed us and we no longer believe anything.

    I strongly objected and shared those objections with Council when they threatened legal action for criticism. That was wrong. But, I`d ask Brian to please tell me what the Town`s other option on Haulard was? Rumour has it there was an accepted offer that was withdrawn when a local lawyer got involved. Faced with a truly massive wrongful dismissal claim, in my opinion we had no choice but to pay or fight it. If we had lost it would have been the wrong choice, we won so it was the right choice other than writing a huge cheque without apparent legal basis to avoid the cost of lawyers. Same question on the Spencer file. When we have allowed Council to face problems like this, we must support actions for their protection. This whole period has disgusted me, but in reality it’s based on the actions by one and those few who are attracted by that bully negativity.

    It wasn’t a great Mayor or Council when it started. We the citizens abandoned them and contributed to their failures. If we keep doing that failure is inevitable.

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    1. Just saw I was called out by Peter. Now I have to go back and see what nonsense I wrote to get his attention. OK , as it turns out Haulard was a bad hire but these things happen all the time and I blame no one for not seeing her for the DG she would be. Mr.Prevost came on board and also failed to see it was a very poor fit. They got along in what appeared a mayor/dg municipal romance made in heaven. She gradually eased herself into the chair next to him at council meetings and allowed her free reign in intercepting questions from citizens to their Mayor. This council followed her blindly in the complete human resource mess she created. Her antics in closing roads, her claims to being followed, and her electronic surveillance shenanigans were all accepted in stride by a mesmerized mayor and council. They listened to no one while she did her damage. Way back they couldn’t see what others could that this would end badly and that to avoid the situation they brought on themselves they would have to tread carefully in releasing us from her presence. Mayor Prevost did not do this. The “bossman” captain of industry complete;ly screwed it up with his
      bully boy suspension . Any wise person could have seen this coming. She lawyered up, the town maybe tried to negotiate,but really how hard? I think giant silly egos took over and we ended up where we did. Sorry Peter I don’t believe Mayor Ed busied himself much with appeasing or settling with his past “best friend” and I really think in the aftermath of spending our 200K they could have humbled down a bit and said ‘mistakes were made on our side and sorry it cost you guys’. I didn’t need Mz Best’s lecture on how litigation is such a benefit to our moral rectitude.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Just curious Peter, has this happened before this “abandonment” of council by the citizens you speak of? During mayors Corker, Shaar, Elliott, Bradbury? forgive me if I’ve forgotten someone, I’ve only been here 10 years. I, for one, really tried to give this council a chance in the first year but at some point I just gave up, due to too many things going on that I considered not in the best interest of the citizens. Just my own opinion of course, others might disagree with me. I do know though that if I am to continue living in Hudson, it’s my duty to be vigilant and ask questions when answers are not forthcoming, especially having to do with spending our taxpayer dollars. Did it once, will do it again.

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  6. In some way or another most Councils get abandoned somewhere in the last half of their term. This Council, for regrettable reasons beyond the control of the Mayor, lacked real solid leadership shortly after trying to do too much too quickly and engendering distrust amongst the suspicious and the never destined to be happy groups.

    After that, it would have taken a solid open leader to recover, lacking that we abandoned them and expected nothing good to come of them.

    As you know, Diane, you can’t lead for the good of all and make everyone happy. But you can’t lead at the direction of a few and satisfy your responsibilities and the majority.

    We lost polite and civility along the way, I think past betrayals left a bad taste, anger and widespread suspicion of those left behind was the too often response. And Council was under legally competent if baseless attack after attack. So they showed up, worked hard, and accomplished little.

    Too many have treated Council like their personal minions, and frankly Council never came up to full speed and competence on their files. Not legendary.

    Like

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