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.