Il fait beau dans l’métro!

Nouveau métro de MontréalIn early October of last year, after an on-and-off call for bids, the Government of Québec finally announced that it was awarding to Bombardier-Alstom the contract to renew the very aged rolling stock of the Montréal métro. The rolling stock of our métro is among the oldest still in use in the world, some of it dating back to the mid-1960s, but it has been extremely well maintained and upgraded over the years so that it doesn’t really show its age. However, we can only milk so much life out of them, and replacing the stock is by no means a luxury at this point, even though plans are to keep some of the rolling stock in commission until 2017.

I really like the fact that the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) has called upon the public to choose the exterior colour scheme of the new stock, which should start rolling out in 2014. Even I voted, and the STM announced last week that the scheme pictured above is the one that won by an overwhelming majority. People have more than grown accustomed to the blue of the exterior; they’ve grown to love and “own” it. It’s the colour of our métro and don’t dare take it away! The STM’s next consultation is to come up with a less “technical” name than MRM-10 for the new stock in the hope of coming up with something similar to the city’s wildly successful bicycle rental service, BIXI, a concept that is now being exported to cities around the world and is a coinage from the words “BIcycle” and “taXI.”

It will come as no surprise to you that I prefer Montréal’s métro over Toronto’s subway. Both are almost identical in terms of length and number of stations; although slightly shorter, Montréal’s métro has a significantly higher daily ridership than Toronto’s. But I admit that Toronto’s is better in significant ways, notably wider cars and air conditioning — except that I really despise the fact that Toronto’s is on rails. (Montréal’s is on tires.) Toronto’s is SO noisy when it brakes into a station and, worse, when it takes a curve. And although stations like Bloor-Yonge have been extensively redone over the years, the appearance of Toronto subway stations is still more reminescent of public washrooms. For its part, each station in the Montréal system is different. Some are truly horrific or run down, but at least all attempt to be different, with artistic elements being integrated into the architecture of each. Another significant downside of Montréal’s métro, though, is the very thing I like about it, namely the fact that it IS on tires as well as the overall design of the stock: any extension has to be underground, whereas Toronto’s is and can be more easily expanded above ground outside the city’s central core.

Speaking of expansions, more than a year ago, it was announced that a study to expand three of the four lines of the métro was being undertaken. We were told at the time that the study was NOT to look into the viability of the extensions but into how the extensions were to be done. The blue line will eventually go as far east as it was intended; the yellow will extend deep into the densely populated suburb of Longueuil, and the western branch of the orange line would go a few stations further north of Côte-Vertu, the current terminus. But what kills me, though, is the refusal to look into extending the blue line west of Snowdon into NDG, which is as densely if not more so populated than the extremities of the green line. If the party in power in Québec City were the Parti Québécois, I’d understand that it would be because of petty politics — not wishing to extend into an enclave of les Anglais — but coming from a Liberal government whose power base is the western half of the Island? I really don’t get it.

Tonight is Nuit Blanche, so the métro will exceptionally be operating all night. I think I’ll take advantage of that and go out but not take the car. And perhaps have as much fun on the métro as in this cringe-worthy 1976 promo!

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