Montreal’s summer pedestrian streets are a hit. So why doesn’t the city keep them going? | CBC News


There are a lot of things Janice LaGiorgia loves about having a pedestrian street.

During the pandemic, when she was feeling at her lowest, she said she’d leave her Verdun apartment and head toward Wellington St.

“I would go out and I would walk and it made me feel so much better,” she said. “Having that street helped me tremendously.”

LaGiorgia said she saw families relaxing and having ice cream every evening. And she met new neighbours, like a woman pushing two pampered purebred cats in a stroller, training them to star in films. “Like, how can you not stop and say hi?” LaGiorgia said, laughing.

One thing she doesn’t like? When it ends.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why they shut it so soon,” she said. “I was away… I came back and it was gone, and I literally was like, wait a second, it’s only like Sept. 23. What the hell?”

Pedestrian season is officially over in Montreal: the last of the summer streets — Bernard St., in Outremont — reopened to cars last week. It was among the 35 spots in the city that were either partially or entirely closed to car traffic during the summer.

Bernard St. in Outremont, seen here, was the last of Montreal’s pedestrians streets to close. It wrapped up on Oct. 31. (Radio-Canada)

The city of Montreal has guaranteed funding to keep many of those streets going every summer through to 2025. 

But as another season comes to a close, many wonder why it has to end at all.

“If it’s doable six months a year, it’s doable like the whole year round,” said Avril Guarino, another Verdun resident. “I mean, I still live here when the weather turns bad.”

Could Montreal’s pedestrian streets be open longer, or even become permanent? 

Some boroughs say that if there’s a will, they can find a way.

Boroughs say they’re open to idea

For its part, Verdun said it’s open to extending the pedestrian period for Wellington St. 

Kaila Amaya Munro, a Verdun borough councillor and president of Montreal’s economic, urban development and housing commission, said “more than two-thirds, if not like three-quarters of people” she talks to love the pedestrian street.

But the merchants’ association for the area, Promenade Wellington, picks the dates, she said. For a year-round street, the request would have to come from them.

“If they wanted to extend it, we would jump in, do a physical feasibility study and check everything that we needed to get that done,” she said.

Wellington St. in Verdun is one of the pedestrian areas that has re-opened to cars after the summer season. (Radio-Canada)

Promenade Wellington declined to do an interview and did not respond to requests for a statement on an extended or year-round pedestrian street.

Munro acknowledged that the idea would present certain challenges. Many stores don’t have loading docks in the back alleys, so they receive their stock in front. For the winter, they would also need to look at snow clearing and how to keep the street universally accessible, even when there’s ice, she said.

There are also upcoming construction projects — like putting an elevator into de l’Église Metro station, for example — that would need to be considered.

“But I think it’s something we would really be willing to do.”

Luc Rabouin, the mayor of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, said they’re also looking at extending the pedestrian period for their main street, Mont-Royal Ave.

While some people had their doubts, Rabouin said seeing the street in action changed many minds.

“Now, we have a large consensus that pedestrianization during the summer is a good thing,” he said. “It’s not unanimous, but we have a large consensus, the large majority of the people.”

Many have been already calling for more time on the street — and Rabouin said they already have plans for next year.

The biggest problem with the street, he said, was public transit: blocking traffic from Mont-Royal affected access to key bus lines, like the 97.

He said he hopes to launch a new pilot next year, where the street is closed to car traffic for an extra three or four weeks — but during that time, public transit buses would be allowed to circulate on or close to their usual route.

“I want to test it. I think this is the Mont-Royal Ave. way for the future,” he said, adding that if the idea doesn’t work out well in practice, then the borough would reassess.

Rabouin said they’re also keen on testing out pockets of pedestrianization during the winter and plan on leaving some installations, like benches, up through the season.

“More and more, we want to assume that we are a winter city,” he said.

“It’s the snow removal that will have to adapt, not the people.”

Mixed reviews from some

The idea of extending the pedestrian period doesn’t appeal to everyone. Audrey Godbout, who lives near Wellington St., said the street lasts “way too long” as it is. 

She said rowdy noises at night, traffic on the side streets and changing bus routes makes getting her kids to school an Olympic sport — and she suspects she’s not the only one critical of the pedestrian project.

“People don’t like to go against the majority. So if they believe the majority loves it, they’re gonna go like, ‘Oh yeah, I love it for sure. It’s great,'” she said. “But I know a lot of people I talk to are also quite annoyed with it.”

Some merchants agree. Alain Starosta, the owner of Le Petit Italian restaurant and president of the Bernard St. Merchant’s Association in Outremont, says, if anything, they’ll probably shorten their pedestrian street next year.

He said it’s great in the summer but once the weather turns, there’s very little benefit.

“In October, if you have five days of rain … it’s like a storage area in the street, everyone’s tables are out and nothing’s going on,” he said. “It’s just a nuisance.”

Man sits at café counter.
Alain Starosta, the owner of Le Petit Italian restaurant and president of the Bernard St. Merchant’s Association in Outremont, said if anything, they’ll probably shorten their pedestrian-only period next year. (Laura Marchand/CBC)

Starosta said he’d want to see a lot of discussion before trying something like a year-round pedestrian street. “I think it would piss a lot of people off,” he said. 

“Parking would become an issue if that was the case. Snow removal — I mean it’s a big thing,” he said. “I think there are other problems to deal with before we start closing streets.”

He questioned how many would even use a pedestrian street, once the temperatures dip.

“This isn’t New York City. There’s not millions of people walking down these streets,” he said.

Is there a middle ground?

Year-round pedestrian streets do exist in other Canadian cities. Sparks St. in Ottawa, for example, is permanently closed to car traffic.

In a statement, David Atkinson, an Ottawa urban planner who works with the street, explained that there are removable bollards at the entrance to each block, so emergency vehicles can still access the street as needed.

For construction and deliveries, vehicles are still allowed, but only during off-peak periods “to limit conflicts with pedestrian activity.” The city also plows the street during the winter, but “winter events often require hand shoveling” to keep certain areas clear.

One expert said that when it comes to pedestrians and cars, there are ways to make them co-exist.

Silvano de la Llata, an associate professor with Concordia University’s geography, planning and environment department, said cities can make “pedestrian-priority” streets, without closing them to cars. 

For example, crosswalks could be elevated to the height of sidewalks, acting as a speed bump and signalling that pedestrians have the right of way. Traffic-calming measures, such as planters and benches on the side of the road, would also encourage drivers to take it slow.

This way, cars can still use the street while making the area more walkable — and without some problems that come with a pedestrian street, such as spill-over car traffic onto nearby, residential areas.

Still, de la Llata said he’s eager to see if the city will try out a permanent pedestrian street.

“I see it as challenging to keep them open for the whole year. But that’s an opportunity,”  he said. “It’s screaming for proposals and research … it’s a great moment to have these conversations.”

[ad_2] File source
Washington News Post Latest Breaking News, Headlines
Washington News Post|| World News||USA News||Washington||
Celebrity News||Movie Review

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button