François Cardinal invited Clément Demers, an architect, urban planner, and professor in the University of Montreal’s School of Architecture, to write an article for his blog. The article related to a piece that Cardinal had written about Montréal’s Rue St. Catherine earlier in the week, now published on the same site, La Presse.
The development of downtown and the surrounding region cannot be separated. Downtown Montreal is rapidly losing ground compared with other employment districts in the metropolitan region. If this tendency continues, Montreal will come to resemble, more and more, the infrequently visited downtowns of numerous American cities.
The reason for this phenomenon is simple: for the last fifty years, before the adoption of the Metropolitan Land Use and Development (PMAD) by the Montreal Metropolitan Community, planning for the area lacked cohesion on the regional scale. The region of Montréal counts the largest area of white zone land (land on the borders of a floodplain zone) in Quebec with regards to the long-term needs for the space. This leads to the dispersal of employment around the island of Montréal.
It is therefore absolutely essential to develop public transportation in Montréal and to improve the pedestrian infrastructures downtown if we want to preserve the commercial vitality, both economic and culturally, in the heart of Montreal. This implies, naturally, increasing the services offered, increasing the number of metro access points, and promoting intermodal transport.
We believe that the development and redevelopment of the public domain must first and foremost target the acquisition of space by human beings, and thus by the pedestrian. It is thus that the developments in the Entertainment District, following the example of those in the International District, have the objective of rendering the pedestrian experience more interesting and stimulating. This in turn increases the neighborhood’s scope and thus the importance of nearby metro stations.
The same is true for Rue Sainte-Catherine, which must be accessible by foot, bike, taxi, public transportation, as well as by car. Downtown Montréal, which claims to be a destination for day or night, must be accessible to everyone, at any hour, and by all methods of transport used by the target clientele of the greater region of Montréal. It is not only useless, but irresponsible to invest large sums of money to make this area a destination on a regional and international scale if, at the end of the day, it is only accessible to a limited group of customers - either tourists or residents of downtown or the neighborhoods on the periphery of downtown.
It is unrealistic to think that a family living in the suburbs, composed of two adults and three children, would take public transportation in order to attend an outdoor concert during one of the festivals that take place in the Entertainment District. And it is above all unreasonable to think that availability and ease of parking do not enter into the line of thought for a family, a couple, elderly citizens, or less mobile persons who are choosing whether or not to come to downtown Montréal: those are determining factors, as demonstrated by the success of the Salle l’Étoile, situated in the 10/30 neighborhood of Brossard.
The force of urban sprawl is eroding all that remains of the centrality of downtown Montréal within the metropolitan region. Alongside this, the number of parking places downtown is set to diminish greatly in the course of the next few years.
In the very short term, the current offer could, without a doubt, respond to the parking needs of the city. But in the medium and long term, the limited number of places will become an “entry barrier,” which will result in considerably restricting the number of potential customers in this area.
Is this really the urban planning strategy that Montréal wants to put forward in order to promote the city center? What transportation accessibility issues does your city face?
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.