Tangled Up in Blue

On the proposed extension to the métro's Blue Line, from the Montreal Gazette:

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the province should consider extending the métro’s Blue Line using an above-ground rail system. [...] Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poëti told Radio-Canada last week the Blue Line’s extension could be above ground, but said the extension is not a priority right now, and the government has four years to make a decision about the future of the line.

Extending the Blue Line shouldn't be anyone's first priority, whether it's above ground, below ground, SSH tunnel, or astral projection. The Blue Line, as far as I can tell, serves mainly to transfer passengers onto and off of the Orange Line at Jean-Talon. West of Jean-Talon, the Blue Line is widely considered a dead limb except by Université de Montréal students (which, by the way, ought to represent a stable, predictable variable in capacity planning). Why extend the Blue Line any further east when all it is really trying to do is get commuters onto the Orange or Green Lines (and sometimes both) at Jean-Talon and Berri-UQAM?

This is just a symptom, as far as I can tell, that public transport all over the island is overcrowded, unreliable, overextended, and understudied. The Blue Line can't simply be extended east without risking total dysfunction. There are other jobs which ought to come first.

I think we need two things:

  1. Fast trains. Run a commuter-oriented métro service to and from a downtown non-interchange Green or Orange station (e.g. not Berri-UQAM) that runs directly to Laval (or wherever it is people are really going). The problem of getting users into and out of the downtown core seems to be poorly understood by the STM and the mayor's office.
  2. Create other effective north-south options in centre-east of Montreal. If we're talking about light rail, why not run light rail down Viau or Pie-IX—are those good? My geography gets fuzzy anywhere east of Papineau—and effectively create a new multi-modal interchange with the Green Line at one of its quieter existing stations? This would leave the option to extend the Blue Line later, which in turn allows north-south users the ability to join the mainline at either Jean-Talon or a Green Line station.

I recently resumed daily métro ridership after a break of almost six years, during which I commuted on foot, by bus, and privately- or publicly-owned bicycles. I can honestly say that the métro feels twice as crowded as it did in 2009. It's not just the extra people, it's the little things all those extra people bring—the small mishaps, delays, and timing issues—that end up adding up to a service that's tangibly degraded in six years. Sometimes, even at unusual, off-peak times I've observed the métro and its users to be at some kind of breaking point. The métro just feels tense, man.

The buses are better, but getting worse. It seems like some users are opting for other options along the north-south axis, such as the route 55 bus, and are finding themselves left standing in the cold as another overfilled bus lumbers by...