The City of Montreal is discussing a plan to eliminate nearly 500 parking spots along Ste. Catherine St. between the city of Westmount and Bleury St.

On Monday night, city council approved a feasibility study to examine restricting drivers to one lane and eliminating two lanes of parking along a 4.5 kilometre stretch of Ste. Catherine St. starting at Atwater Ave.

The plan was first hinted at earlier this year when the Projet Montreal administration altered a major, multi-year renovation of Ste. Catherine St. as construction was beginning.

In April the city confirmed major changes to a seven-block stretch of Ste. Catherine between Mansfield St. and Bleury St.: the elimination of 144 parking spots, limiting car traffic to one lane with a second lane just for deliveries, and much larger sidewalks.

Work on most of that stretch is scheduled to begin in 2020 as part of the second phase of major roadwork on the street.

Ste. Catherine St. currently has two lanes for vehicles and two lanes of parking.

The city said Tuesday that it would not comment on its plan for Ste. Catherine St. except to say that no concrete decisions had been made.

Merchants, however, voiced their opinions: Santana Enrique of Sports Crescent said that eliminating parking spots would have a negative impact on his business.

"We're going to sink, 100 percent. This is unacceptable. Already they took all the parking behind us, when they built all these megabuildings. Now [on] Ste. Catherine this is the only spot left where the customers can stop," said Santana.

"The delivery people they're going to be in trouble. We're going to be in trouble."

Santana said it was time for the mayor to visit his area before making drastic changes.

"She needs to come here to see what's going on, 9 to 4," said Santana.

Urban planner Miguel Escobar, who is president and CEO of Future Cities Groups Incorporated is also criticizing the plan.

“Retail establishments depend on short-term parking, in and out, as well as the office buildings. They require that kind of traffic downtown, otherwise we’ll be losing it to the suburbs,” he said.

While many major cities have largely pedestrianized spaces in the downtown core, he said it’s not the right move here.

“Ste. Catherine St. is probably one of the most successful commercial streets in North America, if not the world. If you want to start doing something drastic, you’re going to affect that position. I think the pendulum is swinging a bit too far in this case.”


First proposed in March

In March the city of Montreal suggested eliminating parking along the entire length of the east-west artery from Atwater Ave. to Bleury St.

When the proposal was first made public it drew criticism from merchants, opposition councillors, and urban planners who said the change was unbalanced, especially for retail operators trying to compete with online shopping.

Earlier this year, Mayor Valerie Plante said she hoped that at some point in the next few years Montreal's citizens would agree to pedestrianize the entire street.