Pilot project bombs: Drivers are free to cross Mount Royal
Drivers will now be able to cross over Mount Royal freely -- and for good.
Montreal's public consultations office (OPCM) released its report Thursday following public hearings about a controversial pilot project banning through traffic on the mountain in the middle of the city in the summer months.
The voice of the majority of participants was clear: people intensely disliked the plan to ban cars from crossing the mountain.
According to the OPCM, people said the pilot project deterred many people from going to Mount Royal Park because they thought it was hard to get to the mountain.
People who did go to the park said the project did not diminish problems of road sharing between drivers and cyclists and pedestrians, did not find any significant improvements to their experience, nor did they find the mountain any safer.
That's in stark contrast to the political viewpoint where the city's point man in charge of parks, Plateau-Mont Royal borough mayor Luc Ferrandez, called the project a success that brought "magic" back to the mountain.
Many people told the commission they were shocked and surprised by Ferrandez's comment, coming as it did while the pilot project was still underway and before any consultations had taken place. Several said they saw it as proof the fix was in, and the city had already made its decision regardless of what the people wanted.
Hours after the report was released, Mayor Valerie Plante reiterated that she felt the project was a success.
"It's important often to show people possibilities, for them to imagine, or to think 'that could be good or not,' so I truly believe that this pilot project supported such a huge participation," said Plante.
She also said that the "status quo is no longer possible."
More than 13,000 people took part in the consultations which were scheduled after the pilot project, either by attending hearings, writing briefs, or otherwise expressing their opinion.
The OPCM said that is the largest number of participants ever for a public consultation in the city of Montreal.
The public also said the pilot project increased car traffic in neighbourhoods around the mountain, decreased the number of people visiting the cemeteries, and created a barrier between residents on the east and west sides of the mountain.
Several said the closure made the road less safe by encouraging more drivers to make U-turns and encouraging more cyclists to speed.
People with limited mobility said the closure made it harder for them to get to the mountain and to enjoy the park.
The responses from the public also showed the project was incredibly polarizing and did not have social acceptance.
Opposition leader Lionel Perez said the report, and Plante's response, was proof the Projet Montreal administration had no interest in listening to the public.
"This was a total fiasco from every point of view," said Perez.
The OPCM report recommends that car traffic across the mountain should be allowed to continue but that the road could be developed as a recreational road "that people would use because it is a pleasant drive, and not as a shortcut."
The report also says that reducing through traffic cannot happen without "major public transit improvement."
Other recommendations include ensuring the road can be shared by all users, installing barriers between cyclists and drivers and pedestrians, and that access to the Camillien-Houde lookout be improved.
Many alternatives to a complete ban were also suggested including implementing a toll, closing the road on certain weekends and for special events.
On Thursday she said the city would swiftly move to improve security on the mountain and take more steps next year.