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Montreal Eyes Downtown Tolls

Forging ahead of reluctant Toronto, mayor pitches road congestion strategy
May 18, 2007 04:30 AM

Sean Gordon
Toronto Star
Quebec Bureau Chief

MONTREAL–Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay is proposing tolls on traffic coming into his city.

The plan could include highway, tunnel and bridge tolls on the island of Montreal and a restricted traffic area downtown, presumably patterned on London, England's successful anti-congestion strategy.

The tolls would be accompanied by a major expansion of the city's subway system and a new light-rail tramway network as part of an ambitious new transit strategy.

And they would put Montreal in a place that Mayor David Miller has been reluctant to take Toronto. Miller has shied away from tolls as an answer to his city's budget problems.

In all, Tremblay said the city could get up to $300 million annually from road and bridge tolls, which would be a balm for a cash-strapped city with chronic budget deficits.

Although Tremblay wouldn't talk about how high the tolls would be, environmentalists translate his $300-million figure into a toll of about $1 a vehicle.

Any anti-congestion toll would be a first in Canada.

The new transit strategy would cost $8 billion over the next two decades, the bulk of which will go toward extending the subway eastward and building surface-rail lines.

The plan also includes a carpooling program, setting up a network of self-serve bicycle rental stands, and creating pedestrian zones downtown.

"The car will still have its place, just not the whole place. And it's from that perspective that we will appeal to profound changes in the mentality, attitudes and behaviours (of motorists)," the mayor told a news conference.

A congestion tax to limit the number of cars entering downtown forms part of Toronto's review of new taxes.

While Miller has steered clear of the controversial idea of road pricing – tolls or a congestion tax or both – it's something that deserves study, said Councillor Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York).

"I hoping we'll look at all the options," Davis told the Star's Paul Moloney at the third of four public hearings the city is holding to gauge public reaction to new taxes.

"It's been successful elsewhere," Davis said. "I think it's something we need to look at. It would reduce congestion and raise revenues to fund infrastructure investment, including upkeep of roads."

Though Montreal's plan was announced amid great fanfare, it's not clear residents will see much in the way of immediate progress.

The city has committed to holding public hearings this summer, the final plan will be adopted in November 2007, and officials admit it could take several years for the major projects to begin.

City officials also acknowledged they are bracing for massive opposition to charging commuters for using the bridges and tunnels leading to the island of Montreal.

A proposal to look at establishing concentric zones for subway fees is also likely to be deeply unpopular.

Bridge tolls for the spans leading to Montreal were scrapped in 1984 (all the bridges are federally owned and Ottawa would have to approve new tolls) and suburban mayors have fiercely resisted efforts over the past decade to reinstate them.

Tremblay tried to defuse the criticism by vowing to use the toll funds to improve public transit.

"If motorists want to continue driving into Montreal solo, well there will be a price to pay and a choice," Tremblay said.

The city billed its strategy as a green plan first and foremost – it includes a pledge to double Montreal's bike-path network to 400 kilometres – even as opponents view it simply as a political strategy aimed at squeezing more money out of the provincial government.

The Montreal mayor, who is close to Toronto counterpart Miller, has been pushing for a Quebec version of the City of Toronto Act, and is fighting for more tax-levying powers.

The country's big-city mayors have called for Ottawa to dole out $2 billion in permanent annual funding to finance a national transit strategy.

Environmental groups welcomed the emphasis on public transit, but the provincial government greeted the announcement cautiously.

"It's Montreal's choice; there will be decisions to be made, and they will be not only economic but lifestyle choices," said Quebec Transport Minister Julie Boulet.

Premium Member
79,182 Posts
Well, it is just another tax. No doubt he is proposing it as a Green initiative, but I can easily imagine the money just going into the general tax kitty. More taxation is always popular for cities. However, they should also study how it will impact investment in downtown Montreal, both for residential and businesses. The demand situation in London and Montreal is not the same.

7,931 Posts
That's great for Montreal! Finally a mayor that has the guts to do this!

Here in Vancouver, the only way to implement tolls is by tolling the bridge crossings. Though region wide tolling is part of Translink's long-term plan, the provincial government won't allow it since it's ministry policy to only toll newly constructed bridges. It's rather retarded....two major bridges will be opening in 2009 (Golden Ears Bridge) and in 2012 (the twinned Port Mann Bridge on the Trans-Canada).

1,684 Posts
I think congestion charges should only be in effect during the rush hours only. Not against them or anything, but I don't think it is really fair to tell someone they shouldn't drive their car into the city when there isn't a viable alternative for them. Once the revenue from the congestion tolls can fund all day city and regional transit service, then by all means go all out with congestion tolls.

ONLY exception is if they need the extra money from full day tolls to build said regional and city transit networks, and can't do it on rush hour revenue alone. But you'll have to forgive me for not having full confidence that the elected officials will meet their targets and get said transit up and running when they say they will.

2,159 Posts
To go from one part of the Montreal Greater area to another you have to cross Montreal, there's no detour routes or bridges!

Tolls are stupid and just another form of taxations because the city has no balls to lower the blue collar extravagant salaries.

Montreal doesn't have a traffic problem, rush hour traffic is normal and will never be solved because everyone needs to be at the same place at once, and that place is downtown Montreal.

Its like the city wants the cake and eat it too, all the buisnesses are in the Montreal core but they don't want the hustle and bustle of it... very very hypocrite.
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