During a recent panel discussion that was held in Westmount’s Victoria Hall, members and guests of the Westmount Municipal Association came out to hear what five local experts had to say about the future of urban public transport.
Aside from McGill University’s well-known Professor Ahmed El-Geneidy who was asked to be the evening’s moderator, the panel included Transport Minister Marc Garneau, STM Vice-President Marvin Rotrand, city councillors Peter McQueen and Marc-André Gadoury — who is responsible for the city’s active transport file – and On Roule founder Catherine Blanchette D’Allaire who also had a place on the panel.
Following Professor El-Geneidy’s brief introduction, Garneau opened the evening’s discussion with a quick synopsis of what the government had in mind to help improve transport infrastructure throughout the nation. Aside from its concern about what the minister described as ‘traveller experience’, Garneau also mentioned that the government is looking into several safety issues as well as green innovation initiatives because “...we still have to deal with the fact that cars and trucks are responsible for 51% of our greenhouse gas emissions.” While the new bridge and assorted border crossing issues are taking up a lot of the government’s time, Garneau reminded his audience that multiple millions of dollars worth of international trade crosses both bridge and borders “...so that gives us a lot to think about.”
Following Blanchette-D’Allaire’s discussion about public transport and how universal access was critically important for people with assorted mobility issues, NDG’s Peter McQueen went on to discuss live and local transport issues such as the new Vendome Tunnel project as well as the new $5 billion dollar electric commuter line project.
“The good news is that work will soon begin on the Vendome tunnel project,” said McQueen. “The bad news is that it’s going to take up to four years before it’s finished.”
Following Councillor Marc-André Gadoury’s comments about the city’s pro-active cycling policies along with its ‘Vision Zéro’ objectives to reduce cycling and pedestrian accidents’ Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand drew a round of applause when he told the audience that “...City Hall operates best without party labels.”
Already known to be a walking encyclopedia on assorted transport issues, Rotrand held up his own ‘smart’ phone after which he told his audience that the Smartphone would eventually represent the future of public transport. As the ‘smart’ phone gave rise to the new Uber taxi service, after which Uber managed to destroy urban taxi monopolies all over the world, Rotrand inferred that the ‘Smart’ phone would eventually force public transit facilities to better accommodate their clients’ priorities in order to survive and prosper within the century’s new urban environment.
“This is the future of public transport,” said Rotrand, “...and we had better get used to it.”