What if we pedestrianized Montreal’s downtown?
Date published: 13 March 2020
Author: Cristina Colt
Prioritising and facilitating alternative transport methods, which help to ensure sustainable urban development, play important roles in the work we do for our clients. We looked into how temporary road changes could have a significant impact on reducing traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as encouraging people to consider alternative modes of transport to meet their travel needs.
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We developed a hypothetical pedestrianisation study of downtown Montreal to look at the impacts of pedestrianising the area for a 24-hour period during the summer season and testing alternative transport solutions.
Using open data from EXO’s Origin-Destination Survey (2013) we extracted all vehicular trips during a 24-hour period to the downtown area. This initial data collection allowed us to have a general picture of vehicular movements in Montreal. Next, we ran catchment areas to represent travel times by different modes of transportation. Mapping these using Geographic Information System (GIS) software helped us estimate the number of trips that could be made, during the summer period, in 10 minutes on foot, in 30 minutes by bicycle and in 40 minutes by public transport.
Our research estimated that a total of 669km, with an average journey distance of 16km, is driven each day into the city centre. Annually, motorists travel 244,305km to access Montreal’s downtown.
These vehicular movements produce 102.9 million litres of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per day, or 37.5 billion litres of CO2 per year – creating a significant and detrimental effect on the environment and on public health, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. By pedestrianising the city centre for just one day during the summer and encouraging sustainable travel alternatives, it would be possible to eliminate 54,718 vehicular trips and 38.1 million litres of CO2, assuming these trips are made by mid-range vehicles.
This exercise demonstrates the tools and analyses we use and how data can be applied to develop recommendations for mobility planning, transport planning and urban design. By doing this, we concluded that a significant portion of vehicle trips could be transferred onto alternative transport modes.
Further analysis of specific travel-related data (origin and destination postcodes, traffic counts, data on the use of public transport) would allow us to develop planning interventions to improve the attractiveness and comfort of existing alternative transport routes. It would also help develop strategies to meet the future needs of motorists and encourage them to use other modes of transport. Finally, it would allow for temporary solutions to be developed and trialled, before investment is made and measures are permanently put into place.
Looking ahead, we’re pleased to see the upcoming improvements to bicycle and public transport networks, including an increased focus on snow removal for cycle paths. Montreal is already the most cycle-friendly city in North America and ranks 18th in the world for safe cycling. We’re confident that the seed has already been sown for developing sustainable mobility. We hope that the opportunity to pedestrianize the downtown area and test innovative ideas is not too far away.