In Montreal, an Electrifying Win for a Long-Shot Who Campaigned on Better Transit and Cycling

Valérie Plante, a political outsider, promised to add more bus service and protected bike lanes as mayor.

Plante upset the political establishment in Montreal with a platform that emphasized transit, biking, and walking. Photo: Andre Querry/Wikimedia Commons
Plante upset the political establishment in Montreal with a platform that emphasized transit, biking, and walking. Photo: Andre Querry/Wikimedia Commons

Valérie Plante entered Sunday’s mayoral election in Montreal as a huge underdog. Though she’d served on the City Council, she was considered an outsider in the city’s political scene, known for its clubbiness and corruption.

But in a victory that dazzled the Canadian press, Plante beat long-time incumbent Denis Coderre to become the first woman ever elected mayor of Montreal.

Plante’s electoral Cinderella story demonstrates not only her political gifts, but the broad appeal of her platform, which focused heavily on better transit and safer bicycling.

Immediately following the election, Plante announced her first priority is to improve the city’s transit system, telling Radio-Canada she wants to be known as the “Mayor of Mobility.”

Plante ran on a platform of adding 300 buses to the city’s fleet, reducing fares 40 percent for low-income residents, free service for children and seniors, and universal accessibility at all metro stations by 2030 [PDF].

The boldest transit plank is her proposal for a new metro line — Montreal hasn’t built one in 30 years. The “Pink Line” would link some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to downtown, and is estimated to cost $6 billion to build (in Canadian dollars).

Now that she’ll be in charge at City Hall, the question of how to pay for these transit improvements looms larger. During the campaign, Coderre criticized Plante for lacking a realistic funding plan for her transit platform. Plante says the national government’s $35 billion program for “transformative infrastructure projects” will pay for the metro line, and that the provincial government can subsidize free and discount fares.

Plante proposed adding Montreal’s first new metro line in 30 years.

For bicycling, Plante’s platform was also ambitious, but not so expensive. She wants to build out a 140-kilometer Réseau Express Vélo (“Bike Express Network”) of two-way protected bike lanes, at a projected cost of $25 million annually for 10 years.

She also promised to improve safety at the 20 most-dangerous intersections in the city, extend sidewalks, and reduce wait times for pedestrians at signalized intersections. Advocates for active transportation were especially energized by her victory.

“I’m going to get Montrealers moving again,” Plante said in her victory speech. “I’m going to build safer roads for pedestrians, seniors, and cyclists.”

13 thoughts on In Montreal, an Electrifying Win for a Long-Shot Who Campaigned on Better Transit and Cycling

  1. It’s so exciting to see Projet Montreal running the city. When I lived there they were a very small party with control of only my borough. They are truly a model that all other cities in North America should look to emulate.

  2. Is the proposed line location the best place to put a new metro line, or could it be laid out better? Is the montreal metro empty? well used? overcrowded?

  3. As far as fantasy subway maps go, it’s pretty good. It serves to relieve overcrowding on the busiest part of the busiest line (Orange line). Unlike all the other plans on the books which extend existing lines further into “suburban” areas, this line goes through dense, central neighbourhoods that still lack coverage.

    The Montreal metro is the most heavily used in Canada in terms of riders/km, and the pink line would be a good addition.

    The only problem is that there is another $6 billion 67 km transit line on the books that is going to absorb most of the funding. New subway line proposals appear every election, so it’s also not clear if this will get off the ground ahead of the extensions of the blue and orange lines, which were previous “priorities.”

  4. Free service for seniors? Didn’t we have that temporarily in Illinois? We had a temporary “Governor of Mobility” but sadly he’s in jail now.

  5. the protected bike lane network will cost pennies and have a instant positive impact on mobility.

    PBLs remain the single most effective way for a city to solve mobility challenges. PBLs are dirt cheap. PBLs are created in weeks rather than decades. PBLs are free for people to use. PBLs support increased economic activity at local businesses.

    The metro & commuter rail is necessary but look to PBLs for quick results

  6. The thin part is to be above-ground. The thin grey line is the proposed light rail system called REM, the other $6 billion transit project, backed by the provincial government.

  7. “Plante says . . . that the provincial government can subsidize free and discount fares.” Good luck with that – telling other people how they need to spend their money for your pet projects is always a great idea!

  8. Well that’s a pointless remark. Obviously you don’t care about old people, you’re just interested in insulting people on your hate list.

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