Reducing single-occupancy car traffic in Montréal – Ensemble Montréal : reserved lanes must include carpoolers


Montréal, March 9, 2020 – Every day, 15 million empty seats are available in cars travelling in the Greater Montréal area, according to the 2018 origin-destination survey. This data alone illustrates the enormous potential of carpooling, a potential that Ensemble Montréal’s elected councillors are hoping to take to the bank by presenting a motion at the next city council to extend the use of reserved lanes to carpooling motorists.

“Our motion was supposed to be presented at the March council meeting, but we postponed it due to the public health emergency. Despite the pandemic, however, it’s still needed, because we’re currently seeing a great distrust in public transit and a resulting increase in the use of cars. For us, this is an ideal time to encourage carpooling, which the current administration has not been able to do for almost three years because it’s too narrowly focused on bicycles,” said Lionel Perez, Leader of the Official Opposition.

Last week the Québec government announced that, starting in 2022, it would be implementing a “metropolitan network of reserved lanes” on major highways across greater Montréal to encourage users to carpool and take public transit. “It’s clear that this network will have to include the existing and future reserved lanes on the island of Montréal. Carpooling has to be part of the solution, whether you’re in Montréal or the suburbs,” added Mr. Perez.

Although the benefits of carpooling are widely recognized – fewer cars on the roads, less traffic congestion and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it remains difficult to implement carpools, particularly due to motorist reluctance. A study on short-distance carpooling in Québec, carried out in 2018 by the main players in the domain –, Netlift and OuiHop – showed that one of the main obstacles to carpooling for drivers is the length of the trip.

“But this time can be reduced, for example by introducing dedicated lanes, or by allowing carpoolers to use existing dedicated lanes. Saving time has become a determining factor in travel habits: people consider carpooling when they’re offered an attractive incentive, such as reduced travel times. This makes carpooling in reserved lanes an efficient, eco-friendly option,” explained Mr. Perez.

At the moment, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) offers some 20 reserved bus lanes, but only four of them are accessible to carpoolers. Ensemble Montréal’s motion would extend carpooling to all these existing reserved lanes as well as future lanes, since the administration has already announced its intention to add new ones in the coming years.

“The infrastructure for reserved lanes is already in place in Montréal, so it would cost almost nothing to extend their use to carpoolers. All it takes is a little political will!” concluded Mr. Perez.  

Ensemble Montréal’s motion will be debated at the municipal council meeting of September 21.

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