In 2016, St. Catherine street, one of Montreal's most frequented streets by vehicles and pedestrians, will undergo a $80 to $95 million renovation. Most of the work will be focused on underground pipelines, but Montrealers are divided as to whether improvements should also be made above ground.

Denis Coderre and the City of Montreal are asking all citizens to put in their two cents, and offer ideas as to how St. Cat's can be improved. Two different arguments have surfaced regarding the renovation work on St. Catherine street:

  • i) Fix the underground stuff and leave the street as is; more construction will only hurt businesses and the city (as explained by Josh Freed)
  • ii) Use this opportunity to truly change St. Cats, and remake the street into a pedestrian mall (the opinion of Robert Wilkins)

On the "leave as is" side of things, the argument looks to past construction projects that seriously hurt the business of major Montreal streets, St. Laurent and Parc being the prime examples. Besides, St. Cats works pretty well already, so why change what works?

Promoters of change would rather see St. Catherine as a car-free green zone, open only to pedestrians. In support of this vision are a few compelling arguments:

  • Quartier des Spectacles (on St. Cats) is largely a pedestrian-only zone for most of the year and it works great.
  • Plenty of metro stops on the green line run parallel to St. Cats, and people should use them over cars.
  • Prince Arthur functioned as a pedestrian zone for 30ish years before kinda failing, so you can't entirely knock the idea.
  • Other cities have made the same transformation of major city-streets, with success.

What it boils down to is wishful thinking > pessimistic reality. We lean on the optimistic side of things. It's not as if St. Cats will magically become a desert just because of some construction, and the city will forget about the street. St. Cats will always remain a major traffic zone, so while the construction crews are out, above-ground improvements mine as well be made.

Construction isn't set for another 2 years, and as stated, you can actively play a role in deciding what happens on St. Catherine street. Public consultations will be held, so if you're passionate about either side of the argument, you should make your voice heard. It's your St. Cats too.

Should St. Catherine become a pedestrian mall?

For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte 

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