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Images from Archives de la Ville de Montréal of mayor Jean Drapeau presenting the original STM metro design.

This is an exciting time for Montreal public transportation. In addition to a number of service improvements this year, the montreal rapid transit network is set to benefit from a number of extensions.

Last month, the federal government promised the funds that will finally carry forward the eastward extension of the blue metro line to Anjou.

The municipal and provincial governments have also worked out a deal to eventually give Montreal a tramway that will connect Lachine to the downtown. Mayor Valérie Plante has labelled these plans the first wing of her proposed "pink metro line" that she hopes will one day stretch all the way to Montréal Nord.

Finally, the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) will provide new rapid, light rail service between the South Shore, downtown and Deux-Montagne when the first phase of its construction wraps up in 2021.

So at this moment of great expansion, it's worth reflecting on the moment it all began. The politicians and planners who first conceived of the Montreal metro had grand plans for the network.

[rebelmouse-image 26890630 photo_credit="Archives de la Ville de Montr\u00e9al" expand=1 original_size="600x378"] Archives de la Ville de Montréal

Our present system, the product of a series of revisions and budgetary contraints, represents a departure from those original designs.

In 1961, at the inception of the metro, officials proposed a three-line network. Lines 1 and 2 would become the green and orange lines we have today. Line 3 would make use of CN rail lines to transport residents from Cartierville to the downtown through the tunnel under Mount Royal. 

An eastern branch of this line would reach into Ahuntsic. In the image below from the Archives de la Ville de Montréal, mayor Jean Drapeau introduces this initial design during a 1961 presentation.

[rebelmouse-image 26890631 photo_credit="Archives de la Ville de Montr\u00e9al" expand=1 original_size="600x756"] Archives de la Ville de Montréal

News that Montreal would host the world exposition of 1967 and the subsequent selection of the river islands as the event space, however, made necessary the addition of a fourth line that would connect the islands to both the downtown and South Shore. This would become the yellow line.

In this proposed map from 1963, all four lines are visible.

[rebelmouse-image 26890632 photo_credit="Archives de la Ville de Montr\u00e9al" expand=1 original_size="439x486"] Archives de la Ville de Montréal

Though, in the west, the planned future extensions of the green line (line 1) resemble almost exactly its contemporary path to the terminus at Angrignon, the orange line was to take an alternate route, turning near Atwater station before heading west into NDG and Montréal Ouest.

Today, the orange line meets the green at Lionel-Groulx and stops at Vendôme station before heading north along the autoroute Décarie to Côte-Vertu.

Officials eventually scrapped line 3 in favour of the fourth line to Longueuil. Multiple other projects met a similar fate. Between the 60s and 80s, officials proposed four additional lines, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Of these, only line 5, the blue line, would see the light of day.

Line 6 was to pass through Montréal Nord along existing CN rail tracks. Line 7 would have run along boulevard Pie-IX between Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Montréal Nord. A rail extension east of Radisson station on the green line would have served as line 8.

[rebelmouse-image 26890633 photo_credit="Archives de la Ville de Montreal" expand=1 original_size="600x562"] Archives de la Ville de Montreal

Though the abandoned metro lines never actualized, the proposals continue to influence Montreal transit planning.

Line 3, of course, never came to fruition as officials had first imagined it. In the next few years, however, the REM is poised to deliver rapid transit service along the same route. Though it will not be a metro line, the REM will effectively complete the original vision for the Montreal transit network.

The expansion of transit in the underserved borough of Montréal Nord continues to be a goal for local politicians. If completed, for example, mayor Plante's pink line would realize the goals of lines 6 and 7 and finally connect the neighbourhood to the downtown.

There are no current plans to give boulevard Pie-IX a metro line, but work is well underway to construct a surface-level rapid transit service that will consist of dedicated bus lanes.

On its website, the STM describes the Pie-IX bus rapid transit service (BRT) as "a high-performance public transportation project that is integrated into the reconstruction and upgrade of Pie-IX Boulevard. It will offer a rapid, reliable, comfortable, safe and universally accessible bus service between eastern Laval and Montreal."

So though Montrealers may never ride lines 3, 6, 7, or 8, the legacies of these proposals are entrenched in the urban imagination.

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