Tramway: “They won’t be able to have a majority membership,” believes a French expert

According to Marc Le Tourneur, there are not enough streetcar projects in Quebec for people to identify with. People need to touch and seehe explains.

A tram in Grenoble city centre

Photo: Radio Canada / Bruno Giguère

The French expert worked in the 1990s and 2000s on the Grenoble, Strasbourg and Montpellier projects, among others, and was involved in the revival of the tram, which had disappeared from the French countryside in the 1920s to give all the space to cars .

The similarities with the Quebec project are numerous.


premières années, l’opinion était majoritairement hostile partout, quelle que soit la ville”,”text”:”Les 15premières années, l’opinion était majoritairement hostile partout, quelle que soit la ville”}}”>For the first 15 years, opinion everywhere, regardless of city, was overwhelmingly hostile, reports Marc Le Tourneur. In the absence of benchmarks, the decision-makers at the time had to deal with opponents.

Today he warns the mayor of Quebec: we must not stop at opinion before we start work.

Works in the city of Grenoble, France.

Photo: Radio Canada / Bruno Giguère

For him there is no doubt that the preliminary surveys do not tell the true story of the citizens’ appreciation after the tram was put into service. Membership in the project fluctuates wildly before the first scoop.

He cites Strasbourg as an example. In front of the national television cameras, Marc Le Tourneur had organized the felling of 44 chestnut trees, imposing trees that can grow up to 20 meters high, to make room for a tunnel. The city pushed on despite a petition with 30,000 signatures, at a time when the internet wasn’t what it is today. % de rejet”,”text”:”Si on avait fait un sondage à ce moment-là, on aurait été à 70% de rejet”}}”>If we had done a survey back then, we would have been rejected by 70%he believes.

In the same city, dissatisfaction subsided when access to the city center was closed to motorists due to construction work. Citizens took to the streets and discovered their car-free inner city. The quarrel was overstresses Marc Le Tourneur.

And as more cities added new routes, there was less protest. In Montpellier, at the time the 3rd Line was unveiled, people criticized the project for not serving their neighborhood. It had become a race to get the tram passage homesays the engineer.

Today, membership is between 85 and 90% in all cities where trams have been reintroduced in France.

To ponder

Arnaud Passalacqua, a professor at the School of Urban Planning in Paris, notes that regardless of the project and the city, the complaints are often the same among opponents. They worry about the phase of the works, the deprivation of available space for cars and the impact on dealers.

Completely justified concerns, according to the professor. Faced with the unknown, citizens expect the worst.

The question of labor is by no means negligiblehe clarifies.

It would be wrong to say that the street as we know it and the street five years later are the same with the tram. It’s not the same. It’s not the same shops, it’s not the same people. »

A quote from Arnaud Passalacqua, Professor at the Paris School of Urban Planning

Some businesses will close their doors permanently and some citizens will have left the neighborhood which is becoming gentrified.

The preparatory work for the tram tore open several traffic arteries in the Saint-Roch district.

Photo: Radio Canada / Screenshot

ans d’ici. Ils vont voir surtout la baisse de leur chiffre d’affaires, les embouteillages et les prix de l’immobilier”,”text”:”Les gens n’arrivent pas à se projeter à cinqans d’ici. Ils vont voir surtout la baisse de leur chiffre d’affaires, les embouteillages et les prix de l’immobilier”}}”>People cannot imagine that this will be the case in five years. Above all, they will feel the effects of declines in sales, traffic jams and property pricesmentions Arnaud Passalacqua.

In his view, policymakers need to take these sensitivities into account. Everything depends on their ability to plan mitigation measures, forms of compensation and lots of information. It’s not social acceptance, it’s an imposed solution, he explains. You have to convince.


Arnaud Passalacqua also notes that once the tram is operational, everyone agrees on the customer experience. It is a very beautiful object. There is this sensitive experience of urban gliding, that is, the rail that takes you through the streets you know, but in a way like the car, in silence with large bay windows. It is generally very well received.

Model of the Québec streetcar that runs parallel to the Rue de l’Église behind the municipal buildings.

Photo: Courtesy of Quebec City

However, the urban planning professor emphasizes that the goals for this mode of transport are not always achieved. The modal content increases from the start, but the effect wears off over time. There are changes in the habits of some motorists, but the car is still popular.

Mode of Transport

Marc Le Tourneur is convinced that the tram is the right mode of transport for Québec City’s size. The subway has too much capacity, it is unsuitable. Conversely, the bus has its limits in a market with more than 300,000 inhabitants. It is difficult to organize an adequate transport system without a tramhe believes.

And what about the light rail proposed by Quebec 21 in the last election? The efficiency of this mode of transport is interesting because it is smaller and less inconvenient for cars, says the expert. On the other hand, he emphasizes that the investment is too large in relation to the number of users.

Representation of one of the Light Automatic Electric Underground Vehicles (VALSE) presented by the Quebec 21 party.

Photo: Courtesy of Quebec 21

kilomètres qui été mise en service aura coûté plus cher que les 57kilomètres de tramway de Montpellier”,”text”:”À Rennes, la deuxième ligne de 12kilomètres qui été mise en service aura coûté plus cher que les 57kilomètres de tramway de Montpellier”}}”>In Rennes, the second 12km line to go into service will have cost more than Montpellier’s 57km tramhe illustrates.

opinion poll

In Quebec, the most recent poll supports the project with 44%. That’s three points more than in January.

In the central counties, support is over 50%, but there is still work to be done to convince certain suburbs where opposition exceeds 70%.

Mayor Marchand finds the results encouraging. He did not reveal what goal he has set himself. He reiterates that she is ambitious.

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