Light Rail Stations Could Form the Foundation of a Polycentric Montreal With the Right Planning, New Concordia Study Says

City layers

Cucuzzella investigates how some cities have managed to change urban mobility patterns as part of her research project CoLLaboratory for the activation of multimodal mobility. This study examines the potential for development around the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) commuter rail network, which will soon serve the Montreal region and its surrounding suburbs with a 67-kilometre system and 26 stations.

The index seeks to incorporate three distinct layers into its calculations, based on a one kilometer walking radius around each REM station. The layers combine socio-environmental characteristics, economic dynamism and development potential to assess their score. Each station is then classified according to its development potential.

The socio-economic characteristics take into account the pedestrian potential of the area, including obstacles such as, in the case of Montreal, a river, a mountain, a railroad or a highway. It also includes a Green View Index, essentially measuring the tree canopy and green space in the area. The last is the car use ratio, which helps assess the potential for a shift to public transit use.

Economic dynamism is measured using the Yelp Open Dataset to quantify the commercial diversity around the stations and a commercial land index which quantifies the area of ​​land devoted to commercial activity. Finally, development potential is calculated using available developable land (residential area only) and current and maximum density allowances.

REM as a model

Nineteen of the 26 REM stations were classified according to their TOD index. Fairview-Pointe-Claire and Des Sources in the West Island of Montreal and Bois-Franc in Ville St-Laurent rank first. The stations with the lowest scores were Marie-Curie in the Technoparc de Montréal near Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Du Ruisseau in Ville St-Laurent, on the border with Cartierville, and Côte-de-Liesse, in the heavily industrial section of Ville St-Laurent.

“Those with the highest rankings have done well for two main reasons: their car usage is very high or they are very low density and can be developed at the maximum density allowance, which in Montreal is 150 units per hectare,” she explains. “This equates to a six to eight storey building on a 10,000 square meter plot, which is not an unacceptable density for such residential areas.

Those at the bottom scored low mainly because they are in or near industrial sites or around the airport. In other sites, the land surrounding the REM station has been designated commercial. Developers should avoid these areas as the change of land use from industrial (or commercial) to residential can take decades.

For this article, the TOD index developed by the authors was applied to Montreal’s REM network, but Cucuzzella points out that it can be easily applied to its metro system or bus stops or to any city with enough publicly available data.

“This index brings urban planners and developers and investors together around the same table, because they can work together to build the city in an informed way,” she adds.

“It can also help ease some of the tensions between city officials and investors, as this index aims to provide the key information needed to help them co-develop the city.”

This study was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Read the quoted article:A TOD index integrating development potential, economic dynamism and socio-economic factors to encourage polycentric cities.”

Jose P. Rogers