Climate: a possible ‘zero emissions zone’ in Montreal

MONTREAL — In recent years, many major cities around the world have created low-emission zones reserved for the least polluting vehicles. In Montreal, such a project is probably on the mayor’s cards, who want to go even further by creating a “zero emissions zone” in the city centre.

In Europe, in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, London and some other cities, areas where some polluting vehicles are prohibited have been established in recent years.

Amsterdam even plans to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles from circulating on its territory by 2030, and within three years cars, motorcycles and trucks running on fossil fuels will no longer be able to deliver in urban areas.

Christian Savard, managing director of the Vivre en ville organisation, points out that air pollution is the first thing that prompted several major European cities to create low-emission zones due to the popularity of low-emission vehicles on the old continent.

“There were very significant air quality issues with diesel in addition to the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.

He states that Montreal “does not have such an acute air quality problem” and is rather the idea to reduce greenhouse gases and “send the signal of the importance of public and active transport and the use of electric vehicles”. Creating a zero emission zone was born.

Zero emission zone by 2030

Mayor Valérie Plante’s administration writes in the “2020-2030 Climate Plan” that a zero-emission zone could come to light by 2030 and that “the support of partners and the population will be necessary to ensure the success of such a project.” attempt.

On March 28, at a press conference where Environment Secretary Benoit Charette announced that $117 million in funding has been provided to the City of Montreal to support climate change efforts, Mayor Plante addressed the zero issue. emission zone.

“We think the population is open to hearing about a zero-emissions zone that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” Valérie Plante said, noting that it’s too early to give details about this project.

The idea is to do it well, work together, make sure we have the necessary infrastructure, including charging stations, and also evaluate the system, know how to get in and out of the space and who will have access. the mayor added, noting that “the devil is in the details.”

Stickers corresponding to pollution levels

In Paris, the municipal government established a system of colored stickers. For thermal vehicles, the colors change from green to brown depending on pollution levels, while electric vehicles have a special blue label.

Each color corresponds to a certain level of vehicle pollution, and certain sectors of the city are reserved for certain colors.

“To get to a zero-emission zone, we’re going to start with a low-emission zone and get there gradually,” Mayor Plante said at a press conference on March 28.

According to Andréanne Brazeau, mobility analyst at Équiterre, so going slowly is one way to do things for the City of London.

“There’s an area in the center of London where the road tax applies to the most polluting vehicles, and that area is growing every year, and in fact the entire metropolitan area of ​​London next year will be the fees for polluting vehicles,” explains the mobility analyst.

He believes such a project is inevitable for Montreal, that modern cities should establish such zones to achieve their greenhouse gas reduction goals, while also improving citizens’ mobility and quality of life.

“You should start in the densest areas, where car ownership rates are lower and therefore social accessibility is probably highest,” Brazeau underlines, noting that it is necessary to demonstrate the benefits for the population in a small area and before considering expanding the area. convey it well”.

Minister Charette is watching the situation closely.

Christian Savard emphasizes that such a project should be built in an area where there are sufficient bike lanes and where the public transport offer is important.

Currently, about 70% of trips to the city center are made outside the car, and he estimates that with the eventual arrival of REM de l’Ouest, downtown Montreal will be an ideal place to implement a low or zero emissions zone.

The general manager of the Vivre en ville organization would see “a low-emissions region in Old Quebec where “heavy automobile traffic makes part of the tourist experience less interesting.”

The mayor’s press attaché, Bruno Marchand, was unable to respond to La Presse Canadian when asked if such a project would one day be launched in the old capital, where public transport projects are often a source of polarization.

At the March 28 press conference, Benoit Charrette was asked if other cities in Quebec should eventually introduce zero emission zones.

The minister simply said that “Montreal will follow their projects with great interest”.

Avoid Hurting Traders

Andréanne Brazeau mentions that low- or zero-emission zones can address congestion, safety and pollution issues, but we must also ensure that traders don’t have to pay the price.

“We must continue to deliver products to markets and other businesses,” the mobility analyst said, referring to the idea that products should only be allowed to be delivered at certain times of the day by polluting vehicles.

Some cities have shown that it is possible to limit the movement of fossil fuel-powered delivery vehicles without affecting the economy.

For example, Ghent, a Belgian city of 250,000 inhabitants, was one of the first to come up with a plan to force the residents of Ghent within the city walls to limit the use of the car and choose other means of transport than the car.

According to Belgium’s Dutch daily De Morgen, an impact study showed that after the implementation of the car-free zone, the number of businesses increased by 20% and the number of bankruptcies decreased by 7% between 2017 and 2018.

City deliveries to stores are mostly made by cargo bike from a hub located on the outskirts of the city. Package delivery company DHL states on its website that package delivery in Ghent is “more efficient than pickup trucks” with cubic bikes, which are four-wheel electric bikes equipped with containers.

However, it should be noted that the winters in Ghent are milder than those in Montreal, and the two cities have different sizes, populations and urban planning. Also, residents’ mobility habits and needs are not the same.

But needs and habits can change, recalls Andréanne Brazeau, saying that mobility is a matter of societal choice: “70% of provincial transport spending is for the road network, so we shouldn’t be surprised at our dependence on the car”.

Canadian Press tried to get the Business Development Authority’s (SDC) view on the possible zero-emissions zone in downtown Montreal, but a spokesperson said the latter preferred to “wait for the city to more clearly detail its intentions” before commenting. .

While details of the Plante administration’s plan to create low- or zero-emission zone(s) are pending, the City recently announced that ten sections of streets will be dedicated to pedestrians next summer. These streets are usually commercial streets such as avenue du Mont-Royal, rue Sainte-Catherine, rue Saint-Denis, and rue Ontario.