While public transport was quietly recovering during the summer in Montreal, another means of public transport made a return expected by its regulars. In just two months, nearly 40,000 people traveled on the St. Lawrence River using the Navark company’s river shuttle service.

In all, 38,222 people took one of the shuttles, the one connecting Pointe-aux-Trembles, in the east of Montreal, to the Old Port from July 3 to September 6.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 season has been shortened by about a month and a half compared to that of 2019. The compromise was still more interesting than the complete cancellation of the service, as in 2020. For a full season in 2019, the service had been used by 59,500 people.

“We are very happy,” said Navark’s director of operations, Gilles Tanguay in an interview with The Canadian Press. If we go back in time, there were some boats that provided public transport on the river. We forgot that a little, but with the problems of traffic congestion, it becomes an interesting solution for many people. “

The forced break last year still improved the service on a few points. In particular, passengers could use their season ticket on their OPUS card to pay, while children under 12 traveled for free.

“People were rediscovering the outdoors a bit this summer. We therefore had very positive feedback from families, who really appreciated being able to get around quickly, ”says Simon Charbonneau, spokesperson for the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), which coordinates public transit in Greater Montreal.

Boucherville – Vieux-Port in 30 minutes

Navark could well have built on the summer success of the Pointe-aux-Trembles shuttle, but less than a week after the end of the season, the company embarked on a charm operation in Boucherville last weekend .

The objective: to link the municipal quay of Boucherville and the Old Port in less than 30 minutes. An ambitious project in relation to the time required to make the same journey by bus and metro.

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But as it did all summer in Pointe-aux-Trembles, the company rose to the challenge with flying colors.

During the passage of The Canadian Press, the small Explorer ship reached the Old Port in 27 minutes, to the great pleasure of the forty or so passengers on board.

In total, 1,273 people used the service between Boucherville and the Old Port during the two days of the pilot project.

“We didn’t have a specific number in mind, but it really exceeded our expectations,” says Tanguay. We hardly did any advertising, but the boats were still almost always full. “

Great ambitions

Over the next few months, the ARTM, the Ministry of Transport and other partners will work together to plan the next steps regarding the future of river shuttles in the metropolitan region.

The Minister for Transport, Chantal Rouleau, has also reiterated her intention to support this service, as she did as borough mayor before entering the National Assembly.

“Each success we achieve brings us closer to a true network of river shuttles for the metropolitan region. And I know people want it, ”says Ms. Rouleau.

The Minister responsible for the Metropolis also recalls that the CAQ government has provided for tax credits of $ 21 million over five years for the development of the river shuttle network, in addition to registering the desire to extend the network in its “Avantage Saint-Laurent” vision.

But while nothing is confirmed yet, Navark is thinking big for the next few years.

By Gilles Tanguay’s own admission, the boats used are not specially designed for the shuttle service. When they are at their maximum capacity, space is limited.

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The company has already completed the construction of a new vessel, the XL5, “specially designed for public transport, more comfortable and more reliable”.

The 87-seat juggernaut was put on trial towards the end of the summer and should be ready for the launch of the next season. Its sister ship, the Millennium Falcon, is already under construction.

“There is a lot more room for the bikes and it’s a lot more comfortable. It goes at the same speed as the others, but it is more stable on the waves, ”explains Mr. Tanguay, who also points out that his ships are built in Quebec.

In the short term, the company wants to regain its contract in Pointe-aux-Trembles and, perhaps, launch a new permanent link with Boucherville, but its ambitions do not end there.

Navark has already submitted a brief to the ARTM, entitled “The Hochelaga River Network”, in which it proposes a complete system of river links for the Montreal region.

Ultimately, ships could sail the river between Repentigny, Lachenaie and Varennes in the east, Verdun, L’Île-des-SÅ «urs and Pointe-Saint-Charles in the west, as well as the Old Port in the center. -ville, among others.

A little too ambitious?

“Not at all,” Mr. Tanguay says. In most of these places there are docks already available, they just need to be upgraded. “An operation valued at $ 2.5 million according to Navark.

“Then there are the boats. But boats can be bought and built, ”recalls the director of operations. The company talks about $ 8.5 million for 14 ships.

Navark therefore asserts that it would be able, from 2024, to provide full service to its river network each year between April and December, at a cost of $ 5 million per year.

“People’s interest is there, we just need a ‘go’ to put everything in place,” believes Gilles Tanguay.

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