Due to the pandemic, the 2021 season was shortened by about a month and a half compared to 2019, when it was used by 59,500 people.

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While public transportation was quietly recovering this summer in Montreal, another form of public transportation also made a comeback.

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From July 3 to September 6, 38,222 people used the river transport service that connects Pointe-aux-Trembles with the Old Port.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 season was shortened by about a month and a half compared to the 2019 season, when it was used by 59,500 people. The service had been canceled in 2020.

“We are very happy,” said Gilles Tanguay, director of operations at Croisières Navark, which manages the service.

“If we go back in time, boats were often used for public transport on the river. We have forgotten about that a bit, but with the traffic problems, it is becoming an interesting solution for many people. “

Last year’s forced hiatus allowed the company to improve certain aspects of the service. In particular, passengers can now use their OPUS card to pay, while children under the age of 12 can also use the service for free.

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“People were rediscovering the outdoors this summer. So we got very positive feedback from families, who really appreciated being able to move quickly, ”said Simon Charbonneau, spokesman for the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), which coordinates public transport in the Montreal metropolitan area.

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After the success of the Pointe-aux-Trembles ferry, the company is looking to add a similar service in Boucherville. During a recent pilot project, some 1,273 people used the shuttle service that links the city’s municipal dock with the Old Port of Montreal.

“We didn’t have a precise number in mind, but it really exceeded our expectations,” Tanguay said of the pilot project. “We hardly advertised, but the boats were almost always full.”

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Over the next several months, ARTM, the Quebec Ministry of Transport and other partners will work together to plan for the future of river ferries in the metropolitan area.

But even if nothing is confirmed at the moment, Navark is already thinking big for the next few years.

The boats the company uses at this time are not specifically designed for shuttle service. So when they are at their maximum capacity, space is limited.

But the company has already completed the construction of a new ship, the XL5, “designed specifically for public transport that will be more comfortable and reliable.”

The 87-seat boat was tested late this summer and is expected to be ready for launch next season. Another similar ship is also under construction.

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“There is much more space for the bikes and it is much more comfortable. It goes at the same speed as the others, but it is more stable in the waves, ”Tanguay said, noting that the boats are made in Quebec.

Navark has also submitted a paper to the ARTM entitled “The Hochelaga River Network”, in which he proposes a complete network of water transport services in Montreal.

Eventually, shuttles could be used along the river between Repentigny, Lachenaie and Varennes in the east, and Verdun, Nuns’ Island and Pointe-Saint-Charles in the west, among others.

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Tanguay said that most venues already have suitable docks that should simply be upgraded for use, something he estimates would cost around $ 2.5 million.

The company says it could, starting in 2024, provide a full transportation service through its proposed network every year between April and December at a cost of $ 5 million per year.

“The interest is there,” Tanguay said. “We just need the go-ahead to put everything in its place.”

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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