The STM abandons the project to equip stations with so-called suicide barriers

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It is not known what will happen to the approximately $800 million promised by the province.

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A project to build barrier gates at several Orange Line subway stations has been shelved, despite about $200 million in provincial funding pledged for the project.

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Barriers, also known as platform screen doors, consist of panels that block access to the track, with doors aligned with the doors of incoming trains. They have been installed in subways in several major cities, including Paris, Hong Kong, London, Tokyo and Singapore, and they prevent people from jumping or being pushed onto the track, or dropping objects. The city’s new Réseau express métropolitain will be equipped with barriers at all of its 26 stations when it is launched starting this year.

In 2018, the city’s transit agency issued a tender to install the barriers at 13 stations. Then, in 2019, the city announced that it had reached an agreement with the province to pay for at least 13 of these barriers. In the deal, which was announced with great fanfare at city hall, the province pledged a total of $800 million for various transit projects, including $200 million to pay for barriers. The Société de transport de Montréal had estimated that each station’s equipment would cost between $10 and $15 million, so the $200 million would have paid for all 13 stations.

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However, the project was quietly shelved by the STM in December, spokesperson Philippe Déry explained. It was left out of a new capital spending budget unveiled late last year which covers the years 2022 to 2031.

“In the context of financial difficulties linked to the pandemic, the STM has made the necessary efforts to reduce its debt, so we have reduced our expenses by more than $2 billion over 10 years. To do this, we revised some projects and canceled others,” Déry said.

The previous capital budget projected that $568.1 million would be spent by 2030 to install the barriers. Another project to install barriers at the five new stations on the extended Blue Line was also canceled due to cost overruns on that project, Déry said. However, the stations will be built with the barriers in mind, which will save costs when they are finally installed.

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A 2016 UQAM research project analyzing subway suicides determined that about 16 people per year jumped in front of trains. The city’s opposition also noted that incidents disrupting subway service for five minutes or more were on the rise in 2022, and many of those disruptions are caused by falling objects, or people jumping or being pushed onto the tracks.

A 39-year-old woman from Toronto’s Bloor-Yonge subway station was injured after being pushed onto a track last week, and a woman in New York City died in February after being pushed onto subway tracks in this city. Following his death, the MTA announced that it would initiate a pilot project to equip three stations with barriers.

At the Villa-Maria metro station on Monday, most users who spoke to a reporter said they believed the STM had made a mistake in canceling the project.

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“Losing more than one life costs a lot more,” said Notre-Dame-de-Grâce resident Sharon McLaughlin. “Life is worth more than any money. Losing a life costs more than filling a hole in the city budget.

Reacting to news of the project’s cancellation, the city’s opposition said it demonstrates once again that Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is mishandling the public transit file.

“If we want to get ridership back to pre-pandemic levels, we need to improve the level of service, and that means reducing the number of interruptions on the subway,” said opposition spokeswoman Christine Black. on public transit issues, in a press release. .

Black said she was also concerned about the $800 million in funds promised to the city by the province. That money was earmarked for future projects after the city contributed $800 million in federal funds it was eligible for. Federal money was given to Quebec to pay for its tramway. In return, the province promised the city $800 million in funding over several years. In addition to the barriers, the money was to pay for studies on a tramway in Lachine and improvements to the Blue Line extension project.

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The money hasn’t disappeared, said Marikym Gaudreault, a spokesperson for Plante.

“According to the spirit of the agreement with the government, the amount devoted to this project will be allocated to another project in the metropolis,” said Mr. Gaudreault. “It should be noted that the objective of the agreement was to obtain funding from the government’s Quebec Infrastructure Plan (a document that outlines the province’s long-term infrastructure funding commitments). One thing is clear; we have no shortage of projects to use these funds.

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