Kate found a one week apartment rental on Craigslist, located in the McGill neighborhood of downtown Montreal. Just north of Saint Catherine’s Street, our apartment was in a really great location. We were a short distance from a subway station, which we used frequently. The subway in Montreal is pretty impressive. It covers a good sized metropolitan area, is complemented well by bus service and hooks into regional and national train lines. The system was modeled after the successful Paris subway, but was designed to run completely underground. All of the cars have rubber wheels, which makes the trains considerably quieter than subway cars in other cities, a pleasant surprise.
What is really incredible about the Montreal subway system is not cleanliness or quiet trains but the unique design of each and every metro stop. Having lived in Boston for five years I was used to the idea that each subway line (blue, red, etc) has a color scheme that allows riders to easily identify the line they are using. But the subway in Montreal was designed so that each stop is unique. And I don’t mean one tiny little marker that makes each station unique. I mean a complete design. The artwork, the floor, the signage, the walls, everything is different. The only thing that is the same is the cars that quietly rumble through each station.
Another thing that impressed me about Montreal is its use of bike lanes. Urban planners in Montreal did not mess around. The nicest bike lane I’ve ever seen in person was located not even a block from our apartment, along Boulevard de Maisonneuve. This bike lane goes two ways, with clearly identifying lines painted on the road. But these urban planners left nothing to chance. There is a concrete curb that physically separates car traffic from bicycle traffic as well as separate traffic signals for bicyclists. We saw several painted bike lanes, and found many streets and parks that had designated signage with lanes only for bikes separated from pedestrian and automobile traffic. Next time I go to Montreal I’m bringing my bike.
Our time in Montreal was short, but well-spent. As a result of the incredible transportation infrastructure we were able to go anywhere in the city quickly and easily with little cost. We ended up purchasing a five day metro pass that saved us a ton of money. Montreal is a great city with a world class multi-modal transportation system.