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Metro Roulette: Montmorency, the end of the (orange) line

Posted by Paloma / June 2, 2008

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I don’t usually stray far from the bikini bottom to Montreal’s off-island suburbs, but when the STM extended its metro lines to Laval, it became too easy not to hop on and head north. Three stations and 5.2 kilometers of track were inaugurated on April 26, 2007, after five years of construction and $745 million in costs. (The planners didn’t skimp on the inauguration either, which apparently had a metro symbol ice sculpture and metro car cakes.) Skeptics didn’t think the extension would draw a large increase in users, but a recent Gazette article reported that 30,000 passengers get on the metro in Laval each weekday, 20 percent more than expected. We rode the orange line the other way one Saturday, and were curious to see what we’d find at the end of the line.

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We were struck by how smooth and short the ride under the river was between Henri-Bourassa and Cartier stations, but it got discomfortingly bumpy between Cartier and De La Concorde. When the doors opened at Montmorency, I was met at the platform with a yellow, red, navy and light blue staggered brick pattern — kind of what my PC looked like right before it died. (De La Concorde, with its glass panels bearing translucent grass, is definitely the Mac of metro stations. Midnight Poutine previewed the station before it opened, but it looks like it deserves another writeup.) We tested out the elevator linking the platform to the upper levels — as of yet a novelty in metros, but soon to be more frequent.

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I’m surprised the designers didn’t capitalize on their chance to beautify our ugly underground. Instead, suspended in the space above the escalators were what looked like sponge-painted fragments of the Olympic Stadium’s roof, a jarring contrast to the spartan mix of stacked concrete and yellow brick.

Outside was yet more concrete, a sea of parking spaces and what my friend referred to as a moonscape — probably leftover gravel from the tunnel's excavation. We crossed the street to explore the station’s namesake, Collège Montmorency. The school’s namesake was François Xavier Montmorency de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec. As expected, the CEGEP was as dead as could be on a Saturday.

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We continued north along Boulevard L’Avenir contemplating what was so futuristic about the neighbourhood. I was inwardly hoping that megamalls and four-lane roadways weren't a sign of what’s to come. We saw a massive apartment building capped by a clock tower, and thinking this must be an important destination (important enough to be a neighbourhood landmark), we ventured closer, but could get no further than the front door. It was a seniors centre. (Is it not cruel to put a clock on a building for the elderly? As if to count down the rest of their lives?)

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All our walking and inhaling exhaust made us hungry, so we searched in vain for something authentic to eat, anything that Montreal doesn’t have. We found Khyber Pass, a delicious-looking Afghan restaurant (1694 boulevard St. Martin O.) but it was out of our price range. Literally every other food establishment was a chain or a breakfast place. As it was nearing 3 p.m., we settled on one of many Queen-Céline-owned Nickels's, this one in the Centre Laval.

While we ate our smoked meat and quesadillas, we wondered if there was an Old Laval, but figured not. Even though we didn't explore more than a two-kilometer radius from the station, we couldn't if we wanted to. Laval is a city built for the driver. At the expense of sounding like an inner-city snob, there's something about those kinds of suburbs that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, like Nickels's coleslaw and other Céline Dion consumables. I don't mean to be hatin' on Laval, but on its urban planners. You can only pass so many Burger Kings and gas stations before you start feeling déjà vu. Maybe in a car it's not so bad, but the feeling is intensified on foot. And all those hours spent driving can't be good for anyone.

After eating we headed back to the station (I did spot a bike path on the way), where we were informed that our STM passes would not get us back on the metro. No, Montmorency is in a different zone from Montreal island's network, and we had to purchase another ticket for $2.75. The ticket attended animatedly explained how to insert the new type of tickets into the red slot and wait a second for it to emerge the upper end. Then he added "see girls? It’s easy! Just like me!” His remark brought out another difference between Laval and the mainland. In Montreal, being hit on by a metro employee would be creepy. But somehow, in Laval, it was just funny.

Metro De Montreal, a treasure trove for all things metro, rates the station 3 out of 5. I agree — the station gets bonus points for being equipped with an elevator and (overly) friendly staff, but docked for the hideous decor and uninspired surroundings.

Metro Roulette is an on-going series where intrepid Midnight Poutiners trek from one end of the metro system to the other to bring you the tales of a metro station and its surrounding area.

Discussion

24 Comments

Sarah / June 2, 2008 at 11:19 pm
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Great article!
surprisingly interesting. :)
Paloma / June 3, 2008 at 01:01 am
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Merci!
Laura / June 3, 2008 at 08:06 am
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I've been meaning to check out the new stations myself, but had the feeling nothing much would be around there. Thanks for the article!
Paloma / June 3, 2008 at 08:12 am
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Laura, don't let my less than glowing review keep you from Laval. The station had tons of buses leaving from it, some of which I'm sure will take you to some beautiful spots.
Peter / June 3, 2008 at 05:47 pm
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There are interesting old areas of Laval. The city was created out of 14 separate municipalities, many of them quite old. Unfortunately, none of them are really close to the Metro stations.
KT / June 3, 2008 at 07:01 pm
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Montmorency is right in the middle of the Laval sprawlscape. There's not much there. The other stations have more interesting surroundings, however --- there's a decent bakery-café right next to de la Concorde and, near Cartier, an old neighbourhood with a lot of interesting houses, kitschy businesses and quiet riverside parks.
CY / June 8, 2008 at 07:29 pm
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Er, Khyber Pass CAN be found in Montreal. It's on Duluth, east of St-Denis.
Paloma / June 9, 2008 at 07:31 am
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Thanks for the tip, CY. I'll have to check the other location out.
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