Aerial Photo 
Circulation & Access

Circulation Logo

The Evolution of Montreal Circulation:
which direction to take?

As McGill grows upwards onto the mountain, there are many reasons to reconsider circulation issues on the larger scale. One of these is simply the issue of safety- with many more people crossing the streets more frequently, proper facilities must be provided. Another is the need to better integrate the campus proper with the various peripheral zones up the hill. And finally, we have an opportunity to call into question many of the planning decisions made in the past, in order to envision a healthier, safer, and more efficient city in the future.

    The McTavish Reservoir is bounded by three streets- McTavish, Dr. Penfield, and Des Pins. The latter two are part of a larger traffic system the centre of which is the elaborate interchange connecting Des Pins with Avenue du Parc. This system, which contains elements spreading as far as our site, represents a dated planning philosophy which favours automobile circulation above all other factors, segregating cars from contact with anything else.

    The local goals of creating an inviting area for pedestrians on our site demand that the entire system be re-examined. Thus we will consider not only the streets surrounding the site but the system that feeds them with traffic.
Old Picture Map of McGill
Aerial Photo

Avenue du Parc Interchange System:
Existing conditions

Presently, adjacent to the Reservoir site, Des Pins and Dr. Penfield have 3 lanes of 1-way traffic each, for a total of 6 lanes 2-way traffic. Des Pins is 4 lanes wide on either side of the interchange. Avenue du Parc is only 3 lanes wide to the south, but through Parc Mont-Royal it widens to 8 lanes. These roads are connected by an interchange which permits one to turn any direction except from East-to-South and from North-to-West. During rush hour this interchange accomodates large volumes of traffic and serves as a valuable link between the city’s northern neighbourhoods and the downtown core. Integration efforts at the Reservoir site that entail narrowing or restriction of traffic lanes would have repercussions on the wider system.

    However, the entire system, while it does a very speedy corridor through the city, could be reconsidered. In an article in this summer’s Urban Design Quarterly, Tim Pharoah stresses the importance of the basic division of roads into “traffic” and “living” areas (UDQ, Summer 2002, Issue 83, p20). The Du Parc Interchange is clearly and all-traffic zone, but it is surrounded on all sides by living zones. There are Outremont and Mile-End to the north, the Plateau to the east, the student Ghetto to the south, and the Golden Square Mile to the west. The same journal notes that “more road space attracts more traffic” (p.15). It can be seen from early maps that, while Du Parc has always been a key artery in the city, it has grown much more than any other adjacent route. As a result, it is more than a mere street- it is a massive barrier between the city and the mountain. Pedestrians are confined to circuitous paths that wind around and through the interchange, creating an unsafe and unpleasant journey for would-be park-goers. Tim Pharoah identifies this practice of vehicle/pedestrian segregation as the ideology of the 50s and 60s, and he calls for integration in new designs. An urbanistically favourable long-term plan would be to re-integrate this large area, for it is not only a path to somewhere, but a place in its own right.

1913 Map Current Park System

Avenue du Parc Interchange System:
Proposed Changes

In “The Greening of Urban Transport”, Rodney Tolley has assembled a series of essays on all aspects of new ideas in traffic planning. Central to this “Green” philosophy is the tipping of the priority scale much more in favour of the pedestrian. He explains that traditional planners largely overlooked foot and bike traffic because, well, they could! That is to say, walking is such a basic human activity that we tend to take it for granted. It is only after having witnessed the often monstrous effects of car-oriented planning (as evidenced in the Du Parc interchange) that planners have come to give much more attention to pedestrians. After all, is it not by foot that we truly experience a city? Good pedestrian cities tend to have very successful tourist industries- an Montreal is no exception. This city is by and large very pedestrian-oriented, but the area in question is quite a noticeable exception. And, perhaps more importantly, green planning is safe planning. Wiley writes (in the UK in 1990): “walking is the most dangerous travel mode next to motorcycling”, accounting for one-third of all road deaths. All of these factors led the European Parliament to adopt “The European Charter of Pedestrians’ Rights” in 1988. In ensures that “the pedestrian has the right to complete and unimpeded mobility”.

    The basic proposal is to flatten the existing interchange, and all other design considerations spin off of this central idea. If a rondpoint, or traffic circle, is used, it might form, instead of a barrier, a plaza symbolic of the connection between city and mountain. Instead of the “urine-scented galleries” (Wiley, p15) of the pedestrian underpasses, the new sidewalks should be wide, with planter-boxes, benches, and clearly identified, generous crossings. Traffic-calming principles can be applied in certain key areas (see following panels), while overall traffic volumes can still remain a priority. In this way, not only would the issue of safety for McGill students be addressed, but a gateway to the Mountain would be created.

    The application of green principles on a large scale would benefit not only the further development of McGill, but the city at large.


Transit Service: Improvements needed.
    McGill already benefits from a well-developed transit system. The campus is served by the metro and several major bus routes. The upper section of the campus, however, is not served nearly as well as the lower. Only two bus routes, the 144 and 107, pass the Reservoir site, and these are not heavily used. Thus, most of those using the Medical, Life Sciences, Education, and Law facilities either drive to work or face a steep hike up the hill from the metro station.

    Montreal has already shown interest in developing “green” transit systems such as Light Rail  (see the Transportation Management plan at  and article at and feasibility studies are underway for a new route on Avenue du Parc and one across the river. Light rail is less expensive than underground metro systems, but it is still more pricey than the conventional bus. There are also several green developments in this area as well. Low-emissions diesel, hydrogen fuel-cell, and combustion/electric hybrid are just a few areas of interest.

    Ideally, if the upper campus is to be successfully integrated, new transit lines would be provided and existing ones improved. The existing 144 bus line could link to the future Du Parc rail line, carrying commuters from the north. Bus or light rail on University and/or Peel streets would form a valuable link between the site and downtown, also benefitting other faculties, residences, and hospitals. The more accomodating the transit system is, the less commuters will feel compelled to use cars.      

Commuting on bike and foot – balancing priorities.

The city’s bicycle network is growing. Currently there are good paths on the Plateau, along the Lachine Canal, and in many other areas. There is no dedicated bike path accessing McGill, however, and many frequently-used routes are unsafe (i.e. Sherbrooke St., Blvd. de Maisonneuve, etc.). It can only be hoped that further development of dedicated bike paths by the city will include the McGill Campus.

On the site, bicycle parking must be provided. The months between March and November see a huge number of cycle commuters on campus, and on sunny days the campus’ bike racks are full, as well as every other tree, signpost, and railing!


Pedestrian access to the site will require upgrading, as mentioned earlier. Several new crossings are required (see photos at right), and in general the area’s sidewalks should be widened in order to accomodate both increased traffic and increased outdoor life.
Bike Network Bike Network
Bike Network
Security and Barrier-free Access
Shortcuts, night routes, and shuttles...

For security reasons as well as practical purpuses, there should be a clear demarcation of acadamic and residential routes so that unwanted traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, can be restricted.
Shortcuts going through the site will have to be controlled particularly with respect to the on-campus residences.

The map below outlines an East-West and North-South route for crossing the camouus after dark. Thes routes have been chosen because they are less isolated, more open and better lit than others. The map also shows an extension of the night routes all along McTavish  and Peel streets reaching the resevoir site as well as the medecine campus. Therefore a secure network will
be linking all major academic and housing buildings on campus.

For the security of the large numbers of people that will be circulating in this area, the section of Dr Penfield adjacent to the site should be planned so that it looks less like street for cars and  more for pedestrians. It would become a  student-oriented street where the SSMU and other student related activities can be incorporated.
Security is not the only reason for the planning and the extension of the routes to the higher campus. This network should also be  barrier-free and conform to the listed articles. It also has to be used by disabled and elderely people, therefore shuttles have to ensure their circulation all around campus.

Shortcuts Night Route

NATIONAL BUILDING CODE ARTICLES:  Access to Above Grade Storeys  Access Routes  Location of Access Routes  Access Route Design  Egress Doorways  Minimum Number of Exits  Distance between Exits  Entrances  Exterior Walks
A-  Entrances

Crossing Traffic Calming 1
Traffic Calming 2
Priority Mactavish
Penfield Photo


Matus, Vladimir. Design for Northern Climates. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. NY 1988

Tolley, Rodney, ed. The Greening of Urban Transport. John Wiley & Sons NY 1990

Tim Pharoah, Jan Gehl, et. al. Transportation – a Transformation.  Urban Design Quarterly, Iss. 83, UK, Summer 2002. 

Canadian National Building Code.

McGill Security Services

B.N.Q. Photo Archives.
Les albums de rues Édouard-Zotique Massicotte,

Greater Montréal Area
Transportation Management Plan

LRT along Avenue du Parc :  

. school of architecture . mcgill university .