MUHC Superhospital Plan Lacking Access (yet provides ample parking)

El Superhospital!

Who’d have thought the much maligned MUHC Super Hospital would come up short?

The experts who said ‘super hospitals’ were already obsolete? (relevant)

Or the pundits who want to know why our two-language health-care system is still, hopelessly, divided on the linguistic front (last time I checked, medicine’s language is scientific, not rhetorical – and aren’t all local doctors and nurses more-or-less bilingual anyways? – also relevant).

Or the architects who have been arguing against this ridiculous project for years on a wide-spectrum of issues, from lack of access, to infrastructure and cross contamination (speaking with one of these experts who came in to address my Montreal history course lead me to write this highly relevant article)?

And so, yet again, we find that the MUHC Superhospital project is coming up short once more, now with regards to pedestrian and public-transit access. It seems as though area residents are demanding better access to the new facility, and the typical cold-shoulder-wrapped-in-warm-n-fuzzy-pr-bs-response from hospital officials is that it is already accessible.

This is why I’ve stopped bothering to go to these public consultations – they (the Man, in whichever form) are not listening to you, they’ve spent so much god-damn time rehearsing their methodically precise answers they don’t have time to address these legitimate concerns. I doubt anything will come of this, given just how retartedly stubborn the government and MUHC has been what with this project.

Such a large facility is going to require multiple access points designed for high traffic. The more pedestrian or public-transit access points there are, the better it will be for the surrounding community, least to mention the more car spaces it will liberate and the chance for major traffic jams (pedestrian or vehicular) decreases proportionally. The MUHC has been touting that they’ll have an abundance of parking spaces, which will be useful given that the site happens to be next to two highways and the intersection of several major urban arteries. But not everyone should be using vehicles to get here, given the likelihood of traffic jams. This means that, among other things, ambulances will require their own access points, perhaps multiple access points. The MUHC wants you to believe that the Glen Road access point can be shared by both speeding ambulances and pedestrians, cyclists etc. Do you want to share a road with speeding ambulances? I didn’t think so…

Construction cranes at the Glen Yard Campus of the new MUHC Superhospital

Worse still is that the MUHC doesn’t yet seem to have a plan in place to handle additional traffic from Vendome Métro Station. Tunnels have been planned, but little more seems to have been accomplished. Further, while they are insistent that they will build two tunnels to serve the Northern side of the campus, plans so far only provide for one – pedestrians looking to access the site from Boul. de Maisonneuve are likely going to have to cross an open-air pedestrian bridge that will go over the tracks. Not exactly ideal now is it. And as for Southern access, well you can pretty much forget it.

Then there’s the issue of the traffic-jam waiting to happen when the hospital comes on-line three years from now and all public transit access to the hospital runs through Vendome station. Suffice it to say I’m looking forward to saying ‘I told you so’.

It seems as though the only real solution here is to bite-the-bullet (and who cares really – the project’s over-budget anyways, may as well go for the gold and at least ensure this project doesn’t become a total White Elephant due to lack of access – consider how lack of access has played a significant role in our other major White Elephant mega-projects) and spend a considerable amount of money on ensuring the site has excellent accessibility.

First, I’d highly recommend transferring AMT operations from the “Vendome Platform” to a bonafide train-station, such as you will find located at the far Eastern edge of the Glen Yards Campus at the old Westmount Train Station. While the inter-modal set-up at Vendome has been useful, it will likely soon become overcrowded. Running a tunnel from the Westmount station through to the hospital (and then back to Vendome) will allow for better traffic diffusion, not to mention commercial retail space which in turn could provide a steady revenue for our perennially cash-strapped hospitals. Situating another tunnel to connect the hospital under the tracks with the Métro station is a no-brainer, but it should be part of a much larger system that provides access to both ‘tactical and strategic’ access. Ergo, its not just the tunnels to the Metro and train station, tunnels must further allow access to the community surrounding this new site, especially the Southwest District. While a Glen Road access lane for ambulances is an excellent idea, pedestrians shouldn’t be asked to share this space. Instead, a tunnel under the Ville-Marie Expressway to the corner of Glen Road and St-Jacques could help ensure that this hospital can actually reach the community its supposed to serve. Another potential access point would be Ave de Carillon or Rue St-Rémi, coming up from the South. And of course, putting a new bus terminus on the southern side would allow for a better connection to communities like St-Henri, Ville-Emard, Verdun and Pointe-St-Charles. Point is, the architects of the MUHC project could easily transform this site into a major traffic hub, which may save the hospital’s reputation. If it can be used to guarantee a safe and secure method of getting between the ‘city above and below the hill’, then perhaps this project has a prayer.

But it will cost us in the short-term. That said, as far as I’m concerned, it’s completely worth it.

Mid-town Montréal, 1962

Apologies for the bad pic quality - found this at the Montréal Pool Room last Winter with Nelson, Isabelle and Gen

So I found this great aerial shot of Montréal’s “new” central business district while munching on poutine and ‘steamés’ at the Montréal Pool Room back two winters ago after a night of dancing at Igloofest – good times and highly recommended. There’s nothing more satisfying than boogying down to the electric boogaloo with tens of thousands of other Montrealers defiant to the last not to be brought down by Winter’s icy catatonia. Who says Winter’s for hibernation? Not I good sir, not I.

Here we can see the new Montréal, springing up along a new commercial artery. In a happy coincidence, the aerial rights over the Mount Royal Tunnel pit were developed at pretty much the same time as Dorchester Street (now Boul. René-Lévesque) was being enlarged into a major urban boulevard. Moreover, the old Windsor Hotel had suffered a partial fire in 1957 which had left a large plot of land open for development at Peel. Thus, between 1958 and 1962 Montrealers were presented with an interesting visual treat – the construction of three skyscrapers simultaneously and the complete and total transformation of the centre of the city, as Place Ville Marie (centre), the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, CN Headquarters (to the East of Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral) and the first ICAO Building were built atop the former ‘tunnel-pit’.

The skyscrapers in this picture, from left to right, are the CIBC Building (1962), Sun Life Building (1931), 1 PVM (1962) and the former CIL House (1962 – currently Telus Tower). Notice the two parking lots at the bottom centre of the photograph. The one at left would become the site of the Chateau Champlain and Place du Canada building in 1966-1967, while the one to the right would remain undeveloped until 1988. Ergo, if you can imagine walking down Peel towards St-Antoine in 1964, and were looking Southeast across these lots, you would have seen the impressive, elegant Tour de la Bourse rising from a mass of old victorian buildings. I believe there’s a five second sequence demonstrating this exact perspective somewhere halfway through Luc Bourdon’s Memories of Angels.

Also missing is the Terminal Tower, which would be built immediately to the East of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1966, filling up most of the block and completing one of the most seen perspectives of Montréal. It is this section of the city which has stood-in for New York City more times than I can imagine, precisely because it is one of the few areas of the urban environment where ‘the cavern effect’ can be effectively demonstrated. And unlike what you would find in NYC, our version is less overwhelming, what with our building height restrictions and what all (jesus, what’s with my interior monologue today?)

So what can I say – go take a walk why not?