Trudeau airport operator takes steps to cut congestion

New measures include the creation of alternative drop-off and pick-up zones, additional parking spaces and enhanced bus service.

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Montreal’s airport operator is rolling out several changes aimed at easing congestion by next summer amid a post-pandemic surge in passenger traffic.

New measures include the creation of alternative drop-off and pick-up zones, additional parking spaces and enhanced bus service, ADM Aéroports de Montréal said Wednesday in a statement.

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Feasibility studies conducted in the past few weeks show that the steps will cut the number of vehicles entering the airport’s main curbside by up to 700 an hour during peak periods, ADM said. During the busy summer season, some 26,000 vehicles on average use the curbside every day.

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Despite assurances to the contrary, Quebec’s busiest airport endured a second straight summer of discontent in 2023 as passenger numbers hit new highs. Gridlock around Trudeau airport was so bad at times that some travellers had to leave their rides hundreds of metres away from the terminal building and walk — with their luggage — the rest of the way to try to catch their flights. Incoming fliers also faced long lines at customs and at luggage carrousels.

“My priority is to provide the best possible experience for passengers and users of the airport site,” ADM chief executive Yves Beauchamp said in the statement. “In the short term, we are implementing robust measures in addition to those taken during the latest summer season. We are also accelerating the pace of work between now and 2028 to better meet demand at a time when passenger growth at YUL is forecast to remain the strongest in Canada.”

Passenger traffic at Trudeau airport in the third quarter jumped 18 per cent year-over-year to a record 6.4 million. That represents almost 106 per cent of the volume for the corresponding period of 2019.

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The trend continued in October with close to 1.8 million travellers passing through Trudeau airport — 9.5 per cent more than in 2019. Through 10 months, traffic at the airport is 3.5 per cent higher than it was four years ago.

As passenger numbers keep climbing, “the airport’s infrastructure is facing capacity challenges at certain times of the day, as demonstrated during the recent summer season,” ADM said.

To reduce the number of vehicles attempting to reach the terminal building, ADM says it has designated two locations to the east and west of the site that will serve as remote drop-off zones. Both are in the new multi-level parking lot known as P4, which will open at the start of 2024.

Passengers will be able to choose between going to the main drop-off zone at the front of the terminal or travelling more quickly to a remote area served by a shuttle service. The shuttle journey will take about five minutes, ADM says. The alternate drop-off zones will also be accessible to arriving passengers.

A second series of changes centres on parking.

ADM says it has begun a review of parking rates for the 2024 summer season. Discounts will be offered for bookings of four hours or less in nearby parking lots, while special rates will be introduced for more remote parking areas. Free parking will be available in all lots for 40 minutes between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., at the height of the afternoon rush hour.

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The imminent opening of P4 will increase the airport’s vehicle parking capacity by 2,800 spaces, ADM says. The new lot will be accessed via an alternative route to the main drop-off zone and multi-level parking garage.

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Efforts have also been made to improve bus service. Automated or manned mobile sales terminals have been installed in the terminal, and daily departures of the 747 bus — which links the airport to the Lionel-Groulx and Berri-UQAM métro stations — have been added based on passenger demand, ADM says.

ADM also says it continues to evaluate the best ways to enhance transportation to and from Trudeau airport. The operator hopes to work with the region’s transportation companies to provide new direct connections to the airport site “in the near future.”

Other improvements are planned for later this decade — including the construction of new multimodal facilities. By 2028, these measures will triple the capacity of the main curbside, provide more nearby parking and reconfigure the road network to serve the new drop-off zones, ADM says.

Details of the projected work, which ADM says will offer a “permanent solution” to congestion on the airport site, will be unveiled next spring.

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