Monday, July 15, 2013

Trains, a Part of Life in Montreal

The horrifying train derailment, explosion and fire in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Qc. earlier this month has given rise to a lot of talk about the wisdom of running trains through populated areas.

One of my Facbeook acquaintances even kidded me about whether there was going to be a run on St-Henri real estate as people dumped their homes out of fear for their safety. I was skeptical then and remain skeptical now. That's what I told CTV News, when reporter Max Harrold called me up.

Don't mind my dorky face. I was talking, ok. 
He had already interviewed a Management prof at UQAM who had studied the sale of 40,000 residential properties on Montreal island. His analysis indicated that living within 50 metres of a super highway reduced the value of a home by as much as 5 per cent, living within 50 metres of a rail line meant an 8-10 per cent reduction in property values.

This I don't dispute.

My larger point when asked about the impact of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy on Montreal home prices was that Montreal was built along rail lines. Think about all the communities where trains are a fact of life - Point St. Charles, St. Henri ( the level crossing pictured above), NDG, Westmount, Cote St. Luc, TMR, Griffintown and all those suburbs served by commuter rail service. That's a lot of trains.

Montrealers have long made their peace with trains and for all the horror of what happened in Lac-Mégantic, it says something that it is the only train disaster most of us can remember. I was chatting with The Gazette's Allison Lampert and she pointed out that the big difference between Montreal and Lac Mégantic is that CN owns and controls most of the freight rail track in the city and has a better track record for safety than the corner-cutting Chicago outfit MMA  whose freight train caused the fiery explosion in small-town Lac-Mégantic.

I think that the images of burning crude oil and a leveled downtown core are fresh in our minds but that within a few months those memories will fade and Montrealers will feel comfortable with the rumble and squeal of passing freight trains once more.

We buy homes near rail lines, like we buy homes near airports or near flood zones. 

You can watch the CTV report here

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