In Montreal, journalist Louis-Philippe Messier travels mainly on the run, his office in his backpack, looking for fascinating subjects and people. He talks to everyone and is interested in all areas of this town’s history.
If you want to board one of East Montreal’s most popular river shuttles on weekends or during rush hour, the watchword is now essential: book!
Out at the bow, facing the wind to beat the island’s scorching heat wave this week, it’s certainly the coolest and most pleasant form of public transportation in Montreal.
It’s not expensive ($5.50), it’s free for kids (11 and under), and it goes quickly.
“We’re going 40 km/h, but without a red light, without an orange cone, without traffic, so we’re always on time,” boasted Gilles Tanguay, director of operations for Navark, the company that operates the 27 boats. A river shuttle runs from Varennes via Pointe-aux-Trembles to Old Montreal.
“On Labor Day alone, our boats carried over 5,000 people … and it was the same the day before, we were almost full every step of the way.”
In 2023 the Nawark company alone transported more than 250,000 passengers, compared to around 160,000 in 2022… and the season isn’t over yet!
“We offered the Boucherville-Mercier link until December 11 last year. If the Old Port does not close its wharf in mid-October we can provide services in the city center until Christmas.
In addition to Navark, there is also the AML company, which provides the Vieux-Port–Île Sainte-Hélène-Longueuil river link, accounting for a third of the crossings.
So I asked the Agence regionale de transport metropolitain for the total statistics on the river shuttle project piloting around Montreal: “On September 3, we passed the 340,000 trip milestone. This is a record,” exults ARTM Public Affairs Director Simon Charbonneau.
Cirque du Soleil employee Claire Liberge is returning from the French consulate downtown, where she asked to renew her passport, to return to her apartment near the quay in old Pointe-aux-Trembles: “Our friends are coming to have dinner with us. By boat, we have to remind them to reserve their places a few days in advance,” she said.
“I ride my bike to Varennes and bike back home to Verdun,” Natalia Ruden, an English teacher, told me.
I even drove that far hoping to get a strawberry tart from Tante Azeli, a caterer in old Varennes.
“Our new river shuttle boats are named after famous imaginary spaceships like the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars), XL5 (a line of 1960s dolls), Arcadia (named after Harlock’s spaceship) and Atlantis (again by Harlock).
With increasing passenger numbers, Navark will build a new shuttle in Longueuil this winter. For a name, why not from Quebec? I refer to Romeo Fafard (in In a galaxy near you)