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What if Kingston…

Underground City in Kingston, OntarioWhile enjoying some highly anticipated rest and relaxation in Montreal this past weekend, I shopped ’til I dropped. That’s not to say I bought much of anything, however while searching for mass produced consumer goods, I rediscovered a part of the city, which some visitors may be less familiar with. Officially known as RÉSO, or la Ville Souterraine, Montreal’s underground city is a maze of interconnected commercial and residential complexes that spans over 32km. RÉSO is the largest underground complex in the world, and it permits access to everything from the Bell Centre to the subway, universities, museums, condominiums and much, much more. Over the course of the weekend, we endured torrential downpours as well as blistering heat, while RÉSO offered climate controlled shelter in both scenarios.  Needless to say, this got me thinking about the usefulness of such infrastructure in the Limestone City.  What if there was an underground city in Kingston?

What would an underground city look like in Kingston?  If you compare Toronto’s PATH with Montreal’s RÉSO, the common subterranean amenities are as follows:

  • Transportation: subway, bus, Via Rail, parking facilities.
  • Pedestrian Friendly: miles of accessible walkways, that are climate controlled
  • Connectivity:  museums, universities, arenas, shopping and business centres, residential complexes

Regarding common transportation aspects, Kingston already has numerous parking facilities and a bus system, which an underground city could connect to.  That said, I believe we’re a few decades out from seriously talking about incorporating a subway system into our present transportation scheme.  Furthermore, since the Via Rail station is rather far from our downtown, a subterranean village would be hard pressed to link to it without the aid of public transportation.  Depending on where you draw the lines for this underground infrastructure, pedestrian friendly may be bit of a misnomer.  Princess Street has a bit of an incline to it, which might result in way too many stairs and escalators, as well as lead to inaccessibility.  That said, if proper terrain was identified, an underground city would save Kingstonians the hassle of trudging through the cold slop during the winter months.

Considering the current number of vacant street-level storefronts, Kingston isn’t in dire need of an underground city.  Further, the future addition of a subterranean shopping district might hinder the development of locally owned businesses, and encourage big brands and chain stores to settle downtown.  Although the notion of a massive underground network connecting everything from Queen’s to the K-Rock Centre and the Grand Theatre seems enticing, especially in the dead of winter, I would rather forgo an underground city in favour of preserving the charming, historical one that’s already located on the surface.  What say you?

Special thanks to kalleboo for the photo of Montreal’s RÉSO.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

5 thoughts on “What if Kingston…

  • July 8, 2009 at 9:56 pm
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    In a large city like Montreal or Toronto, where downtown storespace is very heavily sought after, the underground extension is intelligent, works well, and viable.

    A city the size of Kingston, however, has no practical need for one, lacks the population, tourism, money, and infrastructure to implement such a project. Cost-prohibitive would be a fitting term I think.

    Let’s leave the big city ideas to the big cities. :)

    Plus, there is always the risk of mole people….

  • July 10, 2009 at 8:25 am
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    Kingston is more like a few centuries away from incorporating a subway system :) These grand ideas make sense in large cities with a population in the millions. I think its time to accept that this is a smaller city, and it will never be a Toronto or Montreal. I moved here to get away from Toronto! Instead of all the large scale dreaming, it’s more appropriate to develop attainable goals based on the size of the population, however “unsexy” they may sound.

  • July 10, 2009 at 11:58 am
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    @4jeg I totally forgot that Kingston ever had a tram system. Would love to see some pics if anyone can dig them up. Perhaps this would be a more viable option than a subway, lightrail etc… That said, I can already hear the boo’s from the naysayers.

  • July 20, 2009 at 9:11 pm
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    Can’t find pictures, but there’s a brief history right here:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~wyatt/alltime/kingston-on.html

    …being in Tinajin, China right now, they have a nice half-way streetcar solution. Essentially the actual body looks identical to a modern streetcar, but there is just one track, and the body moves on regular tires – probably saves them a bit of money as they only have to put one rail down. Here’s to hoping!

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