On the way there, students and their teachers were on board for a school outing. On the way back, there were cyclists and a family going to celebrate a birthday in a restaurant in the Old Port.

“I’m going to work,” said Suzanne de Vette.

With her long skirt and her jeans jacket, hair in the wind, you would think she was going on a cruise. After all, the woman was waving at us from a boat leaving the Vieux-Boucherville wharf. Suzanne de Vette was going to work at the Montreal courthouse instead. She could even have paid for her trip with her OPUS card and taken a BIXI from an incentive parking lot.

Why be caught in traffic alone in your car when you can take a river shuttle that always leaves on time? Why be stuck on the bridge when the traffic is flowing under the bridge?

The river shuttle pilot project has been underway since 2021. Six connections are offered to the public this year, between Longueuil, Boucherville and Varennes, on the South Shore, and the Old Port, Mercier and Pointe-aux-Trembles, in the island of Montreal.

“These are habits that develop. Our strong point is the reliability and stability of the transit time. No red lights, no traffic and no orange cones”, illustrates Gilles Tanguay, captain and director of operations at Navark.

If river shuttles are considered public transport in the same way as the metro and the bus, they are a greater source of pleasure.

People from the South Shore sail on the shuttles to go to the Hospital Center of the University of Montreal, while Montrealers go to Old Boucherville simply to shop at the Maison Allumette, admire ancestral houses and eat at the café-bistro Saint-Laurent, as we did.

“We forget that Montreal is an island,” says Gilles Tanguay.

Born in Ahunstic, the 62-year-old captain lives on the Plateau. Allow us to introduce the one whose offshore call came after a career as a ballet dancer. After buying a sailboat to restore it – a long-term project – a cancer convinced him not to waste time. “My sailboat spent the winter next to Navark’s first boat,” he says.

In the spring, he then met Normand Noël, founder of the company which has become a major cruise operator.

It was 20 years ago.

Today, Gilles Tanguay is director of operations at Navark, which has a fleet of 27 boats and operates four of the six river shuttle routes. “But there are so many possibilities with the river system,” he enthuses.

The river shuttle pilot project emerged from the Avantage Saint-Laurent strategy. In 2021, there was only one connection. “We follow the demand and we do surveys. The first year, the shuttles were mainly used for leisure, then last year, it was also a lot for work and studies. It’s a sustainable means of public transport,” says Simon Boiteau, communications advisor at the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain.

As part of the mitigation measures for the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel works, the season was extended until December last year. New this spring when the flood waters will allow the development of the wharf: an access point to Varennes.

We also want to adjust the schedule for festival-goers on Île Sainte-Hélène (Osheaga, ÎleSoniq). “There are BIXI stations near the docks and we added more this year in Boucherville,” adds Simon Boiteau.

Getting stuck in traffic or feeling the breeze caress your face on the water? We let you guess how you can arrive in a much more relaxed mood at work. As Gilles Tanguay so aptly puts it: “The river is a path, not an obstacle. »