Canada’s second-largest city could soon become the world’s next “sponge city.”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante (pictured above) is proposing the implementation of “sponge roads” to adapt to climate change. Sponge roads are roads that can absorb rainwater better than conventionally designed roads. A city that embraces sponge roads on a mass scale can be described as a sponge city.

Plante wants to create sponge roads by removing parking spaces and replacing them with plants like grass and trees. This would increase permeability because plants are better able to absorb rainwater than asphalt.

The sponge road proposal would not involve the closure of any additional roads. Nevertheless, the loss of parking spaces is still bad news for Montreal drivers.

The sponge city concept has been embraced by urban planners across the world, including in New York, Cardiff, and Shanghai. The concept is particularly popular in China, where 64 cities have adopted sponge city guidelines.

Plante discussed this concept during a meeting organized by the Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal (CORIM). In the meeting, the mayor highlighted the need to address the strain imposed on the city’s infrastructure by increasingly frequent torrential rainfalls.

Scientists expect Montreal to encounter increased flooding in the years ahead due to climate change. Certain low-income neighbourhoods are particularly vulnerable. The recent heavy rains in July resulted in significant damage to roads, residences, and even the subway system.

According to CTV News Montreal, almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in Montreal are attributed to transportation. Automobiles are by far the largest culprit.

Plante’s administration has faced criticism regarding measures aimed at promoting active mobility and reducing reliance on private vehicles. The decision to remove 250 parking spaces in Parc-Extension to build a new bicycle path has sparked protests. Additionally, Plante’s plan to prohibit vehicles on Camillien-Houde Way beginning in 2027 has garnered mixed reactions.

During a recent interview with climate activist Mark Watts, the mayor admitted that initiatives to adjust to climate change (including establishing permeable roads) may be politically unpopular.

Image Sources: Sylvain Dubé and Journal de Montréal,