The Montreal subway’s green line should welcome at least 10% more passengers and see its interchange stations explode in user numbers if the REM de l’Est isn’t connected to the city center, La Presse learned. The situation is leading experts to say that we must quickly “reconsider” this connection to the heart of the metropolis, which has been abandoned by Quebec and Montreal for the time being.
Posted at 5:00 am
The situation has experts fearing the worst, who warn that the East will not benefit from a real regulatory system. “If you are arriving on a light REM-type metro, it must be connected to the rest of the network. Otherwise we will miss an opportunity. The East will end up with a big investment that only does half the job,” laments the general director of Vivre en ville, Christian Savard.
In its preliminary report, expected this week and received by La Presse, the Quebec-Montreal-led committee makes its intentions clear: The Eastern REM “will ensure that the green line is prioritized to ensure downtown is reached.” . Assomption and Honoré-Beaugrand stations have been identified as the main “interchange stations”.
All of this would contribute to a daily congestion of at least 4,000 peak-time passengers, or 10% more than the normal crowds on the green line, which has already seen ridership increase since the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine works. At Assomption station, the increase would be much more pronounced: the number of transits during the morning peak would increase from 2,500 to 18,000, an absolute increase of 620%. In the east branch, on the Rue Sherbrooke Est axis, 60% of users would eventually take the green line.
The report also clearly mentions the need to make “improvements” at these two stations to curb the projected increase in traffic. Further transport studies should be published in June, when the committee’s final report will be presented.
The importance of the service provided
A former member of the Expert Committee for the REM de l’Est – at the time when it was still being piloted by CDPQ Infra – Mr Savard had proposed to authorities last summer a “revised and improved” route that brought back connectivity with the city centre , merging the northern and eastern branches at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, then continuing west in Rosemont and the Plateau, connecting to the Orange line at Sherbrooke station and the Green line at Saint-Laurent station. Everything would finally come together at the main station. However, this scenario has never really been explored.
“I don’t understand why we’re not exploring the downtown option more. The east will only have a third of the grid, while the west will have a triple grid connected to the heart of the metropolis. There will be no territorial justice or the transport impact that we want,” he says.
So far, the connection with the city center in particular remains excluded, since this section was the subject of heated debates before the withdrawal of CDPQ Infra, given that citizens opposed an aerial structure that they believed would create an “urban break”.
But for University of Montreal transportation planning expert Pierre Barrieau, “there are other options.”
“On the contrary, the government needs to start planning for the city center now. We know the air doesn’t go through, but we have other solutions,” he says, referring to an underground or ground-based connection, for example.
The specialist reminds that “the green line will be fully utilized again very soon”. “Without a REM connection to downtown, this green line will be totally congested and things will be very complex in Berri-UQAM. And we know that if we exceed the maximum capacity of a subway line, the service will slow down,” he analyses.
Discover “all options”
Trajectory Quebec director-general Sarah V. Doyon is also urging Quebec to explore “all options.” “CDPQ Infra offered an overhead option, but there is a way to do it differently. We find it unfortunate that there is no possibility within the mandate of the committee to further study the inner city. The more we examine all options, the more likely we are to come up with the best project,” she says.
If the green line can actually take it, that could be a solution. On the other hand, of course, there is still no proof.
Sarah V. Doyon, Managing Director of Trajectory Quebec
In the wake of Mayor Valérie Plante, it is recalled that the city “repeated from the beginning the importance of a connection with the city center, a priority element for opening to the East”. After a “first” connection, it will be necessary “to complete all the work and complete the reflection towards the city center”, confirms press secretary Catherine Cadotte.
However, in the office of Minister for Transport and Sustainable Mobility Geneviève Guilbault, it is reiterated that the current priority is first to “provide a good service to eastern Montreal”. “It’s been too long since the citizens of the sector were neglected by previous governments,” says press attaché Louis-Julien Dufresne, without elaborating. On Monday, Ms Guilbault had confirmed that the REM de l’Est would not be airborne at Mercier-Est but at the Sherbrooke Street East axis.