The green line of the Montreal metro should welcome at least 10% more ridership and see its transfer stations explode in number of users if the REM de l’Est does not obtain a connection with the city center, a learned The Press. The situation leads experts to say that we must quickly “rethink” this link with the heart of the metropolis, for the moment abandoned by Quebec and Montreal.
The situation makes experts fear the worst, who warn that the East will not benefit from a real structuring system. “If you arrive with a REM-type light metro, it has to be connected to the rest of the network. Otherwise, we are missing an opportunity. The East will end up with a big investment that will do just half the job, ”laments the general manager of Vivre en ville, Christian Savard.
In its preliminary report due this week, that The Press obtained, the committee led by Quebec and Montreal clearly telegraphs its intentions: the Eastern REM “will see to prioritizing the green line to ensure travel to the city center”. Assomption and Honoré-Beaugrand stations have been designated as the main “transfer stations”.
All this would contribute to a daily overload of at least 4,000 passengers during peak hours, or 10% more than the normal crowds of the green line, whose ridership has already increased since the work in the Louis- Hippolyte-La Fontaine. At Assomption station, the increase would be much more marked: the number of transits during the morning peak would jump from 2,500 to 18,000, an absolute increase of 620%. In the east branch, in the axis of rue Sherbrooke Est, 60% of users would take the green line at one time or another.
The report also clearly mentions the need to make “improvements” to these two stations to contain the projected increases in traffic volume. More traffic studies should be made public in June, when the committee’s final report is presented.
The importance of the service rendered
A former member of the committee of experts for the REM de l’Est – at the time when it was still piloted by CDPQ Infra –, Mr. Savard had proposed last summer to the authorities a “revised and improved” route which brought back the connection with the city center, by converging the north and east branches at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, to then continue west in Rosemont and the Plateau by connecting to the orange line at the Sherbrooke station and at the green line at Saint-Laurent station. Everything would finally come together at Central Station. However, this scenario has never really been studied.
“I don’t understand why we don’t explore the downtown option more. The East will only have a third of the network, while the West will have a three-branch network connected to the heart of the metropolis. There will be no territorial equity or the transportation impacts we want,” he says.
Until now, the connection with the city center remains excluded in particular because this segment had been the subject of heated debate before CDPQ Infra withdrew, citizens opposing an aerial structure which, according to them, would create a “fracture urban”.
But for the expert in transport planning at the University of Montreal Pierre Barrieau, “there are still other options”.
“On the contrary, the government must start planning now for the city centre. We know that the air does not pass, but we still have other solutions, ”he says, evoking for example an underground or ground connection.
The specialist recalls that “the green line will already very soon return to full capacity”. “Without a REM connection downtown, this green line will become completely overloaded, and in Berri-UQAM, it will become very complex. And we know that when we exceed the maximum capacity of a metro line, the service slows down, ”he analyzes.
Explore “all options”
The director general of Trajectory Quebec, Sarah V. Doyon, also asks Quebec to study “all options”. “CDPQ Infra offered an overhead option, but there is a way to do it differently. We find it unfortunate that in the committee’s mandate, there is no possibility of further studying downtown. The more we study all the options, the more likely we are to come up with the best project,” she says.
If, indeed, the green line is able to absorb it, that could be a solution. On the other hand, the proof still clearly remains to be done.
Sarah V. Doyon, Executive Director of Trajectory Quebec
In the entourage of Mayor Valérie Plante, it is recalled that “from the start”, the City “repeats the importance of a link to the city center, a priority element for opening up the East”. After a “first” link, it will be necessary to “complete the whole of the work and finish the reflection” towards the city center, affirms the press officer Catherine Cadotte.
In the office of the Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Geneviève Guilbault, however, it is reiterated that the current priority is first “to provide good service to eastern Montreal”. “It’s been too long since the citizens of the sector have been neglected by former governments,” says press attaché Louis-Julien Dufresne, without going any further. Monday, Mme Guilbault had confirmed that the REM de l’Est would not be aerial in Mercier-Est, but that it would be in the axis of rue Sherbrooke Est.