One of the major apprehensions for West Island commuters concerning the REM transit system is about the number of parking spots at the Park-and-Ride lots. Although parking will be available at all four stations, the REM has only confirmed a total of 700 spaces to date: Des Sources (500), Pointe-Claire, Kirkland and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue (a total of 200).
It is simply not enough to accommodate those who would like to use it. However, the REM is taking the concerns seriously and the number of spaces at the Pointe-Claire and Kirkland stations are still being discussed. ‘We can confirm that there will be at least 700 parking spaces, and we are working hard to increase that number’ they stated this past August in response to questions raised at an information meeting held last spring.
The West Island is not like most other areas in Montreal – where access to a bus or the metro system is easier and often less than a 10-minute walk away. The West Island is set up differently. There is no metro system and although there is the Exo Train line, for those who have to commute daily into the city, depending on where they work, it is often not practical. It is also too far for many commuters to easily access and even more challenging during the cold winter months. Many residential areas in the West Island are a fair distance away from the main roads where people can conveniently catch a bus. In a good part of the community, the roads are designed to keep flow-through traffic away from quiet neighbourhoods, where children can safely ride their bicycles or play hockey on the streets. The roads twist and turn, making any walk longer than average. It can be a formidable experience for those who have mobility issues, especially the elderly. Moreover, the problem is not just about getting to and from the REM stations. It is also about dropping off and picking up children from daycare centers, schools as well as running errands. Carpooling is not an option in many cases.
The REM does acknowledge the problem and is aware of the importance cars are for West Island commuters. Although they have confirmed only 700 parking spaces to date, they are discussing the issue of adding more spaces with RioCan, owners of the lot at the Kirkland station and the owners of Cadillac Fairview for the Pointe-Claire station. But their goal is to develop an ‘integrated parking option, rather than increasing the number of parking spaces on the West Island, in order to limit traffic congestion around the stations’. They ‘are convinced that it is critical to provide many different ways to access the REM, rather than depending too heavily on park-and-ride lots… the future of transport is contingent upon increasing users’ options for accessing the stations’. They see the system as a chance to review the bus networks in order to improve service and have been working with the transit companies on new routes – and want to make sure as many users as possible have easy and practical access by bus to the REM stations. In order to do so, they are planning to have car-sharing services like Car2Go, Communauto and Netlift made available and to make sure cyclists have safe paths along the routes. Those who are concerned about environmental issues should find the REM’s direction in line with Montreal’s plans to fight climate change.
As for how much it will cost commuters to use the system, they have not yet been able to announce the exact price, as it is the ARTM (Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain) that is independent of the REM, who will be setting the rates. The ARTM set the current public transit rates for the bus, metro, commuter trains and Opus cards. Rates for the REM are expected to be comparable to what it currently costs and users should be able to use their Opus cards. The system is expected to start being operational with the South Shore to Bonaventure stations running in 2021 and then fully rolled over the next few years with the West Island line ready in 2023.