15 reasons to reject the Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM)

Trainsparence applauds the government’s intention to invest in public transportation, but the REM proposed by Quebec’s Caisse de Dépôt and its subsidiary, CDPQ Infra, is a badly designed, problem-filled project that should be rejected.

A rushed approval process

The REM project requires the approval of several ministries in Quebec.   So far, these bodies have declared that they need much more information on the impact that the project will have on their areas of responsibility, some saying that the BAPE should not have taken place since the impact studies were incomplete.  They mention important missing information on: urban sprawl, risks to public health, and green house gas emissions.  Even the Ministry of Sustainable Development stated that they don’t have the essential information that they need, so why was the BAPE process initiated so fast, and why are we moving so quickly?

The wrong technology

An automated Skytrain, without drivers, must be completely isolated from pedestrians and other rail systems.   Each station whether elevated above ground or in a tunnel is extraordinarily expensive.   For $5.5 billion dollars, this project adds no more than 12 to 15 new stations.   With the same budget, one can build 6 long tramway lines with as many as 120 stations not to mention several essential connections to the metro system.

The REM will increase greenhouse gases

According to official calculations, the Caisse and their subsidiary have claimed a lowering of 16,800 tons of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) per year.   This is insignificant: Quebec’s total emissions are a thousand times higher. Moreover, by taking into account the effects of the project on urban sprawl, emissions will in fact grow. By going into low population areas, each new REM user will also generate even more new car drivers.


Neither the promoters nor the government have made any guarantees when it comes to fares. CDPQ infra has inferred that the yet to exist regional transportation authority (ARTM) will set a uniform fare across the metropolitan area.  Unfortunately for users, this seems to suggest that the fares wil increase for everybody…even those who will not be using the REM!

Lack of transparency

Beyond fare hikes, CDPQ INFRA refuses to disclose ridership studies studies, cost/benefit analyses with other options, nor do they answer important questions on many subjects including the impact on the current public system, or on existing fares.

Public Private Partnership (PPP)

The REM project would be the biggest PPP in Quebec’s history.   We would privatize the planning, financing, operation, maintenance and ownership of a strategic transit infrastructure.  From now on, decisions and choices for this transit network will be motivated by profit rather than the public good.

The costs for using the PPP process for building the CHUM and the CUSM will be almost double what taxpayers were told to expect at their outset.   Public financing for public services is always the least expensive way of raising and spending money for public needs on public property. Privatization schemes, like the one used for the REM, puts private profit at the centre of all decisions rather than environmental conditions and service requirements.

A monumental error in priorities : reconstructing the Two Mountains Line to “adapt” it to the specifications of the Skytrain.

Reconstructing the Two Mountains Electrified Train line will cost 1.2 to 1.4 Billion $.   In the context of our actual transit needs, no one can justify such a sum to replace the one existing satisfactory, popular, already high performance, electrified line in the Montreal system. It makes much more sense to adopt the AMT project which raises the capacity of the trains with new two story carriages, for 100 million dollars.

The Charbonneau Commission – lessons unlearned

The Charbonneau Commission report was clear:  publicly provided expertise for planning and overseeing public infrastructure is a strong preventer of collusion and corruption.   However, here we are doing the opposite: every stage of this project has been handed over to an external consortium.

Small number of stations in the plan and its impact on ridership

The smaller the distances between stops, the greater the number or users.   But the REM has relatively few stations. Even worse, they are widely spaced and situated in areas where few people live.  That means few people will arrive or leave these stations on foot.   Most will take their cars, defeating the efficiency of the REM.

The REM does not serve the denser urban centres

Density of population is an important factor justifying any public transit infrastructure.   The REM, where it runs in dense neighbourhoods, makes few, if any, stops.  Moreover, the stations indicated as ‘potential’ are not included in the actual costing.

Selling infrastructure

This project will require at least $2.5 billion dollars of federal and provincial subsidies as well as an yet undetermined contribution of municipal and school taxes they would otherwise collect on any development nearby REM stations.  CDPQ Infra will also receive billions in value from the awarding of public property and existing operating transit systems, including the existing tunnel under Mount-Royal, their approaches and even the Two Mountains Train line.   The CDPQ Infra can also sell these assets off to any other private owner at anytime.   How is this acceptable ?

The REM will block the use and development of other trains in the system

The REM, without drivers, must become the exclusive user of the tunnels if it extends under Mount-Royal.   Other trains with drivers have to be excluded.   So commuters from the Train de l’Est and St-Jerome are thus victimized.   They would have to transfer from their trains to the REM to get to Central Station.   Worse, the planned Quebec to Toronto and Windsor train, would be denied access to the tunnels. They will have to have a brand new Grand Montreal Stop Station, somewhere near Autoroute 40 and boulevard St-Laurent (with metro or REM connections).   ViaRail’s plan for a Train de grande fréquence (TGF) would absurdly have no connection with downtown.

Threats to biodiversity and vulnerable species

The REM will have serious impacts on the environment by destroying a number of natural habitats.   Montreal is already struggling to honour Mayor Coderre’s promise to protect ten per cent natural spaces.   One wonders if the REM promoters cleared their routes with the person responsible for the City’s environment, Réal Menard.?

Unfortunately, the CDPQ, like the Minister of Sustainable Development, displays a cavalier attitude of ‘so whatever’, relative to natural spaces and habitat for animals, several of which are listed as threatened.

Certain lands in Brossard, Longueuil and Boucherville constitute the last hope for the threatened Faux-Grillon de l’Ouest, a tiny frog. Pierrefonds-Ouest is the home of the equally threatened Brown Snake, along with the Spotted Snake, Geographic Turtles and the Prairie Goglu, as well as other animals and plants whose habitats will be destroyed by the REM forever.