Commute concerns as parking spaces slashed from West Island REM station plans
Published Thursday, March 14, 2019 5:47PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 14, 2019 7:14PM EDT
West Islanders may have been looking forward to the light rail project cutting down on commute times – but it might take them longer to find a parking spot at a station.
The train's builder CDPQ Infra promised thousands of spots along all the REM lines in initial plans but has since cut that down to a mere 700. At some stations, there will be no spots whatsoever.
The station that's the farthest west is in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, which is expected to see more car traffic as people try to drive from off-island to the REM station. It was expecting hundreds of spaces but is now only getting 200.
There will be 500 spaces added at the Des Sources station, but there will be no new parking at both the Kirkland and Pointe-Claire stations.
The Kirkland station, being built near the Coliseum movie theatre, will be in a new location and that means there will be zero parking spots for people who need to drive there.
“If there is not enough in the location of the stations, where are the people going to park? On side streets?” asked Pointe-Claire Mayor John Belvedere.
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said that if additional parking isn’t made available for the REM, she’s worried that off-island commuters could be using up every available public spot in the town.
“Our big concern at this point is that because people from Vaudreuil are going to come onto the island, original there were the 2,000 spots in Kirkland where they could have gone to park, so it could have side-stepped Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. Now with Ste-Anne’s being one of the only places left with parking, what you’re going to see is a lot of demand for those 200 parking spots,” she said.
The Caisse de Depot, who is in charge of building the REM, said it has its eye on some privately owned parking lots it could potentially use.
It did not divulge details because there's no deal in place yet to use spaces from existing businesses, but the Caisse said there should be other ways to get to the REM stations and is planning on increased bus and ride-sharing services.
"The need for access for car owners to the station has remained, so it’s an obligation for the project to find alternative solutions,” said CDPQ Infra executive director Harout Chitilian. “We’ve secured 700 public spots in the West Island and the objective is to find other spots for car owners. The objective is also to reinforce the mass transit system in the West Island to give access to the stations.”
It's estimated that 170,000 users will take the electric train per day and the REM has been billed as one of the largest automated transportation systems in the world, connected to bus networks, commuter trains and metro lines.
“It’s reliable, fast, secure service from the extreme point of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue in more or less 30 minutes,” said Chitilian.
With fewer parking spots available, though, the incentive to leave the car at home is gone, said Francois Pepin of Trajectoire Quebec, a transit users’ advocacy group.
“To take the parking off right at the beginning is something else. Maybe some people will stay in their car to get downtown,” he said.
To counter that, Chitilian said CDPQ Infra is considering other measures including reworking public transit routes on the West Island.
“Ridesharing, bikes, even drop-off zones. As far as additional parking spots, there is a potential to develop mixed-use project access to parking spaces,” he said.
So far it’s unclear what the cost would be, but to make the project work, it’s clear lots of spots are needed, said Hawa.
“It’s a wonderful project. I firmly believe in it. I think the end objective is exactly where we need to go. I think it’s visionary” she said, adding an important caveat: “We're going to need parking.”
The West Island line of the REM is expected to be completed in 2023.