Two former REM de l'Est panel members are asking provincial political parties to weigh in on a new proposed route that would have a direct connection to downtown.

For the REM de l'Est to be a successful project, it is absolutely necessary to connect the east end of Montreal to the downtown core and the rest of the network, said Société de développement Angus executive director Christian Yaccarini, and Vivre en ville executive director Christian Savard.

However, unlike the first project presented at the time by CDPQ Infra, which provided for several elevated structures in the heart of the city, this new proposal favours the underground mode for this part of the route.

"What we are presenting is an improvement to the REM project that is currently being studied," said Savard. "With a common underground branch to downtown and connections with the orange line, with the green line and at central station to directly connect the east end of Montreal to the heart of the metropolis and to the heart of the transportation networks."

Savard is inviting the political parties vying for government on Oct. 3 to take a clear position on the issue.

"We want the political parties to commit to this project or at least to add it to the mandate of the committee that is in place," he said during a meeting with the media Thursday morning in Montreal.

The REM de l'Est was originally intended to connect the east end of the island to downtown using an above-ground route for most of its length. The promise: to go from Pointe-aux-Trembles to downtown in 25 minutes.

But due to widespread criticism, including from Mayor Valérie Plante's administration and opposition parties in Quebec City, the project was taken out of the hands of CDPQ Infra, the real estate arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, and the Quebec government handed over the reins to four entities. They are: the Régie des transports métropolitains, the Société de transport de Montréal, the ministère des Transports du Québec and the City of Montreal.


The proposal from the Angus Development Corporation and Vivre en ville includes three branches.

The eastern branch would connect Pointe-aux-Trembles to downtown by light rail, which would be, for the most part, on elevated structures. The route would be the same as the CDPQ's REM, except that it would go north to connect to the green line at the l'Assomption metro station and continue to the common branch as far as the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, with the possibility of an extension towards Lanaudière.

The North branch, which would use an underground route, would have the same route as the CDPQ's REM, except it would branch off towards the common branch at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital.

The East and North branches would meet at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and continue west into Rosemont and the Plateau-Mont-Royal. The 'common branch' would then head south to downtown, underground, connecting to the orange line at Sherbrooke station and the green line at Saint-Laurent station and Central Station.

The Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital would serve as the central point for connecting the eastern and northern branches to downtown, "roughly between the green and blue lines," said Savard.

He said the choice was necessary because the hospital is the "largest generator of travel in the east end of Montreal," and it is currently poorly served by public transit.

"We are putting on the table a structuring and ambitious project that ensures a large geographical coverage of the East, especially among clientele that are currently underserved, and a direct link with the heart of the metropolis. The new REM de l'Est would provide all the impetus desired to accelerate the revitalization and development of the territory, both from an economic perspective and from the perspective of social and ecological transition," said Vivre en ville's executive director.

REM de l'Est line


According to the two experts, this new proposal responds to the call of some 20 organizations and personalities who published an open letter last May to guide the development of a structuring transportation project on the territory of eastern Montreal.

According to the signatories, it is necessary to "act quickly by relying on the work of the CDPQ in order to deliver the project" within ten years.

The Montreal East End Chamber of Commerce is among the organizations that signed the open letter and welcomed the new proposal.

"In light of this proposal, we invite the government to modify the mandate of the committee (ARTM, STM MTQ and City of Montreal) so that it can include the analysis of the deployment of a direct link to downtown as outlined this morning," said chamber president and CEO Jean-Denis Charest.


The project that CDPQ Infra presented was estimated at $10 billion. The one proposed Thursday would "most likely" exceed that amount, according to Savard.

"I don't think we should plan public transit based on a figure, but rather on needs," he said, adding, "if it's expensive, it's because we've neglected public transit for years."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Aug. 25, 2022.