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With the first section of the new REM train now rolling, Montreal commutes are getting simpler, cheaper and faster

First section of the new REM Hero

Three Colliers professionals share their experiences about the new line


It has been more than three months since the South Shore Metropolitan Express Network (REM) line opened on July 31, linking the City of Brossard to Montreal’s Central Station in the downtown core with the inauguration of five new stations. This is the first section of a much wider network that will connect downtown Montreal to many of its suburbs in the south, north and west, including a link to the Montreal Pierre-Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Expectedly, as with most new transit systems, there have been a few kinks that still need to be worked out, and efforts continue to improve elements of the service, including accessibility and noise reduction.

Over the last several weeks, service on the new light-rail line has been temporarily restricted with trains no longer running past 10 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday between Central Station and the Panama Station. Crews have started work to make the trains run less noisily through residential neighbourhoods.

Big picture, the South Shore REM line has already been positively impacting transit, business and lifestyle in Brossard and Nuns’ Island. Colliers has examined the effects the REM will have on the city’s existing urban fabric by boosting land use, density and development; reducing vehicle traffic; stoking property values; improving commuter travel patterns; and motivating commercial transactional activity. The Colliers team also developed this interactive map of the REM, which will eventually include four lines stretching over 67 kilometres, and 26 stations. The REM is a fully-automated, driverless system that uses communication-based train control (CBTC) to deliver a more efficient transit experience.

But what is it like to actually ride the trains? How is the REM making the city a more accessible place so far? We spoke with three Colliers professionals from our downtown Montreal office who now use the REM for different reasons, at different times, to get their perspectives and impressions on the new line.

On making their commutes simpler, cheaper and faster

Olivia Boussard, Associate Director, Marketing Studio Canada: We bought our home fairly recently on the South Shore and we knew then that the REM would help connect us to downtown. That reason alone helped us determine not to purchase a second car since we knew the REM would provide us with an alternative.

My husband and I share a car. Typically, we carpool together with the kids into the city each day.

Having access to reliable public transit such as the REM is very useful. When I have an early meeting or if my husband needs the car to go somewhere other than downtown, I take the REM.

To get to the closest station, which is Brossard’s Terminus Station, I have a five-minute walk to a bus. The bus trip from my home to Brossard Station takes about 20 minutes. It's pretty convenient.

I don't yet have a monthly pass, but the cost to ride the REM is cheaper than paying for a full day of parking downtown, which costs $21 per day. A roundtrip including the bus and REM costs me about $13, so it's a savings each time I use it.

Cynthia Costigan, Executive Assistant & Office Coordinator: I use the REM every day to get to and from work from my home on the South Shore. Like Olivia, I also take a bus to the Brossard REM station. The trip from Brossard to Central Station only takes me between 15 to 20 minutes.

Before the REM opened, I was taking the bus directly from Delson to the office in downtown Montreal. Often, I’d get stuck in a traffic bottleneck on the south side of the bridge, so it could take me over an hour and a half to get to work.

Sometimes I would drive, usually when I had early morning meetings, and that could take just as long as taking the bus if there was construction or congestion. Driving also meant I had to pay for parking, which was more than $20 a day, depending on where I found a spot.

Janina Francescutti, Executive Vice President, National Investment Services: I’ve lived on Nuns’ Island for about 23 years. In 2020, we moved into a condo on the North Point of the island. Prior to the opening of the REM, I would always take my car downtown.

Taking the car to go downtown always felt like the most convenient option. I always felt that taking transit from Nuns’ Island was a hassle.

Eventually though, a friend convinced me to try the bus and I realized it was much more convenient and affordable than driving to the office and paying for a monthly parking space downtown.

Then the REM opened, and the Nuns’ Island station is only one block away from my condo.

Now, I walk to the REM and it takes me to Central Station in about 10 minutes or less. I never wait very long for a train. It has been a big game-changer and I've been showing my family and friends how convenient it is and I've converted them to riders as well.

On the experience of riding the trains

Cynthia: The REM can be quite busy in the morning when I get on. If I'm lucky, I can get a seat. On the way home, I don’t usually get a seat before we reach the Panama Station, where the majority of the people get off.

I find it to be a more relaxing way to commute, and I appreciate the views from the windows, especially if it’s a nice day. The train cars are very clean. I’ve found the ride to work to be very pleasant. 

Olivia: My experience with the REM itself has been wonderful. It's high frequency, it's comfortable, it runs early and late at night. The cars are air-conditioned.

The one challenge I have is that the bus service to the Brossard Station is rather limited. During the week, we only have two departures in the morning and then two return departures in the evening. That doesn't really align with 9 to 5 users, so we'd love to see expanded bus service from our neighbourhood to the nearest REM station. As of October 16, the bus service provider, EXO, has adjusted its schedules to better align with office workers’ and students’ schedules based on feedback received since the new system was launched. I hope that they will continue adjusting and expanding the service over time.

The views from the trains are gorgeous. The rails are elevated in sections so in certain places, you get panoramic views of Montreal. It's beautiful when we cross the river.

Janina: I recently had lunch with a colleague downtown. He told me he typically drives downtown from home or takes the subway, so I took him for a ride on the REM after lunch and he was amazed at how convenient it was. He said the next time he comes downtown, he'll park at the Panama Station and take the REM downtown.

During off-peak times I’ve been riding, the train doesn’t seem super busy. I’m hoping and expecting more people to start adapting to the line throughout the days and evenings.

I’m converting people to become REM users.

On the lifestyle benefits the REM has unlocked

Cynthia: In my neighbourhood, we always had bus service directly into downtown Montreal, but the big change for us with the REM has been the reduced travel time, and that's huge. Getting to work has become much faster, less expensive and less stressful.

I’m also seeing benefits for my family and other members of the community. The REM connects Delson directly to Quartier DIX30, so it's now easier for shoppers, including young people, to transit to that area. For my kids and myself, it's a real bonus because they always want to go to that shopping area, and where I used to have to drive them in the past, they can now go on their own.

Janina: It has become so much easier, quicker and affordable to get downtown from Nuns’ Island. I also plan to use the new line for shopping trips and other recreation, and I’m sure many others in my community are doing the same. It’s just so easy.

Olivia: I think as more stations and the other lines come online, the REM will unlock the suburbs to the Montreal core, and vice versa. I have urban friends who don't have a car and never leave the core, but now they have the option of the REM, and they can explore beyond the city.

We also have family who come to stay with us from abroad. The REM will be a big game-changer for them because the REM will provide them with increased mobility in the city. With more independence and convenience for out-of-towners, I can see how the REM will cater to a new pool of tourists and business travelers.


Learn More

For More Information, Please Contact:

Olivia Boussard

Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships, Marketing Studio | Canada

Montreal

As Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships for the Marketing Studio, Olivia supports national brokerage  marketing operations in terms of positioning the brokers and their teams, building strong strategies to drive business,  and crafting winning property marketing collateral across all asset classes. She leads a team of marketing professionals comprising graphic designers and marketing specialists to fulfill brokerage marketing requirements for premium, large-scale property listings and business pursuits.

In addition, Olivia is responsible for developing the Marketing Studio's service offerings to the canadian business, supporting the various service lines in their design and strategic marketing needs

With an international background and  15 years of experience in marketing and sales for client-centric industries of real estate, hospitality,  banking and automotive,  Olivia brings fresh and sound ideas to the table, in order to deliver marketing strategies that are personalized, up-to-the-minute, engaging, and convincing.

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Cynthia Costigan

Executive Assistant and Office Coordinator

Montreal

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Janina Francescutti

Executive Vice President | National Investment Services

Montreal

Janina Francescutti is Executive Vice-President, National Investment Services. Ranked as a Top Performer at Colliers, Janina has over 28 years of advisory experience, having worked mainly in real estate brokerage specializing in investment transactions. She is a well-connected and highly respected industry expert with strong relationships spanning institutional and private clients including REITs, pension funds, as well as private and foreign investors. Janina’s track record of significant transactions speaks to her caliber and success. She has been involved in numerous transactions in major markets including Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Halifax. Janina holds a Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Real Estate Finance & Urban Analysis from McGill University. She is a Chartered Appraiser, recognized by both l'Ordre des Évaluateurs Agréés du Québec and the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

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