Article REM de l'Est

7 myths about the REM de l'Est


Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the planned REM de l'Est project. 

1. Is the REM a technology choice imposed by CDPQ Infra?

The REM is a fully automated light rail system powered by catenary. This technology is used elsewhere in the world and has proven its efficiency. The choice of an automated light rail system was just as favourable for the REM de l'Est as for the REM currently under construction, since the two projects share the same climate due to their proximity. So the particular weather conditions in Québec are the main reason for the choice of catenary and light rail technology for the REM de l'Est. 

As for light rail, this is a technology that allows both high frequency and flexibility – it can be adjusted to the needs of users. Frequency is particularly important since travel patterns and mobility needs evolve: passengers do not want to wait too long for the next ride, regardless of the time of day. 

Before the choice was made, a number of options were studied, both for the mode of transportation (tramway, tram-train or light rail) and for the power supply technology (by catenary or third rail). 


2. Who will bear the costs if the project is not successful?

The answer is simple: CDPQ Infra assumes the financial risk if ridership does not meet projections. As the REM de l'Est is still in the planning phase, its financial structure is under development. Let's take the example of the REM under construction to provide more detailed explanations. Of the $6.9 billion project, CDPQ Infra is investing the largest portion: $3.33 billion. The Québec government is investing $1.28 billion. 

If there are construction risks, CDPQ Infra assumes them as well. As an example, CDPQ Infra updated its budget in November 2020 to add a special budget envelope of $200 million in response to the COVID-19 situation and an additional $150 million to cover various optimizations and third-party requests. Since CDPQ Infra assumes the risks of construction, operation and ridership, it benefits from a priority return of 8%. Once CDPQ Infra has reached the priority return, the amount invested by the Québec government will generate a return of 3.7%. 

3. Will taking the REM de l'Est be more expensive for users than other transit services?

No, because all public transit fares in the Montréal area are set by the ARTM. The REM should therefore be integrated into the public transit fare grid, just like the REM de l’Ouest, and users will be able to load fares onto their OPUS card. As with existing networks, costs will be determined by the origin and destination zones. The new fare structure introduced by the ARTM in 2021 now contains "all-mode" tickets and passes that will include the REM. 


4. Will the REM de l'Est cannibalize the green line?  

The green line of the Montréal métro is currently on the verge of saturation. The REM de l'Est will relieve pressure on the green line by offering a complementary adjacent solution, especially during peak periods. 

However, calculations cannot be based solely on current public transit ridership: the REM de l'Est, through its contribution to the development of the area, will result in an increase in the number of people wishing to use public transit. 

Eventually, the REM de l'Est will also be used by future citizens of the East who, if there were no efficient public-transit system to meet their needs, would be forced to travel by car. These future REM de l'Est users are not counted in the current figures, which do not take into account the potential of this territory with its nearly 27 million square feet of currently unused space. 

The green line alone cannot meet all the potential needs of this area. Another point to note is that all stations of the REM de l'Est will be universally accessible (to people with reduced mobility, young families with strollers, etc.). 

Improving the public transit offering in the East End of Montréal will allow this sector to develop by attracting more businesses and citizens: many are currently held back by the lack of connections with the rest of the city. 

5. Will the REM de l'Est convert new users to public transit?

Nearly 17% of REM de l'Est users will be motorists who will leave their cars to take public transit. It is very difficult to convince someone to leave their car at home. With the REM de l'Est, more than 6,000 cars will be taken out of daily circulation. 

People who were already using public transit will see the quality of their service increase: they will be spared long bus rides to get to the métro. Beyond the numbers, it is important to recognize the positive impact of a transit solution that enhances user experience and service quality, thereby increasing long-term retention of public transit users. 

In the first phase of the REM, a large number of users on the South Shore will have access to a light rail system rather than having to make the same trip by bus. Buses will then be able to adapt their routes to optimize local trips. The same potential is present in the East.

6. How does the financing of the REM de l'Est work?  

In Québec, the passenger-km concept is a useful way of comparing the costs of transit systems based on the operating cost of each. The ARTM is responsible for recording these average costs. For example, when users take a bus in Montréal, it costs an average of $0.73 per passenger-km, and if they take the Exo train, it costs an average of $0.89 per passenger-km. Users pay approximately 29% of this bill through the purchase of fares. To cover the remainder of the bill, the ARTM is responsible for collecting surplus funds from the Québec government and from municipalities whose citizens use the services. 

Let's take the example of the REM under construction, since the details of the REM de l'Est are still under development. CDPQ Infra will charge a cost per passenger-km to the ARTM: this will be $0.72 per passenger-km for each rider who boards the REM. This model is distinct from that of other networks, because this cost covers both the operating costs and the long-term construction and maintenance costs of the REM. In the other transit systems, investments in infrastructure (construction of new garages, terminals, etc.) or the manufacture of new cars, such as the Azur project, are subsidized directly by the Québec government and are therefore not included in these operating costs. 

Inclusion of long-term maintenance costs for the REM in the passenger-km figure means that costs can be anticipated over many years, such as the renewal of light rail cars and the maintenance of stations and tracks, etc. It is as if in 1968 the Montréal métro had foreseen the construction of the Azur cars and had built these costs into its business model.

Unlike those of the other networks, the REM’s $0.72 cost is flexible. If ridership forecasts for the REM turn out to be higher than expected, the passenger-km cost will decrease. For example, if there are 15% more riders than anticipated, the $0.72 passenger-km cost will decrease by 20% to $0.57 for all trips above the forecast level. If ridership is greater than 40% of the projected level, then the rate paid by the ARTM for all trips above this threshold will be the same as the user fare. In other words, the cost for each additional rider, once ridership exceeds 40% of projections, will be zero: the operating costs for these trips will not require any additional government or municipal funding.  

Ridership forecasts have been the subject of numerous studies and CDPQ Infra is confident that objectives will be met and even exceeded. If the project is successful, the Québec government will also earn a 3.7% return. 

7. Will the REM de l'Est be sold to foreign investors?

It is not CDPQ Infra's intention to sell either the REM or the REM de l'Est. Since the project will generate profits over the long term, neither CDPQ Infra nor CDPQ would benefit from selling them. It is a long-term investment. One of the great advantages of the REM de l'Est is that it will be able to generate profits that will be redistributed to governments. In addition, through the CDPQ, profits accumulated by CDPQ Infra can be reinvested in the pension funds of Quebecers. This means that for every ticket purchased, a portion will contribute to our collective wealth.