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Excitement, optimism as hundreds line up to ride Montreal’s new REM light-rail – Montreal |


Lines wrapped through Montreal’s central station on Saturday as hundreds of people waited to board the metro area’s new light-rail train system, many of them showing up just to marvel at the new transit service, even if they don’t expect to take it often.

The first section of the driverless, electric train system known as the Réseau express métropolitain, or REM, is free to ride this weekend ahead of its official launch on Monday. Five stations are open on the segment connecting downtown Montreal with the suburb of Brossard, Que. to the southeast across the Saint Lawrence River.

It’s the first part of what will eventually become a 26-station network spanning 67 kilometres, representing Montreal’s biggest transit expansion since the construction of the metro in the 1960s.

People take a ride on the Reseau express metropolitain (REM) light rail system in Montreal, Saturday, July 29, 2023. The REM opens Monday to fare paying passengers.


The opening of the REM was a particularly monumental occasion for Jean-Pierre Nadeau, who said Saturday he remembers taking part in the inauguration of the metro system in 1967, when he was 15 years old.

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“It’s wonderful,” he said of the REM as he waited with family for a train at central station. A retiree, he doesn’t plan to use the light-rail system frequently, but said he looks forward to its completion. “That’s what it takes to relieve highway congestion.”

The REM trip between Montreal and Brossard is 18 minutes, which is 20 to 30 minutes faster than the rush-hour drive, officials have said.

Two other branches of the light-rail network, to Montreal’s western and northern suburbs, aren’t expected to open until the end of 2024. An airport link won’t open until 2027.

Alex Busby and son Oscar take a ride on the Reseau express metropolitain (REM) light rail system in Montreal, Saturday, July 29, 2023. The REM opens Monday to fare paying passengers.


Renato Rocha, who lives in Brossard and came to try the REM on Saturday ahead of his once-a-week trek to downtown Montreal for work, said he’s already excited about the arrival of a new transit option.

“It looks like a good option from now on,” he said, adding he’s eager for the rest of the REM network to launch. “There’s still a lot to do. In a few years it will be exceptional.”

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Other riders Saturday said they look forward to new car-less access to recreational opportunities, like Marie-Therese Pham, who lives in Montreal and plans to use the REM for weekend cycling excursions.

Aleksey Zaitsev, who was at central station Saturday with his children, said he’s thrilled to have a station near his home on Nun’s Island, a part of Montreal that previously lacked a rail link to the rest of the city.

“It’s very exciting for our kids to head into town for events,” he said. “Our kids grew up on the island … so it’s a great, welcome change.”

Still other REM passengers Saturday said they came simply to admire the automated, driverless trains and the views they offer from their elevated tracks.

“The feeling is a bit strange,” said Maxime Bouchard-Levesque of the experience of passing above car traffic. “I guess we’ll get used to it.”

“We’ve never actually been to Brossard,” said Laurel Ovenden, a Montreal resident, who along with Alex Busby came to try out the REM with friends and family.

But Helene Bounoua, a retiree who lives in the town of Greenfield Park, Que. near Brossard, said she worries commuters will be put off by the need to transfer between buses, the REM and Montreal metro to access most of the city.

Matthew Adler is also reserving judgement on the REM’s efficacy. “We’ll see how it alleviates any congestion on the bridges,” he said. “It certainly has the potential.”

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“We’ll find out in the next five to 10 years.”

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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