Is the proposed light rail project right for the West Island?

The proposed light rail project for Montreal seems, at first glance, to satisfy the demands of West Islanders who want improved public transit service. But experts say the project's success will be determined by the details.

Station location, ticket price, parking among questions related to $5B plan

The proposed $5-billion, 67-kilometre rail system would be completed by 2020. (CDPQ Infra)

The proposed light rail project for Montreal would seem, at first glance, to satisfy the demands of West Islanders who have long clamoured for improved public transit service.

But experts and West Island mayors say the success of the project will be determined by the details, such as the location of the stations, parking, total commute time and the cost of a ticket.

"On the whole, it's encouraging," Mario Polèse, an urban planner with the Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre, told CBC Montreal's Radio Noon.

"The fact that it's the Caisse de dépôt leads me to believe it's going to happen."

The proposed light rail network would use the Deux-Montagnes line, branching off in the West Island towards the Trudeau airport and towards Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. (Caisse de dépôt et Placement)

The proposed project makes use of the Deux-Montagnes line, with two stops in the borough of Pierrefonds:

  • Sunnybrooke.
  • Roxboro-Pierrefonds.​

Under the proposal, two new dedicated tracks would be built on the West Island, branching off from the Deux-Montagnes line where Highways 13 and 40 intersect.

On one line, running parallel to Highway 40, there would be four new stations:​

  • Des Sources​.
  • Pointe-Claire.
  • Kirkland.
  • Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.

A second line would give commuters access to Montreal's Trudeau airport and the Technoparc in Saint-Laurent.

The existing Vaudreuil–Hudson line, which runs parallel to Highway 20 through the West Island on Canadian Pacific tracks, would not be integrated into the new light rail line.

Location, location, location

Ed Janiszewski, the mayor of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, said he's concerned people who don't live near a station would have to take a bus to reach one, especially if parking near the train is in short supply. The extra bus ride, he said, could make for a lengthy commute.

"I think everyone is waiting to see what is going to happen with the connections," he said.

He also wants to see the final price tag, once infrastructure such as parking is taken into account.

Paola Hawa, the mayor of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, said the project has been "a long time coming."

"We have not had equitable service for West Islanders since forever, so let's focus on the positive," she said.

The problem on the West Island, Hawa said, "is that people have a lot of trouble getting here and leaving here."

She said the light rail line would attract more people to the West Island communities and "make it more pleasant to work on the West Island."

For her part, Baie-D'Urfé Mayor Maria Tutino said the new line would help people who commute to her town to work get there more easily.

"We're quite excited," she said. 

"We've been getting bombarded with calls from both the residential and industrial sector saying this is wonderful."

Comfort and reliability will be key

Polèse cautioned that the price of a ticket, which has yet too be announced, can't be much higher than the cost of an STM or ATM ride, or commuters will stay away.

"One of the big questions is how they are going to modulate it. Will it be the same price for every trip?" he asked.

More broadly, Polèse said the success of the project is "going to depend on the comfort and reliability of the system."

"If this system is really nice and comfortable and reliable, word is going to get around," he said.