The Jan. 6 closing of the Mount Royal tunnel looms. What’s a commuter to do?
Last week, commuters who use the trains on the Exo6 Deux-Montagnes and Exo5 Mascouche lines, which use the tunnel, gathered at the Gerry Robertson Centre, across the street from the Sunnybrooke commuter train station in Roxboro, to learn about the measures being put in place to get them to work on time.
The Mont Royal tunnel requires a massive overhaul to make it compatible with the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light-rail rolling stock. The REM’s network will serve Deux-Montagnes, the West Island, Trudeau airport, downtown and the South Shore.
Work on the tunnel will take four years.
What’s on offer in 2020 and until mid 2021 is a mix of shuttle train, shuttle bus and metro station routes, with fare reductions available. Existing express bus service is being bumped up, as well.
One option has commuters taking a rail shuttle from Deux-Montagnes station to the Bois-Franc station where a holding area for 50 shuttle buses is located. Three buses at a time will load passengers, with departures every eight minutes. There are 12 stops along the bus-shuttle route before the shuttle heads out to the Côte-Vertu métro station.
All commuter options on offer take longer than the train commute did. One suggested route involves taking a 40-minute shuttle-bus ride from the Roxboro-Pierrefonds station to the Côte-Vertu métro station and a 25-minute métro ride to the Bonaventure station.
As of mid-2021, the Deux-Montagnes rail line will shut down completely and shuttle buses will take commuters to Côte-Vertu.
“I bought my house six months ago,” Hamid Khansari said. “It’s a two-minute walk to the Sunnybrooke station. I’m downtown in 25 minutes. (The new commute) will take one hour and 15 minutes. If it works. And I’m not so sure the shuttles will arrive as scheduled during the winter.”
Khansari is considering putting his house on the market and moving closer to work. His house will probably sell for a good price because of its proximity to what will be a functioning REM station by 2023 — if work-completion estimates stay on track.
“At least the house was a good investment,” Khansari said.
Representatives from Mobility Montreal — a 20-partner organization that works on transportation-flow problems — were on hand to explain the travel options. More than one resident questioned whether any of the options would work smoothly.
The gathering was told that staff would be on site at the various transit hubs to gather data about the flow of human and vehicular traffic and to see what improvements were needed.
“It takes me five minutes to walk to the Sunnybrooke station and I arrive at work within 35 minutes,” Luc Cloutier said. “Now they are telling me the shuttle bus will be making 12 stops before it heads to the métro station. I lived through the train station renovations in 1993. There was a shuttle waiting in the parking lot which took me directly to central station, no stops. A shuttle was always there. Not every eight minutes like they are telling us now.”
Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beis said the borough had been working for months to bring an information session to the sector. The Deux-Montagnes line is the one most travelled by his constituents. Beis wants to make sure the shuttles not only have reserved bus lanes to get them to the métro, but also have access to an uninterrupted network of reserved lanes for the return trip.
“If a reserved lane crosses from Pierrefonds-Roxboro into other municipalities and they say no — be it because of road congestion, or something else — it doesn’t work,” Beis said. He said the reserved-lane network must be looked at as a whole because West Island municipalities are interconnected.
“We’re open to making suggestions,” Beis said. “But the others have to be open to consider them.”
Beis said the ultimate goal is to encourage West Islanders to use public transit, but if the experience is too sluggish and families are finding it difficult to get here and there on time, they will take their cars.
“There is a human impact we must consider when looking at public transit,” he said.
Shuttles rides will be free until the REM is up and running and people who register for an annual travel fare for 2020 will travel fare-free on the entire system for the first four months of the year. After that, the monthly fee will be $86.50, or $52 for students.
For details, visit https://mobilitymontreal.gouv.qc.ca/secteurs/laval-deux-montagnes-area.