Montreal’s REM Train Network Not as Accessible as Promised,Advocates Say

By Elizabeth Zogalis Global News
Posted August 21, 2023

Some public transit users with reduced mobility are disappointed with the lack of access at the newly-built REM train stations.

CDPQ Infra, which owns and operates the Réseau express métropolitain, claims their stations are fully accessible, but those who lobby for universal accessibility say that’s only partially true.

It’s a simple elevator ride up to the tracks at the newly-built REM stations, but if the elevator isn’t working, those with mobility issues are out of luck.

“The REM launched on July 31 and starting on Aug. 6, the Gare Central elevator just broke down – it was never fixed,” said Julien Gascon-Samson, who uses an electric wheelchair to get around.

He says he purposely moved to Nuns’ Island to be close to the REM so he could easily get to work downtown every day.

“It’s been 15 days so it’s just not possible for me to use the REM anymore,” said Gascon-Samson. There is no other public transit for him to use.

“If I go to Gare Central and the elevator breaks down while I am going there or something like that, there is no option. I need to come back to Nuns’ Island and go back home.”

The Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ), an organization that advocates for universal accessibility, says a broken elevator is just one of many obstacles that users like Julien are facing.

“There’s many different little issues that could have been settled right at the start,” says RAPLIQ’s general director, Steven Laperrière.

“But now what we’re being told is make complaints and we’ll retrofit,” he added. Laperrière said they were consulted prior to building the REM stations years ago but only for the trains.

He adds RAPLIQ also sent in a large list of recommendations last spring that he feels were completely overlooked.

“They haven’t been taken into consideration because zero has been done. And some of that is very simple stuff,” said Laperrière.

Simple things such as the size of handicap parking spaces, the height of the machine to purchase tickets, the width of certain corridors at Gare Central and signs written in braille that are too high.

“Why can’t we get things right here the first time,” added Laperrière. “Why are we consulted and then not listened to? It’s a waste of our time.”

As for Gascon-Samson, he hopes the elevator will be fixed as as soon as possible.

“I am lucky enough to have an adaptive van so I can drive the van, but I want to take public transit. I pay my OPUS card every month,” he said.

CDPQ Infra, the company behind the REM did not respond to Global News’ request for comment before deadline.

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