Équiterre breaks it down
Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec’s Minister of Transportation and Sustainable Mobility, recently announced that the government will not be providing any additional funding for public transit. This announcement will have a major impact on our daily commutes.
Let’s take a closer look at what this means.
- Deficit: The cumulative deficit of Quebec's 10 largest transit authorities is expected to reach $2.5 billion over the next five years. Minister Guilbault recently announced that the government would only be covering 20% of this deficit.
- Funding: The Quebec government partially funds public transit operations (services) and infrastructure. But let’s make an important comparison:
- For every $1 that a person pays to use public transit, the government contributes $1.50;
- For every $1 that a person pays to travel by car, the government contributes $9.20.
- A broken promise: Although Quebec’s policy on sustainable mobility had promised 5% annual growth in service, the government has announced that there will be no increases in funding for public transportation (buses, metro, tramways, etc.) over the next 5 years.
- Ridership: Public transit ridership is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels across Quebec, and even exceeding them in some cities, such as Sherbrooke.
- Cutbacks: Transit operators have announced that this underfunding will lead to major cutbacks in service, potentially bringing us back to the service levels we had in the 1990s.
What to expect
Unless the Minister reconsiders, services for public transit users will be significantly impacted in all parts of Quebec:
- In Montreal: Metro service will end at 11 pm and only start at 9 am on Saturdays and Sundays, intercity buses will stop after 9 pm, some routes will be eliminated, etc.
- In Laval: Layoffs of an estimated 125 employees, affecting more than 2,000 transit users every day. The STL could be forced to eliminate 50 weekday rush hour bus trips, or 150 off-peak trips.
- In Montreal's northern and southern suburbs, intercity bus service would cease after 9 pm on weekdays. Frequencies would also be reduced on weekends and during off-peak hours.
Throughout Quebec, we're looking at fewer bus, metro and train operators. Some neighbourhoods will have no service at all, and residents will therefore no longer have easy access to public transportation.
Increased pollution and congestion
At a time when the transportation sector is responsible for 40% of GHG emissions across Quebec, the government has a duty to ensure the growth of public transit, not its decline. Otherwise, there will continue to be more and more vehicles on our roads, and consequently even more congestion.
If the government maintains that it lacks the budget to adequately fund public transit, it must have the courage to consider other funding solutions - solutions which could both discourage the use of single-occupant vehicles and increase funding for public transit.
Équiterre has proposed a number of solutions that can be implemented right now that would significantly increase funding for public transit:
- index the gas tax, which has not been indexed for several years;
- establish kilometre-based pricing;
- review the cost of vehicle registration, considering not only the number of cylinders but also the vehicle's weight.
At a time when the single-occupant vehicle is no longer a viable option, and when our public transit system lacks the funding required to meet the public’s travel needs, cutting back on funding is a major mistake. Waiting 5 years before tackling the problem will inflate the bill even further, to the tune of billions of dollars. Funding solutions exist, and the government must have the courage to implement them.
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