It would be “counterproductive” for the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) to have to reduce the frequency of metros and buses, elected officials and organizations worried Thursday, when such a reduction is envisaged in order to balance the budget of the operator, whose finances have been damaged during the pandemic.
Posted at 3:20 p.m.
“The less service there is, the less interesting it becomes to swap cars for public transit. It’s counterproductive. Time is running out for the STM, the government must act quickly,” insisted the solidarity critic in transport and elected deputy for Taschereau, Etienne Grandmont.
The latter was reacting to a Radio-Canada report published Thursday, citing an internal document according to which a drop in service of 3.7% for the buses and 4.8% for the metro is planned to compensate for the financial losses. The Press was able to confirm that this hypothesis is being studied, in particular in order to offset the declines in traffic. Barely 75% of users are back on public transport in Greater Montreal.
Said measure, which would be one possibility among several others, could make it possible to balance the budget of the STM, which must be presented next week at the same time as that of the Plante administration, with a saving of around 18 million.
A significant “financial hole”
For the director general of Trajectoire Québec, Sarah V. Doyon, service cuts “are never a good strategy to bring back traffic to public transit”. “We understand that there is a significant financial hole, but I think it especially demonstrates the importance of quickly finding new sources of funding to avoid this situation,” she says.
His group calls in particular for permanent funding for the operation of public transit at the federal level. “At the moment, Ottawa is only funding infrastructure. That’s a potential new source. At least for this year, it would take emergency aid,” notes M.me Doyon.
I know very well, having had discussions with them, that the STM does not want any cuts. They too want to regain traffic. But that is one of the scenarios assessed. We hope they won’t have to go there.
Sarah V. Doyon, Director of Trajectory Quebec
The elected Etienne Grandmont, he calls on the Legault government to “guarantee that there will be no drop in services to the STM and release emergency funds if necessary”. “With the work in the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel, it’s time to increase the public transit offer in Montreal, not to reduce it. Public transit is the future,” he said.
All this comes the day after a mobility announcement from the City of Montreal, which confirmed on Wednesday that the use of public transit will become free for people aged 65 and over in Montreal as of July 2023. The Plante administration, which made it an election pledge last fall, will spend $40 million annually to make it happen. As this new incentive will not be implemented until July 2023, however, it will only cost 24 million for its first year.