400 million in public transit | Help welcomed, but still insufficient for the future

The public transport industry welcomes the aid of 400 million from the government in 2023, which should make it possible to avoid major service cuts. However, several questions remain unanswered as discussions are set to begin on funding for the next five years.

Quebec confirmed in its annual budget on Tuesday that it will provide some $400 million this year to the public transit industry, shaken by a funding crisis. The goal: to implement the solutions that will have been identified following the consultation tour that the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, will begin in the coming weeks.

“This aid for 2023 is welcome. Over the next few weeks, the board of directors will have to balance the 2023 budget without affecting the level of service to users, ”confirmed Tuesday the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM), which will affect around 340 of the 400 million of the emergency aid granted by the Legault government. In total, the shortfall of the organization overseeing the transport companies of Greater Montreal is approximately 500 million.

In a statement, the Director General of the Authority, Benoit Gendron, assured that his “priority is to ensure that each dollar invested” by the government results “in a maximum of services for the citizen”. “It is our duty as managers of public funds. […] We want to go further, do better and deliver more,” he notes.

However, the organization points out that “for the vision and intentions to translate into action, significant sources of funding must be identified”. “The challenge of financing public transit remains unresolved for the next few years,” insists Mr. Gendron.

The same goes for the Société de transport de Montréal, whose president Éric Alan Caldwell welcomes the aid of 400 million, but maintains that “the amounts allocated are not sufficient in our eyes to move towards a revival of public transport, which is necessary for the ecological transition”.

The Montreal operator also says it is concerned about the slight increase in investments dedicated to maintaining assets. “The upkeep and upkeep of our infrastructures is a mandatory condition for providing efficient and safe service. […] It is essential to identify dedicated, indexed and recurring sources of financing in order to finally provide ourselves with the means to achieve our ambitions,” continued Mr. Caldwell.

The table is set

At the Alliance for the financing of collective transport in Quebec (TRANSIT), coordinator Samuel Pagé-Plouffe believes that these announcements “set the table well for negotiations in the coming months”, in order to come to an agreement on five years as Minister Guilbault wants. “That said, the structural challenges are far from being resolved and we must focus on them from now on,” insists Mr. Plouffe, recalling that “we must get out of this perpetual emergency situation”.

“It is up to the needs. We honestly expected something a little less interesting, so we’re still satisfied. We save the furniture in the short term to avoid service cuts, but there are still issues, ”said the general manager of Vivre en ville, Christian Savard.

In the opposition, we also remain skeptical, judging that the aid of 400 million will not be sufficient. “It took 570 million to keep transport companies above water. With this budget, transport companies will be forced to cut services to users, ”advances the solidarity critic in transport, Etienne Grandmont.

“Emergency measures for public transport are well below the sums necessary to maintain transport at acceptable frequency levels. We will therefore see a reduction in services, traffic and frequency, when we should eventually double the offer, ”says PQ transport critic Joël Arseneau.

Sarah V. Doyon, the director general of Trajectoire Québec, for her part, was “reassured”, judging that the aid should make it possible to avoid cuts in the service. However, she regrets that the Land Transportation Network Fund (FORT) will now accumulate “a deficit of nearly a billion dollars”. “Yet the budget does not propose any new source of funding. It does not index or augment existing sources either. What are we waiting for to act? »

In “stagnation” on balance

Samuel Pagé-Plouffe also deplores that the Legault government is “in full stagnation” on its commitment, which was made during his election in 2018, to rebalance investments in the road network and that of transport.

In the next decade, investments in the Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) will be around $31.5 billion in the road network compared to $13.8 billion in public transit, which is still roughly equivalent to a ratio of 70% -30 %.

“We have really stagnated since 2018 on that side,” points out Mr. Plouffe, who also denounces that longer-term “projected” investments in public transport rose to 49.9 billion last year from 41.2 billion. dollars this year. “It is probably due to the withdrawal of certain projects like REM from the East”, concludes the manager on this subject.

The CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association (ACQ) Marc Cadieux welcomes the investment of Quebec in the road network. “Our roads are much worse than what we see in the latest reports from the Ministry of Transport. The explosion in the costs of the La Fontaine tunnel that we have just seen demonstrates this”, he argues in this sense.

Learn more

  • 722 million
    Until 2028, Quebec also promises to extend $722 million to “strengthen the accessibility and efficiency of transportation networks”, in addition to extending $55 million by 2026 to “promote innovation in transportation”.

    Government of Quebec

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