1er next July will come into effect an (another!) increase in the Metropolitan Regional Transport Authority (ARTM). The zone A ticket will go from $3.50 to $3.75. This increase, added to all the others, will hurt a lot of people. For a low-income person, public transit is often the only transportation option. However, with the constant rise in costs, this option does not even exist for many people.
Currently, the cost of a monthly card allowing use of the public transport network represents more than 10% of the income of a person receiving social assistance. It will be even worse with the announced increase. At ACEF du Nord de Montréal, we offer nothing less than free public transportation. How not to consider this measure when we know that it allows both to fight against social exclusion and against climate change?
A fundamental right
Getting around is a fundamental need that allows the realization of a set of other rights (right to housing, to work, to education, to food, to health, etc.).
Mobility should therefore be understood in a logic of public service in the same way as health or education. These services are available to the public regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
For public transport, unfortunately, it is different.
While a single person on social assistance receives $770 a month, many workers are also pulling the devil by the tail. In a context of exploding rental costs, rising electricity bills, not to mention groceries, how much money do you think is left for transportation? To ask the question, is to answer it.
Free and climate change
Free public transport is also a solution to achieve our pressing greenhouse gas reduction goals. This measure also makes it possible to create denser and safer cities, designed around the humans who live there rather than the cars that circulate there. Because yes, we believe that being free would be a major incentive for people to abandon the car, even if the service offer is also a determining factor in this choice. In Montreal, 40% of GHGs come from road transportation. It is estimated that climate change alone will cost municipalities $5.3 billion per year. A reduction in the number of cars in the city has multiple advantages.
A political choice
Nothing is free, you will say. Quebec will have to finance this measure to replace the part paid by users. However, savings are to be considered in this clever cost-benefit calculation (road maintenance, congestion, pollution, health, etc.). Additional income must also be taken into account (attractiveness of cities for businesses and tourists, densification of neighborhoods and revitalization of the city center and its shops). Political choices are also possible.
In Ontario, confirmed investments in transportation for 2022-2032 devote 71% to public transportation and 29% to the road network, while Quebec has an inverse ratio of 30% for public transportation and 70% for the road network.
If Quebec can invest billions for the construction of a new tunnel, it can also, if it decides, invest in free public transport.
Valérie Plante recently proudly presented the achievement of free admission for seniors. She mentioned in passing the concept of territorial equity regardless of income. This fairness must apply to everyone, not just seniors. From an environmental point of view, free access also affects intergenerational equity. The Mayor of Montreal mentions that public transit should no longer be seen as an expense, but rather as an investment to build the future. We fully agree with her and we hope that she will be an ally in bringing this vision to Quebec.
Free public transport is not a utopia. They are present in more than 120 cities around the world. What is the City of Montreal waiting for to join the movement?