A coalition suggests prioritizing service for the sake of public transportation

A coalition suggests prioritizing service for the sake of public transportation
A coalition suggests prioritizing service for the sake of public transportation

— Electrifying public transportation is good, but ensuring quality service is better. This is the message sent by several environmental defense organizations in a context where the financial difficulties of transport companies could lead to service reductions.

In a press release published Monday morning, seven organizations maintain that despite the shortfall of transport companies, which would exceed $500 million in the Montreal region, we must find ways to make savings that will not have an impact negative on the service offering.

In their opinion, abandoning the automobile will only happen if there is another attractive option, namely reliable and frequent public transportation.

They are therefore proposing to the Quebec government to push back its schedule for the electrification of urban buses, an initiative which should result in expenditures of approximately $525 million over the next four years.

The signatories of the press release emphasize that it is a good thing that Quebec has adopted ambitious targets for the electrification of buses, but from their point of view, the advantage of having a fleet of electric buses will not have not the desired effect if people abandon public transit due to a drop in service.

According to them, “it is better to have two hybrid buses on our roads, rather than just one 100% electric”.

“Although it is relevant to replace buses at the end of their life with electric buses, the very significant funds that we dedicate to the electrification of our buses could therefore have a greater impact if they were allocated to an increase of supply, and this is what we are asking the government to allow,” the signatories indicated in their press release.

“Currently, the priority must be to transfer trips made by car and light truck (17.2% of our GHG emissions) to public transport, and not to decarbonize as quickly as possible our urban bus fleets which do not count only for 0.4% of our GHG emissions,” they argued, maintaining that it is “unacceptable” that service cuts are being considered.

Looking for solutions

The drop in ridership since the pandemic and a deficit linked to maintaining infrastructure have weighed down the finances of transport companies in recent years.

The cities, which are responsible for the transport companies, ask for help from Quebec, which responds that it is not up to it to pay for the deficits.

A meeting must also take place on Monday between the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, and the mayors of cities which have a transport company.

According to information from The Canadian Press, the government would be ready to absorb the losses in fare revenue linked to a reduction in ridership since the pandemic, but would refuse to pay for the structural deficits.

The organizations signing the press release published Monday mention that this meeting should lead to “minimum objectives for growth in supply to be achieved in each transport company”, and not to a reduction in service to absorb losses.

“It is their joint responsibility to achieve and finance growth in services this year,” they wrote, arguing that “being satisfied with stagnation in supply would be unacceptable and irresponsible.”

The press release was signed by Équiterre, Vivre en Ville, Trajectoire Québec, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Regroupment of Regional Environmental Councils of Quebec, Greenpeace Canada and the Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment.

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