It’s been six months since Montreal was first locked down amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and new measures are being phased in to encourage commuters to return to using public transit.
Maps showing a multitude of new express bus routes are being offered for riders while the electric train line, Le Réseau express métropolitain, known as the REM is under construction.
Officials are trying to stick to their original schedule to deliver the REM on time — even though the COVID-19 outbreak stopped all work for six weeks.
“Right now the effort, and what we keep in mind, is to deliver the project as we planned,” Jean-Vincent Lacroix, REM spokesperson, said during an online press conference.
The bus routes are being offered while parts of the Deux-Montagnes exo train line remain closed. But the bigger challenge remains attracting riders back to public transit.
Officials say many riders are still staying away.
Karolyne Viau quit her job and took a cut in pay to avoid riding the express buses on the Deux-Montagnes line.
“For me, it was impossible to manage family quality time and to travel three to four hours a day,” she said.
The global pandemic has hit Montreal’s mass transit system hard.
The projected revenue shortfall is $870 million between now and 2022, according to Simon Charbonneau, a spokesperson for the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM).
In an e-mail to Global News, Charbonneau said ridership on buses has dropped 50 per cent. On the metros — it’s down 70 per cent, and there’s a 90 per cent decline on commuter trains.
Officials don’t expect ridership to increase to the pre-pandemic numbers until 2022.
“The people are not using the services,” Charbonneau, said.
For now at least, public transit will remain a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.