The public transit systems operating in greater Montreal are short a combined $500 million this year.
Making up that shortfall is proving difficult, as ridership remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
“It is not a challenge that limits itself to one public operator. It is global throughout the region,” Simon Charbonneau, the L‘autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) communications director, told Global News.
Charbonneau is hoping the transit agencies will make up some of the financial deficits when the government releases it’s 2023-2024 budget in March.
Already, some transit agencies have had to reduce service to make up for the lack of funds and riders.
The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is no longer guaranteeing a maximum wait time of 10 minutes between buses.
The number of riders on exo’s commuter trains is down 50 per cent — an amount the transit service doesn’t expect will increase much this year.
“As we all know, people are sometimes working from home,” Marie-Hélène Cloutier, exo’s executive director of mobility, told Global News.
Instead, the transit agency is focusing on providing new localized bus service off the Island of Montreal to try and meet the needs of shifting ridership habits.
- Bank of Canada set to announce final interest rate decision of the year
- On the Brink: After a ‘stressful’ search, African N.S. woman finally finds a home
- Pass gun bill without delay, father of Ontario shooting victim tells senators
- Majority of Canadians want Ottawa to spend more on health care, housing: poll
”They maybe can take another kind of service that is not the train. It could be a micro transit, buses more locally that is going to answer their needs,” Cloutier said.
But reliable, on-time performance is what many public transit users are demanding in 2023.
”Being able to take public transit is great, but if it’s not reliable service then what do we do?” Terry Hébert, an exo train user, told Global News.
The ARTM is planning a new advertising campaign this year to attract people back on board public transit.
”There’s going to be some campaigns from partners and from the ARTM, but the first focus is performance,” Charbonneau said.
Many users hope that performance will be reliable this year, while transit agencies hope to make up for budgetary shortfalls.