Critics complain the government has closed the door on long-term funding for Quebec’s public transit.
In its budget tabled March 21st, Quebec set aside $400 million to invest this year.
But it ends there.
“Basically what we heard yesterday is for now keep the train running but what’s next. What’s next for being able to propose more reliability on our network. More frequency?” said Éric Alan Caldwell at the City of Montreal.
Caldwell is the city’s executive committee member responsible for public transit and a Société de transport de Montréal (STM) board member.
In 2020, public transit agencies in Quebec received $400 million in emergency assistance from the government to help weather the COVID-19 crisis.
Another $327 million was granted in November 2021.
Still, Montreal’s public transit agency was forced to make cuts this year, including its 10-minute bus service.
With more people working from home, ridership has gone down and so has revenue.
In February, the STM announced $18 million in cuts and asked the province for more financial assistance.
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At the National Assembly, the opposition blasted the government for not answering the city’s call.
“This is just less than the minimum of the minimum,” said Québec solidaire MNA Haroun Bouazzi.
Liberal MNA Frédéric Beauchemin called the move “not responsible”.
Premier François Legault defended the move, arguing there are big public transit projects underway, such as the extension of Montreal metro’s blue line and the REM de L’Est, a light rail transit project serving the East end of Montreal.
Public transit advocates applaud the investment but add the government needs to help with new sources of funding. Otherwise, the future of public transit is in jeopardy.
“Then you go in a spiral of decreasing services then decreasing ridership,” said François Pepin, a board member with Trajectoire Quebec.
Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault plans to meet with Quebec’s transit agencies before the end of the month.
Advocates hope a long-term solution will be found to guarantee better service down the line.