Free Public Transit for all in Montreal!
Free Public Transit – It seems like a dream, but it could become a reality. The Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS), released a report on Thursday September 28th, recommending the city offer free bus and metro service – and should be made available to everyone. They claim it would cost $620 million per year, the same as what transit users are now paying into the system – but would be offset by other benefits.
“The city of Montreal has launched a challenge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, and if the future elected members really wish to achieve these results, access to public transit must become a priority,” Bertrand Schepper, an IRIS researcher said in a CTV report. IRIS also said free transit would cost much less than the subsidies presently given to electric car drivers, who are ‘being subsidized at a rate more than six times higher than someone using public transportation’. Critics say it is the most expensive and least effective way to help cut emissions.
Montreal’s commuter woes have gone from bad to worse. Something needs to be done before we all fall apart at the seams. Our public transit system is the only viable option in sight. But it needs the tools to encourage more people to use it – and that would take some investment on the city’s part. A poll in 2016 showed close to 70% of drivers are still not using the system.
Besides reducing greenhouses gases, less cars on the road, especially in the city core, would mean less traffic – and in turn reduce the stress and anxiety commuters have been facing with all the infrastructure work going on. Businesses might even see an increase in sales.
“The experiences of free public transit elsewhere in Quebec and internationally show that they have undeniable impacts on traffic flows, improving the quality of life and the purchasing power of public transit,” Bertrand Schepper also said.
Free public transit in other cities have seen bus ridership increase tenfold with the initiative – and have also seen new business attracted to city centers. All over Great Britain there is some form of free ridership, from South Hampton to Manchester and beyond. In the US as well, many cities offer free rides. The city of Chapel Hill, NC provides public transportation service throughout the greater community and within the first few years ridership increased significantly.
The same positive results have been found in Australia. Newcastle in New South Wales has a free bus service that operates in the central business area between 7:30 am and 6:00 pm and Perth has free bus and train trips within the city center. Even in Quebec, the cities of Candiac and Ste. Julie already offer free transit and Longueuil offers seniors free bus rides outside of rush hour. So why not in Montreal?
If the city could spend $1 Billion on a 375th party or $700,000 to renovate the Mordecai Richler gazebo (among other questionable expenditures of lately), surely they could direct funds to something that would greatly benefit its citizens.
As IRIS suggested, if Montreal isn’t ready to make public transit free for everyone, they can start slowly, beginning with students and then seniors. It could bring the cost down by $107 million.
With Montreal municipal elections coming up on November 5th, this could, and should, become a campaign issue. Projet Montréal and Mayoral candidate Valérie Plante are already in favor of free bus and metro service for students and seniors. “We will support that, free public transit for youth and for elders – and this is what we’re going for,” Plante said to CTV.
Mayor Denis Coderre stated ‘he supports the idea in principle, but it would be difficult to implement’. “We will take a look at it but I would suggest that in the near future to say that’s it’s going to be free… where the revenue will come from? I mean $620 million, we need to be realistic,” said the $1 Billion party man, who has been crying out for commuters to leave their cars at home and take public transit – of which he doesn’t use.
What do you think? Should free bus and metro service become a reality?