The Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) announces again, again this year, an increase in public transit fares: “Public transit fares will increase by 3% this year in Greater Montreal. The users of Longueuil and Laval, ulcerated by the increase which had been collected in 2022, will however be entitled to the freezing of certain tariffs.1 ” Inflation obliges, we are told.
The Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, for her part, announced on April 19 that public transit would be free for all seniors residing on the island of Montreal. It is very good. But the question nevertheless arises: when will social pricing be introduced?
For many low-income people in Montreal, who have no other means of getting around than public transit, the increasingly reduced services of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), these $94 fares per month (zone A, i.e. $1128 per year) are already very high. And the question has been around for a few years now: are we paying for the absent majority? For those users who have massively deserted public transport since 2020?
Because since the pandemic, in fact, many users have abandoned public transport in favor of the car, thus depriving the STM of significant annual revenue. And this portion, this underfunding of public transport, is far from negligible. This represents a financial hole of 78 million, which threatens the level of service for the current year2.
And yet, we keep asking them, those people who have the least means, in terms of transport and finance, to always pay a little more for fewer services.
These same wealthy households, moreover, suffer less from the consequences of their actions than the poor: “The richer a person, the more greenhouse gases (GHG) they emit and the less they suffer from the already present consequences of the disruption of the climate.4”
If we really want a green, fair and equitable transition in Quebec, we should first and foremost support people who already use public transport and who are therefore less polluting than motorists, instead of making them pay the price of financial losses and shortfalls of the STM and others.
To be consistent with our green discourse and this much-desired energy transition, it is therefore high time to make the rich polluters pay for public transport, not the poor and the most deprived in our society. When, then, will there be social pricing for public transit users, both in Montreal and throughout Quebec?