Free Bus And Metro for all in Mon­treal

Montreal Times - - Montreal - By: Bon­nie Wurst / mtl­

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?

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