Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir The vast majority of this growth in funds granted to the ARTM will not be used to improve STM service , which has threatened in recent weeks to close the metro at 11 p.m., but instead to cover free public transit for seniors. In the photo, users were waiting for their bus in Montreal in May.
The City of Montreal will increase its contribution to the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM) by 7.2% next year. A measure which will contribute to the advancement of certain structuring projects, but which will not prevent the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) from having to make difficult choices in order to reduce its expenses without weakening its service offering.
The metropolis' contribution to the ARTM, responsible for financing public transport in the greater Montreal region, will be increased by $48.4 million, to reach $715.6 million, indicates the City's 2024 budget, which is close to $7 billion. 10.2% of the city's spending will go to public transport next year, compared to 9.9% in 2023.
This funding includes the City’s planned 4% contribution to transit funding. However, part of the growth in funds granted to the ARTM next year is linked to the financing of free public transportation for Montrealers aged 65 and over. This will require spending of 34.3 million next year, an increase of more than 10 million compared to the amount allocated for this purpose in last year's budget. The increase in expenses for this project is explained by the fact that this free service began on July 1 this year, while it will apply for the entire year in 2024, it is explained.
The mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, also defended this investment in free public transportation for seniors on Wednesday, which occurs in a difficult financial context for the STM. “The 36 million for free admission for seniors, that takes nothing away from the money that I give to the ARTM to pay the deficit, it has nothing to do with it. In fact, if I removed these 36 million for free access, it would be additional money in Montreal's budget, but it does not in any way affect the money we give to the ARTM,” said Ms. Plante.
- Average tax increases of 4.9% for Montreal owners next year
- Quebec will absorb 70% of public transport company deficits in 2024
- The STM fears a drop in ridership if it has to cut in its services
The growth in funding from the City of Montreal for public transportation also includes “a new contribution for the blue line” of the metro, the extension of which is planned to Anjou by 2029, as well as expenses necessary to adjust the service of the STM to the commissioning of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), the first line of which, between Brossard and Montreal, has been in operation since the end of July.
A mass reduced salary
Meanwhile, the STM provided the media with its preliminary budget on Wednesday, a document of around a hundred pages which shows that the transport company is currently missing $35.6 million to complete its 2024 budget. The STM assures yet having already turned all the stones in order to limit its expenses as much as possible. It thus managed to reduce these by $50 million next year, in particular by eliminating 120 positions, in the hope of not having to reduce its service offering. However, no layoffs will take place among bus drivers and metro operators, positions that are “nerve” for the quality of service, assured the general director of the STM, Marie-Claude Léonard.
“Our priority remains service. During peak hours currently, in the metro, we are at 90% of ridership. The users are there, we have to be there too,” declared the chairman of the board of directors of the transport company, Éric Alan Caldwell. Otherwise, if the STM reduces service, Montrealers risk “stopping” taking public transit, thinks Mr. Caldwell, who insists that increased funding for public transit will be necessary to avoid such a scenario.< /p>
“There are limits to the effort we can make. We are going to the end of our efforts, but there is a limit,” he added. He thus called on the government of Quebec to see public transport as an “essential service”, which must be funded at its fair value, instead of pointing the finger at the “deficits” of the province’s transport companies.
A position shared by the general director of Trajectoire Québec, Sarah V. Doyon, who “would have liked to have had greater support from Quebec to develop public transport.” While welcoming the STM's efforts to limit the impacts of its precarious financial situation on the quality of service, it questions the repercussions that the organization's decision to reduce its workforce will have. “It’s hard to believe that we can cut 120 positions in an organization without feeling the effects,” she noted in an interview.
The ARTM should for its part submit its budget “at the beginning of next week,” she indicates by email. This announcement will come a few weeks after the Quebec government submitted its final offer to absorb, according to its analysis, 70% of the public transit deficit in the province, with a sum of $265 million. However, this deficit is in reality higher, according to the cities of the greater Montreal region, which are demanding an additional contribution of 128 million from the government to cover 75% of it.