Solving the public transit conundrum in the South Shore of Montreal | Elections Quebec 2022

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Solving the puzzle of public transit in the south crown of Montreal | Élections Quebec 2022

The elected municipal officials of the South Shore want to know the proposals of the main political parties to improve mobility between the 40 municipalities of the region.

Public transport services seem to meet less and less the needs of the population of the southern crown, according to a study commissioned by the Table of prefects of this region.

Sainte-Julie and Saint-Bruno are two neighboring municipalities. Going from one to the other takes less than 10 minutes by car, around 15 minutes by bike… or almost 1.5 hours by bus.

Not easy to get around by public transport in the south crown of Montreal, beyond the agglomeration of Longueuil. And yet, the region, which stretches from Contrecoeur to Hudson, has 40 municipalities, home to more than 500,000 people.

Mayors and reeves therefore want to tackle the problem of public transit accessibility, especially since the southern crown has experienced a population growth rate of more than 7% over the past five years.

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A study commissioned by the Table of prefects of the southern crown already highlights the existence of several problems: bus services are segmented according to sectors, they essentially allow you to go to Montreal or the Longueuil metro, and supply is very low outside peak hours.

It is therefore very difficult to travel efficiently between the municipalities of the southern crown.

For the mayor of Châteauguay, Eric Allard, the current situation cannot last any longer. We have no connection with the surrounding towns. The cities of Saint-Constant or Candiac, you can't go there, he cites as an example.

In fact, what is special is that 'we have to take a bus here in Châteauguay, get to Angrignon [metro station], do a lot of transfers, leave Bonaventure metro to get to our neighbors who are 10-15 minutes [by car] from here, with obviously unreasonable costs, denounced the mayor.

For Mr. Allard, it is also problematic that the Anna-Laberge Regional Hospital is difficult to access for people from outside Châteauguay who do not have a car.

“Someone from Candiac who doesn't have a car and has to go to Anna-Laberge Hospital, of course, he can take a taxi, but he doesn't have access to public transit to get to his regional hospital, which is a huge loss. »

— Eric Allard, Mayor of Châteauguay

As soon as the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) comes into operation, many bus routes should pass through Brossard to connect with the new train network. But these changes will not solve all the mobility problems of the southern crown.

In particular, the prefects are asking for a bus service to run from east to west on Highway 30, and to serve the municipalities beyond Highways 10 and 20 in order to connect them to each other. The Coalition avenir Québec is indeed planning to add a reserved lane on Highway 30, but it will go directly to Brossard, to create a feeder to the REM and DIX30.

We must have services that meet the needs, explained the CAQ candidate in Verchères, Suzanne Roy. If I stop the bus at all the exits of Highway 30 and no one gets on or off, the only thing it will do is an unpleasant experience for the citizen who wants go to DIX30.

Québec solidaire, for its part, proposes to increase the number of buses in circulation. We do not want to reinvent the wheel, we have good things that work in Quebec and that work on the southern crown, and that is to add more buses, summed up the solidarity candidate in Marie-Victorin, Shophika Vaithyanathasarma.

You will say to me: oh yes, but there is a lack of drivers. Indeed, there is a labor shortage. It will be to revalue this profession, she recognized.

The labor shortage has a direct impact on the supply of public transit service in the South Crown. Since the beginning of the year, the lack of drivers has forced the withdrawal of one in seven buses between Longueuil and Sorel. According to the Liberal candidate in Verchères, Gabriel Lévesque, this is the sinews of war.

According to him, we must encourage experienced employees to return to the job market through tax incentives, in addition to encouraging the arrival of immigrants. Right now, for the government, it's not a priority job for immigration, so you're missing out on a lot of manpower, he said; moreover, the solution lies in the recognition of prior learning, according to him.

When immigrants arrive and they want to be drivers, they have their license in France, Germany, Morocco… It is to recognize that they are capable of driving a bus and to ensure that they are gives a job quickly.

The Parti Québécois, instead, wants to encourage users to use public transit through a “climate pass” that will allow access to all modes of transport in Quebec for $1 a day.

It's going to cost a lot less, so it will be an incentive for everyone to get on board – in every sense of the word – and it will make it possible to compensate for the losses of public transport service agencies to continue to offer better service, detailed Pierre Nantel, PQ candidate in Marie-Victorin.

No Conservative candidate was available on Tuesday to explain the party's plan to improve public transit in the South Crown.

With information from Félix-Antoine Saulnier

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