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Marshall’s Law

by Archives January 10, 2007

I was 11 years old when I first set foot inside a metro alone. For more than half my life, I have used all facets of our city’s public transportation system: the metro, the bus, the train.

Under 18, I enjoyed the student prices but as I approached the legal age, I cringed at the thought that even though I would still be going to school full time I would soon have to pay the regular price for public transit.

Then a few years ago, the cut-off age for student rates went up from 18 to 25.

Currently in that age category, and armed with my reduced rate card, imagine my recent surprise when I found out I couldn’t pay the reduced rate for individual tickets.

My student card only gave me access to the student monthly pass. This did not really make much sense to me.

There are students who, dare I say it, are over 25 years of age. They shouldn’t be obligated to pay more because they have reached the quarter century mark.

Student fees should be just that: for full-time students of any age. This should apply to individual tickets as well as monthly passes.

Recently, the statistics for public transportation systems across Canada for the first half of 2006 were released. Montreal authorities shook their heads in confusion as they stared at the numbers.

How could it be that in major cities across Canada, the number of public transit users increased on average three per cent, while the numbers stagnated here in our fair city?

A mystery indeed. A mystery that is for those in city council who haven’t set foot inside a public bus since the Cold War ended.

In high school, my monthly student pass cost me a fraction of what it does now. As of Jan. 1, 2007, the monthly student pass costs $35. A regular monthly pass will set you back $65.

Since 2002 prices have steadily increased, without much increase in the service. The big screens at Berri and McGill scrolling insignificant facts don’t count.

As a way to increase profits, public authorities have come up with the plan to do away with the CAM monthly pass altogether.

As of 2008, the CAM as we know it will be no more. Instead, one possibility is a ‘smartcard’ that would calculate the price a user pays according to how many stations he or she rides through.

Another possibility would be to make the rider pay more during rush hour. Maybe they could throw in a kick in the groin too.

Yes the system needs to be financed. But anybody with an IQ above room temperature will let you know your logic is flawed when you think that by raising costs you will get more users.

So how can they cut costs? It says a lot about our priorities as a province when a bus driver’s starting salary is more than that of a high school teacher. But this might have more to do with the mediocre state of education in our province.

The metro system does have good aspects. It’s easy to get around in, it’s clean (most of the time) and the service is rapid. One of its weaknesses however is its limitations. Bars close at 3 a.m. in Montreal. Yet, the metro closes around 1 a.m. Maybe STM authorities shudder at the thought of having a bunch of intoxicated people running around in the metro. I guess they’ve never seen Beaudry though.

The metro is also undergoing somewhat of a growth. Montrealers have been awaiting the expansion to Laval for years now, and it finally seems reasonable to believe that this might happen in the near future.

Although some will say this is a highly optimistic view since Montreal politicians never met a financial plan they couldn’t argue about, thus the question of who will pay for the metro could further delay the current schedule.

Budgetary quibbles aside, the fact that the metro will finally reach the north shore will definitely improve the STM and could improve its chances of attracting more riders to use the subway.

Mayor Tremblay recently announced his intentions of building a tramway that would further contribute to Montreal’s public transit system. It this really the best course of action?

Instead of spending millions on a tramway that may become another Olympic Stadium financial fiasco, perhaps Mayor Tremblay could invest in our public transportation system. It may not be as elegant or as Parisian, but it’s a staple of our city and desperately needs to be revitalized.

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