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Enough is Enough for Fare Hikes

by Archives March 17, 2009

The global economic troubles have touched down in Montreal, and everyone is tightening their belts. City departments are all being told to slash spending with impunity and find more money including the STM, which is being forced to cut millions of dollars from its budget.
The STM is integral to the lives of so many Montrealers; metro and bus lines are the main arteries of transportation for those without access to cars. Fee increases on the STM have become a yearly tradition in Montreal, but in a city where riders already pay more than residents of major cities like Paris or Rome, more increases are not the answer.
In early February the city announced the STM will be investing $14.4 million to purchase 400 new bus shelters. These shelters, to be installed over the next four years, are part of mayor Gerard Tremblay’s design contest announced last year, but have a more ominous role in city planning. Some equipped with solar panels, some jacked into the local power grids, they will be glowing beacons of the free market with 24/7 electronic screens advertising to irate Montrealers waiting in the snow for the bus. It is estimated these shelters will generate enough capital to pay for themselves within 10 years, but in the meantime the cost will fall onto the shoulders of riders who will be paying someone to sell them their product.
Public transportation is an integral part of any initiative towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the cost of a service will simply reinforce people’s dependence on cars. Cities should be actively campaigning to increase ridership, something which Montreal has been successful in doing recently, with a five per cent increase in 2008; but increasing the cost to the consumer is not going to help this cause. All levels of government should be investing in providing cities with accessible, affordable public transportation – unfortunately it seems that stimulus is aimed in other directions.
The fact of the matter is that as students we only pay $37 a month for a metro pass, and for those casual riders, $2.75 is not a lot of money, but for many this is their bottom line. If the economy is truly as bad as the papers say the last thing that anyone needs is to be worrying whether they can afford to get to and from work. In a fiscal year where the city spent almost half a million dollars developing a new logo for the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal and lost around $8 million in fraud, should they really be asking us to dig a little deeper to get around. Mayor Tremblay may have been elected with the promise to keep Montrealers’ taxes at a steady rate, but increasing the cost for what is an essential service to the poorest of the population is not going to fill the gap. Money has to come from somewhere, but why not charge those people who drive around the block to get a loaf of bread a fee to use the road? They can clearly afford it.

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