Home CommentaryOpinions Fare increases are the lesser of two evils

Fare increases are the lesser of two evils

by Archives March 17, 2009

The proposed budget cuts to the STM have come about at a time where our country is facing economic uncertainty. These cutbacks are to the tune of $40 million and are part of the city’s massive overall effort to roll back spending.
The STM has pledged these cutbacks will not affect their service, nor will they bring about any fee increases increase in fees. This is an extremely unlikely scenario. The STM has run annual deficits since 2003 and now the city can no longer pony up the dough to cover them. It’s hard to believe that without some additional source of revenue we will see the same quality of service that we currently have in the near future.
An increase in fees is going to be necessary for the STM to remain a viable transportation option. The quality of service offered will not be preserved unless this is done. It’s impossible to remove $40 million from any budget and expect shockwaves not to be felt by consumers and clientele.
The price for a monthly student transit membership here in Montreal is already far cheaper than the memberships in cities like Ottawa and Toronto. Currently, a monthly student pass in the Ottawa region is $62.65; in Toronto they cost $91.25. Pricy when compared to the $37 that students in Montreal pay for their passes. The transit service offered here is also arguably far superior to that which is offered in Ottawa.
A small increase in monthly fees will be but a minor inconvenience to most. Public transit is a service that Montrealers cannot allow to degrade; part of its appeal is the efficiency in which one can traverse from one side of the city to another – avoiding the stress of driving in traffic or through poor weather conditions. As well, even with a small increase in fees taking the bus or metro is still much cheaper than driving. Paying for gas, parking and the eventual vehicle maintenance brought on by normal wear and tear can make up a huge portion of some people’s personal budgets.
Environmental ramifications must also be considered. If public transit is allowed to degrade due to a lack of financial capital then most certainly those who own cars will be more inclined to use them, thus clogging our roads even further with traffic and spewing more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.
Down the road I believe the STM will have an easier time attracting new transit users even with a fee increase as opposed to lower prices and shoddier service. Less frequents metros passing by busy stations will serve to frustrate and anger the public far more than an extra dollar a month will.
Nobody wants to pay more for things, especially with the cloud of a recession perched over us. I’m particularly sympathetic to the plight of individuals who live on a fixed income; any fee increase to their transportation means however small will undoubtedly be felt. Despite this, the best course of action for us to follow is to maintain the quality of STM service through nominal fee increases.

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