People with limited mobility and those who support their cause for better access to public transportation were in an uproar last week when it was revealed that the Agence de transport mÃ©tropolitain’s new trains lacked proper access for commuters in wheelchairs.
But the fight to have the city’s public transit system universally accessible does not stop at the AMT. Over at the SociÃ©tÃ© de transport de MontrÃ©al, things are not a whole lot better. At least for now.
Of the STM’s 68 metro stations, only seven currently have elevators, with one more joining the list by the end of the month. All eight of these stations are situated on the orange line (Montmorency, Cartier, De la Concorde, Bonaventure, Henri-Bourassa, Berri-UQAM, Lionel-Groux, and CÃ´te-Vertu).
Among the STM’s extensive fleet of buses, 150 lines offer accessible service, meaning low floors that allow someone in a wheelchair to board.
STM spokeswoman Marianne Rouette says that all existing metro stations should receive elevators by 2025, while new stations will have elevators installed during construction. Also, as buses have a life expectancy of 16 years, they will all eventually be replaced by those with low floors. Time and money is what is preventing the project from progressing faster, Rouette indicated.
“‘Installing elevators in an existing metro station is much more costly than installing it during the construction of a new station,” she said. “‘The installation costs an average of $10 million per metro station. But as the levels vary by station, some can cost up to $18 million. As the STM receives its funding from the MinistÃ¨re des Transports, we have to be assured we have confirmation of the funds before we can proceed.”
Until the day comes when all stations have their elevators and all buses have their low floors, Rouette points to the STM’s Service de transport adaptÃ© as an alternative. It is essentially a door-to-door transportation system for people of limited mobility who pay the same $2.75 fee as all STM users.
ValÃ©rie Larouche, director of the Regroupement des usagers du transport adaptÃ© et accessible de l’ÃŽle de MontrÃ©al, is quick to point out that public transportation networks in Quebec are obligated to provide accessible transportation to all users. According to the Alliance des Regroupements des Usagers du Transport AdaptÃ© du QuÃ©bec, about 15,000 people in Montreal use a wheelchair, while over 200,000 in the region have some form of physical disability that affects their mobility.
Larouche says the MinistÃ¨re du transport should be focusing its energy on improving the regular network in Montreal, especially the metro.
“‘Instead of putting so much money into repairing parts of certain stations, they should be taking more money and putting it into making the metro more accessible,” she added.
Larouche noted that other obstacles to accessible public transportation in Montreal include the lack of simultaneous visual and audio announcements in the metro stations, as well as the notable absence of benches at many bus stops.
“‘Over the past few years, we have noticed though that transportation officials have become much more receptive to what we have to say,” she said. “‘For many years, there were no elevators in the metro stations, so we had to start somewhere. It is obviously going to take some time.”
RUTAA works closely with the MinistÃ¨re du transport and public transportation networks to guarantee that the needs of those with limited mobility are met, and Rouette promised that the STM is listening.
“‘It is a committee formed by transportation officials and groups representing people with limited mobility who decide which will be the next station or stations to receive elevators,” she said. “‘We make sure that people with limited mobility have a voice.”