It’s that time of year again—elections are coming. We’re surrounded by empty promises, eager politicians and platforms that try very hard to appeal to specific people. Yet, there’s one facet of a platform that got our attention. Don’t worry, we won’t be telling you who you should vote for in this editorial (but please do vote). Instead, The Concordian felt the Quebec Liberal Party’s promise to make public transit free for seniors and full-time students is quite compelling—and frankly, it’s about time.
The party’s leader, Philippe Couillard, said, “We want the next generation to develop the habit of using public transit and to turn away, by choice, from driving solo,” according to CBC News. He brought up how some families could save about $2,000 per year, and seniors could save up to $600 annually.
In a utopian world, one where everything was good, public transit would be free. We wouldn’t be forced to sell our souls in order to afford a $110 monthly pass. We wouldn’t have to dig deep into our couches and try to find enough change to pay the $3.25 needed to ride the bus for three minutes. Life would be so much simpler, right?
The truth is, we’re living in a time when free public transportation should be seen as a basic human right. We at The Concordian believe public transit should be free for all—even if you aren’t a senior or a full-time student. There are way more benefits to free public transit than there are disadvantages. For one, we would significantly lessen our carbon footprint. If people used less cars and more public transit, the environment would be less exposed to harsh gasses.
The book Free Public Transit: And Why We Don’t Pay To Ride Elevators tackles this issue in a fundamental way. It describes how we should be looking at public transportation like a public good, similar to garbage services. Co-edited by Jason Prince, an urban planner and part-time professor at Concordia, the book emphasizes how free public transit is a vital way to achieve “greenhouse gas targets in industrialized cities within a reasonable timeframe.” According to an interview with Prince by the Montreal Gazette, approximately 60 to 65 per cent of greenhouse gases in the Montreal region come from the transport sector, with 80 per cent of that being from cars.
Our city is comprised of 1.7 million people; one simply has to stand in downtown Montreal to realize how many of us are constantly moving. From one place to another, we are either on our feet, our bikes, in our cars, on busses or riding the metro. We’re hustling and rushing to get to where we need to be and, at this point, we shouldn’t have to pay for that. The same way Prince’s book questions why we don’t pay to ride elevators—just another way of getting to our destination—we shouldn’t be paying to reach our jobs, homes or daily destinations on time.
Those who can’t afford public transit are often left behind. Not only in terms of being ignored at the bus stop by rude bus drivers, but in life. We’re (unfortunately) living in a capitalistic, dog-eat-dog world, where being on time and showing up to opportunities is often essential to doing well in life. Job interviews, classes, auditions—whatever it is you’re trying to do—is only more difficult when you don’t have a way of getting there in the first place. We all know that unequal distribution of wealth leads to unequal opportunities. That same inequality is mirrored in our public transit system—those who can’t afford those steep monthly passes, or even a $3 bus ticket, can’t reach their full potential.
We should all be pushing for a fairer society. Making public transportation free is just the first pit stop on our long journey toward equality.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin