The Quebec government is going to pump a ton of cash into Montreal-area public transit authorities in an effort to, hopefully, make your transit commute better. Chantal Rouleau, Minister of Transport and Minister responsible for the Metropolitan Area and the Montreal Region, announced a $24.8 million financial contribution for mitigation measures in public and active transportation.
"Because public transit is a sustainable solution to road congestion, it is essential for us to maintain the mitigation measures that have been implemented and that have proven their worth," Rouleau said in a press release.
According to the government's plan, the funding is a concrete measure to implement "sustainable mobility solutions to limit the impact of roadwork on traffic in the metropolitan region."
While short on details, the contribution will be paid directly to the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), the metropolitan transit authority.
Much of the funding will be to "support measures currently in effect, such as service improvements on the networks of exo, the Réseau de transport de Longueuil (RTL), the Société de transport de Laval (STL) and the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), or the addition of incentive parking spaces," according to the government's announcement.
"These measures are in addition to the daily efforts of Mobilité Montréal's partners to coordinate construction-related obstacles and limit their number and impact on traffic," Rouleau explained.
The province has invested $443.8 million into public transit mitigation measures since 2011.
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The group is calling on the government and on CDPQ Infra, the company behind the REM, to reevaluate the proposed aerial structure and come up with a plan that won't, as they put it, "butcher the living environment of citizens."
In the petition, the group contends that "this aerial structure erected at a short distance from buildings in densely populated areas will generate multiple negative impacts for the neighbourhoods crossed."
The Collectif also argues that the light-rail network will "cannibalize existing public transit services."
Plans for the REM de l'Est have it running parallel to the eastern wing of the metro's green line.
The group asks that the government move to:
"Immediately suspend all work on the REM de l'Est, including its design.
"Mandate the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) to conduct an analysis of public transit needs in the east of Montreal.
"Hold a public consultation with citizens on the conclusions of this analysis and the examination of possible alternatives for implementing a mode of public transit adapted to a densely populated urban environment."
CDPQ Infra, meanwhile, insists that the aerial structure was "selected based on its range of benefits." The company stressed that the design will, in fact, minimize the ground footprint of the REM de l'Est and integrate well into the surrounding neighbourhoods.
It also noted that an aerial structure would allow for the creation of new public spaces underneath it.
The Collectif en environnement Mercier-Est is undeterred, though. In an open letter published in the Journal Métro, group representatives Daniel Chartier and Michel Lincourt called out what they described as "an implausible omerta [surrounding] this project" and warned that it "will drain colossal amounts of public money."
"The real data on the basis and financing of the project remain almost entirely secret."
But those who prefer to use cash shouldn't fret. The STM isn't doing away with cash payments altogether. Automatic ticket machines, the STM's network of 350 ticket retailers, and buses will continue to accept the payment.
"This decision follows the evolution of customer needs," reads an STM press release issued Monday.
Since the STM finished equipping its ticket booths with contactless debit-credit payment in December 2020, it said the option is "gaining in popularity and now represents the majority of booth sales."
The STM also said it could see recurring savings of more than $1 million with this move "by optimizing and simplifying various operational processes."
In the fall of 2020, the STM surveyed its customers and said it found that only a minority preferred cash over cards.
"A minority of customers saw a negative impact with the removal of cash, primarily for reasons of desired flexibility, without even considering that the cash option remains available elsewhere," it said.
That said, the STM is aware that some customers may not adapt easily to this change. It said it knows some Montrealers require a human touch when it comes to buying tickets. With that in mind, the STM made it clear that it'll increase the presence of agents and station managers on the floor to help customers purchase tickets.
An information campaign is also in the works to educate customers on the upcoming changes, the STM said.
Prior to this announcement, the STM was already in the process of adding new features to facilitate card-based fare purchases. In November, it introduced an OPUS card scanning feature on the Chrono app, which you can use to see how many fares you have left, and you may soon be able to use it to add fares with your phone.
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Next time you take the bus, take a closer look because you might just be one of the lucky Montrealers who get to experience the STM's all-new electric buses. This month, the STM is testing its new fleet and allowing customers to board.
"The several weeks-long testing periods will be the first time that the public has ever boarded the vehicles, representing one of the final phases of performance validation before the official commissioning," the STM says in a press release.
[100% electric] In the next few weeks, you may have the chance to see one of our electric buses, and even get on board! Trials with passengers begin today. This is the last step before our @newflyer commissioning, in 2022!pic.twitter.com/Tq8eupPvML
The STM purchased 30 of these buses and aims to officially roll them out in 2022.
This final stage of testing means they're operating on actual routes for the first time.
"The main objective of this testing phase is to check all the features that could not be validated during the phases conducted without passengers, such as boarding and exiting, real-time information display, payment system functioning and customer comfort," the STM says.
These tests will also determine which routes and schedules are the best fit for the new buses.
A limited number of vehicles will be zooming around bus lines that serve "the western and northwestern areas of the city," according to the STM. They'll only be in this part of town because the buses are being serviced at the Stinson bus garage, located on that part of the island.
The company could not confirm exact routes.
"If the testing goes as planned over the next few weeks, the STM is confident that it will be able to commission all of the new vehicles in winter 2022," the transit company says.