WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD BASIC PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN ONE’S LIFE?
Towards the end of 2014, the STM announced hikes in its fare structure. Since 2004, the single ride has been increased by 20% and the regular monthly pass by 40%. We doubt that the average rider’s income has increased that much over the same period of time. In fact, in Montreal, there are today over 400,000 of people living under the poverty line . That’s why we are against any hike, PERIOD. For instance, a single person on welfare is getting $610… and is not eligible for a reduced fare!
This high cost of public transportation makes it difficult for the ones who most need public transport to use it, the ones for whom it’s their only means of transport. Not being able to afford a bus ticket presents a tremendous obstacle to look for a job outside of one’s immediate neighbourhood for people on welfare. For people living in poverty, it could even be difficult to go to a food bank , hard to get involved in the community or to volunteer for a community organization where people could gain work experience, impossible to get around for basic services and medical appointments, not to mention to attend free cultural activities. People can’t take advantage of food bargains in the circulars from grocery stores. When you can’t afford a bus ride, you’re stuck!
When you cannot visit a relative or a friend because you can’t afford the bus ride, but your dignity prevents you to ask them to pay for it, they may just stop calling to invite you.
Why is it that when we see every year increase in fares and reduction in services, STM executives receive big salary increases (9.4% since 2012)? Obviously, the budget priorities make no sense at STM: why it takes so much time to accommodate the needs of people for disabilities? Why hi-tech projects have priority above a social fare for people with a low income?
As members of Project Genesis, we decided to be part of the campaign called ‘Right to Ride’. This campaign is an initiative of different Montreal non-profit organizations and it is gaining momentum. One of the first groups that came with the idea of a social fare is Projet PAL, a Verdun-based group working with people who had a lot of trouble keeping much needed doctors’ appointments because of the cost of the bus ride.
We are not dreaming in Technicolor because such places where transit is cheaper or even free for certain categories of people do exist… such as Stephen Harper’s riding of Calgary where there is a low-income pass. Closer from us, municipalities from the South Shore of Montreal offer free transportation for all, some as Longueuil offers free transportation for seniors.