Development of public transport | Geneviève Guilbault wants to be able to “project herself” over 20 years

With her new agency Mobilité Infra Québec, the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, wants to be able to “project ourselves, a bit like in Ontario”, where we have just committed 70 billion over the next decade for public transport. The elected official hopes to be able to “anticipate” the development of projects over two decades.

“At the moment, the reality is that it is not at all attractive for many companies to come and set up in Quebec, because precisely, you never really know when we will end up building the projects. I want to be able to project myself, a bit like in Ontario and elsewhere, over 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years (…) to attract these people,” explains Guilbault in interview with The Press.

On Thursday, the minister formally tabled her bill creating Mobilité Infra Québec, her famous transport agency supposed to reduce project costs and deadlines. As soon as it was tabled, the legislative text aroused concern, with the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) fearing, for example, that it would “cannibalize the expertise” of already well-established manufacturers like itself.

To her detractors, Minister Guilbault responds that it is precisely “by centralizing forces” that everything will become possible. “At the moment, the projects are city by city, it’s complex. We must create project offices in each place, which we finance without control. There, we would have a super-project office,” she says.

Look at it like this: instead of paying three engineers with one per project office, I’m going to pay one who will be in my project office and who will be able to work on three projects at the same time.

Geneviève Guilbault, Minister of Transport

“We will not need to impose”

According to the minister, the agency will in no way have the effect of withdrawing powers from cities or metropolitan communities, as some representatives of the municipal scene fear.

“When we entrust a project to the agency, it goes without saying that the municipality will want the project. We cannot impose a project on a municipality that does not want it. And in any case, there are so many people who want projects currently that, sincerely, we won’t need to impose where they don’t want them,” says the woman who is also Deputy Prime Minister.

Geneviève Guilbault promises that strict agreements will govern the delivery of Mobilité Infra Québec projects, which will entrust the operation of the projects to local transport companies in a systematic manner, like what is done in Europe.

The minister ultimately “does not see how” the next government, whether it is CAQ or not, “could deprive itself of the solution that we have managed to put in place”.

It is not with scattered structures and funding, and especially by continuing to be dependent on all kinds of entities outside the government, that we will succeed in having this long-term national programming.

Geneviève Guilbault, Minister of Transport

As for the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM), whose role as planner will be revised by the arrival of the agency, it “already has a lot of work with the whole question of financing,” notes the minister. “We have had meetings several times where I see PowerPoints on possible solutions and optimization. I think implementing this is important work in itself. »

Less and less help

Nothing has yet been confirmed, but everything indicates that government aid to cover the public transport deficit in Greater Montreal will be a little over 200 million in 2025, or 70% of the economic deficit anticipated by the ARTM. . Last year, it was 238 million for Greater Montreal.

On this point, moreover, the minister is clear: this amount will fall further from year to year. “At some point, as ridership picks up, we adapt. We must not forget that the initial principle was to compensate for the deficit linked to the fact that there were fewer people on public transport. Logically, if people come back, there will be a gradual withdrawal of this amount,” she certifies.

For the rest, Geneviève Guilbault reiterates that she wants to conclude her ongoing negotiations with transport companies “by the summer”. Its objective remains to resolve the issue for the next two years.

As for the law creating Mobilité Infra Québec, “we are aiming for rapid adoption, before the end of the parliamentary session, to be operational in 2025,” she concludes. The next step will be to hire a top gunas was the case for Santé Québec, in order to direct this new structure.


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