Public transportation | Barely revealed, the Mobilité Infra Québec agency is causing concern

Barely filed, immediately denounced. The government’s bill creating Mobilité Infra Québec, this transport agency supposed to reduce project costs and deadlines, is already causing a lot of concern in the public transport community, particularly in Greater Montreal.

“We are concerned about the creation of a new structure which will cannibalize the expertise already well present in the public and parapublic sectors,” argued Thursday the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), recalling that it is “the only organization public sector which has carried out major public transport projects and which has this expertise”.

Although it supports the arrival of “new levers” to promote the development of public transport, the STM nevertheless mentions “very worrying” provisions in the bill tabled Thursday by the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, in the National Assembly .

First, “the Public Transport Companies Act is not affected by the proposed changes”, which is “really worrying considering that we are one of the largest managers of public collective transport projects, with 21 billion in investments in public funds planned over the next 10 years », insists the carrier’s corporate advisor, Kevin Bilodeau.

Any reform to reduce costs and delays must target all public transportation projects that are carried out with public funds.

Kevin Bilodeau, corporate advisor at the STM

On new sources of income, “the proposed bill does not take into account our requests to promote the real estate development of sites” and on the contrary adds “constraints which will limit the capacity of transport companies to generate real estate income” , also deplores Mr. Bilodeau.

What next for the ARTM?

At the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM), whose role as planner risks being reviewed with the arrival of this agency, spokesperson Simon Charbonneau cautiously indicated Thursday that “the roles and responsibilities in terms of planning of public transportation in the greater Montreal region will have to be clarified soon. “We will actively participate in future consultations on the subject,” insisted Mr. Charbonneau.

In interview with The Press recently, Minister Geneviève Guilbault recognized “that we could see an overlap with the mission of the ARTM”, while assuring however that her bill will not bring any change to the mandate of the organization that she already accused of being ineffective.

“For me, the future of the ARTM is completely uncertain,” judges the transport planning expert at the University of Montreal, Pierre Barrieau. “With the arrival of the agency, they won’t really have much to do, apart from collecting the money from the titles and carrying out origin-destination (OD) investigations for example. These are tasks that the Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM) could do. »

According to him, Mobilité Infra Québec “institutionalizes the same mechanisms that we used with the Caisse de dépôt, therefore CDPQ Infra, while providing additional safeguards to better protect ourselves” against delays or cost overruns that have been associated with the Réseau express métropolitain (REM).

CDPQ Infra, which could be at the heart of this transport agency, specified by email that it “brings together all the expertise necessary to successfully carry out major mobility projects and is therefore a partner of choice in the development public infrastructure”, without going any further.

The CMM judges that “accelerating the completion of projects already identified is very good, but it suggests that the development of the network is limited to that and above all, it does not resolve the thorny question of financing “.

The CMM judges that “accelerating the completion of projects already identified is very good, but it suggests that the development of the network is limited to that and above all, it does not resolve the thorny question of financing “.

Less power to cities?

At Trajectoire Québec, which defends the interests of public transport users in the province, general director Sarah V. Doyon says she is “very worried about future developments”.

“An agency based in Quebec that plans public transportation for all of Quebec makes us fear that powers that belong to cities or metropolitan communities are being taken away. I’m afraid of how it will all fit together, especially since there’s still a lot of vagueness,” she breathes.

“We don’t want this agency to be the tree that hides the forest of financing issues,” slips the general director of Vivre en ville, Christian Savard, who also wonders “about the way in which this agency will link up with cities and local planning and town planning authorities.”

“The big challenge will be to work together, otherwise it’s just the agency that arrives in the cities. This lack of potential connection concerns me,” concludes Mr. Savard.


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