The Legault government has so far presented a “catastrophic record” in sustainable mobility, several organizations judged on Monday, expressing concern that the new transport agency that Quebec is preparing is only a flash in the pan.
Quebec City tramway, Gatineau tramway, Eastern Structuring Project (PSE), Longueuil structuring network, extension of the metro or the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) to Laval: “none of these projects are really yet on track », deplored Monday the general director of Vivre en Ville, Christian Savard, on the sidelines of the 19e Trajectoire Québec benefit lunch.
“They have either been completely abandoned, paused or are on a second and third study,” he persisted. According to him, Quebec faces “a field of ruins” in public transport. “We have to regain the momentum. We cannot just answer that we are going to create an agency,” insisted Mr. Savard, in reference to the transport agency that the government wants to create by this fall to reduce costs and delays.
The Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, was conspicuous by her absence at this congress. It has just launched financial performance audits on the ten transport companies this Monday, while new negotiations will soon begin with a view to establishing a “recurring and predictable” financing framework over five years.
“They chose to give us performance audit reports and a new agency instead of new buses,” quipped Équiterre’s director of government relations, Marc-André Viau.
In a speech, the director of Trajectoire Québec, Sarah V. Doyon, denounced that few government commitments have been respected in recent years in terms of funding. “Infrastructure projects are going backwards instead of moving forward. There is a lack of funding to maintain existing service levels. We need public transport networks that are developed continuously, rather than a little bit every 40 years,” she said.
“The only achievements of the government are those which were started by its predecessors. We are just cutting ribbons,” argued the coordinator of Accès transport viable, Angèle Pineau-Lemieux, recalling that the REM is a project having been put together under the Liberals of Philippe Couillard.
Lead in the wing
All this comes at a time when several projects have been receiving aid for several years. In Quebec, the tramway has returned to the drawing board and is now being studied by CDPQ Infra, the subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt which delivered the REM, which also had the mandate to relaunch the third link project.
CDPQ Infra also abandoned its study mandate last month on the extension of light rail to the South Shore of Montreal. The PSE is still at the study stage. A 13 billion tramway has, however, been put forward to replace the 36 billion underground version, but it will not be delivered before 2035.
According to Christian Savard, the government’s recurring use of the Caisse de dépôt is “a form of disempowerment”. “The arrival of the Fund should have ensured that we do two or three times as many projects,” he noted.
In short, “the government’s approach is unbalanced,” said the head of mobility at the Montreal Regional Environmental Council (CRE-MTL), Blaise Rémillard, who deplores “that no project is moving forward” apart from the extension of the blue line towards Anjou. “To have a balanced approach, investments between public transport and the road network should at least be equal. Quebec has been promising this for years,” he concluded.
Representatives of the David Suzuki Foundation, Piétons Québec and Vélo Québec also supported the exit of their colleagues, calling for more funding so that public transportation meets the needs of the population.