Transit: Montreal’s fare hike will fuel social and ecological crises

A call to discussion and action from the public transportation committee of From the Ground Up

Français

We are calling on communities, groups and collectives to hold neighbourhood-based public meetings to discuss the impacts of the public transportation fare hike planned for July and join a demonstration against fare hikes on June 26th (Ste-Catherines/Berri).

The fare hike will take millions from the city’s poorest residents, and make climate action even more difficult.

We propose that your organization:

  • Join our network of groups opposed to the fare hike and working for free and expanded public transit – sign up here.
  • Sign our petition and join our facebook group.
  • Circulate this callout to your membership and networks
  • Organize a public meeting in your neighbourhood to discuss the impact of the fare hike.

To join the network, sign up here!

About the fare hike

Montreal is suffering a crisis of poverty and lack of affordable housing. The situation is deteriorating further due to real estate speculation, austerity, and cuts to social welfare. According to statistics compiled by FRAPRU, 41,950 people, or 8.5% of the population, are paying 80% or more of their income for housing. Under these circumstances, many people face a choice between paying for transportation or facing malnourishment. A fare hike hurts the poor and those with limited mobility disproportionately, both because they pay a higher proportional cost, but because low-income people often buy fares one at a time. A lack of investment and prioritization of accessibility, particularly in metro stations, makes transportation harder or impossible for those with limited mobility. This, at a time when vulnerable populations are being evicted from their homes by the thousands every year and forced to the edges of the city where there is limited access to public transit.

The climate

24% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, and 58% of Quebec’s fossil fuel use is from transportation. To meet the climate targets scientists say are necessary, we need to effectively eliminate fossil fuel-burning cars in the next decade. Placing the financial burden of this transition on the poor is not only morally unacceptable, but we’ve seen how it creates political backlash that slows down our ability to respond to the crisis.

About the decision to raise fare prices

The Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), which has governed fares in the greater Montreal area since 2017, is an undemocratic body. Out of 15 members of the ARTM, the city of Montreal only has one democratically elected representative: Mayor Valerie Plante. (10 ARTM members are appointed: 7 by the province, 6 by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.)

The political situation

Projet Montreal was elected on the promise of a social fare for youth and elders. The party once handed out mock metro cards promising a $40/month transit pass. Quebec Solidaire, which elected several members in Montreal, campaigned on cutting the price of public transit in half, a major move toward free public transit.

While Projet Montreal can’t technically be blamed for the increase, it’s clear that they have not made a priority of fighting it.

Meanwhile, Montreal has recently announced a $213 million surplus. The provincial surplus is in the billions.

There is no democratic mandate, and no economic justification whatsoever for an increase. It’s up to communities to fight to defeat it and reverse the trend.

Who we are and what we stand for

As the newly formed public transportation committee of From the Ground Up, we are aware that the climate crisis requires a total transformation of our transportation system. At the same time, we reject any proposal that would place the burden of this transformation on the poor and the working class. Those who have benefitted from the climate crisis are the ones who should pay.

For these reasons, we are demanding a massive investment in public transportation that is publicly owned, financed and administered. It should be fare-free, and it should be paid for by taxing the financial elites and corporate profits and closing tax havens.

This requires a transfer of wealth in the billions of dollars from those who hoard it. It’s a massive feat that will require mass popular mobilizations.

This movement can take a big step by defeating the fare increase.

— “From the Ground Up // À nous les quartiers” collective

Supporting groups: Friends of Public Services, Courage Montreal. (add your group here)

“From the Ground Up // À nous les quartiers” is a collective that brought together 400 participants for a 2.5 day conference about the community control of land, housing, and economy at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. For more information, visit anouslesquartiers.ca   

More reading on fare-free public transportation

« Coûts et avantages: la gratuité du transport en commun à Montréal », Rapport d’IRIS

OUR PETITION (English): No to the fare hike – yes to expanded, free transit

NOTRE PÉTITION (Français): Non à la hausse, oui à un transit étendu et accessible

“Public Transport Can Be Free”, Jacobin, September 2018

« Expérimenter la gratuité des transports », Lava Media, décembre 2017

“Public transit should be free, Victoria council says”, Vancouver Sun, April 2019

Free Public Transit: And Why We Don’t Pay to Ride Elevators (Black Rose Books, 2018)

“Are the transit fares fair? Public transit fare structure and social vulnerability in Montreal, Canada,” Verbich, D. & El-Geneidy, A. (2017). Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 96, 43-53.