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Free for 65 and over at the STM | 40% of seniors will take the metro and bus more, according to a study



About four out of ten seniors will use public transport “more” in the metropolis once it is free for people aged 65 and over, according to a new study from McGill University. The Plante administration, which is committed to it from next July, affirms that the financial problems of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) do not call into question its decision.

Nearly 15% of current users

“Seniors surveyed in Montreal were mostly aware of the announcement of free public transit (79%), and 40% said they would use public transit more once ‘it would be free,’ reads the study led by McGill University urban planning doctoral research assistant Meredith Alousi-Jones. Conversely, nearly 60% of users do not foresee any difference, some already regularly using public transport. Since the beginning of February, his team associated with Transport Research at McGill (TRAM) has been compiling data on the use of public transport among seniors. In one month, nearly 4,000 people have already responded to a survey, of which nearly 2,000 live in the Quebec metropolis. In the office of Mayor Valérie Plante, it is specified that approximately 13% of users of the metro and STM buses are seniors.

The car remains “essential”

In an interview, Alousi-Jones recalls, however, that about 65% of Montreal seniors say they “would not be able to maintain their current standard of living” if they had to give up their car. “We can see very clearly that even if there are several possibilities, having a car remains essential in the perception of well-being among seniors,” underlines the researcher. Moreover, approximately 79% of residents surveyed in Montreal say they have a valid driver’s license. Across Canada, this figure climbs to around 82%, with the cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax and Saskatoon also included in the exercise.

“Breaking Isolation”

In paratransit, the contrast is striking: 70% of customers are 65 and over. Beyond the traffic, the free measure aims above all to “break the isolation” and to combat the rising cost of living among the elderly, affirms the entourage of the mayor. “These are very interesting data revealed by researchers at McGill University. It shows that our initiative will encourage new users to opt for public transport. However, the primary objective of the measure was above all to bring our seniors, who have been particularly affected by the pandemic, out of isolation, ”recalls the mayor’s press secretary, Marikym Gaudreault. She confirms that the recent financial difficulties of the STM, which has just announced cuts of 18 million, will not delay the free project, still scheduled for July 2023.

Good news, but…

According to Meredith Alousi-Jones, it is true that these data show that free admission for people aged 65 and over is “relevant in Montreal”. “That said, it also shows that this is not the only measure that needs to be implemented to attract more people and ensure that we have a service that is truly adapted to seniors,” she reasons. The expert observes that several bus lines serving large pools of seniors are “infrequent”. “It would take more frequent lines, but above all more specific to destinations for the elderly and from. We are talking about health services, large parks, commercial places, ”says the researcher on this subject.

40 million public funds

Free public transit for people aged 65 and over was officially announced in the City of Montreal’s latest budget last November, but it has been a flagship promise of Valérie Plante’s party since 2017, when the Mayor was brought to power for the first time. The measure will cost the City $40 million annually. Note, however: since this new incentive will not be implemented until July 2023, it will only cost $24 million for its first year.

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  • 30 %
    Proportion of respondents believing that “there would be no adequate travel alternatives if they stopped driving”. About 20% of them say they should move if they no longer have a car.

    Source: McGill University study

  • 78%
    Proportion of users of the metro and STM bus networks who live on the island of Montreal. The others live mainly in the North and South Shores, ie in the Longueuil agglomeration (10%) and the Laval region (12%).

    Source: McGill University study

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