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Public transport | To save money, the ARTM wants to deliver the service “as a single business”



Pooling of resources, more flexible service, more targeted investments: the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) wants to encourage the four operators of Greater Montreal to think like “a single business ”, in order to save costs. The organization asks them to save as much as possible, hoping not to have to raise prices to reimburse its shortfall of 500 million.

“If we were a single business, rather than four, how would we operate? That’s kind of the question we’re asking ourselves at the moment, ”says the director general of the ARTM, Benoit Gendron, in a long interview given on Thursday.

It was he who presented his “action plan” on Wednesday to “optimize” the expenses of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), the Société de transport de Laval (STL), the Réseau de transport de Longueuil ( RTL) and exo, as revealed The Press earlier, Wednesday. In addition to reducing the number of executives and administrative employees, as the STM has already done, the Authority is working on what it calls “mutualization of services”.

“Ultimately, that means that we have to decompartmentalize our territories. We don’t want to cut, but we want to quantify how to have a more efficient service, at the same cost,” says Mr. Gendron.

Among the avenues proposed: the creation of “high-frequency metropolitan axes”, which would allow, for example, buses from Laval or Longueuil to embark passengers on the territory of Montreal. “It would be to have a Greater Montreal network, reliable and frequent, that we can use without looking at the timetable. And the segments that we pool, that potentially means savings that we reinject into the service, ”continues the CEO.

You can also make adjustments everywhere. A bus that we remove somewhere because there is nobody, we can put it on a more frequent line, which serves more people. That’s doing more with the same money.

Benoit Gendron, ARTM

The latter also wants to “pool” the charging of electric buses. More and more numerous on the territory, these have an average autonomy of 300 kilometers. “If we take the single business model, that means putting charging stations at strategic locations throughout the territory, to recharge without having to return to the empty garage,” illustrates Benoit Gendron.

It also launches a longer-term “reflection” on the use of gasoline-powered buses. “Over a useful life of 16 years, is there a way that after 10 years, for example, we concentrate our diesel buses in a single location to be determined in Montreal? It is a question that we throw. »

500 million to fill, otherwise…

The DG of the ARTM does not hide it: there will be difficult choices to make if public transport “does not have the money that is desired” in the next budget of the Legault government, scheduled for March 21. “We have of course heard from Minister Guilbault that she does not want a new tax,” said Mr. Gendron, who hopes not to have to “raise the rates for contributors in the metropolitan region, i.e. users and municipalities. “.

“It’s the last lever we want to use. It would be counterproductive to raise the rates. In several places in the world, like in Paris, it was done to make up for the shortfall. We are not there yet, ”he insists.

Still, everything will depend on what happens next. “If I don’t have my 500 million, all the requests exceeding the financial framework, we will have to break them out and then make informed decisions”, continues the manager, who says he has already asked the operators to “make a plan” for him. in case these decisions have to be made.

“We understood the message from the government, that we must optimize our services. We are going to do the end that belongs to us,” finally concludes Benoit Gendron, who expects to receive the return of the pendulum in a few weeks.

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