Municipalities are dependent on property tax for revenue, so they need help from Ottawa or the province to build large-scale infrastructure like light rail, trams, SRB. P3s are ripoffs for taxpayers. We need to increase the money transfer from Ottawa to big cities, or else allow municipalities to raise funds in other ways. Let them impose special taxation within a certain transit hub the way Montrealers did for the Métro. Let them increase road pricing for cars. Give them access to funds from the federal carbon tax.
Electric cars alone won’t solve our problem with CO2 emissions. Mining lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, key elements of electric batteries, causes serious problems for indigenous communities. 95% of old cars is recycled, but the iron and steel sector produces massive carbon dioxide emissions. More effective than recycling or electrification is reducing the number of vehicle miles travelled (VMT). Increase the proportion of trips taken on foot or on bicycles and transit. Install congestion pricing and trip reduction strategies. Promote more efficient development patterns.
Reducing carbon emissions goes hand in hand with reducing urban sprawl. Urban growth boundaries can limit suburbs and new rules can be adopted regarding developers’ rights. Until we create more efficient development, Montreal will continue to spread into the north and south and driving will be the only reasonable way to travel. Suburbs use a lot of energy because they take up so much space.
People get understandably alarmed when public transit structures are added to the scene that do not fit in. Nor do we like it if vehicles are noisy, or if dead space underneath huge slabs of monotonous concrete invite graffiti and trash. Old cities like Montreal which has so many beautiful buildings must be especially careful.
Concrete is the way most 20th century politicians imposed their ideas on city environments, and its inhumanity is patent. If no measures are adopted to limit its use, and to protect what is already built, the province will continue to favour it. Montreal needs to put a moratorium on cement.
Ridership on public transit increases in direct proportion to the price of gasoline and the costs of owning a car. As long as it is cheaper and quicker to drive to destinations, citizens with wheels will prefer them. Driving is subsidized by the government, yet it carries the fewest passengers of all transportation modes, and produces the largest number of GHG emissions. If we want to achieve high ridership numbers on public transit, the ARTM needs to work with the province to develop plans to eliminate the privileges car-owners enjoy.
Public transit should be planned by public transit agencies not politicians or banks. By not putting any conditions on the power they gave to the Caisse de dépôt to build infrastructure for us in 2015, the Liberals saddled us with a rich benefactor who is not obliged to co-ordinate its plans with the existing network run by the ARTM. Nor does it have to listen to the public.The province’s ill-advised venture into Montreal transit would not have happened if municipal governments and the ARTM had been allowed to raise money for specific projects. To restore Montreal’s planning independence we need to change Loi 76, and restore the ARTM as rail transit authority for the island.
Human life has adapted to the demands of capitalism, but it has put us out of sync with the rest of nature. Urban sprawl. Tar sands development. Air pollution. Brownfields. Diabetes. To change direction we need to replace the economic model, but this does not necessarily mean we have to slow down drastically. We can pursue different goals and still get to places quickly using active transportation e.g. bicycles and walking, and by using surface-level technologies powered by electricity or hydrogen. Trams and Bus Rapid Transit can achieve speeds very close to those on subways and automated light metro. They are also easier on the planet. The gain in health, cleaner air, lower emissions, cost, is worth fighting for.