Quebec Budget Funds Transit

Quebec has the potential to become a North American leader in sustainable transportation (see last week's post). Transportation is also central to the Province's challenging climate change goals. In the lead-up to yesterday's budget, hopes were high that the Province would put some money where their targets are.

In the end, we weren't disappointed: The budget included a possible total of $173 million in new funding for infrastructure and public transit for this year alone. The money, a result of raising gas taxes, is set to steadily increase until 2014.

There are of course objections to the tax increases. I'm not supporter of taxation for taxation's sake. If you are raising taxes, you had better be able to clearly show increased public benefits. But it's worth remembering that public transit is about much more than getting you to work in the morning:

First, public transportation gets you the most bang for your buck when it comes to spending transportation infrastructure money. The alternative – spending money on roadways for private vehicles – just feeds a vicious circle of congestion and sprawl.

Second, transit is as much about creating compact livable cities as it is about moving people around. A good public transportation system creates a virtuous circle of compact development, cheaper costs for providing services and infrastructure, and more walkable and livable neighbourhoods. A targeted tax to support transit can lead to a variety of public benefits.

The money, announced as part of Quebec's new budget, comes from increases to two different gasoline taxes. $120 million comes from a 1 cent per litre increase to the provincial gas tax, similar increases over the next 3 years will bring in an additional $480 million by 2013-14. The province has also given the Montreal Metropolitan Community the power to increase by 1.5 cents the regional gas tax used to fund transit. That will bring in $53million, the majority of which will go to the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

Montreal was hoping for more, especially when it came to the regional gas tax, but over all this seems like good news. I'm not a specialist in the economics of public transportation by any means. But, like many North American cities, there are still large areas of the Montreal metropolitan region that are poorly served by public transportation. In the coming years the STM has plans to increase ridership and quality of service over the next few years. On it's side, the Province has committed to an ambitious climate change action plan that puts a special emphasis on reducing transportation related emissions.


For either level of government to be serious about meeting their goals,  the key - 
long with smart planning and good management - is dependable increased funding.

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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

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