A Gatineau councillor says he hopes a new rapid transit system for buses will discourage car use in the city, but if that fails, the city may have to resort to tax hikes.
"I think we're still in carrot mode, but the stick is not far away," said Patrice Martin, the chair of the STO and a Gatineau councillor.
New rapid transit system planned for fall
West Quebec's public transit authority is getting ready to launch its "bus rapid transit" line this fall. The Société de transport de l'Outaouais, or STO, is also planning to test a fully electric bus.
The goal, Martin said, is to reduce people's dependency on cars.
"We have to break away from that mode of thinking where the car can get us everywhere, all the time," he said.
The Gatineau councillor said cities have planned their transportation needs around cars for too long.
"The idea is to think in terms of moving people, not moving cars, and this is the paradigm we have to break free of," he said.
More options for commuters
Martin said the Rapibus line, Gatineau's version of Ottawa's Transitway, will not only attract new riders, it will also have a bike lane parallel to it.
He said it's all about giving commuters viable options, and letting them tap into a "transportation cocktail" of buses, bikes and cars.
"It might work if we build something so amazing that you don't need to have a car anymore," Martin said.
"You can't forbid car use without giving options first."
New taxes may come next
But if the new system fails to catch on, Martin said the city is considering new taxes to discourage people from using their cars.
The city has discussed two new taxes, one for parking lots in the downtown and another at the gas pump, to fund the STO, said Martin.
New taxes are always a tough sell with constituents, he said, but he believes voters want better public transportation.
"I think people know intuitively that things cannot go on this way," he said.
Gatineau would need permission from the Quebec government to impose such taxes. That's something the province has already granted the city of Montreal.