Wheelchair users demand improved access on Metro's 50th anniversary

For the Metro's 50th birthday, the STM made Place-des-Arts station accessible Friday to make it easier for everyone to partake in the planned festivities. Wheelchair users want to know why it can't be accessible year-round.

People with reduced mobility ask why Place-des-Arts can be made accessible for birthday party but not everyday

This group gathered at Place-des-Arts Metro Friday morning, 50 years to the days since the Metro system opened, to protest against the subway system's lack of accessibility. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

In celebration of 50 years of the Montreal Metro, the STM made Place-des-Arts station accessible Friday so those who use wheelchairs could partake in the planned festivities.

A group representing wheelchair users wants to know why, if the station can be accessible for a day, it can't be accessible all year round.

About 10 people showed up at Place-des-Arts to protest against the inaccessibility of the Montreal transit system, honking horns while STM chairman Philippe Schnobb was speaking.

Today, 50 years to the day after the Metro opened, only 10 stations have elevators, and they are all on the Orange line.

Concordia student Laurence Parent decries the Montreal Metro's lack of accessibility. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

On Tuesday, the STM and City of Montreal announced a plan to install elevators at 14 more Metro stations. The plan is to have elevators in 31 of the 68 stations by 2020 and to make the entire Metro network accessible by 2038.. 

The protesters said they were skeptical about the STM's promise.

One of those elevators will be at Jean-Drapeau station on the Yellow line, which would seem to make little sense, since there is no elevator at either Longueuil or Berri-UQAM, the other two Yellow line stations.

In an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Schnobb disputed the suggestion that an elevator at Jean-Drapeau station would serve little purpose, saying many visitors to the station are families with young children in strollers or elderly people with limited mobility.

"Elevators are for the general population as well. I'm not saying the elevator will go nowhere and won't be used," he said, adding that the STM is looking into temporary measures to help people with mobility issues get off the Yellow line platform at Berri-UQAM.

Mobility rights group Le Regroupement des activistes pour l'inclusion au Québec is seeking authorization from the courts to launch a class action lawsuit against the STM over the Metro inaccessibility.

Blue collar workers were also present at the Metro station Friday morning, protesting against Bill 110, the proposed law that would give the provincial government final say on negotiations between unions and municipalities.

Blue-collar workers showed up at Place-des-Arts station Friday morning to protest against Bill 110, a proposed law they say would interfere with their collective-bargaining rights. (Laurent Therrien/Radio-Canada)

Should the Metro be privately run?

In a news release, the Montreal Economic Institute said that on days it isn't turning 50, the Metro is in the news due to delays, breakdowns and poor management.

The STM has a long history of inefficiency, the conservative think tank said, and Quebec taxpayers are footing the bill. Its suggestion? Privatize some public transit services, starting with buses.

The Montreal Economic Institute says Montreal should privatize parts of the public transit system, starting with bus service. (Radio-Canada)

It says since 1966, the public transit corporation's inflation-adjusted total costs per kilometre travelled have increased by 163 per cent, but the increase in costs has not led to an increase in the reliability of service.

From 1983 to 2015, reported major delays in subway services went from 6.3 per million kilometres travelled to 12.2, the institute said

"Without competition, a monopoly has very little reason to improve its performance, especially if it is lavishly subsidized," says Germain Belzile, senior associate researcher at the institute.