Montreal

Public transit use up in Montreal area, particularly among young people, report says

More commuters in the Montreal area are using public transit, particularly young people, but the number of people using their cars to get to work is down only slightly, according to a new report by Montreal's regional transport authority.

People aged 20 to 44 represent 35% of the population, 52% of all public transit users

The new Azur trains allowed the metro to increase its capacity by 10 to 15 per cent. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

More commuters in the Montreal area are using public transit, particularly young people, but the number of people using their cars to get to work is down only slightly, according to a new report by Montreal's regional transport authority.

Public transit in the region saw a four per cent increase in ridership, meaning there were 417,000 new people using the system between 2013 and 2018, the report says.

Riders between the ages of 20 and 44 are more likely to use public transit: while the age bracket only represents 35 per cent of the population of greater Montreal, they represent 52 per cent of all public transit users.

"Before, young people took public transportation to go to school, then as soon as they entered the job market, they bought a car — what we are seeing now is that they remain in public transit," said Benoît Gendron, the general director of the transport authority, known as the ARTM.

Car travel is down by one per cent, which means 15,000 fewer cars were on the road during morning rush hour in 2018 compared to 2013.

Gendron said there is still a long way to go: 70 per cent of rush hour trips are still made exclusively by car.

Stats stagnant in North, South Shore

The numbers are especially stark for the North and South Shores of Montreal.

According to the report, in 2018 only 10 per cent of people on the South Shore take public transit for their morning commute. The number is worst for the suburbs north of Montreal (excluding Laval), where only nine per cent take transit.

That's virtually unchanged compared to 2013, when nine per cent took public transit in both.

Even fewer are taking transit into Montreal itself — only one per cent in the South Shore and three per cent north of the island.

"We need to provide them with good, reliable services that are easy to use," said Daniel Bergeron, the chief planning officer with the ARTM.

He said that moving people between suburbs — and not just to downtown Montreal — would encourage more people to use transit.

Bergeron said the ARTM also wants to simplify the fare system by having a single fare structure for the entirety of the greater Montreal region.

ARTM 'optimistic' about future of transit

But Gendron is optimistic that future projects will continue to encourage people to use public transit, citing the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light rail project, with stations in the West Island and South Shore.

"As soon as we increase capacity on existing systems [such as the train or the metro], we quickly reach rider capacity," Gendron said. 

He said that when the Azur trains arrived in the Montreal Metro system, the network was able to increase its capacity by 10 to 15 per cent.

Gendron said he has been collaborating with the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), the organization that oversees Montreal-area municipalities, to tackle urban sprawl and put in place more public transit.

The CMM​​​​​​ wants 35 per cent of morning rush hour commutes to be on public transit by 2031. 

Gendron said it was an ambitious target, but attainable as long as different levels of government commit to financing the system.

"It will be a challenge in itself," he said. "The growth in services on offer will have to be there."

With files from Radio-Canada

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