Cash on the line: Quebec plans to reward transit agencies for efficiency, good service

The Quebec government is planning to reward public transit agencies that improve safety, efficiency and quality of service as a part of a new, incentive-based program.

New program would offer bonuses to transit systems striving to improve

The initiatives seeks to reward transit agencies with bonuses for improvement. (Charles Contant/CBC)

From lengthy delays to routine annoyances, Montreal commuters will be the first to point out that public transit isn't perfect. 

But a new initiative from the Quebec Transport Ministry is aiming to inspire transit authorities to shape up and improve service in exchange for cash incentives.

Rather than punishing services that don't measure up, the province intends to reward those that improve on safety, efficiency and quality of service, Radio-Canada has learned.

Quebec will dip into a $45-million pot slated for improving public transit systems, dishing out bonus money to agencies as part of a merit-based incentive program.

"It's not a penalty, it's a reward," said Transport Minister André Fortin.

Quebec Transport Minister Andre Fortin hasn't announced how much money might be used to incentivize transit agencies. (Radio-Canada)

"They will have to give us a three-year optimization plan and tell us how they will improve their services," he said.

"Then we will look at their data from last year. Were there fewer accidents per kilometre than the year before? Is the schedule more accurate than the previous year? Are we doing more with less?"

The idea comes from the Montreal, Sherbrooke, and Quebec City transit authorities themselves.

Right now, these agencies are given government funding based on the hours of service they deliver.

Rémy Normand, the chair of the Quebec City transit authority (RTC), said they were tired of taking a financial hit for moving more people through the city, more quickly.

"Every time we made improvements in terms of the number of hours of service because we were more efficient, at the end of the year, we were penalized instead of being rewarded," he said.

Bonus for the STM?

The incentives program could mean that agencies like the STM, which just bought 300 new buses, might get a financial return on their investment.

On the other hand, Montreal's delay-plagued commuter train system (RTM) might miss out on a share of the theoretical pot.

The new government program would reward transit agencies for good service, efficiency and safety. (Radio-Canada/Luc Lavigne)

"This year is a perfect example," said Fortin. "It's certain that the RTM, with the performance of its commuter trains, would not get the money."

Details about just how much of the $45 million earmarked for transit would be used to incentivize improvement.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Veronique Prince, with files from Angelica Montgomery


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