Montreal | Paratransit in danger, fears the industry

The labor shortage and the increase in operating costs mean that the supply of paratransit could become insufficient in Montreal in the face of growing demand. The industry is asking the City and the Government of Quebec to intervene to prevent vulnerable users from finding themselves without means of transportation.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

Frederik-Xavier Duhamel
The Press

“There is a risk of service failures for users because there is a lack of vehicles and a lack of drivers”, declared the general manager of Taxelco, Frédéric Prégent, at a press conference on Wednesday. He was accompanied by representatives of Taxi Para-Adapté, Van Medic and Rosemont Transport Van Adapté, other paratransit providers in the city.

“We want to challenge the [ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ)] as well as the City of Montreal with the aim that they invest in this industry which is essential in the transport of people with reduced mobility”, continued Mr. Prégent.

The high cost of gasoline as well as an MTQ subsidy program that they consider “unsuitable because of insufficient amounts and the fact that the targeted vehicles are too expensive” are the source of these problems, indicate the representatives. industry in a press release.

The hourly income of drivers today is no longer sufficient in relation to the operating costs of a vehicle.

Frédéric Prégent, CEO of Taxelco

“We are asking for an increase in [salaires horaires], fair work,” said Meheddine Mourad, Taxi Para-Adapté driver who has been working in the field for more than 20 years. “We work a lot with hospitals, we provide a huge service […]everyone is really satisfied, but we have to be paid fairly,” he added on the sidelines of the press briefing.

Towards “sustained growth”

The demand for these services was constantly increasing in recent years until the arrival of COVID-19, according to activity reports from the Société de transport de Montréal (STM). The total number of paratransit trips, including minibuses, peaked at 4.4 million in 2019 before dropping to 2 million in 2020.

“It is easy to conclude that there is a sustained growth in demand [des services de taxi accessible] over the next few years,” reads a report by the Commission des transports du Québec (CTQ) published in 2021, which however points out that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause these projections to vary.

The drop in traffic linked to the pandemic further tempers the situation, but “we are at 60% of pre-pandemic traffic. It’s coming,” warned the president of Taxi Para-Adapté, Yung Cuong, during the press conference. “By the end of the year, if we take another 20%, we’re done. We are no longer capable. »

Improved programs deemed insufficient

“Our programs have already been substantially improved in recent years with regard to paratransit,” said Nicolas Vigneault, spokesperson for the MTQ, during a telephone interview.

The Paratransit Subsidy Program (PSTA) for municipal organizations “has been significantly increased in 2022, by 11.7 million, bringing the total budget to 129.49 million,” he cited as an example. by email. “It is the municipalities that are responsible for managing paratransit services in their respective territories,” he said about this component.

Mr. Vigneault also pointed out the existence of $20,000 subsidies for the acquisition or adaptation of vehicles for transporting people with reduced mobility.

In the eyes of industry representatives, however, this subsidy is insufficient, since it would not be proportional to the rising costs of acquiring and adapting vehicles. They said they would have a meeting with the MTQ about this next Wednesday, which the ministry has not confirmed.

“Fuel Bonus”

Invited to react, the City of Montreal did not answer questions from The Press, directing us instead to the STM. The latter said it had put in place a “fuel bonus” to compensate for the increase in the price of gasoline, a spokeswoman said by email.

“This bonus will be granted when the average fuel price rises to more than $1.55/litre, up to a maximum of $2.50/litre. The amounts of the premium could therefore fluctuate between $0.00 and $0.15 per kilometer travelled,” she specified. “The bonus will be paid retroactively from 1er March 2022 and the first payment will be applicable at the end of April. »

However, “it’s really nothing”, lamented Mr. Prégent during a telephone interview. “The measure proposed by the STM only covers a portion of the cost increase” and will “not be sufficient to prevent the apprehended shortage”, he added by email.

Learn more

  • 28,250
    Number of paratransit users in Montreal in 2021

    source: stm 2021 activity report

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