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Despite $85M budget cut, STM says it will maintain Metro and bus service

The STM said its $1.77 billion budget will maintain bus and Metro service at their current levels. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The STM said its $1.77 billion budget will maintain bus and Metro service at their current levels. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Montreal's public transit provider, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), said it will slash its budget by $85.6 million next year, but those cuts won't affect service.

According to the STM, this budget cut will involve a four per cent reduction in payroll, but didn't specify the number of jobs that may be affected.

"There may be many ways of doing this without necessarily affecting people per se, like reducing the use of overtime or abolishing budgeted vacancies," said the STM in a statement on Thursday.

It said it would evaluate all positions including managers and both union and non-union employees to determine the needs, but "positions related to service delivery will not be affected."

The STM's $1.77 billion budget will maintain bus and Metro services at their current levels and increase paratransit service by 29.5 per cent, back to 2019 levels, "despite the challenges associated with funding," it said.

The region's public transit agency had previously projected having to close the Metro at 11 p.m., stop intercity buses at 9 p.m. and cut lines from the public transit network if Quebec didn't cover its deficit. The province then said it would cover 70 per cent of public transit deficits, with about $238 million going to the greater Montreal area.

The STM said it was able to make one-time savings of more than $18 million and $52 million in 2022 and 2023 respectively, but is looking for other places to slash spending. It said it will reduce its spending on goods and services and adjust the special operating budget for specific projects.

"This level of effort cannot be sustained over the next few years, without jeopardizing the company's ability to maintain its service offering," it said in a news release.

François Pepin, chairman of Trajectoire Québec, says it's good news that service cuts haven't been announced in the short term. But he says the bad news is there's no guarantee that service won't be affected by future cuts.

"The lack of money is getting worse and worse, and they are talking about cuts of $100 million in the next five years. It's a lot," said Pepin.

"We are aware the services could be cut in 2025 and the years after that," he said.

The STM is pledging to make those cuts without impacting customer service. But frequent Metro rider Louise Becdelièvre is sceptical of this claim.

She expects bus and Metro service — which she says already have trouble staying on schedule — will most likely get worse.

"If you're paid less you can't work as well," she said.

By 2030, 93 per cent of the STM's infrastructure will have reached more than 40 years of service life, it said. That means the STM will also have to spend more on maintenance and repairs, boosting its budget for capital expenditures up to $21.1 billion over the next decade.