The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) says it's making progress towards the goal of giving commuters with disabilities full access to the public transit system, but it acknowledges it's lagging behind in some key areas.
STM chair Philippe Schnobb presented the 2016-2020 universal accessibility development plan Tuesday, addressing the challenges of increasing the number of elevators in Metro stations and ramps on buses.
The STM has promised to put elevators into 14 Metro stations over the next five years, bringing the number of elevator-equipped stations to 32 by 2022.
Schnobb said that will be a doubling of the current rate of elevator installation, requiring a $213 million investment over five years.
He explained that the process is a slow one since it's expensive to retrofit the Metro stations, which were never designed to have elevator access.
"It's not something very easy to put an elevator in a station that was built 50 years ago," he said.
All buses to have ramps by 2025
As for the bus service, the new vehicles have ramps, but it will take until 2025 to bring them all into service, when the last of the buses in the present fleet is retired.
Schnobb said by 2020, 81 per cent of buses in the STM will have ramps.
"Starting this year our buses will have two spaces for people with wheelchairs, so that's a big improvement," he said.
He said other quicker and cheaper changes are being brought in, such as the installation of tactile warning tiles in all stations and better online infrastructure to help plan accessible routes.
Station announcements unreliable
Yvon Provencher, a spokesperson for Montreal's association for the visually impaired, the Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Montréal métropolitain, says the Metro's accessibility plan is an improvement, but there is still work to be done.
For instance, he told CBC, a fix must be found for the automatic station announcements that sometimes break down in the older cars on the Green line.
"We have to find a solution," he said. "Those cars are going to keep running, and I still need to know when it's time to get off."
Provencher said that while the new Azur cars have updated technology, he's not sure how the STM plans to keep the old technology operational until all the cars on the network are replaced.
"You have a system that's breaking down, and I don't know what solutions they've got."
Fully accessible by 2038
Last October, the STM announced the names of the 14 stations next in line for elevators.
Schnobb said at that time the entire underground network should be accessible by 2038.
The 14 stations are:
- Université de Montréal.
The stations were chosen based on the relative ease of installing elevators at each and on balancing accessibility across the Metro network.