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Montrealers are among the greatest users of public transit in Canada, but they pay for the privilege, a study ranking transportation practices of 27 metropolitan areas says.

 

The Montreal Census Metropolitan Area has the highest proportion of people who walk, bicycle or take public transit to work - 27.2 per cent - beating such cities as Victoria and Vancouver. (The census area includes Laval, Longueuil and communities as far as Chambly and L'Assomption.) The Montreal region also has the lowest number of registered vehicles per capita - 0.49 - tied with Toronto and far better than worst-ranked Calgary (0.67).

 

But the cost of a monthly transit pass in this region is the second most expensive in the country, after Toronto.

 

That puts the lie to the claim by Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay's administration that Montreal's transit fares are among the lowest in North America, Projet Montréal city councillor Richard Bergeron said. That's because the study took average household income into account when comparing fares, he said.

 

"It's the only proper way to calculate it," Bergeron said. "It's much easier for people to pay more (for a pass) if they have more in their pocket." A monthly pass in Montreal costs $65.

 

Using census information and its own data, with help from experts at the University of British Columbia and the U.S. organization SmartTransportation.org, the Toronto-based Appleton Foundation compared such factors as air quality, housing density, public transit use, prevalence of hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles, anti-idling laws and employers' subsidization of transit passes.

 

Montreal tied with Toronto for fifth place overall but ranked near the bottom of the list for green technologies.

 

None of the region's transit vehicles is powered by alternative fuels, the study found, and only 0.07 per cent of its taxis and one per cent of municipal vehicles use green fuels - compared with Victoria, ranked highest overall, where 30 per cent of taxis, 26 per cent of transit vehicles and 36 per cent of the municipal fleet are hybrid vehicles or use alternative fuels.

 

"The city is not a leader in this," acknowledged city councillor Marvin Rotrand, a member of Tremblay's Union Montreal party and vice-chairperson of the Montreal Transit Corp., but it has committed to doing better.

 

Eight new hybrid electric-diesel buses are to be on the road in January and plans to convert the entire bus fleet to biodiesel are in the works, he said.

 

Such a change is long overdue, said Normand Parisien of the transit advocacy group Transport 2000.

 

"Conventional diesel buses are not very effective ... they're noisy, polluting and low quality for users. The only reason we've been favourable to them is they cost less."

The report is at http://www.appletonfoundation.org/report.html

[email protected]

 

(Courtesy of The Gazette)

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