Free fares for seniors are increasing convenience but not ridership: TRAM researcher

The entrance to a metro station in Montreal is fronted by a large sign with a down-pointed arrow, and surrounded by greenery.
Montreal has made public transit free on-island for seniors. What's the status of the program five months in? Photo by Jules Bugiel.
Jules Bugiel - CKUT - MontrealQC | 30-11-2023
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It's been five months of free public transit for seniors. A campaign promise of Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, the special OPUS cards, which can be loaded with a free fare across the island and Nuns' Island, were rolled out July 1.

Just around $35 million in funding was tabled for the free fares in the 2024 municipal budget, part of a $48.4 million jump in transit funding from 2023.

But this new investment comes as a deficit looms for the STM and regional authority ARTM. Even though the province is covering between fifty and seventy per cent of that deficit, depending on how you calculate it, the ARTM has had to divert other funds to fill the gaps.

In that light, the new municipal funding for seniors holds a tradeoff – especially with early surveys showing that the move hasn't yet increased ridership.

To understand how the program is faring almost half a year in, CKUT was joined in studio by Meredith Alousi-Jones, a doctoral student in Transportation Research at McGill (TRAM), who's helping lead a Canada-wide research project on public transit use among seniors.

Listen to the full interview below: