Overcoming the ecological crisis : public transit (1)
While various provincial parties are proposing more ambitious targets to reduce GHG emissions, the government elected on October 3 will have to modernize the funding structure for public transit in order to effectively fight climate change in Quebec. IRIS estimates that the implementation of new eco-tax measures would add $12 billion to the Quebec government's coffers over ten years, all other things being equal.
GHG emissions from light-duty transportation have increased by 26% over the past three decades in Quebec, offsetting half of the emission reductions achieved by Quebec industries. These data clearly show that Quebecers continue to use individual vehicles to get around, which limits the possible gains in greenhouse gas reduction.
Moreover, automobile transportation represented approximately 16% of the current consumption expenditures of Quebec households in the summer of 2022, while the external costs of using a gasoline-powered car are twenty-eight times greater than the costs of bus transportation. Improving the public transit network would not only help households reduce their dependence on the automobile, but it would also help protect their purchasing power in the face of inflation. (2)
Quebec's public transit systems are currently struggling with significant underfunding due in part to a significant drop in ridership following the pandemic. For the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), for example, this decline will result in an annual shortfall of $150 to $200 million if the network does not manage to recover its ridership by 2020. In inter-regional transport, the revenues of Canadian transport companies have been cut by almost half between 2019 and 2020.
Currently, the funding model for public transport networks is partly based on the user-pay principle. However, the current contributions from users are not sufficient to finance all the costs of these networks, which is detrimental to the quality of services and encourages significant fare increases. Tax revenues from public transit use are increasing five times faster than those from road use, such as vehicle registration fees and gasoline taxes. The imbalance between the contributions of car users and those who use public transport must be corrected if we are to reduce the bill they pay.
-------- Three eco-tax measures to encourage sustainable mobility
Several measures can be put in place to make up for the current shortfall in the operating budgets of public transport networks. It would be possible, for example, to dedicate part of the QST revenue on fuel to public transport, to increase the contribution to public transport of light trucks, such as SUVs, or to increase the tax on so-called luxury vehicles. By dedicating the revenues from the eco-tax to a fund dedicated to public transit, the government will encourage Quebecers to make environmentally friendly mobility choices.
Implementing eco-tax measures for mobility would allow the government to increase annual funding for public transit in Quebec by $1.2 billion: this amount represents an increase of nearly 50% over ten years of the budget that would have been allocated to public transit if the new Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) promised by the CAQ were to be implemented. (Translated)
Camille L. Thuot, l’IRIS