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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

What’s wrong with this picture?

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It’s amazing what a few hours poking around the Ministry of Transport’s website can reveal.

What does this province spend on new highway construction and maintenance, I wondered? What are the trends? How does this compare with provincial spending on public transit? I knew what I would find wouldn’t be pretty, but I had no idea.

Over the past seven years, a fairly consistent relationship of 10:1 spending of highways to transit has been maintained. But with a 22.3% average annual increase for highways, and 20.3% for transit, the spread in actual dollar amounts is starting to look scary. Consider this: by 2016, if highway spending continues to increase by the average rate of the past seven years, we will be spending 11.7 billion dollars annually; if the provincial budget continues to increase at 4.5 % (the average of the last three years – see section A.20), by that time highway expenditures will represent 11.3 % of total provincial expenditures.

Given the fanfare around the Politique québécoise du transport collectif, announced in 2006, one might imagine that transit investments would have taken off by now. Sadly, this was not the case. Whether due to municipal immobilisme, or because highways are consuming an ever growing piece of the transport pie, clearly the announcement of this policy did nothing to alter the Ministry’s highway-building ways.

Can anything break the addiction?



  1. Pretty simple explanation.

    In 2006 an overpass collapsed, killing 5 people, prompting massive examinations of bridges, tunnels, and other structures throughout the province, revealing that most of these structures had not been properly maintained for decades.

    What would be more revealing would be to see a chart that went back, oh, 50 years. *
    I bet you would see funding for roads and highways take a steep dive in the late 70s/early 80s, and remain low until 2005, while public transit funding remained constant.

    *Accounting for inflation, of course.

  2. Thank god for Kevin who can see past his nose

  3. @Kevin: I would be quite interested to see an analysis of transport spending that goes back 50 years, too. The reports on the MTQ’s website go back to 1996. you can find more documentation, and are inclined to dig through those reports yourself, we’ll gladly post your findings.

    For the record, I never suggested that the de la Concorde collapse shouldn’t result in some serious investments. It just seems strange that the govt’s own transit strategy had no effect whatsoever!

  4. The root of the problem is the shoddy construction work being done. The roads are done in a manner that allows the contracted companies to come back 5 years later and re-do the entire area, The inherently flawed bidding process never takes into account durability and practicality and therefore we’re constantly bleeding money back into road work.

    Public transport, to their credit, use their dollars quite efficiently and maintain their equipment well. While I’m sure they’re corrupt as well, they’d like to just skim a bit off the top over time rather than the lump-sum thievery we see in construction contracts.

    This will never change. Live with it.

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