Public Transport | “Sudden management” and “opacity” at the ARTM, according to one report

The Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority employs a “brutal management style” and demonstrates “organizational opacity,” according to a devastating report delivered to the National Assembly on Wednesday. Quebec wants to amend the ARTM law to “restructure” the group’s activities.

Updated yesterday at 11:48am

Maxim Bergeron

Maxim Bergeron
The press

In the interview at The pressTransport Minister François Bonnardel said he would give the organization “a couple of weeks” to level the bar following the “extremely harsh” findings set out in the document.

The ARTM has been responsible for the planning and coordination of all public transport in the greater Montreal area since 2017. Until then, it was torn between several companies such as STM, STL, RTL and exo.

However, things did not go as smoothly as expected, confirms a Department of Transportation report, prepared with the help of an outside investigative firm. Far from there.

“The key public transport stakeholders in the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), consulted on the efficiency and performance of the ARTM, criticize the latter for its abrupt management style and organizational opacity, which they say represent real barriers to the establishment of a real and constructive cooperation”, one can read there.

This survey interviewed the 82 cities in the CMM, as well as the heads of transportation companies in the greater Montreal area. Your insights are awesome.

“In general, stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction not only with the way ARTM is operating, but also with the way it carries out its management and planning tasks,” the report states.

“In the latter case, stakeholders consider that the ARTM is overstepping its responsibilities by intervening in operational sectors that are the responsibility of public transport organisations,” we add.

Stakeholders also criticize the organization’s lack of transparency and a lack of public transport expertise on its board.

“Confusion” with the Fund

The COVID-19 pandemic and the advent of CDPQ Infra in the public transport portrait played a major role in the poor performance of the ARTM, the document underlines.

This subsidiary of Caisse de depot et Placement du Québec has been leading the construction of the Metropolitan Express Network (REM) since 2016. CDPQ Infra is responsible for the design, construction and operation of this 67-kilometer light rail system, which the company will own for a minimum of 99 years unless it elects to sell it.

The significant powers given to CDPQ Infra by law have hampered the ARTM’s actual ability to fulfill its mission of planning public transport in the metropolitan area, according to the report. “Several stakeholders agree to express some confusion regarding his roles [de CDPQ Infra] and those of the ARTM. “.

The first REM store between the South Shore and downtown Montreal is scheduled to open next fall.

turning point

The release of this report comes at a crucial time for ARTM. Organizational changes were already made this spring with the replacement of the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Pierre Shedleur, by Patrick Savard.

The ARTM will have a major assignment to fulfill in the coming months: to hatch a new version of the REM de l’Est after CDPQ Infra pulled out of this 10 billion mega project. The work will be carried out in partnership with the City of Montreal, the MTQ and the STM.

Prime Minister François Legault stated that Patrick Savard will be “very involved in the file” and that he will not hesitate to roll heads if the ARTM does not cooperate sufficiently to restart the project. “If necessary, there will be changes in the leadership of the ARTM,” he said in early May.

François Bonnardel reiterated this warning in an interview with The press Wednesday. “It’s a signal that I send to the leadership, that I send to Patrick Savard, to Benoît Gendron [le directeur général de l’ARTM] : You can’t sit back and say things are going well. Otherwise it doesn’t work. »

The transport minister wants the ARTM to become a “lighter” and “transparent” organization that will be able to “avoid red tape and, above all, refocus on the issue of strategic planning”.

He gives the group’s leaders “a few weeks” to propose a “road map” and “a few months” to implement it.

The ARTM responds

In a written statement to The press, Benoît Gendron assured the minister, “that he can continue to count on our full cooperation in the future”. He believes the ARTM has “delivered the goods” on several acts, such as tariff revision, improving government funding during the pandemic and setting up river shuttles.

“We note the report’s recommendations and will act accordingly,” added Mr Gendron. It will also be necessary to ensure a shared understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities.

The creation of the ARTM by law in 2016 required the submission of a report by the Ministere des Transports du Québec (MTQ) to the National Assembly no later than five years after the creation of the organisation.

Quebec seems inclined to amend certain provisions of the ARTM law in order to recalibrate the division of powers between the ARTM and transport companies such as the STM.

These legislative changes cannot be made by the end of the parliamentary session in three weeks’ time, but would instead be made after the next general election, when the Avenir Québec coalition is re-elected, Minister Bonnardel said.

long-standing reviews

The ARTM has been the subject of much criticism since its inception in 2017. A survey published by The press It was revealed last November that the organization’s performance had drawn the ire of all the greater Montreal public transit companies that are regulated by the ARTM.

In a series of government documents obtained by The pressthey denounced several “duplications” between their work and that of ARTM, heavy “bureaucracy” and a lack of transparency.

Quebec also rejected the strategic plan presented by the ARTM last fall. The government has ordered it to “prioritize” a list of projects totaling $57 billion and set a more specific “financial framework.”

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