Opinion STM”s commitment to universal access is clear

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In the wake of the Société de transport de Montréal having presented a quite positive report on its progress in terms of universal access these past few years and having announced new measures that will be implemented by 2020, I feel that your article titled “Ticket to ride comes with frustration” (Extra, March 11) is not a fair portrayal of the current situation.

The STM shifted toward universal access some 25 years ago. Since then, three action plans have been developed in collaboration with representatives of the disabled community and implemented, in addition to investing some $235 million. Even when our public funding sources were capped in 2012, for Transport adapté, STM continued to handle the growing demand and further improve its services, while including this commitment in its latest budget.

We are well aware that several improvements could still be implemented. But we can only plan for them in accordance to our budgets, the existing infrastructure, and our governance with regards to our stakeholders. 

The article raises doubts about the reliability of elevators, based on one person’s account, when in fact the equipment is used by thousands of people each day and undergoes a rigorous maintenance schedule by STM crews. Of course, we are working with mechanical equipment that is subject to breaking down. When that happens, our repair crews are dispatched. 

Moreover, in the new universal access development plan for 2016-2020, presented to the public last March 7, the STM confirmed its determination to pick up the pace with regard to making stations universally accessible through massive investments. This should result in having an additional 14 universally accessible métro stations by 2022.

The STM is also committed to making access to its surface bus network even easier. To that end, STM only buys buses equipped with a front ramp, based on a 16-year cycle for bus replacement. Thanks to this measure, STM now operates 976 buses with a ramp at the front, over half of its bus fleet, and makes sure that accessible buses are available on most bus lines.

As for any issues with ramp maintenance, STM reminds the public that ramps are deployed reliably 98 per cent of the time.

To ensure they are in good working order, STM enforces a rigorous maintenance schedule that includes checking the ramps each month, with further verifications every 20,000 km / 6 months, along with additional preventive maintenance each spring.

STM has also announced that it plans on designating a second area on buses for persons using a wheelchair. For the STM, universal accessibility is a corporate commitment. More fundamentally, universal access plays an integral part in planning all bus services, as well as in the company’s decision-making processes, in all areas and at all levels.

Our commitment is clear and the major progress we have achieved in the past few years is proof. We thank our priceless partners and stakeholders who work with us to move forward on universal access.

Luc Tremblay is chief executive officer of the Société de transport de Montréal.

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