While the Quebec government is planning huge public transit projects for the coming years, a report by the Centre for Productivity and Prosperity – Walter J. Somers Foundation (CPP) published today shows that the tens of billions of dollars invested are not always fully justified, and that these projects do not comply with internationally recognized best practices.

“Many large public transit projects in Quebec experience significant failures because of governance issues and poor planning,” says Jacques Roy, Professor in the Department of Logistics and Operations Management at HEC Montréal, the author of the study. “Whether they are in Montréal, Quebec City or Gatineau, Quebeckers have every right to be concerned. Take the REM project, for example: the first phase was delivered three years late and at a cost evaluated at close to $8 billion, 45% more than the initial budget.”

Although the Quebec government has already announced that it intends to create an agency for major transportation projects in order to manage the execution of large public transit projects, the author has doubts about how it will work. “The agency is being welcomed by many of the parties involved. But caution is necessary. We may well wind up with the same team of experts who oversee the current projects and who are unable to deliver the goods,” he explains.

The costs of public transit projects are rising so rapidly around the world that it is becoming urgent to seek ways of reducing these expenses, by drawing on best practices. Among the possible solutions proposed in the study, the HEC Montréal researcher suggests the requirement to improve the first project phases, i.e. the launch and planning, and to react more quickly during project execution so as to limit the risk of exploding costs.

“In Quebec the real problem is that we seem to be unable to correctly identify needs beforehand. Take, for example, the 3rd link for Quebec City. The government abandoned the idea after suggesting different ways of connecting the two shores, without ever publishing studies showing the need for this project in the first place,” notes Roy.

To read more : Roy, Jacques, Coût des projets de transport collectif au Québec : peut-on faire mieux ?, Centre for Productivity and Prosperity (CPP) – Walter J. Somers Foundation, HEC Montréal, March 2024 (in french only)