What is the true cost of driving around in Quebec?

A new study by transportation advocacy group Trajectoire Quebec has delved into the topic and has determined that even non-drivers spend an average of $1000 each year in costs related to the province's roads.

“We discovered that government spending on highways and local roads are going up very high for the last 20 years. And this does not mean that the infrastructures are getting better,” said Philippe Cousineau of Trajectoire Quebec.

Released in conjunction with the David Suzuki Foundation, the study looked at combined public spending from all three levels of government and found it's gone up nearly 70 per cent from 20 years ago.

In all, Quebecers now pay more than $43 billion each year.

“This increase is higher than the inflation, higher than the increase of the population. But nobody knows this. It's the first time we have a big picture of this phenomenon,” said UQAM urban studies professor Florence Junca-Adenot.

An average family of four, the study contends, contributes about $7,000 per year to government services related to automotive transport – everything from road repairs, to health care costs and policing – even if they don't own a car.

Families that own cars are spending an average of $13,000 more.

All told, Quebec households shell out more than 20 per cent of their disposable income on transportation.

“That's very high. Higher than what they pay for food than what they pay for education,” said Cousineau.

Transportation entrepreneur Alexandre Taillefer, whose company XPND Capital owns a large stake in the city’s taxi industry, says it's time for a wakeup call.

“It's the number one factor of impoverishment, both individually and collectively and it's time really to realize how much it costs, how much the drivers are really paying for their service and it's time to understand really that public transit is actually less subsidized than the private cars,” he said.

One major factor is urban sprawl, meaning more cars are on the road and that means more roads to build and maintain, not to mention more aging infrastructure.

The study concludes that Quebec needs a sustainable mobility policy, adding that the province may want to look at more user-fees – like tolls.

“The population has a role to play,” Junca-Adenot. “If they continue to use their car and if the politicians don't offer collective transportation, we'll go nowhere.”