Posted in Montreal, Opinion, Public transit

On the 515

I hopped on board the new 515 Vieux-Montréal/Vieux-Port bus today before work. The new bus route is part of a number of changes that were made as the STM introduced its summer schedule on Monday.

The trip, which goes in a circle from Berri metro down to St. Laurent and de la Commune to Peel and up to René-Lévesque, took about 20 minutes, with most of the delays due to traffic (it was the afternoon of St. Jean Baptiste day, so traffic in Old Montreal was probably higher than normal).

The fact that it was only the bus’s second day of service explained a few of the kinks that still need to be worked out, which probably led to the fact that I was the only person on board the bus for the entire trip:

  1. Traffic. Especially in areas around Notre Dame, Saint-Laurent and de la Commune. The eventual idea is to make de la Commune no-parking and install reserved bus lanes. There is currently one that runs for a few blocks in the western part (where it’s pointless), and it needs to be extended back eastward. The turns at Saint-Laurent and de la Commune are particularly difficult for a 40-foot bus to try and maneuvre.
  2. Confusion. Unlike most STM buses, this one runs in a circular route. In both directions. In such a situation, trying to say what the destination of each direction is becomes difficult, because both directions will eventually get you there. Both eastbound and westbound stops on de la Commune, for example, could say they’re in the direction of downtown, because they are. It’s just one goes up Berri and the other goes up Peel. The confusion is made even moreso by situations like in the photo below where buses in both directions stop at the same stop. So riders have no clue whether the bus they’re getting on is going in the direction they want it to.

You’ll also note the signs have yellow backgrounds. The STM is still trying to figure out what to do with that colour. Once upon a time, they were used to denote special senior’s routes in the west end, until that pilot project was cancelled due to suckage. Then it was used for special shuttles. Now they just use it for any route they think is cool. But it gives the impression that this route is strange in some way, like it needs a special fare or something.

Despite its problems though, I believe in this bus. Old Montreal is woefully underserved by public transit, and the metro is too far to reach everywhere by foot. A bus which runs every 10 minutes will be useful not just to tourists visiting the Old Port, but to residents who want to get downtown quickly.

15 thoughts on “On the 515

  1. Marc

    Yellow used to be used for the metrobus routes back in the day. Not on the stop signs but on the bus route display.

    Reply
  2. Karine

    Humm, this reminds me of the Circle Line in London’s underground. You had an Eastern and Western bound train and yes it was confusing to figure where you needed to go but all you had to do was look at the map to see which direction had the shortest distance to the station you wanted. Maybe adding a letter identifier like say, 515 and 515A would make easier to sort them out.

    Reply
  3. Chris

    I would have loved this bus had service started a year and a half ago. I live in Griffintown where the only bus to the Metro is the 107 which only comes once every 30 minutes. My two biggest complaints with this neighbourhood was the shitty transit and not having a grocery store. Of course, just as I’m about to move to the other side of the city, they add this bus and a grocery store is opening next month!

    Reply
  4. Shawn

    I took this bus yesterday and had a chat with the driver, who was an incredibly nice guy. It was his first day on the route and he was trying to figure it all out, too. I caught the bus at the westernmost terminus on Metcalfe, which is right next to the tourist office facing the north end of Dominion Square.

    Sure enough, there were two signs for the 515 and two buses, each about to depart and go opposite ways along the circular route. Pretty bizarre. The driver confirmed that there is no way to know which bus to get on, without asking the driver.

    He wasn’t sure about the success of this route and I’m not either.

    Reply
  5. Shawn

    Actually, I mixed it up, didn’t? It is not the “western” terminus, it’s THE terminus, isn’t it? Buses going in both directions stop there, and therein lies confusion.

    Reply
  6. Sebastien

    The yellow is to indicate that a route is a circle unlike most routes. The temporary 555 bus helps get frequenters of the under-renovation Georges-Vanier stop to Lionel-Groulx Metro and back.

    Reply
  7. Fagstein Post author

    The 52 Liège, 199 Métrobus Lacordaire and 201 St-Charles/St-Jean are all circular routes and their signs aren’t yellow.

    I think they just do it to draw attention to what they think is a “cool” new route.

    Reply
  8. James

    Errrrr…. why not just designate them “clockwise” / “sens horaire” and “anticlockwise” / “sens anti-horaire” ?

    Reply
  9. Fagstein Post author

    I can see it now: “Anti-schedule? What the heck does that mean? Where does this bus go?”

    Or: “Which way is clockwise again? Is that clockwise for us or clockwise for them?”

    Reply
  10. James

    Ooops. Forgive my patchy French, it has been a while. I didn’t foresee the possible confusion between “clockwise” and “schedule”. What is the word for “clockwise” in French?

    Reply
  11. Beeg

    Kinks indeed. Had to get from Parc and St.-Viateur to Peel and Notre-Dame last night. Hopped on the 80, which I rode down to René-Lévesque and Jeanne-Mance, thinking I’d try out the 515 (other options included walking from R-L or trying to catch the 168 at Union street; ultimately I chose the 515 for novelty’s sake and because I was sure it came more often than the 168). After waiting about 15 minutes, the westbound bus came. I figured it would run along R-L, up Peel and then swing down Metcalfe, a little out of the way but close enough. As I boarded, an eastbound 515 crossed on the other side of R-L. I asked the driver if we were headed to Peel and N-D. He said no. I said, No? He said, Well, after we stop downtown. How long? Ten – fifteen minutes. Even though it would have been a longer route, I guess I should have taken the eastbound 515, which swings down Berri and heads west along de la Commune.

    As long as the 515 is going to run in unclear directions, Karine’s advice is worth heeding. At least it ought to be – by adding a 15-minute delay at the “end” of the line, it actually makes more sense to take the long way in some cases.

    I’m thrilled the STM is improving service in Old Montreal and Griffintown – the 107 is one of the city’s more unreliable buses. But a new bus line – like a new bus ticket – should be simple and intuitive. A circular route can work, but only if you know which way you’re headed.

    Finally, though the PDF pamphlet I downloaded wasn’t totally teh awesome, it would’ve come in handy (especially if it indicated the terminus delays) once I was on the bus. Surprisingly, there were none to be found. Also, route maps and estimated times of arrival would be great on city buses, but that’s for another day.

    Reply
  12. Pingback: Fagstein » The 515 bus can be saved

  13. Pingback: Fagstein » 515 colour plan only adds confusion

  14. SMS

    With respect,

    I think the 515 numbers are padded. I observe the line pretty well (it passed by my office on Rene-Levesque, and I enjoy taking pictures of the bus advertisement wraps on the line). I’m not sure whether the snappy ads are luring tourists aboard now that the ads say the buses travel through Quais du Vieux-Port, Vieux-Montréal, and Centre-Ville. I’ve noticed that 515 riders on the clockwise segment can be people at Mansfield/Rene-Levesque (Gare Centrale – TCV) who use the bus like the 150 or 535 to get them further east (say, Complexe Desjardins, Guy Favreau). These are not TRUE 515 numbers. But this is one way the STM will convince people to think of those users as happy riders when they are not even going to the Old Port.

    Reply

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