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:
- 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.
- 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.