Bus route suggestions on the cheap

To complete my public-transit-in-the-news trifecta, The Gazette’s Henry Aubin has some suggestions about how the STM can help improve the network cheaply, based on readers’ comments:

  1. The MTC should do more to ensure that buses don’t reach bus stops well before their scheduled arrival time: That all depends on what “do more” means. Inspectors check after buses at busy stops to make sure they’re all on time. Individual buses are supposed to keep to their schedules, and in some cases will take breaks in order to keep from moving on too early. But it’s unrealistic to expect an hour-long bus route to be accurate to within one minute at all stops. A simple traffic light or two would be enough to put them off schedule (and often it does).
  2. More posted bus schedules would be handy. No schedules are posted for six to eight bus stops on some routes. What routes? I’ve never seen that many stops between posted schedules. And aside from the fact that every bus stop in the network has a code you can use to call using a cellphone and find out when the next bus comes, the STM has added schedules (and maps) to most of its shelters, as well as stand-alone schedules to many stops. That number is increasing, but there are many less-used stops that don’t have schedules posted.
  3. More generous hours for bringing bicycles on the métro would help certain commuters. Sure, but at the expense of others. The STM limits bicycles on the metro during rush hours and events (such as the fireworks) when the system is too crowded to support them safely. When the network has to choose between allowing a bike on a train or letting three or four people board, it will go with the people.
  4. The MTC could do more to synchronize the routes. Again, what does “do more” mean here? Synchronizing routes sounds very simple, but it’s extremely complicated. Each bus will connect with maybe dozens of others. They can’t all be synchronized in every direction so that every transfer has a minimum wait time. There are some specific areas where individual routes’ schedules could be improved for better synchronization (the 371 and 382 is a personal pet peeve of mine – a delay of a minute over a half-hour route can mean the difference between zero wait time and an hour in a dark outdoor terminus in the middle of the night), but in most cases they do they best they can.
  5. Fewer routes should be part of the Fairview Mall hub-and-spoke system; more should be either east-west or north-south, with transfer-friendly co-ordination between them. The STM has already agreed with this and is transitioning away from the hub-and-spoke system for the West Island. I don’t necessarily agree – I like the idea of a terminal where you can switch from any line to any line, but I guess I’m missing something.
  6. As well, some heavily used routes could cut travel time by avoiding meanderings that benefit relatively few people – the 211 bus’s deviation onto small Dorval streets, for example. I always found that deviation a bit odd, but it does serve the mall at Dorval circle. And the rush-hour 221 skips it for people in a rush. But sure, go ahead and change that.
  7. Other routes could be eliminated entirely, with the resulting savings plowed into new routes or into more frequent service on existing routes (such as) keeping only the 202 and reconfiguring it (to eliminate the 203). The 200 and 205 could be killed. (Notice a West Island bias here?) Well, the 203 is currently the only bus serving Lakeshore General Hospital, so I hope that would be part of the reconfiguration. The 200 is the only bus between Fairview and Ste. Anne de Bellevue on the weekend, but I wouldn’t cry if it disappeared (it doesn’t run after 7pm right now anyway). As for the 205, it is the only bus serving the rather large Rive Boisée area of Pierrefonds. Without it, people would have to walk up to 1,500 metres to the closest bus stop.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

8 thoughts on “Bus route suggestions on the cheap

  1. Jill Murray

    Oh no, I would have cried if the 200 wasn’t around when I lived near St-Charles and Beaconsfield Blvd.

    Is the idea that you could use the 201 instead? Because the 201 meanders its way up to Fairview either the slow way through pte-claire or in the other direction, through Pierrefonds, etc. The 200 is almost 20 minutes more direct (up st-charles, over hymus, up st-jean). It also helps out with the morning rush-hour load to John Abbott along the lakeshore, which, on the 211 is often so packed, you practically have to sit in the driver’s lap.

    If the idea is for people, even in the west island, to use transit instead of cars, cutting nice direct bus routes is not the way to do it.

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  2. Jill Murray

    And what other bus is available to people who live off Lakeshore, from St-Charles Blvd. to Ste-Anne de Bellevue? They should all have to transfer at st-charles to get anywhere that’s not on the 211 route?

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  3. gerard

    I’ve gotta agree strongly with point #2: there are simply too many bus stops that lack a posted schedule! I can think of stops on the 24, 105, 90, 144 & 216 routes (in both directions), that have no posted schedules, not so much at a “major” stop e.g. Peel & Sherbrooke, but at stops in between. I think we’ve got to get out of the mindset of thinking a stop isn’t “important”, because if it really wasn’t, it would probably have been eliminated. Sure many of us have cellphones, but lots of senior citizens and lower-income folks don’t, and are therefore forced to either wait (often in the bitter cold/blazing sun when there’s no shelter) or hoof it to the next stop, kids & bags & whatever else in tow…in many cases, just having a posted schedule would allow them (and me, oftentimes!) to make alternate travel plans: walk to a nearby metro, try to take a different bus etc.
    More to point 7, I question the value of the frequency of some routes, like making the 470 an all-day route now (other than between 7-7.45am, I’ve never seen that bus leave Cote Vertu even *half* full). Then there’s the dreadful evening commute situation from Ville St. Laurent (Techoparc et al) to Cote Vertu…..too many buses packed like sardines & leaving people staring blankly as they get left at the bus stop, meanwhile buses like the 470 & 72 (again, this one is never, ever, ever close to being full) blow by en route to the metro station. I understand the concept of the Express bus, but when all the buses are going to end up stuck in the same rush hour traffic (213, 225, 174, 470, 72) wouldn’t it make more sense to have the 1/2 empty buses stop at some of the incoming bus stops to pick up people heading to Cote Vertu also?
    *sigh* the inefficiencies of our transit system boggle the mind sometimes…

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  4. Fagstein Post author

    The STM’s own numbers show the 470 to be a huge success. Granted, not as many people are heading into town during the evening rush hour, but the alternative is to deadhead.

    As for stopping to pick up passengers along Côte-Vertu during the evening, that would defeat the purpose of an express bus, no?

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  5. Mark

    You know, #7 really bugs me… people assume that the smaller, less-used routes just take-take-take from everybody who has to cram on the 80, 24, or the 211 at rush hour. Really, I believe there are a number of other things that complicate the matter; it is never that simple. It is likely if these lines were really sucking money and service and so much from the other aspects of the network, the STM would likely have eliminated them a long time ago (although it’s clear that they, actually any transit agency, don’t always make the right decisions in the first place). In other cases, though, why haven’t they cut them already, if it’s that obvious?

    1. You probably wouldn’t really get THAT much cash back to in meaningful improvements toward the other routes, except maybe an extra bus or two on certain routes. They usually don’t cost that much to operate, and in some cases the bigger routes actually lose more money. There’s a big difference in actual cost between putting out 1 or 2 buses an hour on a lightly travelled route with a couple stops, as opposed to putting 20 or more buses an hour on a heavily used route, with as many more drivers, with X more schedules to be posted in X more bus shelters at X more bus stops, etc. Basically: eliminating the lighter lines is not going to somehow make the network more “profitable.” That’s not the goal, anyway, is it?
    2. You eliminate some lines that are essentially feeder routes in the network…a bus line sans transfers doesn’t really cover a lot of area; people aren’t going to walk that far to wait for a bus to take them somewhere. I mean, you start eliminating “unusued” bus routes and the whole network starts to see passengers disappearing (yes, really; for example, when service stops on the green line, the orange line doesn’t suddenly get overwhelmed). Why would they disappear? Don’t people act and react the same way that models of fluid dynamics do? It’s probably because:
    3. You essentially are leaving people with no public transit, which means they will find another way to get around. Out on the West Island, odds are they will buy a car, they will drive it, and they will use it for the whole journey (or, are they really supposed to drive to a stop on the 202 and then wait, since the other much closer route has now disappeared?); or at least will find any other means to get around, since they have to. And that is bad, for the public, for road congestion, for the transit agency, for quality of life!

    Cutting a line should only happen if they are actually running empty or for some reason costs too much to operate. Rail lines are more prone to this happening (as they are so very expensive to build, maintain, and operate) but this is unlikely for a bus route which has very little capital involved in its infrastructure, save the actual vehicle and driver. The roads are already there and are maintained by somebody else. That’s probably the only advantage to the bus over rail transit.

    For more to ponder, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeching_closures for an extreme example of pursuing this mentality (albeit on a large, national train network instead of a suburban bus network). I think the principles are very similar, no? Yes?

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  6. gerard

    Fagstein – true, I did read about the STM’s own surveys showed the modification of the 470 to be a success, I’m just questioning the decision to decrease the frequency of the 216 to make it happen. This means the 216 is usually packed (unnecessarily?) every departure (between 7.25-ish & 8.30am when I take it). And as for the express buses heading back to Cote-Vertu, the main bottleneck for all buses heading there in the evenings is the rush-hour traffic along Cote-Vertu, sometimes starting from the area around Cavendish. It just seems pointless to have packed buses coming from the Technoparc, Thimens etc. pass people by at some stops, while the express buses, half-full, pass them by too – only to have them all be stuck in the same bottlenecks (e.g approaching the Lauryn Hill Academy and the other school on the south side of the street, at Alexis-Nihon street, and at Marcel-Laurin)…Not to mention they all have to deal with the frequent stops of the 121….the debate continues i suppose…what would help? A dedicated bus lane both east & west on cote vertu, at least from Cavendish…

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  7. Jeremy

    Airing out my laundry on the STM, today. Suggestion for STM-Buses.
    BE THERE.
    The Bus #57 East from the corner of Guy and St-Catherine, at appx 5:30 PM was cut completely. I tried to catch it several times through April and May of this year, never succeeding. I’d usually give up after 10 minutes and hit the metro station, being the last faithful waiting. Finally, I decided to wait it out, well I waited until the next scheduled stop, which was there about 30 minutes after the one I wanted to catch. I asked the driver if the STM had a “Domino’s” policy, if it wasn’t there in 30 minutes, its free? The driver proceeded to shout that if the last driver missed his stop/route, that’s not his problem, and not to complain to him.

    I told him that it’s BS that he wouldn’t even register a complaint. As I’m expressing myself to him, a number of other passengers chimed in with their support and experiences. Let me tell you, the bus driver did NOT want to be there, and probably felt the bullseye on the back of his head.

    One passenger even told me that after calling the STM many times, an agent finally told her that the 5:30 route for bus #57 was cut. The problem is that their website still showed it on the schedule, as well as on the posted schedules at the stops.

    My call to the STM complaint line finally resulted in them telling me that there were “a few instances” when they were short on funtional buses, so the 5:30 route was cancelled “a few times”. They clearly are cutting corners, chopping out service, despite the promise from Mayor Tremblay that we would have increased accessiblilty to public transportation service.

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  8. Jean Naimard

    The 211 detour through Carson (or is it Dawson) in Dorval dates from the origin of the route, before the “new” Dorval station at the Dorval circle was built. It needed a stopping point in Dorval after coming off the 2-20 (come to think of it, they should renumber the “221” bus the “220”), and it proceeded to Fénélon and back on the 2-20. The fact that it serves the Dorval Gardens shopping mall is a mere coincidence.

    * * *

    Last summer, an inspector got the blunt of my fit when an outdated schedule inside the Dorval station made me think that the 211 bus I wanted to take home was running early. Since I had time to kill while waiting for the next 211 20 minutes later, I was able to compare the schedules inside the station and the one on the bus stop. They were different; they did not bother to update the schedules inside!

    * * *

    The STM has a shortage of buses. Not because the newfangled buses don’t work well, no, but simply because they did not order enough. And it also has a shortage of bus drivers, too. Not because the bus drivers don’t work well, but simply because they did not hire enough (they’re hiring — and there is supposedly enough “demand” that they have to draw lots to figure out which acceptable applications will go further). In fact, those shortages mean that if 10% more people start to ride the buses (especially in the West-Island), the STM is gonna be in DDD (Deep Doo-Doo).

    The government recently announced that they gonna take some measures this fall to help people cope with the “rising price of gas”. Presumably, this would mean that there are going to be public transportation measures.

    That’s very fine and well, but you just can’t go and buy buses like that; no one keeps them in stock. In fact, they would be very hard-pressed to buy more than 732 (730 on non leap-years) buses per year because the Novabus can only build 2 buses per day. It’s not that I’m saying that the «acheter Québec» policy oughta be scrapped, but that the measures should not exclusively involve hardware.

    Yes, the problem could be solved by software; that is, reprogramming life.

    The biggest problem of a public transit operator is the rush-hour. Everyone goes from everywhere to mostly one place (downtown) in the morning, and vice-versa in the evening (well, not all. Myself, I often struggle by living downtown and working in the West-Island. It’s not an easy proposition; last winter, the bus I depended upon was cancelled numerous time, which doubly sucks as it was a rush-only line).

    The obvious solution is to stagger the rush hour; spread it along the day.

    This can easily be done by FORCING companies to adopt flex-time; that is, employeers should be free to set their schedules at THEIR convenience, in order to stagger the rush. Now, if an employer wants to be free to set it’s employees’ schedule at IT’S convenience, he would have the burden of proving that he could not cope with mandatory flextime (this is to squash little bossy micro-managers who want to control everything their minions do).

    Another solultion is to eliminate the commute, with remote working.

    That’s what I do; my commute is less than 15 feet. And I don’t even need to dress (yup, I often work naked, and I’m not a sexycam operator). Of course, it won’t be that easy for everyone, again tanks to those little bossy micro-managers who want to control everythign their minions do.

    Again, the solution would be for the employer to absolutely prove that having warm bodies at $ORKPLACE is absolutely vital for the well-being of the known universe.

    This proves that transportation is a very complex issues that overflows way beyond the sidewalks. And no, this government will never have the balls to take the hard decisions that need to be taken (Imagine! Forcing bosses to accept that they would no longer set their employees’ schedules! Oh! The humanity!!!)

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