The 515 bus can be saved

Spacing Montreal has a post about the “inevitable failure” of the STM’s 515 bus to Old Montreal. It discusses many of the problems I first brought up in June when it first started.

While I agree that the line is wrought with problems (most of them predictable), I still think there should be a bus serving Old Montreal (there’s an argument that Old Montreal is served by two metro stations, but the walk is pretty far, especially for kids – 600m from the Jacques Cartier pier to Champ-de-Mars and over a kilometre from the bottom of McGill St. to Square-Victoria).

Besides, the Spacing article (and the Journal story it’s based on) cite ridership numbers in the summer and fall, which is when people are more likely to walk than take a bus. When the temperature is 30 below and the roads are slippery with ice, bus use is likely to increase in this area.

So I’d like to offer some suggestions to the STM on ways to improve service on this so-far unpopular route:

  • Dump the yellow signs. They’re confusing and unnecessary. They give Montreal transit users (not to mention tourists) the idea that they’re temporary or special in some unknown way.
  • Drop the route between Berri and Peel. It’s the most underused part of this underused line, and it’s completely unnecessary. This would also have the advantage of simplifying the line, which could then use the usual East/West directions instead of its confusing current circular system.
  • Increase service intervals slightly. Putting a bus every 10 minutes does make it more metro-like in that people will just go to a stop and wait for the next bus, but the ridership (even if improved) simply doesn’t warrant it. A 20-minute predictable interval would make more sense.
  • Put detailed information at every Old Montreal stop. Schedule, fares, places of interest along the route, points of transfer, etc. should be at every stop for the benefit of tourists. If they can learn about the system as they wait for the bus, they’re more likely to take it.
  • Improve traffic flow. Certain parts of the route (like near St. Laurent and Notre Dame) are always clogged, slowing service to a crawl. New ways should be considered to improve traffic in the area, including banning all car traffic on De la Commune during the summer if necessary.

Did I miss anything? Should the route be saved?

6 thoughts on “The 515 bus can be saved

  1. Jean Naimard

    And remove the dumb adverts who block the windows. Everytime I rode one of those buses, it was one plastered with advertisements all over the place.

    If you have a bus line aimed at tourists, they will gladly ride it if they can see outside of the bus. Even though I am not a tourist, I enjoy watching outside of the bus, and I particularly hate those buses that are not much different from riding inside a truck box.

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  2. Jeff C

    This route should be saved, but only because it serves Rene-Levesque.

    It is too confusing for people to take this route, no one really knows where it goes, or what direction they are going in.

    People won’t wait for a bus that they aren’t sure is going to come, most tourists have no idea what this route is all about unless someone tells them.

    We need flags that say something like “Vieux Port Express” or show some sort of recognizable logo so people can instantly know what it is, the number 515 means nothing to anyone, not even daily riders.

    Intervals are quite silly with this bus, and ridership isn’t helped by the confusing route layout, it has the potential to serve certain areas that have a lack of transit, but it’s just too hard to use. The stop location at Berri Metro is only good because it dosen’t obstruct traffic, across the street, going the other way might be better, but that would also confuse the routing even more.

    All in all, this route is a waste of buses, we shouldn’t be running full length standard buses on it, and the fact that this is the pre-amble to our first tramway line, is even more troubling. Why are we putting tourists before the citizens, we live here, not them.

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  3. Michel

    I would suggest a few general improvements to the 515.

    – Use a minibus, similar in size to those used to carry disabled people and on the 251 in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. A minibus is more flexible in traffic and spends less fuel.

    – Using a smaller vehicule would allow the STM to increase the frequency. Make it something that is easy to remember. Every 15 minutes, with service on :00, :15, :30 and :45 at the major stops. Service every 22-25 minutes doesn’t make the schedule easy to remember and the last thing a tourist want is to look at a paper schedule.

    – Make more streets off limit to car drivers and have the 515 use them. (I see you already cover that part.)

    – Finally, why not have downtown hotels and businesses give free day passes valid on the 515 only to all their patrons? It could be a way to get more tourists in the bus and less in cars.

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  4. Deya Bautista

    My work is located at Notre Dame and St Laurent, and I can tell you I hardly had seen the bus with passengers in it- a few, not even half the bus is full. The bus stops are ALWAYS empty.

    Like Michel said, a mini bus is a good idea. Notre Dame is always congested between Place d’armes and st laurent. They’ve dug a whole about 4 weeks ago and to this day in the mid section of the street , you can only use one lane due to the construction signs and blockage.
    Many times I’ve seen cars parked illegally in front of the bus stop during business hours.

    Definitely making the route information available at Tourist pamphlets will help to get noticed.
    And making De La Commune, pedestrian only, access to horse rides and buses is a great idea also.

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