Posted in Montreal, Opinion, Public transit

STM needs real-time metro status online

Metro system failures need to be better reported.

Metro system failures need to be better reported.

Last week, the metro went down. This kind of thing happened, but this system interruption seemed more serious than most. First of all, it affected more than one line. In fact, more than half the metro system was non-functional because of a power failure, which also forced some trains to stop in mid-tunnel and people to be evacuated along the tracks.

I was on online duty at the Gazette when this happened, so along with reporter Jan Ravensbergen I kept the story updated, scouring social media (particularly Twitter) for updates, pictures and testimonials. That’s how I learned about the in-tunnel evacuations. One thing I couldn’t do was just check out the STM’s website, because though the interruption knocked out dozens of stations on three lines and lasted for longer than an hour, there was nothing posted there about it.

The STM has been doing some fun things with technology, like delivering schedules by text message. But one thing it’s seriously lacking is a real-time update system about the status of the metro.

One commenter suggested using Twitter. It certainly couldn’t hurt. The delivery system isn’t too important. What matters is that when someone presses the button that creates an automated message relayed to passengers through the public-address system, that computer should also update the website, post a Twitter message, add a notice to an RSS feed, or all of the above, noting the problem.

Without this, journalists have no choice but to bug the STM’s PR people every 10 minutes to check the status of the system, and regular people have no way of knowing. That seems like an awful waste of everyone’s time.

Surely some simple solution to this problem can be found.

24 thoughts on “STM needs real-time metro status online

  1. Beeg

    Slightly off topic, but do you (or anyone else) know if STM buses are equipped with GPS devices? I wonder how far of we are from having bus schedules updated in real-time. I think I remember this being common in Chicago – it would be a big improvement over the current system, which involves divining which STM “time zone” you’re in on any given day.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Despite anecdotal evidence, STM buses are usually on schedule outside of snowstorms. They are working on a real-time update system and are currently testing it on the 24 Sherbrooke line. It might be a while before it’s everywhere.

      Reply
  2. Sid

    speaking of text-message, I think I should be able to text-message to STM about icy/snow-covered or blocked bus stops in the winter time. Text “icy” and the bus-stop number, and the STM can harness a citizen-driven sensor-system to create a safer public transportation system. Cleaning the sidewalks at bus stops is vital since the city tells us to “leave your cars at home” on snowy days.”

    I’ll leave it to the people of Montreal to figure how to text while wearing mittens.

    Reply
  3. David Pinto

    What do you expect from a system which features messages which are totally incomprehensible; messages which are comprehensible but are not intended for the public (Matricule 354, communiquez); and the fact that the clocks on Metro platforms — yes, remember them? — were disabled ten years ago and have yet to be restored? Just to add insult to injury, the non-functioning clocks are still in place.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I haven’t seen one of those clocks in ages.

      As for the incomprehensible messages, they’re in the process of installing hundreds of speakers in all stations so people can hear them better.

      Reply
      1. public_servant

        I think I’ve seen the eviscerated hulks of old clocks somewhere in the system recently.

        My problem with the speakers is that the wiring is being put in without much regard for the looks of the stations. Take a look at Berri. There are wiring systems on top of wiring systems. Ugly unpainted metal conduits more than an inch thick. And what’s with the orange cables partly just stapled to the ceiling? The station has the ambiance of a wiring closet.

        Reply
        1. dan

          what exactly do those messages (i.e. matricule 354, communiquez) mean exactly. i assume its the people in the change booths messaging each other, but why do the rest of us have to hear it? and what exactly do they need to communicate about?

          Reply
          1. Fagstein Post author

            A lot of the times, they’re trying to communicate with maintenance and cleaning personnel who aren’t in the booths, hence the need for public announcements. Communication could be about all sorts of things.

            Reply
    2. Marc

      I seem to remember their reasoning for removing the old flip-style clocks was that the parts couldn’t be obtained, and pretty much everyone has a watch.

      Reply
  4. Karine

    Now that I’m about to go back to using the metro as I usually do in the winter an notification system via cellphone would be nice. Unfortunately for me, now that I’ve decided to go upgrade my cell plan I no longer have access to the bus schedules via txt, something about the STM charging 10 cents to my cell provider (Virgin) that I didn’t realize was deducted to my Pay as you go package on top of my 10 cents texting fee. Sigh.

    Reply
  5. David Pinto

    I sometimes wonder how employees communicate in other subway systems, e.g. Toronto or New York or London, England.

    Reply
  6. David Pinto

    Well, to try to answer my own question, I instituted a Google search for how do subway employees communicate, and found this on torontoist.com:

    Rocket Talk: Can the TTC Announce Delays More Effectively? Have questions about the TTC? Rocket Talk is a regular Torontoist column, featuring TTC Chair Adam Giambrone and Director of Communications Brad Ross’s answers to Torontoist readers’ questions. Submit your questions to rockettalk@torontoist.com!

    So in Toronto the Chair of the TTC and the Dir Comm answer readers’ questions.

    Can you imagine that happening in Montreal? Never in a hundred years!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      And following standard STM practice, we know nothing about this system or how it would work, because we have no public access to this referenced document.

      Reply
  7. Quang N.

    STM needs real-time metro status online
    Feb 01, 2010 Service was interrupted for most of the evening between Berri-UQAM to Montmorency.
    I google for an update to prepare for tomorrow but no luck.

    STM definitely needs real-time metro status online.

    Reply

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