UPDATED Aug. 31 with STM's claims of increased West Island service
The Société de transport de Montréal went all out announcing a new gimmick this week. It's called "10 minutes max network" and it seeks to reassure transit users (and potential transit users) that buses within this network will arrive in no more than 10 minutes from when you get to a stop. Affected bus lines (there are 32 in all, or 31 if you count the 106 and 506 as one route) will have this graphic added to stop signs.
It comes into effect with schedule changes on Monday morning.
There are, of course, some caveats: It's only between 6am and 9pm, only Mondays to Fridays (excluding holidays), and for 21 of the 32 routes, it only applies in one direction at a time (6am-2pm in one direction, 2pm-9pm in the other).
- In both directions: 18, 24, 51, 67, 69, 80, 105, 121, 139, 141, 165
- One direction at a time: 32, 33, 44, 45, 48, 49, 55, 64, 90, 97,103, 106-506, 132, 161, 171, 187, 193, 197, 211, 470*
UPDATE: A blogger has created a subway-style map of these routes here.
Even under those rules, I spotted quite a few cases where it didn't apply, particularly at the edges of those time blocks. A departure might be set for 8:45pm, and the next one after 9pm. I guess "close enough" is good for the STM here.
Despite my criticisms though, looking at the before and after schedules for the affected routes, there are serious efforts at improving service (at least during these time blocks - with a few exceptions it seems very little effort has been made to improve service after 9pm or on weekends).
Most of the routes on the lists are the STM's most highly trafficked. In many cases, no change in schedule was needed to comply with the "10 minutes max" rule. In others, the headway was already as low as 12-15 minutes, so bringing it down to 10 wasn't a huge deal.
But changing the headway from 12 minutes to 10 means going from five departures an hour to six.
There is also significant improvement for 7pm-9pm, when many routes which had headways of up to 20 minutes now see the number of departures as much as doubled.
- 24 Sherbrooke: Mid-day weekday departures are now 10 minutes apart instead of up to 20, making this bus a true alternative to the metro. Sunday service is also improved, with afternoon waiting times reduced from 20 minutes in both directions to 11 minutes eastbound and 15 minutes westbound.
- 32 Lacordaire: Improvements from 8am to 2pm southbound and 7pm to 9pm northbound. In both cases, the wait between buses has been reduced from 15 minutes to 10.
- 48 Perras: Westbound, between 7:40am and 1pm, departures that were between 20 and 30 minutes apart are now 10 minutes apart. After 4:30pm, departures are no more than 15 minutes apart. Eastbound, departures were 15 minutes apart between 2pm and 7pm, and are now 10 minutes apart from 2pm to 9pm.
- 49 Maurice-Duplessis: In the late morning and early afternoon, service is doubled, with departures now 10 minutes apart rather than 20. In the evenings, they're now 20 minutes apart instead of 30.
- 51 Édouard-Montpetit: Westbound from 8am-9:30am, departures go from being 15 minutes apart to less than six (a big help to Concordia students wanting to get to Loyola for morning classes). Eastbound, departures from 5:30pm to 8:30pm go from 20 minutes apart to 10.
- 90 Saint-Jacques: Eastbound, headways of about 20 minutes after 9am become 10 minutes until 2pm, and don't increase significantly until after 4pm.
- 97 Mont-Royal: Westbound, from 9am to 2pm, headways are reduced from 20 minutes to 10, and from 2pm to 4pm they're 15 minutes apart. In the mornings, some buses will start from Mount Royal and Fullum (but those east of there will still get service with a wait of no more than 10 minutes).
- 103 Monkland: From 7:30pm to 9pm westbound, headways drop from 20 minutes to 10. There's also noted improvement in weekend schedules.
- 132 Viau: Northbound, headways drop from 15 minutes to 10 from 7pm to 9pm. Southbound, they drop from 15-17 minutes to 10 from 9am to 2pm.
- 187 René-Lévesque: Westbound from 8am to 2:30pm, buses are now 10 minutes apart instead of 20. Same improvement eastbound from 7pm to 9:30pm.
- 193 Jarry: From 6:30am to 5:30pm westbound, wait time has reduced from 12-19 minutes to 10 or less. On Saturdays, from 10am to 3pm, the waits drop from 15-16 minutes to 8 minutes.
- 197 Rosemont: Westbound, from 9:30am to 5:30pm, buses go from being 17-18 minutes apart to 10 or less.
- 470 Express Pierrefonds: Westbound, headways that were 10-20 minutes during the day are now 10 minutes or less from 6am to 9pm. On Sundays from 1pm to 6pm, they're now 20 minutes apart instead of 30.*
The media are focusing a lot on complaints from the union about the new service, mainly because a union representative disrupted the elaborate press conference the STM held. The union's complaint is that this sounds like a guarantee (it's certainly being presented that way) and if a bus doesn't show up in 10 minutes for whatever reason, it's the bus driver that's going to take the verbal (and possibly physical) abuse from angry transit users.
It's a good point, and I have sympathy for drivers who suffer such harassment on a daily basis (mostly for reasons that are entirely out of their control), but it's not so much a complaint against the service improvements as it is against the way the STM has turned them into a gimmick and kind-of guarantee as a PR move.
New "Navette Or": 260 Anjou
The STM has decided to add an eighth bus route to its seniors' shuttles. The 260, which has five departures in each direction midday on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, travels the area around the Galleries d'Anjou. The map and schedule are online (PDF).
470 gets earlier weekend start
In addition to the improvements as part of the "10 minutes max" plan, the 470 is also seeing yet another increase in its operating hours. It will now start earlier in both directions on weekends.
Eastbound, the first buses will depart at 4:37am instead of 6:19am on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Westbound, the first departures from Côte-Vertu will be at 5:30am instead of 6:40am. During those early hours, buses will be 30 minutes apart.
515 drops to offseason schedule
Now that the summer festival season is over, the 515 bus to the Old Port sees a dramatic drop in service. Instead of waiting 10 minutes for a bus, they're now 20 minutes apart, from 6:40/7am to 9:40pm, seven days a week. (Note that service also ends at 9:40pm instead of 1am.)
Train synchronization: Big press for a handful of additions
The STM is making a lot of hay about added service to bus routes serving West Island train stations and how much better that is for West Island transit users. They throw out a bunch of big numbers showing how much bus service there is now, but they don't provide much for comparison.
I looked at the before-and-after schedules for each mentioned bus route, and the results are not exactly breathtaking. Though the two rush-hour-only trainbus routes do get large increases in service, the rest are only adding a departure or two.
- 200 Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue: Two more departures westbound (6:46am, 8:12am from Fairview, arriving at Beaconsfield station at 7am and 8:29am respectively), one more departure eastbound PM (other buses rescheduled to accomodate between 4pm and 6pm)
- 217 Anse-à-l'Orme: Three departures added eastbound between 6am and 8:30am. Two departures added westbound PM (others rescheduled to accomodate)
- 261 Trainbus Saint-Charles: Departures jump from 5 to 9 southbound AM and northbound PM
- 265 Trainbus Ile Bizard: Departures jump from 4 to 7 eastbound AM (meaning about 20 minutes between departures) and 4 to 9 westbound PM (the latter increasing the service hours to 3:30pm-6:53pm)
- 268 Trainbus Pierrefonds: One extra departure eastbound, arriving at Roxboro station at 7:56am (four minutes before the 8am train). The 8:20am departure is pushed up to 8:07am so it arrives in time for the 8:35am train, but this also means 43 minutes until the next bus. No new departures westbound, except second bus of the day is held back by five minutes so it arrives at Roxboro-Pierrefonds after the 7:13am train.
By my count, it's a total of 25 new departures across five bus lines, or 2.5 per line per direction. (The STM's count is apparently 26, so I guess I missed one somewhere.)
What's more, in many cases other departures are simply rescheduled earlier or later to better meet the train, which means the time between buses is no longer uniform. Take, for example, the 268, whose departures from the western terminus are now at 7am, 7:20, 7:31, 7:50, 8:07, 8:50, 9:20, etc. The time between buses is as little as 11 minutes and as much as 43 minutes in that time span whereas before it was a much more predictable 20-30.
Maybe people won't mind that too much, but it's really annoying if you miss that 8:07 bus.
Less peak service on the 80
Mere months after trumpeting the fact that the 80 and 535 would both run during rush hours (instead of the 80 disappearing in favour of the 535), that has quietly been reduced on the schedule. The 80 will still run with the 535 southbound during the morning rush hour, but northbound departures disappear from 7 to 9am and in both directions from about 5pm to about 6:30pm. The 165 southbound also loses departures between 5pm and 6pm weekdays.
Even less service on 183
The 183 Gouin Est, known best for being the bus that has an hour between departures, essentially loses its rush hour. Instead of departures every 30 minutes weekday mornings and afternoons, they're every hour from 6am to 9pm.
- 55 Saint Laurent: Northern terminus moved from Esplanade/Chabanel to Louvain/St-Laurent. Route is unchanged.
- 80/129/535: The routes have now officially changed so that buses take St. Laurent northbound until Ontario, and then westbound to Jeanne-Mance. No more buses through the new Place des Festivals.
New technology on the 467
The 467 Express Saint-Michel is a testing ground for some new technology the STM is installing. Not only was the route itself the result of some serious research into reducing travel time, but ways are being found to bring them down even further. The city is installing priority traffic lights along St. Michel Blvd., which has already seen the addition of reserved bus lanes.
The STM is also using the 467 as the first bus to test an automated stop announcement service. You can see it in action in the above video. Like the metro does underground, the buses have electronic displays that show what the next stop is, and an audio message is played for the benefit of people who can't see the display (or whose eyelids may be too heavy to keep open).
New taxi service in Baie d'Urfé
The STM launched a new collective taxi service in Baie d'Urfé this week (for those unfamiliar, collective taxi services are routes with such little traffic they're served by taxis, but the fares remain the same as a regular bus or metro ride). It's timed to work with the Baie d'Urfé commuter train station. The big downside is that people must reserve their place on the taxi at least an hour in advance. The big upside is that without a set route, it has stops all over Baie d'Urfé.
*UPDATE (Nov. 1): The Gazette's Max Harrold gets the STM to admit it screwed up on the 470 schedule, which has the morning rush hour westbound instead of eastbound.