There are a lot of changes here, and they’re summarized below, but the major themes are these:
- Three new routes (353, 354, 376), all of which existed before – and along similar routes – long ago when night service first began in Montreal. The 353 serves the northeast end of the island, while the other two are express buses to the West Island.
- All routes now operate seven nights a week. No more Friday/Saturday-night-only routes.
- With few exceptions, the maximum wait time between buses is reduced to 45 minutes from an hour.
- The other two West Island routes take dramatic turns halfway through their routes to serve a north-south axis: the 356 along Sources and the 382 along Saint-Jean and Saint-Charles. Before this change, there was no north-south link west of Décarie, which means if someone stayed until 2am at a bar in Ste. Anne de Bellevue and wanted to go home to Pierrefonds, they’d have to take three night routes, including a stop at Atwater, getting home at 4:30am, if they were lucky.
- Four routes are extended to serve the downtown core between Atwater and Frontenac, bringing the total to six. In addition to the 358 Sainte-Catherine and 360 des Pins (which was a Friday-Saturday route) are added the 350 Verdun/LaSalle, the 355 Pie-IX and the 364 Sherbrooke/Joseph-Renaud, all along René-Lévesque, and the 356 Lachine/Mtl-Trudeau/des Sources, which goes along Sherbrooke. This has two main benefits: People who take these routes to get home will require one less transfer, and there will be more night buses travelling through downtown, reducing waiting times for those who want to get to the major hubs of Atwater and Frontenac down to about 15 minutes.
- Hochelaga-Maisonneuve gets night buses on more streets. Before there was just the 364 along Hochelaga and the 355 along Ontario and Ste. Catherine (depending on direction). Now, there are four buses on different streets: 364 on Sherbrooke, 362 on Hochelaga, 355 on Ontario (in both directions) and 353 on Ste. Catherine. All four connect with the Frontenac terminal.
- The 378 Sauvé/Côte-Vertu is extended west to connect to the Trudeau airport terminal.
- The 362 Hochelaga/Notre-Dame is extended west to Frontenac.
With the three new routes, the extension of three others from three to seven days a week, and the increase in frequency, the number of departures goes up pretty dramatically, from 1,368 to 2,009 per week, an increase of 47% (note that this is by my hand count, so it may be off by a few). This doesn’t count the nine routes whose length has been extended, in some cases dramatically. In terms of hours of service, the increase
is probably more than 50% is from 46,000 to 80,000 hours a year, a 73% increase.
The STM calculates that 95% of the people in the Montreal agglomeration now live within one kilometre of a night bus stop. It also estimates that transfers will be reduced by 25%
All changes take effect the night of Monday, June 27, along with changes to day bus schedules. The STM has posted a cute little Flash app showing the various routes.
Why did it take so long?
These changes are a long time coming, and follow some serious public consultation. As a public transit user, it’s hard to be against a huge increase in service. My criticisms, laid out below, are minor compared to the praise for the new service. If anything, my biggest reaction is to ask why it took so long to make these changes, and why the routes we’re bringing back were removed in the first place. (I have the answer to the second question, unfortunately: Ill-advised budget cuts to public transit in the 90s).
As a regular night bus user, I can attest that the service is underused by casual users. There are a few reasons for this:
- confusion – the routes don’t match day routes, and it’s not obvious which ones to take or how and where to transfer
- wait time – in some cases up to an hour between buses, and long waits for transfers
- lack of shelter – this is a problem particularly in winter, but there are few places where one can wait for a night bus indoors
Many people who don’t like what the night bus service offers use alternative forms of transportation. Many take cabs, which is expensive but very convenient (and relatively worry-free when you’re drunk). But many people also prefer to drive home from bars at night, which presents the very obvious risk of drunk driving (and an even higher risk of “buzzed” driving, from those who are convinced they’re just under the legal limit). I don’t know if increasing night bus service will have a major impact on drunk driving stats, but if even a handful of lives are saved because a few people took a night bus instead of driving after a long night at a bar, I’d say it’s worth it.
“It”, by the way, is about $4.4 million, according to STM chair Michel Labrecque.
The new network will come with an advertising campaign to inform riders, which includes wrapped buses, social media, and a campaign organized with Labatt.
Here are the details, route by route (links are to summer PDF Planibus schedules):
The route: Besides serving Lacordaire (which the last bus numbered 353 also served), and closing a pretty big hole in east end service, the 353 also adds much-needed service to Montreal North and Rivière des Prairies. Starting from Frontenac, it takes Ste. Catherine to Viau, to Beaubien, to Lacordaire, to Léger/Perras, Armand-Bombardier and Maurice-Duplessis to share a terminus with the 372.
The schedule: Every 45 minutes. Service is the same seven days a week, except that the first departure is removed on Saturday nights northbound (when day bus and métro service lasts longer).
Review: This route fills a big hole in night service map, particularly in the St. Leonard area. Makes you wonder why they got rid of it in the first place. For those going from downtown to Montreal North, this will probably represent one fewer transfer, and maybe less walking time too.
Departures per week: 69
The route: Much like the 354 of old, this route is designed as a night version of the 211, an express to the West Island. It runs without stopping from Atwater to the Dorval train station (it doesn’t stop at the airport), and then continues along Highway 20 right up to Ste. Anne de Bellevue. This route takes over the western portion of the 356 (see changes to that route below).
The schedule: 35 departures a week in either direction, exactly 45 minutes apart. Identical schedule weeknights and weekends. First departure westbound at 1:45, last one at 4:45am.
Review: The express nature of this route will be great news for West Island kids who spend the night downtown and want to get to their parents’ place before they puke. This route knocks a full 18 minutes off the trip from Atwater to Dorval compared with the 356. But I’m not sure how many of these teens will enjoy walking home late at night from stops next to the highway.
Departures per week: 70
The route: Another night bus route with an express portion, this one starts at Atwater, heads up the Décarie expressway, makes a stop at Namur,
and then is express again down Highway 40 until Halpern St (UPDATE: Despite what the map says, there are stops along Côte de Liesse and Highway 40’s service road). It then takes Sources, de Salaberry, Saint-Jean and Pierrefonds up to Château-Pierrefonds. (West of Saint-Jean, it’s identical to the old 382 route.)
The schedule: Service is every 45 minutes, seven days a week.
Review: A lot of people who take the 470 will be interested by this route, which is largely similar. Considering how much of a huge success the 470 is, one can imagine this being successful as well. It’s also a huge improvement for western Pierrefonds residents, who had to transfer at Côte-Vertu. The worst part is that the 371 was scheduled to arrive at Côte-Vertu one minute before the 382’s departure, and often people would miss their connections, forcing them to wait a full hour at a dark, lonely outdoor bus terminus for the next one. (If I sound bitter, it’s because this has happened to me a couple of times.)
Departures per week: 69
Major route change: Eastern terminus extended from Atwater to Frontenac via René-Lévesque.
Added departures: From 28 to 35 departures eastbound per week. From 33 to 44 departures westbound per week. Time between departures will be no more than about 45 minutes seven days a week, while before they could be as long as an hour apart.
Review: Considering the number of young people who live in Verdun, having this route serve downtown directly will be a welcome change to having to walk to Atwater.
Departures per week: 79, up from 61
Reduced departures: Now five per night instead of six (35 per week instead of 42). Still 45 minutes apart, but starts later (first northbound departure at 1am is effectively deleted) and ends earlier. Weeknight and weekend schedules are the same.
Review: Pie-IX is one of the top five axes for bus traffic, which makes the 355 an excellent choice to extend into downtown.
Departures per week: 70, down from 84
Major route changes: Eastern terminus extended from Atwater to Frontenac via Sherbrooke. Route is the same as before from Atwater to Sources (via Sherbrooke, Elmhurst, St. Jacques, St. Joseph, Georges V, Victoria, Bouchard, Dorval train station, Dorval Airport and Cardinal), but then it heads up Sources Blvd., turns right on Hyman and then up Sunnybrooke to end at the Sunnybrooke train station.
Added departures: Eastbound, from 28 to 35 departures per week, with time between buses reduced from one hour to 45 minutes (identical schedule weeknights and weekends). Westbound, from 32 to 39 departures per week, with time between no more than 45 minutes.
Departures per week: 74, up from 60
No changes to route.
Service is now seven night a week. The Friday night schedule is used for Sunday to Thursday as well, with departures every 45 minutes. Saturday schedule is unchanged.
Departures per week: 68, up from 18
Minor route change: The STM has finally (partially) clued in to the fact that this bus hasn’t followed its assigned route in years because of street closures on Ste. Catherine. A permanent detour, taking René-Lévesque between Union and Berri, bypassing the closure around Place des Arts, has now become part of the official route. But a second detour, between Berri and Papineau during the summer (because of the pedestrianization of Ste. Catherine), isn’t reflected in the official route.
This might seem like a minor issue, but the unmarked detour causes a lot of confusion on a route that sees a lot of confused (and, let’s be honest, drunk) passengers. Many stops on Ste. Catherine didn’t have signs indicating the detour, and many stops on René-Lévesque didn’t have signs indicating the 358 stopped there.
Otherwise, the route is unchanged. Its terminuses remain at Atwater to Frontenac.
Reduced departures: Four departures are deleted in each direction (all on Friday, making service every 15 minutes only from 2:30 to 3:30am instead of from 2 to 5am), to bring the total weekly departures from 71 to 67 eastbound and 70 to 66 westbound. Schedules the rest of the week are unchanged.
Review: The importance of the 358 is diminished by all the other routes serving the downtown core, so it’s not the end of the world that there are fewer buses on Fridays, but it would have been nice to have a more predictable schedule on Saturday nights. The detour around the Gay Village should also be made official (at least in the summer schedule) if it’s going to happen for months every year.
Departures: 133, down from 141
No changes. Route is the same, along Papineau Ave. from top to bottom, and the schedule is every 35 minutes, seven days a week.
Review: This is one of the few routes that doesn’t connect to any major hubs. It wouldn’t take much for it to end at Henri-Bourassa and Frontenac, but it doesn’t. This also looks like a route that could have benefitted greatly from being extended into the downtown core, but it hasn’t been for some reason.
Departures per week: 96
Service is now seven nights a week. Departures are now 45 minutes apart instead of an hour. Schedule is identical seven nights a week.
Major route changes: The western part of this route is unchanged, along Pine Ave. to Atwater. But it no longer takes Sherbrooke St. east of St. Laurent. Instead, it continues along Pine, then takes Berri, Cherrier, Amherst and Ontario to get to Frontenac.
Review: The addition of the 356 downtown means this bus no longer has to serve Sherbrooke. This will be a welcome improvement, particularly in the lower Plateau.
Departures per week: 70, up from 15
No changes. Route is the same, through Old Montreal and up Berri/Saint-Denis/Lajeunessse. Schedule is identical to before.
Review: I admit to some bias because I live on this line and take it home often on non-peak nights (particularly Sundays), but it’s annoying that the STM’s busiest night route, whose departures can be as little as five minutes apart on Friday and Saturday nights, has such poor service on Sunday nights, with service only every 45 minutes. This is especially annoying because the 358 is every 30 minutes, which means two of every three transfers involve long waits.
Departures per week: 154
Major route change: The western terminus is extended from Honoré-Beaugrand to Frontenac, via Hochelaga. East of Honoré-Beaugrand station, the route takes Sherbrooke for a bit before going down Des Ormeaux and back on Hochelaga.
Added departure: Just one, westbound on Saturday nights, making service begin at 1:37 instead of 2:05. All departures remain 45 minutes apart.
Review: Here’s a route where the extension is going to make a real difference. Now, if someone wants to party downtown and lives in Pointe aux Trembles, they need to make only one transfer instead of two.
Departures per week: 69, up from 68
No changes. Route is the same, up St. Laurent and St. Urbain from top to bottom. Schedule is identical, with service about every 45 minutes, but more northbound on Friday and Saturday nights.
Review: For a bus that goes up the Main, this should come more often during the week. But otherwise, it works, so no need to mess with it.
Departures per week: 102
Major route changes: The western terminus has been extended from Frontenac to Atwater via René-Lévesque. The route that was until now named Hochelaga won’t even take that street anymore, so it’s been renamed. Instead, it takes Frontenac up to Sherbrooke (du Havre when southbound) and Sherbrooke all the way to Honoré-Beaugrand. The route northeast of Honoré-Beaugrand is unchanged, taking various streets (including Joseph-Renaud) up to the Centre de transport d’Anjou.
Reduced departures: One extra departure added to each of Friday and Saturday nights eastbound has been removed from the schedule. Service is at every 45 minutes, seven nights a week in both directions.
Review: The extension of the 362 to Frontenac means this is no longer a necessary intermediary between the 358 and 362 for those who are downtown at night and live in the east end. People who live between Frontenac and Honoré-Beaugrand will now be able to take just one bus from downtown.
Departures per week: 71, down from 73
No changes. Route is unchanged, along Park, de l’Acadie and de Salaberry (though, for those who haven’t taken it in a while, note that it still takes St. Laurent northbound instead of Jeanne-Mance until it gets past the Quartier des Spectacles). Schedule is identical, with service every 40 minutes (30 minutes on Saturday nights before 4:20).
Review: 40 minutes is an odd time between departures, and makes transfers less predictable when the other routes are on a 30 or 45-minute schedule.
Departures per week: 84
No changes. Route is unchanged, winding its way from Frontenac through the Plateau, Outremont and Côte des Neiges to Côte Vertu. Schedule is identical, with departures every 45 minutes.
Review: This has always been an awkward route, with far too many turns. It’s disappointing nothing has been done to make it more direct.
Departures per week: 70
Route is unchanged, from Atwater up Côte des Neiges and over to Namur.
Added departures: Service is now at every 20 minutes instead of 30 on Saturday nights northbound, 30 minutes on Saturdays southbound (except first and last departures), and 45 minutes instead of an hour on other nights, in both directions.
Departures per week: 88, up from 75
Service is now seven days a week. Friday night schedule is imported to Sunday-Thursday. Departures are every 45 minutes.
Route is unchanged, going from Côte St. Luc to Honoré Beaugrand via Van Horne and Rosemont.
Departures per week: 76, up from 21
Route is unchanged, going from Atwater through St. Henri, up Girouard and Décarie up to Côte Vertu, and then up to the Centre de transport Saint-Laurent.
Added and deleted departures: The STM isn’t advertising changes to this line, and for good reason: there’s good and bad news here. Service is now every 45 minutes in either direction seven days a week. This means an increase on weeknights and Sunday nights (where it used to be every hour), but a decrease on Saturdays (where it used to be every half hour). Those used to the 371 departing Atwater like clockwork at :30 past the hour will now have to memorize the new schedule, with departures at 2:15, 3 and 3:45.
Review: For a route that serves a metro line and connects two major hubs, this route has a remarkably sparse schedule. Maybe the people who live along it just don’t take night buses. Or maybe they would if it came more often.
Departures per week: 71, up from 62
Route is unchanged, taking Jean-Talon to Anjou, through the Centre de transport d’Anjou, and up to Rivière des Prairies.
Schedule is mostly unchanged, with departures every 45 minutes. A departure is added westbound on each day so service starts around 1:45 instead of around 2:30.
Departures per week: 97, up from 70
Service is now seven days a week. Frequency is also bumped up slightly, with departures every 45-50 minutes instead of every hour.
Major route change: As the name suggests, the western terminus has been extended to Trudeau Airport, via Decarie Blvd. and Côte de Liesse (Highway 520). Note that this route does not stop at the Dorval train station, so there’s no connection with the 354 bus. The eastern portion of the route is unchanged.
Review: Would it be that difficult to have this bus stop at the Dorval station, so those who want to get from St. Laurent to Ste. Anne don’t have to walk across the airport parking lot or take a third bus? Also, there was talk after the 747 airport express bus was launched that a second airport bus would be added along Côte de Liesse. This route would make that less necessary during the overnight hours. But there’s still no daytime route that goes from the St. Laurent area all the way to the airport terminal. (UPDATE: Labrecque says an airport express along this route is still in the STM’s plans.)
Departures per week: 49, up from 13
The route is unchanged, from Côte-Vertu via Côte-Vertu, Henri-Bourassa and Maurice Duplessis to the Centre de transport d’Anjou.
Added departures: Service is now every 45 minutes instead of every hour.
Departures per week: 70, up from 56
Major route changes: Like its counterpart the 356, this route takes a 90-degree turn in order to serve a major north-south artery. In this case, it goes up Saint-Jean, then down Hymus to Saint-Charles, then down to the Beaconsfield train station, for a connection with the 354. The portion of the route west of Saint-Jean is taken over by the 376.
There’s also a change to the other end of the route. The terminus is extended from Côte-Vertu to Namur. This allows for direct connections with the 368, 369 and 372.
Added departures: Service is now every 45 minutes instead of every hour.
Review: The change makes this service kind of U-shaped, and I wonder how many people will enjoy travelling through Pierrefonds to get to Beaconsfield from downtown. But considering how fast night buses are, it’s not the end of the world.
On the plus side, the centre of the West Island was a giant hole in night bus service, and it’s nice to see a north-south route here. It’s also the closest night buses have been to Fairview in a long time. It was once served by the old 376, and though the 382 doesn’t appear to serve the Fairview bus terminal itself (which makes sense, since the mall is closed and there’s nothing to transfer to), it’s nice that there’s service in that area again.
Departures per week: 56, up from 45
515 bus cuts off useless René-Lévesque leg
On the day side, very little has changed in the summer bus schedules. The only major thing I’ve seen so far is that, as expected, the 515 bus serving the Old Port has had an underused portion along René-Lévesque Blvd. cut off, so it’s now U-shaped instead of a loop. The STM has known for quite a while that this portion of the route was pointless, but kept it anyway, mainly because it was along the route of a proposed tramway.
Unfortunately, the STM is still using a colour-coded system to tell the directions apart, though they are now labelling them East and West. Hopefully this route will eventually start being treated like any other, which will reduce confusion and increase ridership.
What do you think?
Let’s start the discussion with something useful: Would these changes make you more likely to consider taking a night bus home than, say, a cab, driving, waiting for someone to drive you or just crashing at a friend’s place?
UPDATE: CIBL has a short interview with the STM’s Michel Tremblay on the night bus improvements.