On Friday, the STM finally gave details about its four new West Island express buses set to launch April 2, just over a week from now.
They were designed partly as a way to mitigate the coming traffic disaster that is the Turcot Interchange rebuilding, and partly to convince more West Islanders to start using public transit during rush hour.
As a West Island boy myself, and someone who commuted downtown for five years, I'm very familiar with the transit service there and understand the frustrations of people who live in that part of the island and work in the city. I had been waiting for years for a bus like the 470 Express Pierrefonds - a direct shuttle bus between the Fairview bus terminal and the Côte-Vertu metro station - and was very unsurprised when it turned into a huge hit with riders, quickly expanding from a rush-hour-only route to one that operates all day, seven days a week.
The Planibus schedules of the new routes are online. The 475 is here (PDF) and the rest are packaged together here (PDF). None of the buses run past 7pm or on weekends. But as we saw with the 470, if there is a lot of interest in these lines, the STM will eventually extend their service.
Here's an idea of what each of the four new routes is like, and my feelings about them:
405 Express Bord-du-Lac
Route: From the MacDonald terminus near John Abbott College to Lionel-Groulx metro station. The route is virtually identical to the 211, so much so that I wonder what the point of it is. The only difference is that it takes Highway 20 non-stop from St. Charles Blvd. (it doesn't stop at the Beaconsfield train station) to Dorval, except for a stop at St. Jean.
Schedule: Departures about every 20 minutes from 6am to 7pm in both directions.
Target clientele: People who live along Lakeshore/Beaconsfield west of St. Charles who find the 211 too slow.
Bottom line: The 211 is already an express bus east of Dorval, and it already has an express doubler in the 411 (formerly 221). The part of the 405 east of St. Charles is virtually identical to the 411, and the part west is identical to the 211. I have a hard time figuring out what this route offers that isn't already available on the 211 or 411.
425 Express Anse-à-l'Orme
Route: From the Anse-à-l'Orme/Timberlea terminus down Chemin Sainte-Marie and Beaconsfield's Sherbrooke St. to the Beaconsfield train station. East of Beaconsfield Blvd. and St. Charles, the route is identical to the 211, including the deviation through Carson St. in Dorval.
Schedule: Departures 20-30 minutes apart, eastbound from 5:40am to noon, westbound from noon to 7pm.
Target clientele: People who live in Kirkland and Beaconsfield between the two highways, in an area right now served only by the 217.
Bottom line: Because the 217 doesn't go anywhere besides Fairview, this route should be a welcome addition for people who live near Chemin Sainte-Marie and Sherbrooke in Kirkland and Beaconsfield. But I don't get the detour through Carson in Dorval, especially for an express bus (I don't get why it's done for the 211 either).
475 Express Dollard-des-Ormeaux
Route: From the Dollard Civic Centre near Lake and de Salaberry (where parking is being made available to commuters), along Highway 40 to the Côte Vertu metro station (south entrance, where West Island buses used to stop and Laval buses do now). The entire trip is 23 minutes.
Schedule: Every 15 minutes exactly from 6am to 9am eastbound and from 3:30pm to 6:30pm westbound.
Target clientele: People with cars who live in Dollard des Ormeaux near Sources Blvd.
Bottom line: Commuters who live east of St. Jean, and particularly near Sources, have had to either double back to Fairview to take the 470, or take buses like the 206, 208 or 209
or 214 and transfer at Roxboro or Dorval. An express network hasn't really been built with them in mind. This new bus might prove to be more popular than the STM imagines, leading to a 470-like quick expansion (the schedule is rather disappointing, especially considering the service on the other new routes announced). But while the 470 stops at a major terminus, the only other bus serving the Dollard civic centre is the 208. Let's hope the STM thought to put stops at Sources so there are transfer points with the 209 and 214.
485 Express Antoine Faucon
Route: From the new extension of Pierrefonds Blvd. past Château-Pierrefonds, via Antoine Faucon, St. Charles, Brunswick, de Salaberry, St. Jean (with a stop at Fairview), then non-stop along Highway 20 (except a stop at the Dorval terminus) until Lionel-Groulx.
Schedule: Varying from 10 to 30 minutes apart, from 5:30am to 7pm eastbound, and 6am to 7pm westbound. During the height of rush hour, only half the buses do the route west of Fairview.
Target clientele: People who live in western Pierrefonds but aren't walking distance from the 470 on Pierrefonds Blvd. and/or who prefer a bus to a metro station closer to downtown.
Bottom line: The interesting part of this route isn't the part west of Fairview, since the route is almost identical to that of the 218, but rather the fact that it's the first time that the Fairview terminus is connected directly to a downtown metro station. Having often taken a 202/211 trip to Lionel-Groulx in the days before the 470, I can understand the benefit of this to people who work downtown. I could see this becoming very popular for that part (just like many people take the 470 only from Fairview to Côte-Vertu), which might encourage more people to take public transit and take some pressure off the 470 and 211/411. For people along the existing 218 route, and along St. Jean between the highways, this provides a transfer-less way downtown.
New routes are great, but of course they're useless if everyone taking the buses just gets stuck in the same rush-hour traffic as everyone else. To mitigate that, reserved bus lanes are being installed:
- St. Jean, from Pierrefonds to Highway 40: Buses and multiple-occupant vehicles (2+). Southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon. To be done this summer.
- Pierrefonds, from Jacques Bizard to St. Jean: Buses and taxis only. Eastbound during the morning only. To be done this fall or spring 2013.
- Highway 20, from 55th Ave. to 1st Ave.: Buses only. 24/7 in both directions. To be done this fall or spring 2013.
In addition, there's existing reserved lanes on St. Patrick and Notre-Dame which will allow the buses serving Lionel-Groulx to avoid Highway 20 traffic east of 1st Ave.
The STM also says Lionel-Groulx will have a new terminus, that will accommodate these three new routes and make things easier (and maybe less confusing) for transit users.