Analysis: STM’s new West Island express buses

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.

Reserved lanes

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.

35 thoughts on “Analysis: STM’s new West Island express buses

  1. mike

    Please check the facts: 211 do not stop at the Beaconsfield train station. Lakeshore is a slow street: full of stop signs and 30 km/h zones. From Beaconsfield to Lionel-G it takes 45 minutes using 211. The new bus will make…..the same time?
    What’s the point of all this new lines to stop at Dorval circle? Is a waste of time.

    A smart move wil be to ad more buses for 411 line outside rush hours and weekends.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      211 do not stop at the Beaconsfield train station

      This is correct. The 411 does, however.

      Lakeshore is a slow street: full of stop signs and 30 km/h zones.

      This is true. But it’s also where people live, so there isn’t much getting around this. People who want an express from Ste. Anne de Bellevue can take the 411, which bypasses this and takes Highway 20.

      From Beaconsfield to Lionel-G it takes 45 minutes using 211. The new bus will make…..the same time?

      It’ll be a bit shorter. It takes Highway 20 east of St. Charles and doesn’t detour into the city of Dorval. The trip should take about 40 minutes, though longer during rush hour.

      What’s the point of all this new lines to stop at Dorval circle? Is a waste of time.

      Everything stops at the Dorval terminus, and it’s an important transfer point. It collects people from the 202, 203, 204 and 209 buses, and it’s also where you can transfer to buses like the 460 that head up Highway 520.

      A smart move wil be to ad more buses for 411 line outside rush hours and weekends.

      I think the 211 is the one that could be rethought. It’s a non-express express, which I think is the reason they created this new line. It’s the fastest way to this part of the West Island, but it sends everyone through local streets in Dorval and Pointe Claire. Rather than trying to be everything, it could concentrate on being just an express bus for Dorval and Pointe Claire, taking Lakeshore like the old 212 did, and leave Beaconsfield and Baie d’Urfé to this new 405. (Of course that would require the 405 being an all-day bus.) The 411 would remain the express for Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

      A smart move wil be to ad more buses for 411 line outside rush hours and weekends.

      Maybe, but does the current ridership number call for it? Its use right now is as an express to the big transfer points (Dorval, St. Jean, Beaconsfield) and an express to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, which is a small town where most people have cars.

      1. Raffi

        Making the 411 an all-day bus would not be feasible, plus you’d probably still have backlash from residents living near Morgan St. in Baie d’urfe!

  2. Shawn

    Sorry, why would people who take the 214 need to “transfer at Roxboro or Dorval”? The 214 goes to the du College metro, as you know.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Sorry, why would people who take the 214 need to “transfer at Roxboro or Dorval”? The 214 goes to the du College metro, as you know.

      Woops, you’re right. I was thinking more of the 209.

  3. Jason

    As I will be taking the 485 in a bit over a week, the only small change I would make is dumping the whole Salaberry detour. There are already two buses that do this, they are the 207 (second half) & the 218.

    A straight shot on Brunswick from St. Charles to Fairview would be faster. The rest of the route looks fine and I very much look forward to taking that bus. My favorite part of this route is that it the last bus from downtown is a 7:00PM. People who work retail hours are not going to be left out in the cold for a change.

    The 218 as you said does almost the same route but the last 218 bus from Fairview is around at 6:56PM, there just is no way of getting to Fairview by 6:56PM if you finish work at 6:00PM downtown unless you have a car. :)

    The STM & the city of Pierrfonds should also let more people know about the already existing west island “Park & Ride” lot. Granted it is unofficial but myself and a few other people use it. There is a small park in Pierrefonds located on Gouin which has a decent sized parking lot. This park is located directly across the street from the Usine de filtration (Water Filtration Plant) and it just happens to be the morning terminus (or starting point) of the 468 & 470. You can even catch the 401 and the 218 from this stop.

    Before you ask, I called the city of Pierrefonds about the rules and they told me it wasn’t a problem using the lot (for taking the bus) so long as I don’t overnight park. Call the city yourself ask if you are worried.

    I hope I am not giving away a big secret by sharing this bit of info.

  4. Marc

    I was going to say…there’s a lot of land at Lionel Groulx metro. It’s high time for a proper bus station.

  5. Philip

    It would just seem like the 405 need not stop off by the Dorval Circle stop. Those starting downtown, westbound, have all the options in the world to get to Dorval. While it can be reasoned that West Islanders often get off in Dorval, a) they still have the 211 and 411, but more importantly, b) these express routes are to ease Turcot congestion, i.e. attract users who will skip driving across the interchange. I don’t see any need for new routes to get West Islanders to Dorval, the 411 and 211 are plenty. Now the people who’ll take the 405 to avoid the nonsense of interchange traffic have to make a long detour into Dorval?

    These express buses are there to serve a purpose, and but they’re catering to people outside of the targeted group. Nothing wrong with this, but just seems like an additional 10 minutes killed. I’m a little turned off only because my daily commute consists of 211/411 and the Dorval circle is something I’d prefer to avoid, for time.

  6. Charlie

    Don’t quite get why the 405 wouldn’t stop at Pointe-Claire train station. It’s pretty much on the highway and will barely cost any time.
    The same could be said about Pine Beach (westward only) but it could in theory follow the 411 line down the service road eastward.

  7. JJ

    I really get the concept of the three new express buses to/from Lionel-Groulx Metro, and its a start for the mitigation plans. I live near the new 485 and I will likely try it out.
    – The 405 is intended to shave significant time in contrast to the local 211 by bypassing Pointe-Claire Village and Dorval Gardens Mall. That is clear.
    – The 425 complements the 211 as a semi-express and I think it will also attract intra-local users mid-morning (not going to downtown). At least this takes out the two transfers or walking under Highway 20 on St-Charles to access the 211 (though it would be nice a regular line could offer this off-peak despite the low population density). Kirkland’s Timberlea sector and Beaconsfield (north-west) haven’t had a direct bus connection with the 211 for over 25 years since the early days of the network when the 201 first served the area before the 206, then the 217.
    – The 485 will have benefits for transit users from Kirkland north and the Antoine-Faucon sector as it offers a direct alternative to the 201 off-peak to Fairview. Those on St-Jean Blvd in Pointe-Claire might love this bus route which will eliminate a transfer at Fairview to go to de Salaberry, and also with the 211 to downtown. As well, transferring at Dorval to go to Lachine and Lasalle will be a great time saver versus the 202 from Fairview.

    My concerns and suggestions:
    – I’m puzzled by the new 211 schedule, effective April 2nd. The new measures makes the 211 no longer a 10 minute-MAX route, and the frequency is every 18-20 minutes which suggest the new 405 and 425 will run in-between the 211 departures. As well, between 7pm and 9:15pm after the last 405 and 425 is scheduled westbound, frequency from Lionel-Groulx Metro is 18-20 minutes instead of maintaining it at every 5 to 8 minutes. At least it is more frequent after 9pm like it is now. Early evening transit users especially students will be very unhappy and I think this was an error. I hope the STM will notice this situation and correct the schedule.
    – As for the 218 which runs peak hours only, and identical to the 485. I believe if the 485 is successful and the ridership on the 218 declines (it is low already), it wouldn’t be long before the 218 may be modified. I’ve been hoping the STM would introduce a local full-day bus route from the Antoine-Faucon sector to operate via Hymus Boulevard which creates a direct line to Fairview via with no transfers to shops, schools and services with serves a larger pool of residents (without taking the long 201 loop or transferring at Hymus and St-Charles).

    There are going to be some inconveniences at the start as some people so use to taking the current bus routes prior to these new express buses test the waters, then probably something will give or take relating to them and also the local network later on.

    1. Jason

      Not all of the 485s will go to Antoine Faucon, if you look at the schedule it appears that every other bus will go all the way west with the other half stopping at Fairview.

      I say ditch the 218 altogether. With whatever money the STM saves by doing so, using part of the cash to make every 485 go all the way west. In fact, do it one step further and change the route of the 485 so that its starting point is the same as the 470 and the 468 at the Usine de filtration (Water Filtration Plant).

      Here is my version of the new combined route.
      1) Start at the Usine de filtration. Take Gouin westbound until you reach Palomino. –> From this vantage point, you can see the parking lot on the left and the Usine de filtration on the right.

      2) Follow Palomino until it reaches Pierrefonds boul. -> rue Palomino should be dead center on the map

      3) The rest of the route will stay the same as the 485.

      This way, we can remove the 218 altogether and if anybody wants to use the unofficial “Park & Ride” at the Usine de filtration they still can.
      This version of the route also better serves the new neighborhood near rue Palomino.

      Just my 0.02

      1. JJ

        It’s thoughtful. However, take note Palomino at Gouin Blvd is really narrow with some curves which will not only pose operational challenges for buses, it might be unwelcomed by some residents in the Heritage-sur-le-Lac neighbourhood. Some buses on the 68 last year or before that had to detour on this street when part of Gouin Blvd was closed for the installation of a new water main pipe. As for the 218, we’ll see what develops with ridership – then the STM will best decide its future: whether abolish, reroute or even merge with another route through Fairview. A 30-minute interval for the 485 on Antoine-Faucon between 9:30am and 3pm is a start towards Fairview (no need for the 201) and gives some locals direct access to the shops on St-Charles north. It will be outside the peak hours and weekend that really needs some restructuring locally later on.

    2. Antoine Thomasset-Laperrière

      The 211 schedule will be revised so that evening service will be offerred with its former headways, about 6 bus per hour, rather than the 3 that were scheduled starting Apr. 2nd.

  8. pefder magfrok

    can people buy single use tickets for these buses anywhere on west island? Or is the opus card the only option? I like to have a bunch of single use tickets available for occasional use but since the introduction of the opus card it is impossible to buy single use tickets outside of the metro stations. An opus card does not tell you that you have x number of trips left, and it doesn’t let you give a ticket to a friend. If the STM want to gets more people on to the bus, they need to expand, not contract, ticketing options. And I personally will never buy one of those trip-tracking spy cards they call the Opus card! I love the pack of six single use tickets. Too bad the STM makes it very hard for me to use the “transport cocktail” of walking, bus/metro, bike and car where each is appropriate and advantageous for different types of trips.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      can people buy single use tickets for these buses anywhere on west island? Or is the opus card the only option?

      You can buy single-use tickets on the buses themselves if you have exact change.

      An opus card does not tell you that you have x number of trips left, and it doesn’t let you give a ticket to a friend.

      When you use an Opus card, the reader tells you how many trips are left. You can also stick it into any Opus machine to find out. And assuming you’re not using the card, you can hand it to a friend for them to use it.

      And I personally will never buy one of those trip-tracking spy cards they call the Opus card!

      Why not? Unless you register it (which is entirely optional), the STM has no way of tying the Opus card information to its holder. It doesn’t know your name, your address, or anything else about you other than what buses you take (assuming they track that information).

  9. Zack

    The 475 could have been better drawn out and given a better schedule (maybe next fall), either give the 409 or 475 a little midday service sick of going to Fairview or Pierrefonds Boul. The 485 looks very good, if any of these 4 end up with a better schedule in the future I think this one will get it I would use it, express from Fairview to Lionel Groulx awesome. The 425 looks good gives more service to the people in that area. The 405 I don’t see the point of it 211 and 411 already in service.

  10. Mark

    1) you can buy single use tickets at fairview during the week.

    2) the 475 is a great bus idea for people in DDO, I just wish it ran more often!!

  11. Natasha

    I’d be more excited about the 475 Express Dollard-des-Ormeaux to Cote Vertu if it ran all day, and if we didn’t already have the 409 that goes to Du College (also only runs at rush hour). In the afternoon coming to the West Island from Du College takes around 20 minutes so there’s hardly any point in taking this new bus (if you’re coming from the metro to the WI). In my experience the 409 in the morning takes a bit longer, around 40 min from Sources Blvd to Du College so maybe the 475 would be useful then, if it’s only a 23 min ride.

    During the day, people living near Brunswick can also take the 215 to Cote Vertu though it takes much longer. So the new bus would make much more sense if it ran all day because that’s when commuters would actually need an express route.

  12. Jean Naimard

    The 211 local detour on Carson is a holdover from before the Dorval bus terminal was built, what? 30 years ago already??? Boy do I feel old suddenly…

    There was no other way of having the bus stop at Dorval but to use the city streets.

  13. Toby

    The 475 DDO express has proven to be a great way to get to and from cote vertu. However, since beginning to take it on april 2nd, I have never seen more that 4 people (excluding myself) on the bus. This either means that it isn’t necessary to commuters in the Des Sources / DDO area, or more likely, that not many people know about it yet. I hope that the STM tries to advertise it further (at cegeps and universities perhaps) before they decide to scale back the service, since it makes no sense to have a bus running every 15 minutes for a couple of people while riders on the 470 are packed like sardines.

  14. Jason

    I have taken the 485 a total of four times now, Twice on Monday, Twice on Tuesday.
    The route is fine and the bus is actually faster than I thought it would be.

    I have the make the same comment that Toby just did. The bus is empty. When I took it on Monday, I was the forth person on the bus. (I take it near the beginning of its route). Once I got to Fairview, three people got off and I was alone on the bus from Fairview all the way the Lionel-Groux.

    Monday evening it was a bit better. When I got on at Lionel-Groux, I think there were around 10 people. After Fairview, that number dropped to under five.

    Tuesday was more or less the same thing in the morning and in the afternoon. There were a couple of extra people, not much more. I really hope that more people start to use this line. I don’t want to lose it. That being said, I hope it never gets packed like sardines.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I have the make the same comment that Toby just did. The bus is empty.

      I’m trying to remember what the 470 was like when it first started. I think it started pretty light at first, but picked up pretty quickly. We’re only in the third day of the 485, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Give it a few weeks. If it hasn’t picked up to an average of about 20-25 by summer, then I’d start to get worried about its future. But I think the 485 is one of the better buses in this plan because of the direct Fairview-Lionel-Groulx connection.

  15. Norm Wong

    I live in the Heritage-sur-le-Lac development near the start of the 485 route. The next closest bus is the 68 on Gouin, but is a 10 minute walk away.

    My preference would be to take a bus to an AMT train station (Beaconsfield or Roxboro-Pierrefonds). I believe this would get more vehicles off the roads than the winding tour taken by the current 485 route. I’m not sure why it idles at Dorval for 15 minutes on its East bound trip in the morning. Nobody gets on or off.

    I would consider a bus/metro option if it can get me downtown within an hour. The 485 takes 1.5 hours just to get to Lionel-Groulx. I tried it a few times and never see more than 10 customers on the bus.

    In contrast, the AMT train from Deux-montange is too successful with customers packed in very tightly.

    It will be interesting to see what STM has planned on the new boulevard being constructed from Gouin down to the Autoroute 40 near the Kirkland Colliseum (Chemin Ste-Marie).

    Nice blog series.

  16. ROSIE



    1. Fagstein Post author

      The 411 or 405 will get there in about 45 minutes, or the 211 in about an hour, if you’re outside of rush hour. You can use Google Maps to get details.

  17. Pingback: Catbus» Blog Archive » Montreal Frequent Service Map – Update

  18. Patrick

    I think that the West Island express buses are a great idea.

    However, why is the frequency of the 211 increased so much
    outside of peak hours (5-10 min), only to be diminished so sharply
    during AM and PM peak (20 min)? (211 west from Lionel Groulx) (211 east from Macdonald Campus)

    It seems more sensible to maintain an average frequency of 15 min for the 211 (in both directions),
    with modest increase in frequency during rush hours.

    1. Raffi

      …That would mean too many buses for one route. This is not like the 69 or the 139, because most of the stops on the 211 are twinned with, or are a short distance from a bus that will take you to (and from) the metro faster.

      1. Patrick

        All right, then.
        Why not a consistent frequency of 20 min for the 211 (till 7 pm),
        instead of a sharp decrease in frequency during the rush hours?


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