Category Archives: Public transit

Posted in Public transit

STM rate hikes 2008-2014

$TMAs usual, the STM was late in announcing its fares for the upcoming year. (Though there were mitigating circumstances, including the appointment of a new board after the municipal election and the delays in finding out exactly how much the agency was getting from the city.)

And as usual, there are complaints that the fares are too high (even though they’re much lower than other cities) or that the STM is wasting money (executive compensation is always a favourite target, even though it represents a very small part of the budget).

But are the fare hikes unreasonable? The STM says the fare is going up 3.2% this year, which is above the rate of inflation. On the other hand, users are getting more services as a result. There are more hours of bus service, plus large capital expenditures on new metro trains that should come by the end of 2014.

The agency also announced (probably to take some pressure off the rate hike) that the timetable for the installation of wireless infrastructure in the metro would be accelerated, and that the first downtown sections of tunnel would be part of the big four’s wireless networks by the end of 2014.

Here is some quantitative data on how fares have changed since 2008. It shows that the single fare, which remains frozen at $3 for 2014, stayed below the rate of inflation. But almost every other fare was far higher than that, with some fares increasing more than 30% since 2008.

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Posted in Public transit

2013-14 guide to holiday transit service

As I have in previous years, I ask that you have some sympathy for the bus, metro or train driver, station attendant or other employee who has to work during the holidays — some on Christmas morning, some through midnight on New Year’s Eve — just so that you can get you from point A to point B in the dark, wet, snowy mess that is the last week of the year.

And with this holiday season being even more snowy than normal, consider that buses will be late or possibly not even show up at all, and plan your transit trips accordingly.

Here’s what there is to expect as far as schedule changes this week and next:

STM (Montreal, including the entire metro)

Note that from Dec. 20 to Jan. 5, the STM offers its Family Outings plan, which allows an adult to bring up to five children under 12 to ride for free with a fare-paying adult. (Normally this is allowed only during weekends and statutory holidays.) This does not apply to the 747 bus.

  • Monday, Dec. 23 and Tuesday, Dec. 24:
    • Buses and metro service will follow a regular weekday schedule.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 25:
    • Bus routes will run on a Sunday schedule.
  • Thursday, Dec. 26:
    • Bus routes will run on a Saturday or special holiday schedule.
    • Metro service will run on a special schedule, with additional trains added to the Orange and Green lines to accommodate rabid Boxing Day shoppers.
  • Dec. 27-30: Normal schedules for all services.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31:
    • Buses, metro and taxi service will follow a regular weekday schedule.
    • As usual, there’s no extension of metro service despite how many people are out celebrating New Year’s Eve. Last trains of the night leave the two blue line terminuses at 12:15am, in all five directions from Berri at 1:00am and from Longueuil at 1:00am.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 1:
    • Bus routes will follow Sunday schedules..
  • Thursday, Jan. 2:
    • Bus routes and metro trains will follow a Saturday or special holiday schedule.

Special rules for adapted transit are in place from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.

Note that Opus cards can be recharged at any point after Dec. 20.

STL (Laval)

As usual, the STL offers free transit on its buses on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and is collecting donations instead.

Holiday schedules were apparently misstated in their printed schedules. The correct information is:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 24: Saturday schedule. Free service on all routes.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 25:
    • Sunday schedule for all routes.
    • The following will only have service from 11am to 9pm: 12, 20, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 37, 39, 40, 45, 46, 58, 61, 63, 65, 66, 74, 144 and 903.
    • All other routes will have full regular Sunday service.
  • Thursday, Dec. 26: Saturday schedules in effect for all routes.
  • Dec. 27-30: Regular schedules for all routes according to the day of the week.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31: Saturday schedule. Free service on all routes.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 1:
    • Sunday schedule for all routes.
    • The following will only have service from 11am to 9pm: 12, 20, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 37, 39, 40, 45, 46, 58, 61, 63, 65, 66, 74, 144 and 903.
    • All other routes will have full regular Sunday service.
  • Thursday, Jan 2: Saturday schedule for all routes.

RTL (Longueuil)

Like the STL, the RTL is offering free service for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and is asking for donations in lieu of fares.

From their PDF guide:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 24 (free service): Saturday schedule for most routes, except:
    • Additional departures will be added to the following routes: 8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 23, 32, 35, 42, 44, 45, 47, 54, 73, 77, 80, 81, 83, 90, 99, 123, T77.
    • Regular weekday service or 91, 92, T22, T23 and T89.
    • The 177 will not run, replaced by the 77 which will offer special holiday service with departures every 30 minutes.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 25: Sunday schedule for all routes
  • Thursday, Dec. 26: Saturday schedules for most routes, except:
    • Saturday schedule with additional departures on lines 8, 35, 45, 80.
    • Weekday schedule for taxi lines T22 and T89.
  • Dec. 27-30: Regular service for all routes according to the day of the week
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31 (free service): Saturday schedule for all routes, except:
    • Additional departures will be added to the following routes: 8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 23, 32, 35, 42, 44, 45, 47, 54, 73, 77, 80, 81, 83, 90, 99, 123, T77.
    • Regular weekday service or 91, 92, T22, T23 and T89.
    • The 177 will not run, replaced by the 77 which will offer special holiday service with departures every 30 minutes.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 1:
    • Sunday schedule for all routes
  • Thursday, Jan. 2:
    • Saturday schedules for all routes, with additional departures on lines 8, 35, 45, 80.

AMT (commuter trains)

The AMT offers free trips on the three lines that operate on Christmas and New Year’s — Vaudreuil/Hudson, Deux-Montagnes and Saint-Jérôme.

  • Tuesday, Dec. 24: Regular weekday service on all lines
  • Wednesday, Dec. 25:
    • Sunday service on all lines that operate Sundays (all trips are free)
  • Thursday, Dec. 26:
    • Saturday service on Montreal/Deux-Montagnes
    • Sunday service on Montreal/Vaudreuil and Saint-Jérôme lines
    • No service on other lines
  • Dec. 27-30: Regular service on all lines according to the day of the week
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31: Regular weekday service on all lines
  • Wednesday, Jan. 1:
    • Sunday service on all lines that operate Sundays (all trips are free)
  • Thursday, Jan. 2:
    • Saturday service on Montreal/Deux-Montagnes
    • Sunday service on Montreal/Vaudreuil and Saint-Jérôme lines
    • No service on other lines

Customer service at the AMT will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Posted in Opinion, Public transit

The real problem with Philippe Schnobb and the STM board

STM board of directors: politicians and failed politicians

STM board of directors: politicians and failed politicians

When news came out that Denis Coderre planned to appoint Philippe Schnobb as chair of the STM, there was some controversy. Projet Montréal councillors objected to the fact that Schnobb, a former Radio-Canada journalist, has no experience in public transit and no experience managing a large corporation. The fact that this was a patronage appointment — Schnobb ran for Coderre, losing to Richard Bergeron — just made it worse.

But one thing that hasn’t gotten as much attention (though it was mentioned at the city council meeting) is the nature of Schnobb’s appointment as the transit users’ representative on the STM board.

The STM board has 10 members, of whom six are Montreal city councillors, one represents a demerged municipality within the STM’s territory, and three represent transit users (of them, one represents paratransit users and another, recently added, represents users under age 35).

But these three positions are not elected by the transit users. Instead, they’re appointed by the agglomeration council, with no requirement to consult transit users first. And that opens the door to political patronage.

In 2005, Brenda Paris ran for a city council seat for Gérald Tremblay’s Montreal Island Citizens’ Union party. She lost to Line Hamel of Vision Montreal. She had already been on the STM’s board as the transit users’ representative. She was kept in that position even though she was effectively a politician, eventually becoming the president of the party. In 2009, I said this was an inappropriate use of this post.

In 2009, Michel Labrecque ran for the Plateau borough mayor’s job for Tremblay’s Union Montreal with the understanding that he would continue to head the STM, a job he had for less than a year while a city councillor. He lost to Luc Ferrandez of Projet Montréal. But Tremblay kept him on anyway, making him the transit users’ representative in addition to chair of the STM board. (Paris also lost in this election, but by then she had switched parties.) Again, I wrote that this was inappropriate. I like Labrecque, and believe he actually did a good job as STM chair, but that doesn’t make it less wrong that he was taking a seat meant for someone else.

In 2013, Philippe Schnobb ran for a city council seat for Denis Coderre’s team. He lost to Richard Bergeron. But Coderre did what had been done for Brenda Paris and Michel Labrecque, using the transit users’ representative post as a loophole to get Schnobb on the STM board.

Schnobb’s appointment raises a lot of questions. Was he promised this job as a failsafe if he didn’t get elected? (Returning to journalism is hard after running in a political campaign.) What, other than loyalty to a party, convinced Coderre that Schnobb was a good choice? Is this yet another indication that Coderre has no interest in changing the way politics are run at Montreal city hall?

I don’t object to Schnobb sitting on the STM board. That board has had plenty of people with questionable qualifications and lacklustre interest in public transit. He might even do a great job. But if this position on the board is going to be filled only with failed politicians as patronage appointments, then let’s cut the bullshit and just call it the failed politicians’ representative.

The issue isn’t just a semantic one. As great as Labrecque was as a chairperson, and as patient and inviting as he was during question period at STM board meetings, or with individual users he ran into on the bus or metro, Labrecque never really comported himself as a spokesperson for transit users, or a link between them and the STM. He was the STM. He never made any formal effort to consult with the people he was supposed to be representing, outside of the same internal methods that all STM board members use. If that system was broken, there’s no way he’d ever know. His contact information was never published on the STM’s website — not even an email address. Actual transit users had no way to get in touch with him directly unless they went to a meeting or ran into him on the street.

I also believe that the nature of Labrecque’s appointment, and Paris’s before him, resulted in a lack of transparency on the STM board. In all the meetings I’ve attended, never once has anyone cast a vote opposing a motion. Never once as anyone debated a motion. Never once has a vote even been called. Everything is approved unanimously, without discussion. Everything, without exception, is rubber-stamped.

Take the last STM board meeting. After some announcements and a question period, the formal meeting begins. It lasts exactly five minutes and 45 seconds, the time it takes to read, occasionally explain, and approve 20 motions. That works out to about 17 seconds each.

This is typical of the STM board. And is a symptom of the groupthink that pervades the organization’s administration.

Another symptom is the STM’s formal transparency issues. The complete lack of discussion about motions proposed at board meetings is reflected in the list of motions that’s published sometimes only hours before a meeting, and which provide very little information. After a meeting once, I approached the secretary to ask for a document that was passed at the meeting, a change to a bus route. I was told that I had to file a formal access-to-information request. (At the time, those requests could only be filed by written letter or by fax.)

Let me repeat that: In order to find out what the STM board had just approved before me minutes before, I had to formally file an access to information request. Just to find out what the nature was of a bus route change, I had to write a letter and perhaps wait weeks for a response.

As far as I’m aware, this policy remains. None of the documents approved at the latest meeting are available on the STM website, nor are they available for reading if you go to the meetings in person.

And I can’t ask my transit users’ representative what he just voted to approve, because he’s also the chair of the STM, and politically tied to the government in power.

I honestly believe that if there was someone sitting on the STM’s board that was there to seriously represent transit users, these issues would have been resolved long ago.

Again, I think Labrecque did a good job as the STM’s chair, except on the issue of transparency. (And maybe their awful media relations, but that’s a bit of inside baseball.) And if the agglomeration of Montreal wants to replace one of those city councillor seats with an open seat they can fill with political losers, be my guest.

But giving the title “transit users’ representative” to someone who citizens didn’t even want sitting on city council, and then on top of that making that person the chair of the board despite a glaring lack of qualifications… It’s just wrong.

When Labrecque was appointed, I referred to it as a “giant ‘fuck you’ to users.” I was really tempted to use the same vulgar language here. Philippe Schnobb does not represent me any more than Marvin Rotrand or Richard Bergeron (either of whom by the way would have made much better choices for STM chair). And experience with Schnobb’s predecessors has shown me that he’s unlikely to make an effort to try to care about my interests.

It’s unfortunate that one of Coderre’s first acts as mayor has been to repeat a political manoeuvre of his predecessor, and to put the needs of his political team first, at the expense of the people he’s supposed to be serving.

UPDATE: The STM’s executive puts out a statement praising Labrecque and the accomplishments the corporation has made over his tenure.

Meanwhile, La Presse has an interview with Labrecque, and Radio-Canada talks to Schnobb, who says he’s willing to publish his personal email address to increase communication with transit users.

Posted in Montreal, Opinion, Public transit

Numbers — not politics — is why the metro should extend toward the east first

When the PQ government made a big-splash announcement that the blue line of Montreal’s metro would be extended toward the east, plenty of anglophones took the opportunity to once again complain that there’s no extension toward the west.

To them, the reason was simple: politics. The PQ is more interested in francophone voters in St-Léonard than anglophones in the West Island, they argue, and so the West Island will never get improved transit service as long as the PQ is in power.

The problem is that the logic doesn’t hold up.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of politics involved in high-cost consumer-oriented projects like this. And there’s plenty of politics involved in this particular announcement. But let’s set a few things straight before we come to incorrect conclusions:

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Posted in Opinion, Public transit

Don’t blame STM employees for doing their jobs

STM bus En Transit

When I was younger, considering my options for a future career, I thought of being a bus driver. I enjoy public transit, and thought it would be fun to spend the day driving such a big vehicle around town, meeting a bunch of people, turning that giant horizontal wheel.

And having people spit in my face.

I didn’t imagine that last part, and thankfully it doesn’t happen too often, but there seems to be this mentality in this city that bus drivers and other employees of our mass transit system are scum of the earth, seen with disdain by the blowhards that seem to make themselves heard the loudest in our media (social or traditional).

For left-wing activists, there’s the expression “ACAB”, which stands for “all cops are bastards”. For the soccer moms and dads out there, it seems like “all bus drivers are bastards” is the common refrain.

It’s not just that this is a generalization based on an exaggeration, but the actions it’s based on are often simply the drivers doing exactly what they’re supposed to.

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Posted in Montreal, Public transit

Quebecor’s new STM bus shelter: cool, slick, but is it useful?

Quebecor out-of-home VP Claude Foisy demonstrates the new interactive screen

Quebecor out-of-home VP Claude Foisy demonstrates the new interactive screen

When Claude Foisy walked up to the big ad screen and it changed, I have to admit I thought that was pretty cool.

It didn’t transform into a helicopter or anything, it just displayed a menu.

This is the new Abribus, introduced by Quebecor and the STM on Tuesday morning at a rather fancy press conference.

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Posted in Montreal, Public transit

The sad reality of metro disruptions

It’s easy to get frustrated when the metro goes down. We’re always rushing to get somewhere, and we don’t have lots of free time, especially during the morning rush hour.

And between the computer system that seems to be constantly failing and the 40-year-old trains that always seem to be breaking down, it’s easy to think that incompetent mismanagement on the part of the STM itself is responsible for these problems.

The statistics show that’s not really the case. According to the STM’s activity report for 2011, about half of all disruptions (defined as stoppages in service for more than five minutes) happened because of the actions of passengers. This includes people being on the tracks, people doing improper things with moving or fixed equipment, medical emergencies by people who happen to be in the metro, and, unfortunately, metro suicides.

Of the remaining half, 43% were because of failures of trains, stationary equipment or the systems that control them, and the rest were for “external causes” or “miscellaneous”.

A partial shutdown of the green line that happened on the morning of April 19 fell into the first category of disruptions caused by passengers. A medical emergency at the Verdun station, someone caught under a train. Considered a case of suicide, the media usually leave the issue there and don’t report more on it, for fear of encouraging similar acts.

But, as it turns out, this wasn’t what happened. An investigation showed that the victim, a young woman who had turned 20 years old only four days earlier, had fallen between two metro cars, apparently not paying attention because she was using her phone.

It’s tragic, and perhaps a lesson in the dangers of walking around when you don’t see where you’re going. But what’s even more so is that nobody noticed, and the train left the station. It wasn’t until two stations later that the train was stopped, and then only after passengers noticed traces of blood (the story doesn’t specify where that blood was found).

There are questions to be asked about the safety of metro cars (it’s been mentioned that the new trains coming in 2014 won’t have these gaps between them), about the safety of using cellphones while walking, and about how someone could fall between metro cars during rush hour without anyone noticing or sounding an alarm.

Sadly, there’s no easy way to prevent all injury when you’re dealing with heavy equipment. Only ways to reduce them.

But we could start by understanding that disruptions to service happen, because comments like these seem a bit heartless in hindsight:

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Posted in Public transit

Just call me Maestro

Now I feel so important

Now I feel so important

The STM gave us a bit of a surprise last month, announcing a new loyalty program (in addition to the 12th month free offered by the government and discounts on Bixi and Communauto) that had a small number of very interesting perks. For people who have subscribed to Opus à l’année or Opus & Cie. for more than a year, the STM offers the Maestro card, which allows users to bring a friend for free (outside of business hours) and ride for free when visiting Quebec City.

As a subscriber to the program myself, I got an email within a few days announcing my eligibility. Even though it’s rare that I go to Quebec City, and I don’t have any friends, I was curious about the process, and it was free, so I decided to get one.

How to get it

The email, which explains the program, includes your Opus card number and a reference number. Print the email out and bring it, a photo ID and your existing Opus card to one of the STM’s service centres, at Côte-Vertu, Honoré-Beaugrand, Jean-Talon or Lionel-Groulx metro stations, or the Fairview bus terminus. Or, like me, you can go to the main service centre at Berri-UQAM, which is open on weekends:

maestro-centre

It might seem like a long wait, but I learned quickly that not all the people sitting in the waiting room are waiting to be served. My wait was maybe 10 minutes.

After showing your documents and filling out some paperwork, you’re asked to step back to get your photo taken:

maestro-camera

Not exactly a top-of-the-line camera, but it gets the job done. Which makes me wonder why all photo ID Opus cards can’t be done from this location.

The new card, which includes a name and photo, replaces your existing one, which they keep.

How it works

Normally, the card functions the same as any other Opus card, with a few exceptions. The most noticeable, besides the photo printed on it, is that it sets off a different beep on the readers. Instead of the single-beep green light, it sets off the double-beep orange light, just like reduced-fare passes do. The message on the reader is the same, and so far nobody has asked to see the photo on it. Nevertheless, the pass is tied to its owner, and you can’t pass it to a friend to use for a day.

The documentation tells me that the card cannot be loaded with other fares valid on the STM network (passes, tickets, or AMT TRAM passes). Tickets not valid on the STM network, like STL and RTL passes, are accepted. I’m not sure about AMT train tickets. The FAQ suggests they wouldn’t be valid, which makes me wonder what a Maestro card user is supposed to do if they want to take the train one day.

The take-a-friend privilege is from 6pm to 4:59am weekdays, as well as all day Saturday and Sunday. It’s valid only on the STM network, with the exception of the 747 airport shuttle bus.

Another important point is that the two must travel together to the same destination. Since anyone in the network can be checked at any time, you have to be with your friend throughout his or her entire journey. This includes, for those taking the metro, walking between the platform and the turnstiles of a metro station, which is also part of the fare-controlled area. Presumably if you’re both taking a bus, you could stay on while your friend gets off.

For adapted transit users, the privilege applies when travelling on regular buses, but not on adapted transit service (unless the friend is a guide).

For the Quebec City privilege (which might expand to other systems), nothing special is required. The Quebec City Opus card readers are programmed to accept STM Maestro cards. The agreement between the two transit agencies is reciprocal, so Quebec City transit users will be able to travel on the STM network as well.

The Maestro card expires after two years, after which you have to go to the service centre and get a new one. There are no fees associated with getting the card or using the program.

See also: Cult MTL

Posted in Montreal, Public transit

Fagstein’s 2012-13 guide to holiday transit

As I have in previous years, I ask that you have some sympathy for the bus, metro or train driver, station attendant or other employee who has to work during the holidays – some on Christmas morning, some through midnight on New Year’s Eve – just so that you can get you from point A to point B in the dark, wet, snowy mess that is the last week of the year.

Here’s what there is to expect as far as schedule changes this weekend and next:

STM (Montreal, including the entire metro)

Note that from Dec. 22 to Jan. 6, the STM offers its Family Outings plan, which allows an adult to bring up to five children under 12 to ride for free with a fare-paying adult. (Normally this is allowed only during weekends and statutory holidays.) This does not apply to the 747 bus.

  • Monday, Dec. 24:
    • Buses and metro service will follow a regular Monday schedule.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 25:
    • Most bus routes will run on a Sunday schedule.
    • Metro trains will pass about every 10-12 minutes on the green line and every 10 minutes on the other lines.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26:
    • Most bus routes will run on a Saturday schedule.
    • Metro service will run on a special schedule, with additional trains added to the Orange and Green lines to accommodate rabid Boxing Day shoppers.
    • Monday to Friday shared taxi service will not be in operation.
  • Dec. 27-30: Normal schedules for all services.
  • Monday, Dec. 31:
    • Buses, metro and taxi service will follow a regular Saturday schedule.
    • As usual, there’s no extension of metro service despite how many people are out celebrating New Year’s Eve. Last trains of the night leave the two blue line terminuses at 12:15am, in all five directions from Berri at 1:00am and from Longueuil at 1:00am.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 1:
    • Most bus routes will follow Sunday schedules..
    • Metro trains will pass about every 10-12 minutes on the green line and every 10 minutes on the other lines.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 2:
    • Most bus routes and metro trains will follow a Saturday schedule.

Note that Opus cards can be recharged at any point after Dec. 20.

STL (Laval)

As usual, the STL offers free transit on its buses on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Holiday schedules based on their online flyer:

  • Monday, Dec. 24: Saturday schedule. Free service on all routes.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 25:
    • Sunday schedule for all routes.
    • The following will only have service from 11am to 9pm: 12, 20, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 37, 39, 40, 45, 46, 58, 61, 63, 65, 66, 74, 144, 804 and 903.
    • All other routes will have full regular Sunday service.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26: Saturday schedules in effect for all routes.
  • Dec. 27-30: Regular schedules for all routes according to the day of the week.
  • Monday, Dec. 31: Saturday schedule. Free service on all routes.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 1:
    • Sunday schedule for all routes.
    • The following will only have service from 11am to 9pm: 12, 20, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 37, 39, 40, 45, 46, 58, 61, 63, 65, 66, 74, 144, 804 and 903.
    • All other routes will have full regular Sunday service.
  • Wednesday, Jan 2: Saturday schedule for all routes.

RTL (Longueuil)

Like the STL, the RTL is offering free service for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and is asking for donations in lieu of fares.

From their PDF guide:

  • Monday, Dec. 24 (free service): Saturday schedule for most routes, except:
    • Additional departures will be added to the following routes: 8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 23, 32, 35, 42, 44, 45, 47, 54, 73, 77, 80, 81, 83, 99, 123.
    • Regular weekday service or 91, 92, T22, T23 and T89.
    • The 177 will not run, replaced by the 77 and T77 which will offer weekday service every 30 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 25: Sunday schedule for all routes
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26:
    • Saturday schedules for most routes, except:
    • Saturday schedule with additional departures on lines 35, 45, 80.
    • A modified schedule for the 8.
    • Weekday schedule for taxi lines T22 and T89.
  • Dec. 27-30: Regular service for all routes according to the day of the week
  • Monday, Dec. 31 (free service): Saturday schedule for all routes, except:
    • Additional departures will be added to the following routes: 8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 23, 32, 35, 42, 44, 45, 47, 54, 73, 77, 80, 81, 83, 99, 123.
    • Regular weekday service or 91, 92, T22, T23 and T89.
    • The 177 will not run, replaced by the 77 and T77 which will offer weekday service every 30 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 1:
    • Sunday schedule for all routes
  • Wednesday, Jan. 2:
    • Saturday schedules for all routes, with additional departures on lines 35, 45, 80.

AMT (commuter trains)

The AMT offers free trips on the two lines that operate on Christmas and New Year’s – Vaudreuil/Hudson and Deux-Montagnes.

From their website:

  • Monday, Dec. 24: Regular weekday service on all lines
  • Tuesday, Dec. 25:
    • Sunday service on Montreal/Deux-Montagnes and Montreal/Vaudreuil (all trips are free)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26:
    • Saturday service on Montreal/Deux-Montagnes
    • Sunday service on Montreal/Vaudreuil
    • No service on other lines
  • Dec. 27-30: Regular service on all lines according to the day of the week
  • Monday, Dec. 31: Regular weekday service on all lines
  • Tuesday, Jan. 1:
    • Sunday service on Montreal/Deux-Montagnes and Montreal/Vaudreuil (all trips are free)
  • Wednesday, Jan. 2:
    • Saturday service on Montreal/Deux-Montagnes
    • Sunday service on Montreal/Vaudreuil
    • No service on other lines

Customer service at the AMT will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Posted in Montreal, Public transit

Are the STM’s fare hikes STILL unreasonable?

A while back, I did up a chart to give some context to the STM’s proposed fare hikes for 2013. Since then, the city of Montreal has decided to increase its allocation to the STM and allow the transit agency to lower its fare hikes. So here’s an amended chart with the new numbers.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 (new) Change 2008-2013
Monthly CAM (regular) $66.25 (+1.9%) $68.50 (+3.4%) $70 (+2.2%) $72.75 (+3.9%) $75.50 (+3.8%) $77.75 (+3.0%)
$77 (+2.0%)
+17.4%
+16.2%
Monthly CAM (reduced) $36 (+2.9%) $37 (+2.8%) $38.75 (+4.7%) $41 (+5.8%) $43.75 (+6.7%) $45.50 (+4%)
$45 (+2.9%)
+26.4%
+25%
Four-month CAM (reduced fare only) N/A N/A $148 ($37/month) $155 ($38.75/month) (+4.7%) $164 ($41/month) (+5.8%) $175 ($43.75/month)(+6.7%) +18.2% (2010-13)
Weekly CAM (regular) $19.25 (+1.3%) $20 (+3.9%) $20.50 (+2.5%) $22 (+2.5%) $23.50 (+6.8%) $24.25 (+3.2%)
$23.75 (+1.0%)
+26.0%
+23.4%
Weekly CAM (reduced) $11 (+2.3%) $11.25 (+2.3%) $11.50 (+2.2%) $12.75 (+10.9%) $13.75 (+7.8%) $14.50 (+5.5%)
$14 (+1.8%)
+31.8%
+27.3%
Three-day tourist pass $17 (unchanged) $17 (unchanged) $14
(-17.6%)
$16 (+14.3%) $16 (unchanged) $18 (+12.5%) +5.9%
24-hour tourist pass
(Also used as 747 fare)
$9 (unchanged) $9 (unchanged) $7 (-22.2%) $8 (+14.3%) $8 (unchanged) $9 (+12.5%) None
Evening pass (after 6pm) N/A N/A N/A $4 $4 (unchanged) $4 (unchanged) None (2011-13)
10 trips (Opus card only) (regular) N/A $20 $21 ($2.10/trip) (+5%) $22.50 ($2.25/trip) (+7.1%) $24 ($2.40/trip) (+6.7%) $25 (+4.2%)
$24.50 (+2.1%)
+25% (2009-13)
+16.7% (2009-13)
10 trips (Opus card only) (reduced) N/A $10.75 ($1.08/trip) $12 ($1.20/trip) (+11.6%) $13 ($1.30/trip)
(+8.3%)
$14 ($1.40/trip) (+7.7%) $15 (+7.1%)
$14.50 (+3.6%)
+39.5% (2009-13)
+34.9% (2009-13)
Two trips (regular) N/A N/A N/A $5.50 ($2.75/trip) $5.50 (unchanged) $5.50 (unchanged) None (2011-13)
Two trips (reduced) N/A N/A N/A $3.50 ($1.75/trip) $3.50 (unchanged) $3.50 (unchanged) None (2011-13)
Single fare (regular) $2.75 (unchanged) $2.75 (unchanged) $2.75 (unchanged) $3 (+9.1%) $3 (unchanged) $3 (unchanged) +9.1%
Single fare (reduced) $1.75 (unchanged) $1.75 (unchanged) $1.75 (unchanged) $2 (+14.3%) $2 (unchanged) $2 (unchanged) +14.3%
Consumer price index for Montreal 2.1% 1.0% 1.4% 2.8% 1.8% (projected) N/A +10.9% (projected)

So what do you think? Is this easier to stomach? If not, what should be done about it?

Posted in Montreal, Public transit

STM to test new payment system for 747 bus

At its meeting Wednesday night, the STM’s board of directors approved something I found a bit odd: a new fare designed specifically for the westbound 747 bus.

The 747 already has a special fare. Now they’re going to have different fares for different directions?

Not exactly. Carl Desrosiers, the STM’s general manager, explained after the meeting that the transit agency is about to install a series of new machines along the 747′s westbound route, that will allow people to get tickets for the bus using their credit cards.

The machines will be installed at every westbound downtown stop along the 747′s route some time in the coming months, and we could see more of them on the STM’s network if the pilot project goes well.

The fare for the 747 is $8, and goes up to $9 in January (even with the reduced fare hikes announced earlier that day). Not only do the buses not accept credit or debit cards, but they don’t accept paper money either, which means people have to pay this fare with at least five coins.

So these machines will be a way for tourists and others heading for the airport to be able to pay for a fare without having to find a metro station or get lots of change from someone.

Desrosiers says the new type of fare will cost the same as the usual 747 fare.

But why only for westbound buses? Desrosiers explains that those coming from the airport can use a special vending machine just inside the terminal next to the bus stop, so there’s no need for a similar device.

Information counter and fare machine at Trudeau Airport next to the 747 stop.

Posted in Montreal, Public transit, Video

An animated day in the life of Montreal’s bus network

It’s fun the kinds of things you can do with data.

Montreal’s transit agencies, including the STM, STL, RTL and AMT, have made their trip data public through a standard called General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). This allows the data to be sucked into applications like Google Maps, making it easier for people to plan their trips. The time of every stop of every bus is a set data point.

In this video, published a few weeks ago on YouTube, someone has taken this data and created an animation of every bus trip during the average weekday in the Montreal area. STM, STL and RTL buses are represented by little dots that race along their routes.

It’s an interesting way to visualize the activity involved in public transit. The animation, which is presented as a 1:600 timelapse (every second represents 10 minutes), starts at 4am with just the night buses on the island of Montreal. After about 6am, it expands into the morning rush hour, and you can see a clear bias toward downtown from all directions. Some thoroughfares like Henri-Bourassa Blvd., Sauvé St., Parc Ave. and Côte des Neiges Rd. emerge as lines because they see so much bus traffic during this time. The traffic dies down a bit after the morning rush hour, though not as much as I expected. After about 3pm there appears to be a general bias away from downtown as the evening rush hour begins. After 7pm, it noticeably dies down, more so after 11pm and 12:30am, and after 2am it’s back to just the night buses.

Each of those dots is a bus with a driver in it. Some could have just a few passengers on board, while others could be so packed they’re not stopping to pick up more.

It’s an expensive system, and a complicated one. But without all those little dots, the city would grind to a halt.

If you’re interested in trying to figure out other cool ways of manipulating transit data, you can download the STM’s GTFS data yourself. Data from the RTL and STL and AMT are also available. (The AMT data includes commuter trains, its express buses and data from smaller transit agencies like the CIT du Sud Ouest and CIT La Presqu’île.)

Continue reading

Posted in Montreal, Public transit

Are the STM’s fare hikes unreasonable?

Last week, the STM released details of its 2013 budget, and naturally everyone focused on fare hikes (see PDF chart). The numbers showed that most fares would go up by a buck or two, just like they have every year for the past decade. And Montreal’s opposition parties came out with their usual predictable denunciations of the hikes, as did regular transit users who complained as they always do that service isn’t being improved enough to justify the hikes.

As you can see from the chart below, fares have definitely gone up over the past five years, and while small fares (single trips, tourist passes) have been in line with the consumer price index or even below it, the bigger and more popular fares, like the monthly adult pass, have gone up by twice as much as other consumer goods and services.

But at the same time, it would be wrong to say that there haven’t been significant service improvements in that time. Since 2010 alone, there’s been the 10 minutes max network, new seniors’ shuttles, a major overhaul of the night bus network, new express buses to the West Island, and a reduction in wait times for the metro just before and just after rush hours.

Tens of thousands of hours a year of bus service have been added, buses themselves are being replaced to the point where the number of buses from before 2000 is now negligible. New metro trains are being designed and built. And various technologies are being put into place to ensure that people are given information that allows them to get to their destination the fastest way possible.

The STM calculates that, overall, its level of service has gone up by 25% since 2007. That outpaces the increase in the price of a monthly adult pass for the same period.

These improvements aren’t cheap. In general, increases in amount of service outpace increases in additional ridership (and, I assume, fare revenue) by a factor of two to one. This is unsurprising, and in fact it’s the goal set by the government, a goal the STM has surpassed in its review of PASTEC. But it means that we need to pay more.

And most people are actually okay with that. They don’t mind paying more if it means getting better service. Montreal’s transit system is still among the cheapest in North America, certainly when you look at the amount of service it delivers.

Whether the STM is delivering enough added service to justify the price increases is something I’ll leave to you to decide.

Fare progression chart

Here’s a chart showing the STM’s fares over the past five years, and you can compare to the consumer price index for those years at the bottom:

(UPDATE: The STM has cut its fare hikes. An updated chart is here.)

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Change 2008-2013
Monthly CAM (regular) $66.25 (+1.9%) $68.50 (+3.4%) $70 (+2.2%) $72.75 (+3.9%) $75.50 (+3.8%) $77.75 (+3.0%) +17.4%
Monthly CAM (reduced) $36 (+2.9%) $37 (+2.8%) $38.75 (+4.7%) $41 (+5.8%) $43.75 (+6.7%) $45.50 (+1.0%) +26.4%
Four-month CAM (reduced fare only) N/A N/A $148 ($37/month) $155 ($38.75/month) (+4.7%) $164 ($41/month) (+5.8%) $175 ($43.75/month)(+6.7%) +18.2% (2010-13)
Weekly CAM (regular) $19.25 (+1.3%) $20 (+3.9%) $20.50 (+2.5%) $22 (+2.5%) $23.50 (+6.8%) $24.25 (+3.2%) +26.0%
Weekly CAM (reduced) $11 (+2.3%) $11.25 (+2.3%) $11.50 (+2.2%) $12.75 (+10.9%) $13.75 (+7.8%) $14.50 (+5.5%) +31.8%
Three-day tourist pass $17 (unchanged) $17 (unchanged) $14
(-17.6%)
$16 (+14.3%) $16 (unchanged) $18 (+12.5%) +5.9%
One-day tourist pass
(Also used as 747 fare)
$9 (unchanged) $9 (unchanged) $7 (-22.2%) $8 (+14.3%) $8 (unchanged) $9 (+12.5%) None
Evening pass (after 6pm) N/A N/A N/A $4 $4 (unchanged) $4 (unchanged) None (2011-13)
10 trips (Opus card only) (regular) N/A $20 $21 ($2.10/trip) (+5%) $22.50 ($2.25/trip) (+7.1%) $24 ($2.40/trip) (+6.7%) $25 (+4.2%) +25% (2009-13)
10 trips (Opus card only) (reduced) N/A $10.75 ($1.08/trip) $12 ($1.20/trip) (+11.6%) $13 ($1.30/trip) (+8.3%) $14 ($1.40/trip) (+7.7%) $15 (+7.1%) +39.5% (2009-13)
Two trips (regular) N/A N/A N/A $5.50 ($2.75/trip) $5.50 (unchanged) $5.50 (unchanged) None (2011-13)
Two trips (reduced) N/A N/A N/A $3.50 ($1.75/trip) $3.50 (unchanged) $3.50 (unchanged) None (2011-13)
Single fare (regular) $2.75 (unchanged) $2.75 (unchanged) $2.75 (unchanged) $3 (+9.1%) $3 (unchanged) $3 (unchanged) +9.1%
Single fare (reduced) $1.75 (unchanged) $1.75 (unchanged) $1.75 (unchanged) $2 (+14.3%) $2 (unchanged) $2 (unchanged) +14.3%
Consumer price index for Montreal 2.1% 1.0% 1.4% 2.8% 1.8% (projected) N/A +10.9% (projected)

Other changes

Among other things announced in the budget:

  • An unlimited weekend pass, for $12, offering unlimited trips from 6pm Friday to 5am Monday.
  • The same hours apply to the Family Outings program, so an adult with up to five children under 12 can travel together on an unlimited number of trips for $12 on weekends as of 6pm on Fridays.
  • Expansion of its Occasionelle disposable smart-card to all retailers selling transit passes
  • Removal of the place of residence requirement for student passes. Students 18-25 who live off-island will no longer be excluded from access to reduced-fare Opus cards and the reduced fares that come with it.

In addition, the Agence métropolitaine de transport is setting up a parking lot at Saint-Martin Blvd. and Pie-IX Blvd. (Route 125) in Laval, which will be served by the STM’s 139 bus on Pie-IX. This will be the first time in decades that an STM bus route is being expanded into another transit agency’s territory. Normally it is the external transit agency (the STL or RTL) or the AMT that manages bus service between territories.

No word has been given on whether that bus would be subject to regular STM fares or something similar to the Laval metro stations. The STM informs me that, in fact, the fares for the 139 buses in Laval will be the same as for the Laval metro stations, and those going to and coming from Laval will be marked as 139X.

 

Posted in Montreal, Public transit

STM’s Michel Labrecque looks into the future

STM chairperson Michel Labrecque

Michel Labrecque, who chairs the board of the STM (and ostensibly represents its users on that board, though try to find some way to reach him on the STM’s website), did a little live Q&A on the STM’s website on June 14. He got asked some interesting questions and gave some interesting answers.

I’ve summarized a few interesting bits he said below, mainly about stuff that’s happening down the line (2014 looks to be a pretty busy year for them):

  • Replacement of the other half of the metro fleet (the MR-73 trains that run on the blue and orange lines) is set to begin at the end of the decade. The first set of new cars to replace the older MR-63s are to arrive in 2014.
  • Labrecque isn’t very interested in the idea of maritime shuttles to the south shore. Too impractical, he says.
  • Studies are in progress to determine the placement of stations on an eastern extension of the blue line, but it will follow Jean-Talon St. until the Galeries d’Anjou.
  • On an eventual rapid transit system on Pie-IX Blvd. (starting in 2014), boarding of buses will happen on all three doors for people with passes, as is done in other cities. The STM is studying using such a system on other high-traffic routes as well.
  • As automated machines handle more duties previously done by metro booth employees, they will be doing more duties of a customer service nature and be more in contact with users.
  • Real-time bus data is expected to start working in 2014.
  • The orange line could have as many as 40 work sites operating in the four hours a night the metro is not in service, doing repairs and maintenance.
Posted in Public transit, West Island

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.