STM’s service improvements are actually service reductions

18 Beaubien at Beaubien metro
You’ll actually be waiting more, not less, for the 18 bus outside of rush hour.

The STM is trumpeting huge, noticeable improvements to bus and metro service that finally came into effect on Monday. The additions come in two parts:

More metro trains, less wait time

The STM is adding 145 new departures every week to all but the yellow line. The goal is to reduce waiting times and get more people using the metro.

The change is most visible outside of rush hour. That means the very early morning, during the day, late evenings, at night and on the weekend. On weekdays outside of rush hour, the waiting times will all be reduced by at least a minute and a half – a rather noticeable change.

Going out today, I decided to time the intervals between metro trains. Sure enough, for orange line trains going through downtown at 6:45pm, the trains were just under six minutes apart on average, which the STM says is an improvement on the previous eight minutes.

Though the wait times during rush hour (when almost all trains are already in service) won’t come down much, this move might serve to eventually lighten that load a bit. An extended rush hour means that fewer travellers will organize their schedules around rush hour to take advantage of the short waits.

I can’t be the only one who prefers to travel during peak hours because of how much faster it is. Extending rush hour will spread this tendency out a bit and hopefully make it spike a bit less as the whistle blows at 5pm.

More bus service means less bus service?

The other part to this service improvement is the more interesting one: the STM has announced additional buses being added to three popular lines: 18 Beaubien, 24 Sherbrooke and 121 Sauvé/Côte-Vertu. It’s also making the 54 Charland/Chabanel a rush-hour-plus-between-rush-hours service, which is becoming more and more popular (but to me only seems frustrating because the service stops by 7pm).

Today I went to the Beaubien metro bus stop for the 18 bus and observed as buses passed to pick up passengers headed east for the evening rush hour. Most of the buses had their seats filled, but none were so packed that nobody else could get on. They were running on intervals of about 3-4 minutes during rush hour’s peak (5:30pm), and 6-7 minutes just after rush hour (6:30pm).

This, despite complaints from the employees’ union that there’s a bus shortage affecting service.

Here’s the problem: The schedule itself hasn’t improved. If anything, service is being reduced on these three lines.

Curious to get some numbers on the improvements to these three lines, I checked out the Planibus schedules on the STM’s website, and compared the times to the older schedules that had just expired. In some cases, there were improvements to wait times and extended rush hours. In other cases, however, wait times were increased rather than decreased.

It’s difficult to tell the changes during the “six minutes or less” rush hour where the number of departures can’t be counted on the schedule. But since the STM implied that the changes were to “extend rush hours,” let’s assume the number of departures during those times hasn’t changed.

For the rest of the time, here’s what I found:

18 Beaubien:

Excerpt of schedule differences for 18 Beaubien

  • +1: Westbound on weekdays, departures between 11:32 and 12:07 go from 5 to 6
  • +1: Westbound on Saturdays, departures between 13:08 and 13:56 go from 6 to 7
  • -2: Westbound on Sundays, departures between 11:08 and 12:47 go from 12 to 10
  • -1: Eastbound on Sundays, departures between 18:48 and 20:01 go from 7 to 6

TOTAL: 1 fewer departure outside of rush hour.

24 Sherbrooke:

Excerpt of schedule differences for 24 Sherbrooke

  • +2: Westbound on weekdays, morning rush hour is extended from 7:00-8:53 to 6:53-9:35. Between 9:00 and 9:30, interval drops from 8-9 minutes to 6 or less.
  • +2: Westbound on weekdays, afternoon rush hour is extended earlier to add 16:02-16:43. Interval drops during this time from 7-9 minutes to 6 or less.
  • +1: Eastbound on weekdays, morning rush hour is extended to add 8:24-8:40. Intervals reduced from 8 minutes to 6 or less.
  • +1: Eastbound on weekdays, departures between 15:15 and 16:00 go from 5 to 6. Intervals reduced from 11 minutes to 9.
  • -5: Westbound on Saturdays between 12:15 and 17:15, intervals are increased from 15 minutes to 20 minutes
  • -3: Eastbound on Saturdays between 12:15 and 15:00, intervals are increased from 15 minutes to 20 minutes
  • -2: Westbound on Sundays between 12:30 and 15:15, intervals are increased from 15 minutes to 20 minutes
  • -2: Eastbound on Sundays between 13:37 and 15:42, the number of departures drops from 10 to 8. Intervals increased from 12 minutes to 15
  • -1: Eastbound on Sundays between 15:42 and 17:23, the number of departures drops from 9 to 8. Intervals increased from 11 minutes to 12

TOTAL: 7 fewer departures that I can count.

This is a huge missed opportunity for the 24. The Sherbrooke bus is notorious for having horrible service outside of rush hour. On weekdays after 6pm (Westbound) and 7:30pm (Eastbound), intervals climb dramatically to 20 minutes. After 7:30pm (Westbound) and 10:30pm (Eastbound), it climbs again to 30 minutes. That’s unacceptable for a bus that travels through downtown and through two metro stations.

People who were looking forward to shorter evening wait times for the 24 will be sadly disappointed. As will anyone trying to take this bus on the weekend, who are guaranteed to get even worse service than they had before.

121 Sauvé/Côte-Vertu

Note: The previous schedule for the 121 was broken on the STM’s website, and so previous figures for eastbound departures are from a 2-year-old schedule.

  • +1: Westbound on weekdays, 14:27-14:46 is added to the afternoon rush hour with at least one new departure.
  • -1: Westbound on weekdays, the number of departures between 19:00 and 20:24 drops from 8 to 7.
  • -1: Eastbound on weekdays, interval between 10:00-11:00 is increased from 10 to 14 minutes
  • +1: Eastbound on weekdays between 11:00-12:30, intervals are reduced from 10 to 9 minutes
  • +2: Eastbound on weekdays, evening rush hour adds 17:30-18:30. Intervals drop from 6-8 minutes to 6 or less.
  • +1: Eastbound on weekdays between 19:00-20:00, intervals are reduced from 11-12 minutes to 10 minutes
  • Westbound on Saturdays, the schedule is unchanged.
  • -1: Eastbound on Saturdays between 6:30-9:30, the number of departures drops from 10 to 9. Intervals increase from 18 to 20 minutes.
  • +2: Eastbound on Saturdays between 12:30-14:00, the number of departures increases from 10 to 12. Intervals decrease from 9 minutes to 7-8.
  • +1: Eastbound on Saturdays between 15:00-16:15, intervals are reduced from 7 minutes to 6.
  • +1: Eastbound on Saturdays between 18:30-19:30, the number of departures increases from 4 to 5. Intervals decrease from 15 minutes to 12.
  • -1: Westbound on Sundays between 11:00-11:45, the number of departures drops from 7 to 6.
  • -1: Westbound on Sundays between 13:15-14:00, intervals are increased from 6 minutes to 7.
  • -1: Eastbound on Sundays between 11:30-13:00, intervals are increased from 12 to 14 minutes.
  • -1: Eastbound on Sundays between 19:00-21:00, the number of departures drops from 7 to 6.

TOTAL: Two extra departures. Good news for weekday travellers, but Sunday service takes a beating.

54 Charland/Chabanel:

At least in the case of the 54, the STM was speaking the truth. The rush-hour schedule is unchanged. Departures are added between the rush hours (12 new departures eastbound, and 11 westbound), with an interval of 27 minutes between buses in either direction. Final departures of the day are at 6pm (Eastbound) and 6:15pm (Westbound).

I’ve sent a request to the STM for comment, but after 48 hours there has been no response.

UPDATE (Jan. 16): I finally spoke to someone at the STM’s media relations. Apparently the service reductions are normal seasonal adjustments that happen every January as demand goes down. Look for an article with details on Saturday.

11 thoughts on “STM’s service improvements are actually service reductions

  1. DAVE ID

    Well I don’t know if its just a coincidence, but I take the 44 (both ways depending on which office I work at that day) and the sardine level has gone down drastically this week. It was pretty impressive to not have to SHOVE people around to make room and actually walk freely to the back of the bus and damn it there was actually a place to sit O_o

  2. Wizz

    Anonymous, unfortunately is bang on. Once you get a car you’ll just feel sorry for the idiots who haven’t figure it out.

  3. DAVE ID

    french blue-collar asshole. That’s the dumbass part.

    I had a car when I lived in the burbs. But having one and living DT MTL, is pointless and only an expense. Only once or twice a year do I go “damn I wish I had a car right now” because I need to go somewhere, otherwise, I don’t need it and don’t regret getting rid of mine 12 years ago.

  4. Josh

    DAVE ID, I know what you mean, but it seems like once or twice a year I think “Damn, I wish I had a car because the STM is (facing the threat of) being crippled by a strike. Again.”

    And a few other times a year, I wish I had a car for the reason you mention – to get places the STM doesn’t go.

    In any case, striking doesn’t help the STM employees long-term. Don’t they realize that they erode their customer base every time they shut service down? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

  5. Pingback: Fagstein » TWIM: Kenya and bus schedules

  6. Zity

    The STM services are HORRIBLE. It’s a fact !!!

    Yesterday, i forgot to buy my metro pass, sep 2nd, and I ask him if I can take the bus, i need to go to school. And the guy said no.

    Then today, I went to McGill Metro station to ask where to take the STM card photo. (They switch places almost every year, before was at Berri-QUAM, then Eastern Center, and now 2020. ) The dude was like : open your eyes, it’s right there.

    idk if it’s me being sensitive, but his compliments are not really friendly, and he kept acting with his hands like he is opening his eyes while im walking away. When i got to the place, there are only 2 computers, and the line was really long.

    A while ago, they don’t even put on their uniforms, and im not going to go though that. Im just gonna talk about their attitude.

    I took 165 today to get back from the metro concordia. A 165 stoped like 7-8 meters away from the stop. I was thinking that it’s gonna come to the stop later. I was in a line, and the bus driver just opened the door, and let random ppl to get on the bus while 20 ppl are waiting in a line. Im not saying that i lost something, but come on, you are suppose to stop at a STOP.

    Then I asked the driver in english, “aren’t you suppose to stop over there” i pointed at the stop. Then he was like ” Qu’est-ce tu veux ! ” I thought he didn’t understand what i was saying, and I repeated my question in french, he replied ” Tu montes ou tu decends” and i got pissed off badly. I showed him a fuck you, and I said go fuck yourself in french to him, and i asked him his employee #, it was 14-027. (the bus # instead of the employee #)

    So this was my recent experiences with STM, without mentioning the period of time when i was living at St-anns, when it snows, the 211 or 221 doesn’t even COME at all. I once waited for 60 mintues in the wind.

    They have raised the monthly and ticket pass’ price from 28 $/month, 5 years go, to 36 $/ month.

    However, my bursary decreased, and i got more loans. The bus drivers ask for a raise of salary. But the miminum wage it’s only 8.75 $, whiout considering that the bus drivers has 3-4 kids and their wages are between 15 -20 $/hour just for driving a bus.

  7. Shawn

    Zity. we’ve all been there. My only advice is try not to lose sight of the moments when an STM employee does something nice, too — because it does happen.

  8. Arnold

    What a joke! Increased service? How can I wait outside 25 minutes on a line that says its every 6 minutes or less (avenue du parc) and not be able to get on a bus!!!!

    They don’t come every 6 minutes (although there are Plenty of half empty express buses passing marked Blainville), and when they do come they are too full to get on. 25 people waiting in the -30 weather and they let on maybe 2 or 3. Ah but that doesn’t mean people don’t scramble in the back door, without paying, therby filling up the bus so the people waiting in line can’t get on in the front! And the drivers just ignore it.. (not my job) but they aren’t standing in the cold.

    Don’t even get me started on the increasing number of people who wear mega-backpacks..on a crowded bus and dont’ realize they are taking up the space of 2 people!


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