STM’s 747 Airport Express launches March 29

The Société de transport de Montréal had a whole thing today, inviting members of the media out to the airport to show off their new bus route. I was tempted to go, but I don’t get up before noon unless I really have to.

The route is the 747 Express bus, which finally provides a direct, non-stop link between downtown and Dorval Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. It replaces an awkward public transit travel itinerary that involved taking the metro to Lionel-Groulx, hopping on the 211 or 221 and squeezing in with all the West Island kids, then either waiting half an hour at the Dorval train station or walking across the entire airport parking lot to get to the terminal.

It also replaces La Québécoise’s Aérobus shuttle service between the bus station and the airport that used to run every half hour and cost $16. (And that was already much cheaper than the flat-rate $38 for a cab from downtown to the airport.)

More details from Cyberpresse, The Gazette, CTV, CBCRue Frontenac, Metro, the STM’s press release, the airport’s press release (PDF), or the Planibus with route and schedule (PDF).

The route enters service on Monday, March 29, and will be the STM’s first 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year bus service.

The fares

Probably the most confusing thing about this bus will be the fare structure. Even though this is an STM bus run by the STM and accepting STM passes, you won’t be able to pay a standard single fare or use a single-fare ticket to get on (which, because this is a trip into and out of town, is what many people using it would want to do).

Instead, the single-fare price is set at $7 (still less than half the old airport express), and in exchange you’re given a one-day pass to use the entire STM network. Or you could just buy a one-day tourist pass, which is accepted on the bus and also costs $7.

All unlimited-use passes (tourist passes, weekly passes, monthly passes) are accepted on the bus at no extra charge.

I guess the STM is trying to get some money out of tourists with this, but it just seems unnecessarily confusing. Many tourists will want the tourist pass anyway when they’re coming in to town, so it won’t make much of a difference for them. Those heading out of town, meanwhile, will have no use for a one-day pass once they’re on a plane.

Expect drivers of these buses to have to exercise a lot of patience explaining the fare structure.

The STM says transit passes will be on sale in the airport, so those who want a three-day pass or weekly pass will have that option before they get on the bus.

The stops

Nine stops westbound and 10 stops eastbound, including the two terminuses.

Going toward the airport:

  • Station Centrale bus terminal (inside the terminal)
  • René-Lévesque and St-Laurent (Chinatown)
  • René-Lévesque and Bleury
  • René-Lévesque and Mansfield (Place Ville Marie, Central Station)
  • René-Lévesque and Peel (tourist information centre)
  • René-Lévesque and de la Montagne (Lucien-L’Allier station, Bell Centre)
  • René-Lévesque and Bishop
  • Lionel-Groulx metro
  • Trudeau airport

Going toward downtown:

  • Trudeau airport
  • Lionel-Groulx metro
  • Guy and René-Lévesque
  • René-Lévesque and Drummond (Bell Centre)
  • René-Lévesque and Peel (tourist information centre)
  • René-Lévesque and Mansfield (Place Ville Marie, Central Station)
  • René-Lévesque and Jeanne-Mance (Complexe Desjardins, Complexe Guy Favreau)
  • René-Lévesque and St-Laurent (Chinatown)
  • Berri-UQAM metro
  • Station Centrale bus terminal

The schedule

The schedule of this new bus is an improvement on the one it’s replacing:

  • Every 20 minutes during morning and evening weekday rush hours
  • Every 30 minutes during midday and late evenings
  • Every 30 minutes on weekends
  • Every hour overnight between 1am and 5am

Depending on the time of day and traffic conditions, the entire trip from one terminus to the other is expected to take between 35 and 50 minutes (about half that for trips between the airport and Lionel-Groulx).

It’s unclear at this point how this bus will affect other STM buses, like the 211 and 221 that shuttle between Lionel-Groulx and the Dorval train station, and the 204 bus that stops at the airport terminal.

The bus

The bus itself will be special, though very familiar to STM users. The outer design will have an airplane-chevron logo and the bus number painted on the body. Inside, the bus will be equipped with three luggage racks (one above each front wheel, and one just opposite the rear door), each with two shelves. This means the bus will have fewer seats than a standard bus of its size, but the ride will be more convenient for people with heavy bags.

The STM has modified eight buses for this route. With a route length of just under an hour and a minimum headway of 20 minutes, that would mean six buses in service during rush hour with two spares.

The fallout

Despite its confusing fare structure, since the bus is replacing a service already in place, and because people have been demanding better airport shuttle service for years, the demand is clearly there. The bus might not see dozens of passengers for every trip, but it won’t be empty all the time either.

The STM estimates the bus will attract between 1,000 and 2,500 riders daily. With about 100 departures a day, this would mean about 10-25 people per bus on average.

As the ADM points out, this service will also be useful for airport employees who work at odd hours. I’ve seen a few of them half asleep on the 356 night bus (which stops at the airport) trying not to get thrown up on. Those employees aren’t going to spend $16 one-way for the Aérobus, but they will take the STM’s express bus if it comes with their monthly pass.

This service also doesn’t preclude the creation of a train link between downtown and the airport. Both the STM and the airport still believe such a rail service is essential. But this bus will help bridge the gap until the rail dream becomes a reality.

The scandal

One group has already called foul in all this: taxi drivers. They’re calling this a “catastrophe” for the industry, and complaining that they weren’t consulted about it. Some are suggesting that the STM’s move should be considered illegal competition from a government agency with the private sector.

Not that I don’t have sympathy for taxi drivers, but this just exemplifies the fact that some industry somewhere will have a problem with just about anything the government does, especially when it makes our lives easier and saves us money.

(UPDATE March 17: Taxi drivers took their protest to city hall, though it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to get anything changed at this point)

With that caveat in mind, I’d rate this service an about-fscking-time.

UPDATE (March 29): The service launched at midnight. CTV’s Herb Luft talked to some of the first passengers, and noted that the bus doesn’t accept bills, which is kind of silly when the fare is $7. He also points out that the stop doesn’t say where at the airport passes can be bought.

48 thoughts on “STM’s 747 Airport Express launches March 29

    1. Fagstein Post author

      It also underscores that this isn’t a regular bus. The STM tends to use the first digit to separate types of routes (2 for West Island, 3 for night buses, 4 for express, 5 for reserved lane), and this is the first number they’ve assigned in the 700 block.

      Can’t imagine Airbus is too crazy about the STM using a Boeing model number, though.

      1. Stefan

        > Can’t imagine Airbus is too crazy about the STM using a Boeing model number, though.

        Really?? I can’t imagine either airline manufacturer barely notices what a random medium size city of Montreal calls its airport shuttle. More I think it points to the cheesy/cutesey marketing ideas of the STM that is so uniquely Quebeker…

    2. KL

      Triangle Transit Authority has a route serving Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) and is also numbered 747.

  1. John

    As someone who works at the airport, this is good news. However I’d dispense with the special fare structure. It’s not very friendly to out-of-towners who fly in and want to use public transit to get to their downtown destinations. Yes, it’s cheaper than a cab but Pearson has an easy to find TTC bus that goes direct to Kipling station and only applies the standard fare, monthly pass or not. I would also hope that this new service is clearly advertised in Trudeau on the arrivals area so people would know they have this new option.

    But I can also see the 747 being a mix of airport passengers and 211 users who will choose it as an alternative to the often crowded West Island bus.

  2. Marc

    It’s a great idea. And the numbering & chevron design are very clever. But I can’t help but wonder how long it’ll take the OLF to jump on the STM’s case to get them to change “747 EXPRESS BUS” to “AUTOBUS EXPRESS 747”.

    1. Chris

      I’ve noticed that the STM has changed the word “autobus” to “bus” on a lot of their written communications as of late. I wonder why this is.

  3. Anonymous

    *already dreads how crowded this bus line is gonna be with so many stops all over the damn place, picking up everyone and their mother and their 4 suitcases each*

    The good thing about the random Lionel-Groulx + 2 bus route to the airport was that it discouraged most people from using it, almost all of those that can’t seem to function anymore when having to travel with something else than their body.

  4. No Agenda

    I think the STM fumbled the ball with the fares and how they initially announced that CAMs won’t be accepted and only way to get on this bus is by paying $7. Now that the issue is clarified I think they didn’t spend enough time emphasizing the point that any pass works and the $7 comes with a 24 hour access card. That initial Gazette article about the 747 with regards to the fare did a lot of harm, judging by the comments at the time, and the STM did not seem aware of that issue

  5. Craig_village

    Crap. I live a couple blocks from Berri metro. I would take the shuttle to the airport all the time. This is nice to get me home, but they have no Berri departures??? It’s a major metro intersection. arrrgh

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The map has a stop eastbound at the Berri metro, but no westbound stop. It’s a bit ambiguous what exactly happens there. In any case, the bus station is right next door and is attached to the Berri metro station.

  6. Vahan

    Not sure the price is worth the hassle. At 7 bucks a family of 4 I would pay 28 bucks and it would not be door to door like a cab, which would be roughly under 40 bucks. I have done the Lionel Groulx route with our monthly pass and it isn’t that awful. Considering I am not paying more.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t think the STM is really targetting families of four here (particularly families of four where none of them have transit passes), nor do I think families of four really constitute a large percentage of air travellers.

      1. Vahan

        You are probably correct about the target market they are after. We, in Montreal, tend to feel we are more “European” than the rest of the North America and poo-poo anything that seems remotely American. Yet we are stuck with the mentality that cars rule and it is most times easier to travel by car than public transit. I have had layovers in Europe and my plane ticket at the airport was my buss pass to spend some time in the city centre, nothing extra. My wife was recently in transit in Washington, she tells me the bus into town was 2 bucks. If they are targeting business travellers then they will not get much of that either. I rather expense a cab ride to the door of my hotel room to the front door of the airport, with all my bags and laptop and what have you, than jump on a bus with a crowd of people. Like I need the headache of the possibility of losing stuff on a bus when I am traveling with all the shit I would have tro carry around in “today’s hectic times” ( I just love that marketing term by the way, along with “as a mother with a busy schedule”-insert product targeted to the soccer mom here).

  7. Anonymous

    I still can’t belive that it’s been 13 years since Dorval is the international airport and it’s the first time an half decent public transport option exist… I mean thank but how difficult was it?

    Incidently I wonder what was the conditons of the deal for La Québécoise who is abandonning the line…

    1. telso

      My guess is La Québécoise is celebrating. My mom, who’s had to do a lot of commuting to the airport over the years, has gotten to know a number of the drivers, and they’ve always said the route is a huge loss to the company (whichever one had the contract at the time). To try to compensate, the company would cancel alternate departures (which were mostly empty) and run the buses on charter routes ferrying tourists around downtown for a few hours, which led to complaints and huge (and I mean *huge*) fines once the ADM found out about it.

      As expected, the ones who are really complaining are the cabbies. Just look at the facts: if hundreds of cabbies spend hours each day sleeping, playing backgammon, and chatting while inefficiently waiting in a huge lineup at the edge of the airport for a single fare, that fare must be pretty darn profitable (i.e. overpriced). It’s pretty hypocritical for them to be arguing about unfair competition when they have a monopoly on private, paying rides to and from the airport.

      Regardless, since I don’t get monthly or weekly passes, I guess I’m going to be walking through the airport parking lots for many years to come. (However, I would guess the 204 will continue to the airport, because it has to cross to the north side of the tracks at some point anyway to make it into that part of Dorval, and it provides airport access from Fairview, which is a pretty big transit hub.)

      1. Donhomer


        As a former employee of Coach Canada, (the company which ran the airport shuttle before La Quebecoise) I can confirm to you that the only reason why La Quebecoise (or any bus company) wanted the airport shuttle run, was it allowed them to get their “foot in the door ” inside Trudeau airport. Once on having being licensed to be allowed inside the airport, you can be allowed to depart there and pick up any groups, charters, etc.. $$$, the sky’ the limit. Don’t feel too sorry for cabdrivers, it’s still cheaper and more convenient for any group of 2 or more to book a cab than it is to take a shuttle. Until a rail connection connects the airport and downtown occurs, cabdrivers can breathe easy.

        1. emdx

          What I cannot fathom is why any bus operator cannot pick-up a group at the airport.

          Oh, I know, it’s been privatized and the bunch of businessmen have to grab as much money as possible by all means possible…

          (Remember, some years ago, when some suburban shopping mall – was it in Brossard or St-Bruno? – refused that taxis pick-up customers??? – And some 10 years ago, a Buffalo shopping mall refused transit buses so a girl working there was squished by a truck as she tried to cross the 8 lanes of shimmering traffic to go to work because the bus stop was not on the mall property)

  8. Fassero

    Actually, “the most confusing thing about this bus” would have to be how a “direct, non-stop” route between the airport and downtown features eight stops in between. Maybe it sounds better in French :)

      1. Fassero

        Actually my point was that there’s more to downtown than Lionel-Groux. The bulk of the downtown hotels, for example, will be closer to the stops on Rene-Levesque.

        Something tells me this is going to be a highly unprofitable route that really only benefits airport workers who need to commute in the overnight hours. The expense account or family crowds will have very little use because of the time savings using a true non-stop cab ride.

        I’ll never understand why nobody can bang their heads together, cut the politicking, and figure out a dedicated train route from the airport to downtown because lord knows there’s enough track and/or vacant land between the two to get it together in quick order. That would be an absolute goldmine.

        1. Matt

          On the contrary, I predict that this bus will be quite the success and that they will quickly meet their ridership projections and have to increase service. In Toronto, the TTC launched their airport express bus to the subway a few years back with pretty much the same frequency as the STM’s bus: every half hour or so. It quickly became utilized to the point that service is now every 10 minutes or less during much of the day. Keep in mind that the TTCs bus is a 10 minute trip to the subway, where you have to transfer and then ride another 30 minutes into downtown, while the STMs bus is direct with no transfers. Given the large amount of people that have monthly passes here in Montreal, I doubt that the $7 cash fare will scare off much of the potential ridership.

          Having said that, I agree that a train would be by far the better option.

  9. Rich

    Too bad the route doesn’t make a pit stop at the Dorval terminus. That would integrate the airport service with the rest of the bus network and offer West Islanders a route homeward from anywhere along Dorchester as a bonus. Hopefully this’ll happen whenever the Dorval Circle gets redone.

    But yeah, it’s kinda pathetic how long it took the STM to introduce this service.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The problem with a stop at the Dorval terminus is that it would probably encourage a lot of locals to take the 747 bus to get to the West Island as an alternative to the 211. That would be annoying for air travellers.

      1. Jason Paiva

        Both of you are making valid points. I can see how it would be attractive to have it stop at the Dorval Terminus. I was thinking about driving my car to the Dorval Train station parking lot and taking the this new bus to work instead of the train. That’s the attractive part I was referring to. Then Fagstien says it won’t make the stop there and came up with a great reason why. :) damm, foiled again!

  10. Jim J.

    I guess the STM is trying to get some money out of tourists with this, but it just seems unnecessarily confusing…Expect drivers of these buses to have to exercise a lot of patience explaining the fare structure.

    I’m not sure this is as big an issue as you are making it out to be.

    For passengers going to the airport, the fare is $7. For passengers going downtown, the fare is…wait for it, wait for it…$7.

    This is somehow confusing because it’s different than the “ordinary” fare if you were to just hop on the 24, or the 55, or the 211? I just don’t see that.

  11. Paul Hector

    “Expect drivers of these buses to have to exercise a lot of patience explaining the fare structure.”

    Now that’s something I’ve yet to see: STM drivers patient enough to give information or explain anything whatsoever.

  12. bart

    It’s about time. Bold move to do the right thing against the will of stubborn vested interests.

    How about a dedicated bus line down highway 20 at rush hour. This could increase ridership on all westbound routes and ultimately reduce congestion.

  13. Sylvia

    in response to the comment proposing a stop at Dorval train & bus station:

    why would they stop at dorval station? the 204 and 209 already do that job. the 747 is for people going straight downtown, not to dorval or the west island

    1. Jason

      Thats easy, the 204 and 209 don’t go to downtown. As far as I know, there is no bus that goes downtown from the West Island. yes, the bus goes to the metro, but i don’t work at the metro! :)

      I’d love to park my car at Dorval Train Station and take one bus all the way to work. No transfers, no metro, no train.

      But even I have to agree with Fagstien “The problem with a stop at the Dorval terminus is that it would probably encourage a lot of locals to take the 747 bus to get to the West Island as an alternative to the 211. That would be annoying for air travellers.”

      One could only assume that the reverse direction would also be true. Heck, that’s what I want to do! :)

  14. walkerp

    Overall, it’s a positive development and I applaud them for at least recognizing how behind we are here in terms of transport to the airport. I was not happy about losing the Aerobus, because though it’s about twice as expensive, it at worst had one or two stops from Berri-UQAM. It kind of sounds like it might be a better strategy for those of us in the Plateau and points east to take the metro to Lionel-Groulx and skip all the downtown stops. I guess I’ll have to put it to the test.

    I don’t mind the $7 dollar fee, as it seems reasonable. However, I would like someone to justify why this bus wouldn’t just cost the normal bus fee price. Is it because it is “express”? I mean if I can make it from the east side all the way to the west island on a single ticket from my Carte Opus, why should I have to pay a special price for this bus? It’s not the actual spending of the money that bothers me here. It’s the logic. It’s like the STM is telling us that what should have always been a standard service is something special. I mean at the very least, that station where you used to have to get off (and sometimes walk across the field or take that single bus to the airport) should have been located at or within easy walking to the airport. It’s like they are charging us extra for something we have been due for decades.

    I’ll be interested in seeing how this actually effects taxi traffic.

    1. Monkland Ave

      I live in NDG, and I was thinking I might actually ride the metro all the way to Berri-UQAM instead of Lionel-Groulx to be sure I got a seat on the way to the airport! :)

  15. Steve Hatton

    The 427 Express St-Joseph???

    They’ve already got signs up for the 747 on Rene-Levesque. Surprisingly though, I noticed that there are actually not one but two new bus routes on the new signs. The 747 and the 427 Express. There doesn’t seem to be much information out there regarding this other new route apart from some obscure stuff I found on this discussion board.

    Apparently it’s the St-Joseph Express and it’ll start at Pie-IX, run along St-Joseph Boulevard, down St-Denis Street and then along Rene-Levesque where it’ll end it’s route at Guy-Concordia Metro. The link also seems to indicate that both routes will start running on March 29th along with something called the 120 Lachine/LaSalle, which I also haven’t heard of. I can’t find anything that’ll confirm that the date is correct as far as the 427 and 120 are concerned.

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  17. Goaltender Interference

    How about something equally simple and good: a one-or-two carriage train that shunts back and forth between Lucien-Lallier train station and Dorval station all day?

    And instead of that ridiculous half-hourly STM bus service from Dorval train station, why not have those busses that pick people up in the parking lot extend their routes to the train station?

    All transportation problems to the airport are solved with no added infrastructure, minimal added cost.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      And instead of that ridiculous half-hourly STM bus service from Dorval train station, why not have those busses that pick people up in the parking lot extend their routes to the train station?

      Because that’s not their function. That’s the parking shuttle, which is provided because it encourages the use of paid parking. There’s zero incentive for the airport to extend service of that bus to the train station.

  18. Sallyfrommontreal

    I think that this bus is a great idea! Especially since I sometimes meet my mother at the airport where she works. It is free for me as I have the STM monthly pass and I think the fare is reasonible too. Other places I have traveled have been a bit more priceier. Also I find taking the 211 or 221 is a hug problem and bother to alot of passengers. This bus will at least have racks for them to place their luggage :)


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