Monthly Archives: March 2010

STM tidbits: Three new routes, two new metro designs

New schedules start March 29

The STM will be introducing three new routes and extending a fourth during its quarterly schedule change (links go to Planibus PDFs):

  • 120 Lachine/LaSalle (Mon-Fri all day): Though not officially an express bus, this is being billed as a faster alternative to the 110 Centrale that connects Lachine with the Angrignon metro station. It has 18 stops compared to the 110’s 53 stops. Western terminus is Victoria and 55th Ave., passing through the Lafleur-Newman bus terminal, and then the Angrignon metro. Its eastern terminus is actually the Carrefour Angrignon. Service on the 110 bus is not being reduced.
  • 196 Parc Industriel Lachine (Mon-Fri daytime): An STM bus that connected nowhere with nowhere now goes somewhere: the eastern (northern?) terminus has been extended from Cavendish and Côte-Vertu to the Côte-Vertu metro station. There’s also a minor kink about halfway through the route that takes Joseph-Dubreuil St. to 32nd Ave.
  • 427 Express Saint-Joseph (Mon-Fri westbound mornings, eastbound afternoons): An express doubler for the 27 Saint-Joseph during rush hour, this bus keeps going after it reaches the metro, going down St-Denis and Berri and then René-Lévesque to terminate at the Guy-Concordia metro station. This will minimize transfers (taking many workers straight to their offices) as well as take some pressure off one of the most congested sections of the metro system during rush hour: the orange line between Laurier and Berri-UQAM. Only 32 departures each day, but it’s highly targetted to rush hour, with a headway of only 10 minutes. Service on the 27 is unaffected. (UPDATE: Seems Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez has some concerns about this bus)
  • 747 Express Bus (24/7): The airport express bus, discussed in more detail in this post.

Metro cars may have fewer seats

Though it was reported back in January, it seems more certain now that, with all the delays pushing back the new metro car contract, the oldest cars still in service, the MR-63s used on the green line, will need to be kept longer and get an interior redesign to fit more people.

Unfortunately, the only way to fit more people into a confined space like this is to remove seats. The STM was to have put two prototype cars in service yesterday – one removes single seats near the ends of each car, while the other removes single seats near the centre of each car (removing double seats, like was done when the MR-73s were refitted, apparently isn’t feasible with these cars because of all the equipment underneath the double seats).

Obviously, not everyone is happy about the idea of squishing even more people into these cars and taking away the cherished single don’t-have-to-touch-anyone seats. Discussions are already under way at and the Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board about it.

All-articulated bus routes in June

The Gazette’s Andy Riga has gotten Marvin Rotrand to tell him that three lines – 121 Sauvé-Côte-Vertu, 467 Express Saint-Michel and 535 R-Bus Du Parc/Côte des Neiges – will be served only by articulated buses as of June. Articulated buses will also be used on the 80 (Du Parc), 139 (Pie-IX), 165 (Côte-des-Neiges) and 67 (Saint-Michel) within a year, with studies about whether to expand them to the 18 (Beaubien), 24 (Sherbrooke – downtown), 105 (Sherbrooke – NDG), and 197 (Rosemont). Aside from having high ridership, the routes also need longer stop zones to accommodate the longer buses.

New daycamp fare

Buried in Riga’s piece is mention of a new type of fare the STM will be introducing on June 1. A daycamp fare will cost $12 and cover a trip for adult and 10 children under 13. (Children 5 and under already ride free with a fare-paying adult). This is similar to the family pass they brought in in 2008, which allows kids to ride free with their parents, but only on weekends and holidays.

This new fare will be welcome news for all those who take large groups of children on public transit, but will probably suck for a lot of people if this means more armies of prepubescent kids board STM buses around the island.

Service disruptions reported on Twitter – twice

In case you missed it, the STM is now finally reporting on the status of the metro system using Twitter and Facebook, as well as on their homepage. So far it has reported only one disruption – the green line going down on Sunday.

Annoyingly, the reports on Twitter and Facebook are all done twice – once in English and once in French. Nevermind that the STM hasn’t been the most English-friendly organization on the planet in the past, but why not just setup two accounts if you’re going to do that?

Journal de Montréal, I wish I could quit you

Recognizing, I guess, that despite not having most of its journalists the Journal de Montréal is still putting out a paper every day and people are still reading it, the union representing the 253 locked-out employees has released a new ad comparing the evil newspaper to some sort of drug, and Rue Frontenac to the nicotine patch.

It’s cute, but it just reminds me that people are still reading the Journal. And I don’t think most of them are trying to stop.

Meanwhile, the union has also put up a 13-question FAQ for those who want to learn more about their position and what’s at stake in this conflict.

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.

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Nancy Wood saga isn’t going away quietly (UPDATED with CBC bullshit)

It’s been a rough few days, that’s for sure. I am really heartened to see the support I have, especially from listeners. I can’t tell you how much I love hosting Daybreak. I just wish the CBC loved me half as much. I guess I’ll never really know why they don’t want me.

– Nancy Wood, Feb. 22

Nancy Wood hasn’t said much since she learned almost a month ago that she was being pulled from the host chair at Daybreak. Part of that is because Wood has never been one to draw too much attention to herself (at least, that’s the impression I get from listening to her), and part of it is that there are still discussions happening behind the scenes – and CBC employees have been told not to talk to the media.

The short note above is all she wrote to me when I asked her about this whole thing almost three weeks ago. On Twitter, where she has a personal account, only this tweet, saying she’d be glad to return to her job, but providing no new details about what’s going on. On her Facebook account (which isn’t open to non-friends), similarly cryptic messages.

Even though I’ve never conversed with Wood in person, those brief crumbs of thought tug at my heartstrings. Here we have a veteran journalist and a professional radio host who is being forced from her dream job and doesn’t even know why. It’s been reported that Wood was hospitalized for stress, and while I haven’t confirmed that (and it’s really none of my business), the emotional impact this has had on her seems pretty apparent.

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It was the best Olympics, it was the worst Olympics

It’s easy to throw out the hyperbole. Newspaper columnists need to have some sort of opinion about the Vancouver Olympics in order to feed the beast, satisfy their readers and their bosses. Depending on which one you read, it was either the most friendly, welcoming and well-organized Games ever, or it was a non-stop glitch-fest that will forever be marred by the death of an athlete.

CBC summarizes some reaction from around the world.

Internationally, it seemed how countries thought about these Olympics had everything to do with whether the number of medals they got met expectations.

NBC, which laid on the love for Canada pretty thick (or maybe we just thought it was thick because we’re so unused to international praise), continued afterward, with Brian Williams sending a thank-you note. Jim Caple of ESPN went the opposite way, poking fun at the northern neighbours but still with the attitude that these games were awesome. (He even made fun of Canada’s men’s hockey team after the U.S. beat them in round-robin play, with some jokes he probably regrets now)

For Australia, which won only three Olympic medals, it was still the best winter games ever, screamed headlines from Australian Associated Press, the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian minister for sport.

On the other hand, Russia was a disappointment at these games (a disappointment that forced the resignation of the head of the Russian Olympic Committee), and Pravda went on a rant saying simply that Vancouver is not fit to hold the Winter Olympics. On the day of the closing ceremony, criticisms read more like conspiracy theories about how organizers and officials unfairly hurt Russia to Canada’s benefit.

And then, of course, there’s Great Britain, which managed only a single medal at these games. But in their defence, the criticism came long before that result.

Lawrence Donegan of The Guardian was the most cited, calling it the worst Olympics ever. His words were repeated by his peers.

Of course, that prompted a lot of defend-Canada pieces from Canadian media, who quoted Olympic historians, members of the IOC and VANOC attacking that view and rating these games highly. Other columnists and editorial writers took it upon themselves to defend Vancouver 2010.

The truth is that the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games were somewhere in between. The people were friendly, but they could also be dicks sometimes, especially when they let their national pride get the better of them. The organizers were beset with an avalanche of problems, but reacted quickly to them. The opening and closing ceremonies were well choreographed, but … well, I won’t get into another debate about that.

And as for the athletic performances, there were plenty of triumphs and disappointments (or, in the case of Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno and the Canadian men’s speed-skating teams, both in the same week). There was the tragedy of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the heartbreaking disqualification of Sven Kramer in the 10,000-metre race, the childish reaction of Evgeni Plushenko after failing to win gold in men’s figure skating, and of course Joannie Rochette, who stole some of the spotlight away from an incredible performance by Kim Yu-Na.

I spent most of these Olympics in front of my TV, and will remember quite a bit of them. I’ll also remember quite a bit from the 2008 Games in Beijing, and other Olympics before them.

But to suggest that the Vancouver Olympics were the greatest ever (better than Lillehammer? Lake Placid?) or the worst ever (worse than Munich? Atlanta?) is probably pushing it a bit much.

The next games are in Russia in 2014. And even though it’s four years away, it’s already being denounced as the worst ever.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 71

In 1926, the city of Montreal made a request of the city of Verdun related to the latter city’s geography.

Verdun politely declined, and turned around and suggested the city of Montreal do the same.

What was it?

UPDATE: William Moss got it right on the first shot: Montreal wanted Verdun to rename Church St., because there was already a Church St. in Montreal and they were worried about confusion. Verdun said its Church St. was bigger than Montreal’s and suggested the bigger city change the name of its smaller street if it cared so much.

Of course, Church St. in Verdun is now called de l’Église.

But, for an extra point, what became of Church St. in Montreal?

Montreal’s Church St. was renamed shortly after Verdun’s response. The downtown street, which runs only from Sherbrooke to Ontario, was renamed in 1927 after John Wodehouse, count of Kimberley, on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Though it is now part of UQAM’s downtown campus and closed to traffic, Rue Kimberley still exists.

Bored this weekend? Get your geek on at the Geek Fest

It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the anglophone community (I guess that’s my fault?), but geeks from around town are converging this weekend for LAN parties, code fests, role-playing games and all sorts of other stuff at the Montreal Geek Festival.

Tickets are $12 for the weekend or $8 a day. The fun is at 752 Sherbrooke W.

And if you’re into board games and other non-computerized geekiness, there’s also the monthly Geek Outs at Burritoville on Bishop St. The next one is March 20 at 2pm. Attendance is free.

The Link turns 30 with journalism conference

The Link, a Concordia student-run newspaper that I edited more than half a decade ago, celebrates 30 this year. The paper has a habit of celebrating every five years. I was there for the 20th anniversary, and again for the 25th. Turnover at universities means it’s usually a completely different group of people organizing each one.

As part of their 30th anniversary celebrations, The Link is playing host to a regional conference of Canadian University Press, hosting student newspapers from Quebec and Ontario (emphasis on the Ontario, since CUP is still a mostly English-dominated organization, even in its tiny Quebec chapter).

The conference, which goes Friday night to Sunday morning (but most activities of interest are on Saturday). It is hosted at Concordia’s downtown campus. It’s $7 for the general public to attend (according to the Facebook event page), and free for alumni of the paper.

The schedule is here (PDF). Speakers include:

Gazette loses Uncle Hughie

Hugh Anderson, who was most recently The Gazette’s seniors columnist, died Wednesday from retroperitoneal sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

There’s an obituary in Thursday’s paper, but the more interesting pieces are the ones written by Anderson himself, who explored the issue of death in his columns recently.

Anderson disappeared from the paper briefly in 2007, and returned to write a series of articles about the death of his wife and the process of grieving the loss of a loved one. He disappeared again last fall, returning in January with a piece about his own cancer diagnosis, knowing his life was very likely coming to an end.

With that piece, the column was transformed into The Next Chapter, expanding to include baby boomers (who don’t like to think of themselves as seniors yet) and including pieces from other writers.

Anderson’s last column, about euthanasia, was published on Feb. 15.

UPDATE: Gazette Arts & Life editor Michael Shenker uses the space once occupied by Anderson’s column to write about him and about death.

The new boss, same as the old boss

So, funny story:

A little under two weeks ago, my record of employment came in the mail, along with the pay stubs for my last two paycheques at the Gazette. It was about then that it hit me that I didn’t work there anymore. Now I was unemployed, and I needed to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

As I figured out what that would mean, a week ago Sunday I went on the government of Canada’s website and filed for unemployment insurance benefits. At least it would seem like I was still getting a salary while I looked for a new job.

That’s when Murphy’s Law (or a corollary thereof) took effect. Shortly after I woke up on Monday afternoon, I got emails, Facebook messages and telephone calls from my former colleagues, telling me about a job opening at The Gazette for a part-time copy editor on contract.

The paper is in the process of switching to a new content management system for both print an online, which will notably include a change of page layout software from QuarkXPress (version 3.32, released in 1996) to Adobe InDesign. This will mean a lot of training for existing copy editors, so they decided to hire a few more to help put out the paper. My name, apparently, was one of the first to come up.

Yeah, she’s dumped me a few times, but I keep going back. Funny what love does to you.

The interview was pretty short. It’s not like I needed to provide references. “Can you start Monday?” I was asked over the phone. And just like that, I had my old job back.

There was a bit of paperwork to deal with (actually none of it on paper, it was all getting electronic accounts setup and a security pass reactivated), but at 4pm Monday, exactly one month after leaving for what I thought could easily have been forever, I entered the office and went to work as if I’d never left, stopping occasionally to hear a “welcome back” and a joke from a colleague.

I felt a bit weird. I mean, there was some drama exactly four weeks ago. I sent a going-away email, had a going-away party. Everyone knew I’d be back, even though they didn’t know how or when. It seems they were right.

Instead of venturing into the unknown and beginning on a new path, my unemployment turned into little more than an unpaid month-long vacation, ending the day after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

This will be my fifth contract at The Gazette, my fourth as a copy editor. And the length is unknown, even to my bosses. It could be measured in weeks or months. It could last forever, or I could be back on EI benefits before you know it. I’ve gotten accustomed over the past five years to not knowing what’s in store for the future beyond the two or three-week notice that’s given on the posted schedule. Living a contract life is a sacrifice I’ve made in exchange for being able to work at my favourite job in my favourite city, and without a wife and kids to support it’s hardly a burden to be occasionally unemployed or underemployed for short periods.

So like I have for the past few years, I’ll enjoy it while I can. Particularly the awful, awful puns.

I’m a hypocrite again. All hail The Gazette.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 70

What is the significance of these numbers:

45, 100, 131, 132, 159, 171, 179, 197, 221, 505

UPDATE: It took a day, but two of you (plam and Kaycee) got it within minutes of each other: These are STM bus routes that end at a métro station and share the same name.

From contributor and transit geek Shanake Seneviratne:

The practice of placing a bus route’s ultimate terminus on the destination sign is not one that has been adopted by the STM. Unlike other systems that indicate the endpoints of a route (Laval, Longueuil, Ottawa, and Toronto all do good jobs with their destination signs), Montreal has adopted a “dominant street or neighbourhood” naming policy. While this works well in principle, in actual fact this can backfire. The 168, for example, hasn’t served Cité du Havre proper in decades. The 460 doesn’t go on the Métropolitaine but rather parallel to it. The 215 is more deserving of the title Brunswick than the 208 is!

With new buses with excellent capabilities with regard to their destination sign, the STM can surely be more flexible and proactive.

Of course, most of these buses are actually named for the streets that the métro stations are named after, but there’s an interesting debate on what names bus routes should take.

Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the Montreal system, but I tend to like it for the most part. It runs into trouble when routes don’t take any particular street for very long. Naming buses for their destination assumes that people are going to that destination. While métro stations and terminuses are certainly big draws for transit users, they’re not the destination for all.

Besides, with maps at most bus stops now, and the increasing use of smartphones to get information on the go, the importance of the name of a bus route has diminished.