Category Archives: Public transit

Lies, damn lies and metro statistics

Line Green (1) Orange (2) Yellow (4)* Blue (5)
Criminal acts 541 395 429 90
Ridership 87.7M 91.3M 34M 22.2M
Crimes per million 6.17 4.33 12.62 4.05

The Gazette leads today’s paper with statistics on crime in the metro system gleaned via an access-to-information request. Montreal police wouldn’t break down the crime by individual station – citing security concerns – but would do so by line (kinda). The Gazette concludes that the green line has the most crime, with 541 reported acts, compared to 395 for the orange line, which has more ridership.

It’s not surprising that the green line shows more reported crime (even though the numbers in absolute terms are pretty darn small, averaging about 1.5 crimes against a person – including theft – 2 crimes against property – theft burglary, vandalism – and less than one other criminal offence per day across the 64 Montreal police-patrolled stations). The green line not only has the busiest stations, but goes through the downtown core, as well as some of the city’s poorer areas, like Pointe St. Charles and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. But, of course, this is just conjecture until more detailed statistics come out.

*The STM curiously decided to lump the four transfer stations in with the yellow line statistics, even though only one of those four transfer stations actually serves the yellow line. Considering the Longueuil station isn’t included in the statistics (because it’s in Longueuil police territory) and the traffic through the Jean-Drapeau station is negligible (about 5% of the total traffic for the five stations included in that statistic), you can basically read “yellow” above to mean the four transfer stations.

The statistics show that it’s those transfer stations that are the most likely to result in crimes when you divide the total crimes by station. But then, even those statistics lie, because ridership numbers only count passages through turnstiles, they don’t count transfers between lines.

So all we can really say here is that statistically, crimes are more likely to happen on the green line than the orange line or the blue line, not counting the transfer stations. Which is hardly going to stop people from taking the green line.

And while we wait to see if The Gazette can get the access to information commission to force the police to release more detailed data, we can just take some comfort in the fact that, on average, a metro station will see a criminal act worth reporting only 22 times a year, or once every 16 days.

Goodbye Métro, hello 24 Heures

These Métro newspaper stands will be replaced by ones distributing 24 Heures

A 10-year deal that has given a huge competitive advantage to one of Montreal’s two (officially) free daily newspapers is about to come to an end.

The Société de transport de Montréal announced today that 24 Heures, the freesheet owned by Quebecor’s Sun Media, has won its bid for exclusive distribution access in the metro system in a five-year (extendable) deal that starts on Jan. 3. As of that point, it will replace Transcontinental’s Métro, which has had this exclusive access since it began publishing in 2001.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Even though the two competing papers were launched virtually simultaneously, have the same type of content and even share similar design styles, this distribution deal meant that Métro could fill stands inside each station and let people pick the paper up throughout the day, while 24 Heures had to settle for being able to hand their paper out to people outside metro entrances. The result was that Métro at one point had four times the readership of 24 Heures.

Since then, the numbers have evened out a bit, but Métro is still significantly ahead of 24 Heures in the quest for eyeballs.

The exclusivity deal angered Quebecor so much that it tried to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight it. That battle was lost in 2005. Deciding that if you can’t fight them, might as well join then, 24 Heures then signed an exclusivity deal with the Agence métropolitaine de transport for distribution in train stations in 2006. And now it gets the metro deal as well (and it’s very happy about that).

The deal with the STM also includes a requirement to offer a page in each issue to the STM to communicate with its users. (The STM will need to change its format a bit, since the new newspaper is smaller.) And expect that there will be a provision for recycling their own newspapers, similar to what Métro had. (Does that mean the recycling bins will be orange instead of green?)

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STM fares for 2011: Another hike

The STM is giving a bit more notice this year than last of its fare hikes, but that’s not going to make too many people happy about the news, since, of course, they’re going up again, along with other city taxes.

In addition to the usual incremental increases in all fares, the STM is adding a couple of new ones to encourage occasional transit users.

One is a simple two-for-one-and-five-sixths, offering two fares for $5.50 instead of $6 when bought together. The idea is that if you’re going somewhere by public transit, you’re probably coming back the same way, and it makes sense to encourage this, even if it’s only 50 cents off. (It also means if you buy two tickets at a time, you’ll pay the same price per ticket as you did in 2010.)

The second new fare is more interesting. Called “Soirée illimitée”, it permits unlimited travel after 6pm (it’s not clear how late this goes) for $4, which is only $1 more than a single-trip fare. A day pass, allowing unlimited travel for 24 hours from the point of purchase, will cost $8 on Jan. 1.

And, as previously announced, people who use the Longueuil metro station won’t be able to use their regular CAM passes as of Jan. 1. The deal with Laval means that the fare required for that station will increase gradually until it matches AMT Zone 3 rates. For now, the STM is selling what it calls the “CAM Longueuil” for $82, the price of a Zone 1 TRAM.

The tourist passes (allowing unlimited travel for 1 or 3 days) have gone up, but are still slightly below 2009 levels after the STM reduced them last year.

Here’s the table, compared to last year:

Regular Reduced
Monthly CAM $72.75 ($70+ 3.9%) $41 ($38.75 + 5.8%)
CAM Longueuil $82 $49
Weekly CAM $22 ($20.50 + 2.5%) $12.75 ($11.50 + 10.9%)
Three-day tourist pass $16 ($14 + 14.3%) N/A
One-day tourist pass $8 ($7 + 14.3%) N/A
Evening pass (after 6pm) $4 N/A
10 trips (Opus card only) $22.50 ($2.25/trip, $21 + 7.1%) $13 ($1.30/trip, $12 + 8.3%)
Six trips $14.25 ($2.38/trip, $13.25 + 7.5%) $8.50 ($1.42/trip, $7.50 + 13.3%)
Two trips $5.50 ($2.75/trip) $3.50 ($1.75/trip)
Single fare $3 ($2.75 + 9.1%) $2 ($1.75 + 14.3%)

And for fun, since all the media are doing it, here’s what the regular fares were in 2001, 10 years ago:

  • CAM: $48.50 (now 50% more)
  • CAM hebdo: $13.50 (now 63% more)
  • Six tickets: $8.50 (now 68% more)
  • Single fare: $2.00 (now 50% more)
  • Tourist (1 calendar day): $7 (now 14% more)
  • Tourist (three consecutive days): $14 (now 14% more)

You can read the full 2011 budget here (PDF).

UPDATE: Fee tables from the AMT, STL and RTL, mostly modest increases of a buck or two. Note that the RTL’s cash fare (which doesn’t allow transfers) will be $3.10 instead of $3.

New bus shelters are so sharp it hurts (UPDATED)

UPDATE (Nov. 25): The Gazette’s Andy Riga reports the STM says the average price for these shelters is actually lower than what they reported earlier. Also see below my photos of this shelter at night.

A prototype of the new STM bus shelter at René-Lévesque Blvd. and Jeanne-Mance St.

On Monday, the Société de transport de Montréal made a big splash of this rectangular glass box, inviting the media to take pictures and witness a dramatic unveiling. This is the model of a new style of bus shelter that the STM is planning to replicate hundreds of times.

Michel Labrecque, the STM’s chairman, said the biggest thing about it is the look, and how the aesthetic design of the shelter will draw more transit users in. People want to wait in something “sharp”, he said, something that looks more like the future than the stone age.

The shelters will cost between $14,000 and $16,000 about $12,000 each, not including the development cost, which will bring the total price for 400 shelters to $14 million. Even then, it’s significantly more than the price of existing shelters.

After installing three prototypes (the other two will come next month), the STM will seek input from users before making the order for the rest.

Not wanting to pass judgment before I saw it myself, I decided to pass by the shelter on the day after the big announcement, when all the TV cameras, PR people and giant tarps had long gone (and when the weather wasn’t so rainy).

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Door ajar

You’ll probably be seeing mention of this video in the local media in the coming days (hopefully some will actually look into the issue instead of just posting the video with baseless conjecture like I am here). It shows a metro train travelling between the Assomption and Viau stations on the green line with a door stuck open, and is already getting traction on Twitter.

It shouldn’t be difficult to see the very serious safety implications of this kind of failure.

Metro trains are designed with a safety system designed to prevent exactly this (which is why it’s so rare). When it detects that a door has opened beyond a set limit, it automatically commands the train to stop. This is what causes a train to come to an abrupt halt, usually as it’s leaving a station, when someone either accidentally or deliberately attempts to force a door open.

Clearly, unless this video is an elaborate fake of some sort, this system failed on this train. Hopefully it will prompt an investigation that ensures it never happens again.

Since the failure happened on an older MR-63 train, expect some people to link this to the age of the trains and the apparent desperate need to replace them with new ones from Bombardier-Alstom.

UPDATE (Nov. 9): The Gazette’s Max Harrold has preliminary details from the STM: It was just that door, it was locked closed when the STM discovered the problem at Berri-UQAM, and it has since been fixed.

The spokesperson also adds “someone should have pulled the emergency brake” – though those handles on board the trains don’t actually stop a train in motion, they merely prevent it from leaving the next station.

Just about everyone has picked up the story, with varying amounts of journalism involved:

  • Radio-Canada posts the YouTube video, and has a phone interview with STM spokesperson Marianne Rouette, who’s had a busy day
  • Agence QMI says the video came to it via Mon Topo on Monday, and it has quotes from Rouette. It also says the train was in the direction of Honoré-Beaugrand, which contradicts the video and what Rouette says.
  • Métro posts the YouTube video, the basics, and links to Radio-Canada for STM reaction.
  • CBC Montreal posts the YouTube video and quotes Rouette, including the statement that parts from the door were sent “to the lab” for analysis.
  • The Gazette posts the YouTube video and quotes Rouette
  • CTV Montreal posts the YouTube video and interviews Rouette.
  • Branchez-Vous does its usual form of “journalism”, posting the YouTube video and quoting Radio-Canada without linking to it.
  • Montreal City Weblog points out that in 2004 the doors opened on the wrong side – twice. Not exactly the same issue, but it’s another case of doors being open when they shouldn’t.
  • Benoît Dutrizac interviews general manager Carl Desrosiers, who says this was caused by a simultaneous failure of two systems that were completely replaced only three years ago.

There’s also commentary already, mostly along the lines of “why did they just film it instead of pulling the emergency brake?” – from bloggers like Cécile Gladel. While I think I would have pulled the emergency brake if I was in that position, I would have also taken photos or video of it.

Consider this:

  • As much as safety is a consideration, there didn’t seem to be any immediate danger because the train wasn’t full
  • Pulling the brake or warning the driver would have caused delays as the problem was discovered and fixed, and most people on the metro are looking to get somewhere quickly
  • There’s a reasonable belief that the STM will take this more seriously now that there’s video of it in the news

The forum also has some discussion of this event and testimonials of similar things happening in the past.

UPDATE (Dec. 30, 2013): It’s happened again. Story includes disturbing quotes from STM spokesperson suggesting this is a “fairly rare” occurrence, but it’s “normal” that such things happen a few times a year.

STM launches seniors’ routes in Côte St. Luc, Cartierville

Route for 262 Côte St. Luc

Last week, the STM launched two new seniors’ buses, bringing the total to 10. These routes, served using minibuses, take winding routes through neighbourhoods on select weekdays, stopping at residences, shopping centres, CLSCs and other places that would be of interest to seniors.

The plus side is that seniors get door-to-door service with a driver who isn’t rushed by rowdy schoolkids. The minus side is that the routes are slow and the schedule is atrocious: departures are more than an hour apart and service is only offered on some days of the week.

The STM started the seniors’ buses with two routes in the west end in 2006 – one in Côte des Neiges and the other in N.D.G. Both lasted about a year before they were canned due to lack of ridership. Still, they soon launched other buses, mostly on the eastern side of the island: Montreal North, St. Michel, Rosemont, Rivière des Prairies, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Mercier, Anjou, and one in LaSalle. Most follow the same idea, offering service between rush hours on two or three weekdays. And for some reason, the STM has deemed these successful enough to keep them around longer.

Now they’re coming back to the west side, going after an area that has a lot of seniors and not much public transit.

The 262 Côte St. Luc (PDF) starts in the area around the Cavendish Mall, then down Cavendish and Côte St. Luc Road until Westminster. From there it heads non-stop to the Carrefour Angrignon shopping mall (though not to the nearby metro station). It has four departures in each direction on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The 263 Bordeaux-Cartierville (PDF) passes through the residences near Acadie Blvd. on the east side of Highway 15, then goes along de Salaberry, O’Brien, Gouin and Laurentian, and non-stop to the Place Vertu shopping centre. Again, no stop at a metro station. The bus also has four departures in each direction, but on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The buses are designed and marketed for seniors but accept regular fare and passengers of any age (though this isn’t made abundantly clear and even some drivers have apparently been under the incorrect impression that it’s reserved for those over 65).

I’ve never been one one of these routes, and I don’t know what their ridership figures are like, but fortunately we’re only talking about a minibus or two for six hours two or three times a week, so the cost is fairly low for each route.

Metrovision gets an update, and another

The new Metrovision layout

Last week, MetroMedia Plus, the people behind the Metrovision screens in high-traffic metro stations – which show news updates and ads on giant screens but also helpfully tell us how long it’ll be until the next train arrives – gave it a design update.

The old Metrovision layout

The new Metrovision screens as they first appeared

The screens still show the same information in the same places along the top: the time (though now with the date underneath), the Metrovision logo, the weather and the times of the next departures. But it’s the last one that doesn’t seem to have been thought through so well. The new digits are noticeably smaller, include a useless leading zero, and have lost a lot of contrast. Instead of being white on dark blue, they became light blue on white.

I noticed the result easily as I transferred trains at Berri-UQAM: While under the previous layout I could see the time to the next train at a glance from 50 feet away, with the new layout it became a blur.

I wasn’t the only one to notice. A few complaints were made on Twitter, prompting the company to quickly promise changes.

Within a few days, the layout had changed slightly. The light blue text became black, and the size of the numbers were larger, making them easier to see from a distance.

If only someone had thought to conduct usability testing before the system went into effect…

Didier Lucien mimes things into the Metrovision screen


Meanwhile, Metrovision has brought on Ze Mime, Didier Lucien, to act out stuff for advertisers. Since Metrovision doesn’t have sound, this kind of makes sense. Maybe even “a dynamic way to advertise,” as the release says.

But I don’t see how useful a mime will be at talking to us about transit schedules and news. How do you mime “ralentissement de service sur la ligne orange”?

More details on this from La Presse Affaires and InfoPresse.

The metro car contract: a depressing timeline

Just to recap:


  • January 2012: A judge rules that the “urgency” argument doesn’t hold up, and orders a call for bids on the new metro car contract. Bombardier-Alstom sues.
  • March 2012: The STM puts out a new call for bids, and 12 more companies come out of the blue to express interest.
  • May 2012: The STM picks Bombardier-Alstom as the winner of the bid. ZhuZhou, CAF and a bunch of other companies promptly sue.
  • September 2012: A judge rules something, but nobody reads the judgment and everyone just announces they’re going to sue each other.
  • October 2012: The Quebec people sue the government for incompetent mismanagement of their funds.
  • December 2012: The world comes to an end. All evil dies in the apocalypse. Civil courts stop functioning, and all lawsuits are dismissed.
  • April 2025: The first new metro cars are delivered. Quebec Premier Patrick Huard participates in a photo op and pretends it was all his doing.

Tout l’monde transpire jusqu’aux orteils

I’m not necessarily in favour of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on massive air conditioning systems for the three or four weeks a year they’ll be useful, but I have to admit this Projet Montréal video is damn funny.

(The original, for those who haven’t seen it)

You can find the party’s dossier on the subject on its website. It includes those pictures of people holding up giant thermometers on the metro.

If only all public policy discussions involved dancers (and am I the only one who thinks it’s a missed opportunity that we don’t see Richard Bergeron, Luc Ferrandez and Peter McQueen prancing around a fake metro car?)

(via Projet Montréal on Twitter)

Front-seat driver

A woman sits on the bus driver's armrest greeting passengers

Maybe I’m being a bit of a prude, and insufficiently open-minded. And I know it can get boring when you’re driving a bus late at night.

But it just seems somewhat … inappropriate to have someone sitting with you in the driver’s seat as you’re driving the bus. Not only does it look rather unprofessional when people start to board the bus, but I’m pretty sure the people who tested the bus for safety don’t recommend people sit there.

There’s a seat right by the front door, and at this particular moment it’s unoccupied. Maybe you can sit there instead. Don’t worry, your conversation shouldn’t suffer.

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In defence of Bixi

A year and a half ago, when the Bixi bicycle rental service was launched in Montreal, I was a bit skeptical of it. I thought it was a good idea, I thought it was useful, but to me the idea of spending $78 a year on a bicycle rental service seemed silly when you could buy a whole (albeit crappy and possibly stolen) bike for just a bit more.

In July, I took advantage of a new discount deal that was just too good to resist: In exchange for signing up for the STM’s Opus à l’année annual pass, I’d get a $59 discount on the price of a yearly Bixi pass. So instead of costing $78, it would cost just $19.

The procedure is a bit awkward to get the discount. First you have to subscribe to the yearly Opus pass, which automatically deducts the cost of a monthly pass from your bank account on the 15th of the month. Once that’s done, you have to email your name and address to the STM, telling them you want the Bixi discount. They give you a discount code, which you enter into the Bixi website when you sign up for a yearly pass. Eventually in the mail you get a new Opus card (you can’t subscribe to the yearly pass on an existing card, but on the other hand they don’t charge you to send another one) and a Bixi key like this one:

Underside of a Bixi key (with personally identifying data smudged out)

Anyway, on July 23, after registering my Bixi key with the system, I walked over to a nearby stand and at 12:23am I rented my first Bixi bike. According to Bixi’s records (they keep a running tab of your use on their website), I’ve used a Bixi 44 times since then for a total of 8 hours.

Though it might be fun to use Bixi as my main form of transportation, I live too far from work to be able to bike all the way there (it takes about 45 minutes to get downtown, while the Bixi starts charging after 30), and the basket is too small for my (admittedly large) backpack and regular grocery run. Still, it’s very useful for shorter trips, particularly those that would be less convenient using public transport either because they would require too many connections or because they’re at a time when buses don’t come as often. I use them regularly after a late night at work as an alternative to one of my two night buses.

Though I’ve become somewhat of a Bixi convert, hooking my bicycle helmet to my backpack when I head downtown, I’m still not sure about the economics. I think $78 is pretty expensive compared to the cost of a used bike, but I highly recommend Bixi at $19 a year (and note that, unlike their current promotion of $30 until the end of the season, the yearly Bixi pass is good for one calendar year, which means I can keep using mine until July 2011, albeit not during the winter when Bixi is not in service). And I’ve gotten a new appreciation of the convenience that Bixi offers. Not only can you pick up and dock the bike almost anywhere, but you don’t have to worry about locking it up, pulling off the seat, lights, front wheel and any other valuables, or dealing with any other elaborate anti-theft measures. All you need is a helmet (and that’s technically optional), and once the bike’s locked up you have no responsibility in the matter.

I bring this all up because of an article in The Gazette last week about a transportation survey conducted by McGill’s transportation research group. The survey, which is available online (PDF) via Andy Riga’s blog is quite long and filled with statistical analysis so dense I gave up on much of it, but one of the interesting points is that Bixi rides aren’t replacing car travel, but walking, public transit and rides on private bicycles.

The study itself – based on an online survey of more than 1,000 people – admits there are two large grains of salt to be taken with the results: a potential for sample bias (many of the respondents were young, single people who are more likely to fill out online surveys about their transportation habits or be friends with people who were publicizing it) and the infancy of the Bixi network might also throw off the data (what neighbourhoods it serves, what kind of people are likely to be early adopters, etc.)

It’s not Bixi vs. cars

Still, the fact that such a small percentage of people who use Bixi would otherwise drive isn’t so much of a surprise. Most people who drive come from far away, and Bixi is installed mostly downtown, in the Plateau and areas adjacent where public transit use is high and car use is low.

The perception that Bixi would somehow significantly reduce car travel is one that is actively pushed by Bixi itself. Its statistics include an estimate of how much greenhouse gas is saved by each ride (notably calculated not by distance travelled, but by how much time the bike is out, even if it’s not in motion). Though it comes with a disclaimer, Bixi is clearly trying to make a point about being good for the environment, and the numbers behind those arguments are sketchy at best.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to think that in the long run that Bixis will significantly impact car travel in the city. Nor will they significantly impact taxi use (much to the relief of taxi drivers, though they cite anecdotal evidence that Bixis are cutting into their potential fares).

But that doesn’t make Bixi a bad thing. People use it because they think it’s convenient, whether it’s replacing a public transit trip or a short walk. And people are paying for this privilege. Replacing private bicycles with Bixis may seem pointless, but they virtually eliminate the problem of bike theft downtown, which is a major motivator for me.

Less public transit use is a good thing

The survey shows that 33% of Bixi trips replace public transit trips – more than any other alternative mode of transportation. This has an indirect benefit: getting people off the buses and metros during rush hour leaves more room for others, and makes public transit more appealing for those who would otherwise take cars. Overcrowding during rush hour is a major complaint of transit users, and Bixi helps alleviate that.

Of course, that’s not much help during the winter, when most of those walkers, cyclists and Bixi users jump back on the bus.

UPDATE (Sept. 14): Riga has a follow-up blog post with reaction to the story, which also brings up a debate over whether taxis should be included as “cars”.

STM fall schedules: “10 minutes max” and a new seniors’ route

UPDATED Aug. 31 with STM’s claims of increased West Island service

STM’s “10 minutes max” network (click for PDF)

The Société de transport de Montréal went all out announcing a new gimmick this week. It’s called “10 minutes max network” and it seeks to reassure transit users (and potential transit users) that buses within this network will arrive in no more than 10 minutes from when you get to a stop. Affected bus lines (there are 32 in all, or 31 if you count the 106 and 506 as one route) will have this graphic added to stop signs.

It comes into effect with schedule changes on Monday morning.

There are, of course, some caveats: It’s only between 6am and 9pm, only Mondays to Fridays (excluding holidays), and for 21 of the 32 routes, it only applies in one direction at a time (6am-2pm in one direction, 2pm-9pm in the other).

Affected routes:

  • In both directions: 18, 24, 51, 67, 69, 80, 105, 121, 139, 141, 165
  • One direction at a time: 32, 33, 44, 45, 48, 49, 55, 64, 90, 97,103, 106-506, 132, 161, 171, 187, 193, 197, 211, 470*

UPDATE: A blogger has created a subway-style map of these routes here.

Even under those rules, I spotted quite a few cases where it didn’t apply, particularly at the edges of those time blocks. A departure might be set for 8:45pm, and the next one after 9pm. I guess “close enough” is good for the STM here.

Despite my criticisms though, looking at the before and after schedules for the affected routes, there are serious efforts at improving service (at least during these time blocks – with a few exceptions it seems very little effort has been made to improve service after 9pm or on weekends).

Most of the routes on the lists are the STM’s most highly trafficked. In many cases, no change in schedule was needed to comply with the “10 minutes max” rule. In others, the headway was already as low as 12-15 minutes, so bringing it down to 10 wasn’t a huge deal.

But changing the headway from 12 minutes to 10 means going from five departures an hour to six.

There is also significant improvement for 7pm-9pm, when many routes which had headways of up to 20 minutes now see the number of departures as much as doubled.

Some highlights:

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Doo-doo-doo immortalized

The STM announced this morning that it is testing a warning sound for metro doors closing that it plans to have installed on all MR-73 trains by 2012. Right now, trains in Montreal’s metro don’t give any visual or audio indication that their doors are about to close, which sometimes causes people to get caught in them. Other metro systems around the world have such a chime and/or blinking light to indicate that doors are about to close or are closing.

This isn’t the first time the STM has come up with this idea. In 2008, it tested a train that had a high-pitched beeping sound. I imagine it wasn’t received very well, considering how annoying that beep can be when heard over and over again.

The sound they’ve come up with this time – you can listen to it in .WAV format (WAV? Really STM?) on the STM’s website – is a vocal warning with the famous doo-doo-doo sound of departing trains in the background.

This is significant because the doo-doo-doo sound associated with Montreal’s metro system is endangered.

The sound is heard on the MR-73 trains used on the blue and orange lines (a similar sound is heard on three MR-63 trains with middle elements from a specially-designed train). It’s not an artificial or intentional creation, but rather a byproduct of a current chopper that regulates power going to the electric motor. This chopper has five stages, which give off sound at different frequencies (three of which are audible by most people).

In new trains that will be built hopefully sometime before the next millennium, the motors will have a much more advanced power regulation system that will result in a continuous frequency change rather than discrete notes. It will sound more like a car engine accelerating than the metro we know now (assuming it makes much sound at all – new trains are supposed to be much quieter).

There has been suggestions among transit fans of artificially emulating the sound by just playing a sound file when the trains start moving, but that seems a bit silly and unnecessary.

Using the three-note sound for a door chime, on the other hand, makes sense. It’s a pleasant sound, instantly recognizable, and has a bit of heritage value, I’d argue.

Assuming the STM sticks with this sound for its new trains, we won’t have to worry about doo-doo-doo going the way of the dodo.

UPDATE (Aug. 13): I happened to be on the train that’s testing this new chime. The doors begin closing at the word “fermons” in “nous fermons les portes,” which on the plus side means there’s little additional delay caused by adding the warning, but on the minus side means that by the time someone who hasn’t heard the notice understands what it says (by the time it gets to the keyword “portes”), it’s already obvious that the doors are closing, and the warning becomes unnecessary.

I kind of agree with the commenters below: keep the chime, but lose the voice.

UPDATE (Nov. 12): I was on this train again today, and noticed that they’ve done exactly as I and others have suggested. The sound remains the same, but the voice announcement has disappeared completely.

STM knew 515 bus would have pointless leg to it

The Gazette’s Andy Riga has a story out today about the 515 bus to the Old Port, and the problems it has attracting riders – particularly as it uses a route that the mayor wants to replace with a tramway eventually.

The problems are familiar to this blog’s readers: the route is confusing with its yellow and blue signs, travels through an area of town (René-Lévesque Blvd.) already served by plenty of transit services, doesn’t do enough to attract and inform tourists, it tends to get stuck in Old Montreal traffic, people in Old Montreal tend to prefer to walk to their destinations to and from nearby metro stations (particularly in the summer), and the new residential developments it was supposed to serve (like the new Griffintown) haven’t yet emerged.

But Riga brings up an interesting point through his access-to-information request and interviews: The STM knew way back in 2007 that a circular route taking René-Lévesque Blvd. would be a waste of money:

A March 2007 study, also obtained under access to information, suggested that the route eventually chosen, particularly the section along Rene Levesque Blvd., would “increase operating costs” and duplicate service offered by “numerous other lines.”

The federal Old Port of Montreal Corp., which took part in the study, favoured the longer route that used Rene Levesque, and that was eventually accepted.

Riga quotes STM planning head Michel Tremblay saying this summer would be a “last chance” for the 515, after which the STM would re-evaluate the chronically underperforming bus route.

The article also says there have been no studies or surveys conducted for the 515 bus since its launch. So I guess I just imagined this detailed survey that was presented to a public consultation by the city last year based on a study of the 515’s use by passengers in 2008. Either that or the STM was unaware of it, which seems silly.

Riga also has some supporting documentation on his blog, which shows the STM predicting some huge spike in ridership in June that hasn’t materialized.

UPDATE (April 30, 2011): Andy Riga has more info in The Gazette, saying that cutting this useless stretch would save $882,000 a year.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 80

The line formed by 55th Ave., Côte de Liesse (Highway 520), Highway 13, Côte Vertu Blvd., Sauvé St., and Pie-IX Blvd. represents what?

UPDATE: A bunch of you got this right, though NDGer was the first. It’s the border between the AMT’s Zones 1 and 2 (grey and pink on this map).

The AMT’s zoning system (where higher-numbered zones pay more to use commuter trains and multiple-network bus trips) is roughly based on the distance to downtown Montreal (assuming that everyone is travelling downtown to work, which of course isn’t always the case).

There are some quirks though, for example Lachine is considered Zone 1 while Longueuil, which is much closer to downtown, is Zone 3. Similarly, Kahnawake (Zone 5) is closer than Pointe-Claire (Zone 2), and most of the Zone 8 territories are closer than Rigaud (Zone 6), though that won’t matter once Rigaud loses its train service on July 1.

Thanks to SMS for this week’s question.