Tag Archives: metro

Métro goes back in the metro

Métro newspaper stands in 2010.

Métro newspaper stands in 2010.

Remember these? They’re coming back.

Well, not exactly. The new stands will be green and grey.

Métro, the free newspaper owned by TC Media, announced today it has signed a five-year deal with the STM to once again become the exclusive newspaper of the Montreal metro system, as of Feb. 1. It replaces 24 Heures, which stole the contract from Métro five years ago.

The deal with 24 Heures was for five years but included a five-year renewal option. It seems Métro’s offer was good enough for the STM to decline that option (or 24 Heures decided it could no longer afford the cost).

The deal also means that the Info STM page will return to Métro from 24 Heures.

The STM refuses to say how much Métro is paying it for this exclusive contract, or whether it’s more or less than what 24 Heures paid for it. (The press release notes that there were two bids.)

Comme il s’agit d’une entente de nature commerciale entre la filiale commerciale de la STM (Transgesco s.e.c.) et un partenaire privé (Transcontinental), les détails de cette entente ne sont pas de nature publique. Il en est de même pour l’entente précédente avec le journal 24 h.
— Isabelle Tremblay, STM

The deal is actually signed with Transgesco, a commercial subsidiary of the STM that deals with advertising and other commercial revenue. Though we know how much Transgesco gives to the STM each year (about $30 million), we don’t know how that breaks down in terms of revenues for the paper contract, metro and outdoor shelter advertising and other revenues.


Despite getting the metro contract for 2011-15, the Quebecor-owned free paper lagged behind its competitor in terms of readership, according to figures from NADbank (now Vividata). The latest data show Métro with 446,000 print readers for the average issue, compared with 414,000 for 24 Heures. Maybe this means the deal doesn’t mean that much, because both papers are given out by human distributors outside metro stations during the morning rush hour. Or maybe it means that readers still prefer Métro, regardless of how they get it.

In addition to the 320 stands in the metro system, Métro has about 1,000 other stands, including in AMT train stations.

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

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

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

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

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

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The sad reality of metro disruptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STM’s Michel Labrecque looks into the future

STM chairperson Michel Labrecque

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

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

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

NADbank numbers: Newspaper crisis? What newspaper crisis?

The latest batch of numbers on newspaper readership from NADbank have been released, and in general show newspaper readership about the same as last year despite doomsayers who predict the swift decline of the print medium.

You can see some national trends on NADbank’s website in a PDF presentation. In general, it shows that print is still way ahead of online, that most people still get their news from newspapers in print form, and that rich people are more likely to be print readers. They also show, unsurprisingly, that online readership is continuing to grow, and is more than compensating any losses in print (at least in terms of eyeballs – advertising revenue is an entirely different story).

Unlike services that measure number of subscribers, NADbank gets its data through polling the general population, asking questions like “did you read this newspaper yesterday?” Its polling covers only the market and doesn’t measure out-of-market readership in print or online.

Infopresse crunches the numbers for Quebec newspapers, which for some reason doesn’t include The Gazette. Their chart (PDF) shows little change among La Presse and the Journal de Montréal (which is down slightly from 2010 – is that because the lockout is over?). Le Devoir, meanwhile, has held on to significant gains made between 2009 and 2010, though it is still the last-read paper in Montreal.

Among the free dailies, both have achieved significant gains in readership. 24 Heures is up 12%, profiting mainly from the fact that as of January 2011 it has exclusive rights to distribute in the metro system. But while one would expect competitor Metro to lose a significant amount of readership because of this, it has only continued to grow, up 3% in the last year. It’s undoubtedly more expensive for Métro to hire all those people to hand out papers in the morning, but it is clearly working to stop too many people from switching.

The slower rate of growth for Métro means that 24 Heures is catching up. While in 2009 Métro had 26% more readership on a typical weekday, that’s down to 12%.

The Gazette says its combined readership has hit a five-year high of 554,800 per week. Its print readership is 283,300 on weekdays, 318,900 on Saturdays and 498,000 at least once a week. 24 Heures’s gains have pushed it past The Gazette in terms of average weekday readership.

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.

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 Metrodemontreal.com 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.

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)

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.

Côte-Sainte-Catherine metro station to close this summer

The STM announced in its Info STM page this morning (PDF) that major work at the Côte-Sainte-Catherine metro station will require it be closed completely between May 17 and August 23. Such closures tend to happen, particularly in stations with only one access, when construction and repair work would make accessing the station impossible.

Such repairs are scheduled during the summer because there’s fewer people using the metro and it’s not as annoying to walk a few extra blocks in 20-degree weather as it is in minus-20-degree weather.

While the station is closed, a shuttle bus service will be setup, with stops at Plamondon, Côte-Sainte-Catherine and Snowdon stations.

Among other summer projects the STM is planning in the metro:

  • Work on two accesses to the Côte-Vertu metro station will require the closure of the southern entrance on Côte-Vertu, and later the entrance on Édouard-Laurin. Some buses stopping outside those entrances will be detoured. The main entrance on the north side of Côte-Vertu (next to the main bus terminus) will remain unaffected and the station will remain open.
  • Work at Assomption station will force people to use an alternate entrance, though again the station will remain open.
  • Work is scheduled to begin later in the spring at the Du Collège and Place Saint-Henri stations. The nature of that work has not been released yet.

Another workaround to bad elevator design

Modified emergency button at Berri metro elevator

Remember back in September when I predicted that the design of the panel on the metro elevators would cause a problem because the call button and the emergency button were the same size and shape, and placed in such a way that an inattentive passerby might mistake the emergency button for the “up” button?

And then when the elevators actually opened there was a quick redesign that put big arrows toward the call button?

Well turns out the STM has implemented a more permanent solution to the problem of people mistaking the buttons. This transparent plate, which easily swivels out of the way, gives this button a more nuclear-missile-launch vibe to it, and will probably prevent most people from pressing it unless they’re absolutely sure they either need help or want to prank the security guards.

The new panel. Press here, NOT HERE!

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 MetrodeMontreal.com 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?