Public Transit in Montreal

Celebrating 150 years of service earlier this year, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) has come a long way since its origins in the 1880s. Passengers can currently see a retrospective on antiquated trains and transit infrastructure in the Place-des-Arts metro station, where dozens of oversized photographs chart STM’s history throughout the decades.

Looking through STM’s archives it’s plain to see that, like all things in life, public transit has changed at times for both better and worse. We’ve moved away from horse-drawn cars towards,all things considered, a pretty decent mode of getting around the island. As the third most-used urban transit system in North America — after NYC and Mexico City (that’s right, Toronto) — we damn well deserve it.

Although recent fare hikes have indeed disgruntled — yet not dissuaded — STM loyalists, the financial blow was neutralized by a number of counteroffers by president Michel Labrecque. Unlike instances of transit price increases in other urban centres, the STM now offers alternatives to the jacked cost: first, a “two-way pass” available at the old rate ($2.25 a ride), and also an unlimited evening pass (6pm ’til 5am) for four bucks flat. As the STM operates twenty-three bus routes overnight, this deal is well worth it for partygoers both local and visiting.

Amateurs often stick to the straightforward five-line subway grid, yet Montreal’s transit system relies on the extensive network of bus routes that saturates the city. Though routes are often rendered dysfunctional by avenues under construction, it remains undoubtedly the quickest way to get around.

Labrecque is by no means keeping this a secret. In late August, a conference was held with Quebec Transport Minister, Sam Hamad, where promises were made to establish additional reserved bus lanes, both in the city centre and leading out to the ’burbs. We all know there are few things worse than being stuck in gridlock — but one of them is sharing your frustration with a busload of equally annoyed Montrealers. Reserved bus lanes not only allow passengers to get to where they need to be on time, but also help de-clutter roadways for those living outside the STM’s reach.

Our biggest beef with the STM is that subway services end at 12:30am. Yeah, even on Fridays. Taking buses in the dead of night is fine by us…until Montreal’s winter rears its ugly head. Try waiting for the 535 in sub-human weather, see how happy you are then. We imagine that this is to give taxis a chance at making ends meet, but if you’re traveling in a group, $4 a head is more than enough to cab anywhere (worthwhile) on the island. What with last call being 3am, it would be convenient, lucrative, and, more than anything, comfortable to extend hours a little later. Please?

But with the removal of Bixi bikes, imminent first snowfall, and re-oiling of sidewalk-clearing snowplows, we’ll settle for whatever underground transport the city has to offer. Far from ideal, the STM has most Canadian transit systems beat in terms of pricing, accessibility, and punctuality. Does this mean there’s nothing to improve upon? Of course not, but with Christmas coming we’re trying to appreciate what we have. And, in all honesty, it ain’t half bad.

Image courtesy of Ames Lai.


3 thoughts on “Public Transit in Montreal”

  1. Now, if the drivers actually learned how not to start/stop abruptly, to not drive over the curb when turning a corner….

    • Are you a Montrealer/Quebecer commenting on Quebec driving? Is it really worse there (I am Ontarian), or is that not just a function of the urban environment?

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