Monday, November 1, 2010

Montreal part 4: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Welcome to Part 4 in the series "What I learned in Montréal," documenting the day trip a friend and I took in May to check out Montréal's cycling and transit infrastructure for lessons that can be applied in Ottawa. Previously, in Part 3, I discussed the functional design of Montréal's subway system, the Métro.

We got off the métro at Côte-Vertu, the end of the line, and took a short walk around the neighbourhood to see how they do things. This building is the main métro station building:

Two other surface access points are connected by an underground walkway.

Côte-Vertu connects with a lot of bus routes, as shown in this map. What's interesting is that each queueing area ("Quai") only serves one or two routes, as opposed to Ottawa's method of having many or all buses stop at the same place. This can help organize passengers, but it also disperses people.

The bus canopies at the Metro station were sizeable and look relatively new. But because the routes are dispersed around the station, the canopies are too. If you want to provide a heated waiting area, you have to do it for each canopy. Ottawa's system of having one large canopy area means that a large number of people waiting for one route still have a place to wait indoors, and you only have to heat one or two areas per station.

Case in point, there was no canopy for the route we wanted. There was, however, a bus lane. We waited at least 12 minutes for the bus that would take us to the other end of the metro line.

Like the metro stations, the buses allow you to use the Opus smart card for your fare. We found that it took 1-2 seconds for each passenger's card to register with the system. This slowed loading considerably--for the ten or so people getting on the bus at this top, I had enough time while waiting in line to get my camera out, move to the front, and take a photo of the people getting on board.

As we travelled the route, we passed few notable things (I'd compare it to taking the 85 down Carling Avenue from the Queensway to Lincoln Fields). The standard bus stops were not unlike those in Ottawa.

The only other thing to say about our short look at the bus system in Montreal--and only because I like to end my posts with something a bit more interesting than the above photo--was this long bus. We don't have articulated Novabuses in Ottawa-Gatineau, just the 40-foot model. Montreal does.

Stay tuned for the next Montréal post, where we'll head back down into the Métro and look at some more aesthetic aspects of the stations.


  1. It's not just the OPUS reader that is slow - try paying in cash. The change slot is so small that you almost need to put one coin in at a time. Even if you're paying with the minimum number of coins (4: A toonie and 3 quarters) it takes a long time. Paying with quarters or nickels is another story altogether.

    I would love to see a trial of another BRT technique here: paying the fare at the bus shelter before boarding the bus.

  2. dude! you're stunned by Montreal public transit system!? what would you say if you'd lived in Europe then? In fact, what we have here in Montreal is not even close to the worst in Europe. The ticket system at ottawa buses is out-dated undoubtedly, the one in Montreal in ineffective. People have to line up from the front door to tap their opus card one by one when they wanna get on board which is obviously one of the main reasons of buses devastating delays. In Scandinavia on the other you get on board from whatever door of the buss you want (front, rear, middle) and tap your card to nearest card reader, failing to do so may save you a few bucks but you expose yourself to the risk of getting busted by undercover ticket controller agents that you never know when and where show up.
    In Montreal you'd be lucky if you could find the any sort of time table at a bus stop, in europe however you find digital time table screens which are updated according actual bus location thanks to GPS technology.

  3. Michael - I agree that a spine-platoon system with fare zones at bus stations would be a vast improvement to our existing BRT.

    Anonymous - I'm not so much stunned as observant. Ottawa is planning a system that will probably not even hold a candle to even Montreal's system, but it is nevertheless important to remark what works--and what doesn't work--to avoid mistakes with Ottawa's transit system. It can even be better to look at a flawed system, because often you don't notice the things that work.

  4. I wonder what the savings would be if transit were free? No fareboxes, no policing, no delays, and fewer streets to construct.