Montreal to add 300 new hybrid buses to STM fleet
300 new hybrid buses – “Montrealers have made public transportation a priority, and my administration makes evident today that their voice has been heard…” said Mayor Valerie Plante this past Tuesday during a joint press conference where the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) announced the addition of 300 hybrid buses to its fleet. Delivery of the new vehicles is set for 2020.
For his part, André Fortin, the Quebec Minister for Transportation, Sustainable Mobility, and Electrification of Transport, indicated that (these 300 hybrid buses) “will make Montreal a leader regarding the protection of the environment and sustainable development.”
Martin Coiteux, Quebec Minister for Municipal Affairs, and Responsible for the Region of Montreal stated that his government “is proud to participate in the acceleration of this audacious project” adding that “by investing in public transit we are investing in a better quality of life for our citizens.”
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the STM, Philippe Schnobb, was very pleased for this pledge by the city and the province: “300 new buses represent about a 15 percent of our current fleet which should mean better frequencies and more comfort for our customers, and will significantly speed up our organizational strategic plan 2025.”
Of course, the effect of the new buses would be felt in two years from now, but this is undoubtedly positive news for Montreal bus riders. The STM, however, faces many challenges regarding its services. The bus service is still very irregular, and timetables for the different lines are often ignored. (One could certainly excuse this problem in winter when, we all know, roads are not in good shape or the case of routes running through streets undergoing repairs, but the lack of punctuality in many lines also occurs during good weather or where there are no road detours).
Some of the problems facing the bus service are caused by some wrong planning, for instance, buses running every 20 or 30 minutes are basically useless. STM bureaucrats usually say that those routes don’t have enough ridership to justify a better frequency, but here one faces a chicken or egg situation. Do those routes have long waiting periods because they have a low ridership or do they have fewer passengers because they don’t run often enough and people then don’t bother to wait for them?
On the metro front, some of the new Azur trains are already serving the Orange Line and in a smaller number the Green Line too. The fleet should be renewed entirely soon. The big problem here is the lack of concrete action to complete the long-time planned Blue Line which should go down to Anjou. The Orange Line is also waiting for an extension on its western section to connect with the Bois-Franc train station. For its part, the new administration campaigned on an ambitious plan to build a new diagonal line (the Pink Line) to connect Bonaventure with Montreal North, with a final second stage that would connect it to the Bassin Peel future REM station and from there extending west to Lachine.
Anyhow, the acquisition of new buses is at least a step in the right direction, and something concrete amid so many plans that the STM has announced in the past which it never came to concretize: the tramway line for the Côte des Neiges-Guy axis or Park Avenue, or the trolleybus line for Saint Michel, announced during the previous PQ administration. We just have to wait for 2020, and we hope, the new vehicles will be equipped with air conditioning and be more stable for standing passengers than the current lower-floor Nova buses.