After receiving thousands of complaints from commuters, the STM announced they are ready to invest close to $48.6 million towards improving public transit in 2020. It will be used to implement a 2.6% increase in metro service and a 5% increase in bus service. Mayor Valerie Plante was pleased with the announcement and said a good part of the money will be used to buy 300 new buses, amounting to a 15% increase of the fleet. As for the Metro system, the STM is committed to running a train every five minutes on both the Orange and Green lines all year long, including during the summer. As well, 17 new Azur trains will be added to the Green line. There are many other factors at play here and skeptic commuters have good reason to wonder if it will really help.
STM is ready to invest
If you are a regular user of public transit in the Montreal area, then you know the full meaning of the word ‘frustration’. It is the ‘feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of the inability to change or achieve something’ – such as simply getting to work on time. More often than not, commuters experience endless moments and often hours of pure frustration waiting for a metro train to arrive or for a bus already 30 minutes late. While either tearing at their hair or simply resigning to their fate in a zombie-like state, the bus finally pulls in, but the driver changes the sign to ‘En Transit’ and goes to get a cup of coffee at Timmie’s across the street. Commuters have even reported buses pulling in and just as they prepare to board, the driver changes the sign in front to another route number and then leaves. Sometimes the bus is so packed with other zombie-like commuters; only two people can squeeze in just before the doors shut in your face. As the line for the next bus grows exponentially, forget the app to check where it is, because it forgot you a long time ago.
Montreal STM Public Transportation Metro System
At least inside the Metro system you don’t have to freeze your toes and fingers off while waiting for the the next train, often delayed for unknown and mysterious reasons. Or like a more recent event, completely shutdown because a water main broke from the ‘crumbling-heavens above’ and flooded a station down the line. Finally, the lights of a train appear down the tunnel, rapid eye movement scans the cars in a blur as the train slows down as one tries to focus in on a car with an empty seat. Or you hope for enough space to grab hold of a handle, as the train departs or stops with enough torque to send you flying into someone’s lap – or into the next car. During rush hours, the cars are packed so tightly, even sardines in a can have more breathing space.
Screaming in frustration can be a very soothing practice, but it might get you arrested by an overzealous STM officer. In the end, even though you left an hour earlier, you arrive an hour late for work. The coffee is cold and the boss has been looking for you. You resign to your fate and hope for a better commute on the way home. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, the interior of the bus and trains are alike to the best of viral incubators. If you are lucky, the flu shot kicked in on time or you have grown comfortable wearing a surgical mask, imagining yourself a recipient of the Vezina Trophy for great germ-goal-tending.
The problem with public transit involves several issues and not simply about better scheduling. The addition of more buses and metro trains is much needed – but it is the number of vehicules actually on the road that is of major concern. According STM-CSN, the union representing workers, it is due to problems with their new computer system. Maintenance work on buses has slowed down significantly. They have not been able to get the parts needed to do repairs and the backlog is growing. As workers familiarize themselves with the new system, the pace of work has also slowed down. There is a shortage of buses on the road and the STM is calling it a crisis.
On Thursday November 14th, they were only able to send out 1243 buses, leaving them short by 81 of the 1425 buses needed to meet the posted schedules. This past Thursday they said they were short by 140 buses. Buses are breaking down on the road and there are none available to replace them. It throws off the schedule, leaving commuters waiting in angst. In the meantime, as they work out the glitches, commuters are left feeling more than just frustrated – they are fed up, losing faith and wondering if more buses and metro service will actually make any difference.