Montreal bus shelters – “Gimme, gimme shelter / Or I’m gonna fade away…” sang the Rolling Stones in that iconic 1969 tune which in fact was a kind of cry for escaping a quite dramatic threat: the war in Vietnam. Not so dramatic as a war of course, but still the particularly harsh winter, has made many Montrealers in the downtown area ask for shelter when they have to wait for the bus, and then wonder what is the policy regarding the installation of these useful urban artifacts.
In the last few months we have seen the replacement of many of the bus shelters that were installed a few years ago, which in general were still in very good condition (except for the scratches that some people do on their glasses and the vandalizing of the maps and bus schedules in some of them). In their place, new, glossy bus shelters with a kind or aerodynamic design were installed. A quite interesting aesthetic improvement of course, but the question that came to many people’s minds was, why replacing perfectly (or almost perfectly) well preserved bus shelters while at the same time users of public transportation have been left without any protection from the inclement weather at a large number of other bus stops?
To be more specific I can list the number of bus stops with no bus shelters along Sherbrooke St., one of the arteries with more transit users in the downtown area since line 24 is a heavily-used bus route running east-west and serving people who work, study or live downtown. For instance in the area around McGill Campus there are bus shelters at the westbound stop at University and then right in front of the campus, but no such protection at the intersection of Peel for those going west. There are bus shelters on the westbound stops near the Fine Arts Museum and after that at St-Marc and then at Atwater Ave., there are also bus shelters on the eastbound stops at Atwater Ave., Chomedey and Peel, but important intersections such as Guy-Cote des Neiges, and St-Mathieu, don’t have bus shelters in either direction. Along the Sainte Catherine / De Maisonneuve things are even worse although in this case the STM may argue that unlike route 24, bus 15 serving those streets doesn’t run that often to justify the installation of shelters in each of its stops. The same may be argued regarding the lack of bus shelters on René Levesque for line 150, although there are some for the airport shuttle bus.
The rationale to the replacement of bus shelters is still somehow puzzling: why didn’t the STM install the discarded bus shelters—still in good shape—on those corners where passengers must wait for the bus without any protection from the whether? What are these bureaucrats thinking when they make these decisions? Or is this a decision made having in mind the potential exposure to the public of the now more prominent and shiny spaces for advertising that adorn the new bus shelters?