It’s a bit unusual that for our June issue - our “rail issue”- I would be writing about bus service. But when going to tour Société de Transport de Montréal and using the bus from the airport to downtown, the service was more than the standard fixed-route service I’m used to.
No, they weren’t BRT-looking vehicles - uniquely branded articulated vehicles with a flashy front mask. They didn’t stop at special platforms. The bus ride to the rail station downtown is about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. Something that’s pretty typical from a lot of the airports I’ve taken a bus to or from. And boarding the bus at the airport, it looks like any standard fixed-route bus.
Several differences stood out, however.
- There were ticket vending machines in the airport near the location of the bus stop. Yes, plural. Multiple TVMs. And there was a line at each of them when I was going for my ticket. No, it didn’t take that long to buy the pass, there really were that many people buying a ticket to ride a bus out of the airport.
- There was an STM information desk. A staffed STM information desk. She was there to answer questions. When she wasn’t answering questions behind the desk, she would walk up to anyone at a TVM and ask if they had any questions. Really.
- There was little wait time for the bus. I got a bit irritated when the folks in front of me were debating the type of pass they should get, cancelled the transaction, started over and took twice as long as they could have while I watched the bus pull away from the stop. It was because I didn’t realize that a bus is pulling out every 10 minutes. So by the time I got my pass and walked outside, the next bus was there. Waiting for me.
- It was standing-room only on the bus. I figured I hit the route at just the right time and day that most everyone else leaving the airport is taking a bus. It wasn’t until I rode a couple different buses in downtown Montreal that I realized, every bus was standing-room only. Mid-day, standing-room only. With routes that have 10-minute headways.
For a visitor, the bus service was surprisingly easy to use and even more appealing, it was convenient. If you’re in Montreal for the American Public Transportation Association’s Rail Conference in June, be sure to take some time away from the metro to check out the bus service.