BY Alexandre Taddeo & Élisabeth Ndeffo

For the past two years, Nicolas Malo-Blais has commuted to UQAM for his finance program. But this year, he had to change his schedule due to the reduced bus service.

“I understand the STM is making changes, but as a student studying downtown, the metro and the bus are my only options in Winter,” says Malo-Blais. “It is an extreme sport to navigate through the city of Montreal. With all the traffic and the construction it could be a mess.”

The problem the commuters are facing is that the transport society (STM) decided to stop their “10 minutes max” service offered on several routes. In 2010, the STM made the guarantee on 31 routes. A few years ago, they reduced that to eight routes and now it has been eliminated entirely.

Giuseppe Pino Tagliaferri, president of the bus driver’s union, explains that the STM decided that there will still be a bus on those routes at every 12 minutes during the rush hours, but he believes that it will create frustration for the commuters.

interior of a bus full of people

During rush hour, the STM buses can get crowded, and sometimes people must wait for the next bus. Photo by Élisabeth Ndeffo.

“Less buses on a lane means more consumers in the buses,” says Tagliaferri. “The STM may not know that, but they are putting a lot of pressure on their bus drivers.”

Tagliaferri also worries that there are risks for both drivers and users.

“Reducing the service is adding stress to the driver, they represent the STM, ” he says. “So, when a user is frustrated. Who do they see? The driver!”

interior of a bus with a reflection of the bus driver in the mirror

The STM bus drivers are protected by many cameras in the buses, but they are still vulnerable to angry commuters. Photo by Élisabeth Ndeffo.

Tagliaferri points to the 18 bus on Beaubien.

“This route is one of the busiest in the sector. Not only is the traffic on this lane immense, but the reductions in passages will also lead to the creation of traffic jams,” says Tagliaferri. “The bus drivers are the ones representing the STM. I don’t like to hear stories that a driver was assaulted because the bus arrived later.”

a line of people entering the bus, downtown Montreal

Commuters are chasing buses or waiting in long lines when they missed them knowing that the other bus will pass later than what it used to. Photo by Élisabeth Ndeffo.

The buses are being relocated to other routes.

“It is important to note that by adjusting service on less frequent lines and adding service to more frequent lines,” according to STM spokesperson Philippe Déry. “It is no longer possible to systematically promise a bus every 10 minutes, as was the case before the pandemic.”

Infographic showing that STM increases their number of busses everyday

Even if the STM removed their 10 minutes max project, there has still been an increase in the number of buses in service. Media by Alexandre Taddeo.

At the end of 2022, the STM said it was looking at a $78 million deficit for 2023. That’s up from $43 million in 2022.

“Nobody wants to see a lot of empty seats in a bus,” explains Déry. “It is therefore in the interest of good public finance management and in accordance with our current financial situation that the STM intends to review its bus service families and offer an optimized and equally attractive service to its customers.”

Empty seats in a STM bus

With the pandemic impacting commuter habits, sometimes buses are near empty during off hours. Photo by Alexandre Taddeo.

Relief for many commuters could be on its way. The Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light rail network should be mostly online by the end of 2024. It will consist of 26 stations from the South shore of Montreal to Deux-Montagnes.

The REM will be available in the spring. Their services will change the dynamic of public transport in Greater Montreal, discusses Laval resident, Trajectoire Québec representative and REM operator. Video by Élisabeth Ndeffo.

Tagliaferri stands by his idea that buses and the metro are the best options to travel around the city of Montreal.
“As a commuter you don’t have to stress on the road except for being on time to catch the bus.”

He says he believes the city should be adding more service, not taking it away.

a bus passing by with the STM slogan

It has been a few years that the STM is promoting buses as an eco-friendly option to reduce the number of cars on the road. Photo by Alexandre Taddeo.

“You know STM’s slogan: One bus equals 50 cars less on the roads,” he says. “Now, minus one bus equals 50 more cars on the road.”

Main image by Alexandre Taddeo.
Published March 21, 2023.