EXCLUSIVE: STM Shuts Down Municipal Shuttle to Metro


Shuttle bus owned and operated by the town of Montréal-Est. Photo courtesy of Montréal-Est Town Hall.

Backed by a law that grants them a public transit monopoly in Montreal, the STM has halted one municipality’s initiative to shuttle residents to the nearest metro station.

Citizens of Montréal-Est were often left waiting at bus stops in the cold as 3 or 4 overflowing buses coming from the Eastern tip of the island passed them by. So beginning on November 17th, the municipality of Montreal-Est began a pilot program to shuttle local residents to the Honoré-Beaugrand metro terminus free of charge.

A bus owned by the municipality, driven by a municipal blue collar worker, makes two trips to the metro station each weekday morning. The shuttle essentially follows the STM’s 86 bus route, picking up passengers at 9 stops in the the residential part of town. After one week in service, it transports 20-30 people per day.

An STM employee, who spoke with Spacing Montreal on the condition that they not be named, said that STM bus drivers spotted the blue shuttle bus in Montreal East reported it to their union. STM union officials tore down the shuttle bus stop signs, which had been affixed to existing STM infrastructure. Yesterday, STM officials and lawyers met with Montreal Est city hall, to demand that the shuttle service be shut down immediately.

Louis Lemay, the Director General for the town of Montreal-Est, stressed that the shuttle bus is not meant to compete with the STM service and, in fact, delivers STM clients directly to the metro.

However, STM communications officer Marianne Rouette said that that, by law, the STM is the exclusive provider of public transportation on the Island of Montreal. The municipality of Montreal-Est would have had to obtain a special permit from the Commission des transports de Québec, which was not done. Nor, she says, did the municipality contact the STM to relay the complaints that they had received from citizens.

Following the meeting, Montreal-Est’s shuttle program will shut down on Friday. Meanwhile the STM has promised to look into increasing service on the over-burdened route.

However it’s clear that the STM is having trouble making ends meet on more than one route. If the municipality of Montreal-Est is willing to fund a shuttle bus, perhaps the STM shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the favour. Afterall, easy access to the metro will only increase the STM’s clientelle and their satisfaction with the service.


  1. Et ça ouvre aussi la porte au privé, si un arrondissement de Montréal décidait de faire la même chose, mais au lieu de faire conduire la navette par un fonctionnaire, ils le font en sous traitance avec une compagnie privée?

    En pas long, on se retrouverait avec des dizaines de lignes d’autobus privées sur l’ile de Montréal.

  2. While fragmented, private transport services won’t ultimately serve any Montrealer’s best interests, I believe these actions that push the STM to defend their right to an island-wide monopoly with better service are positive. And with the price of gas at astoundingly low prices and fare hikes that are way over the now almost negligible inflation rates, the STM should be able to improve service on these under-served routes.

  3. WOW.
    The STM needs to clean up their act.
    Can you believe a municipality actually went through the trouble to do that!?
    I’m shocked and I think it’s awesome.
    Too bad their plan was foiled :P
    I waited outside the other day for 20 minutes and my bus never showed. Thankfully I had the option to take another longer route where the line was HUGE, but still I got home. Unfortunately, the other guy waiting didn’t have that option. I’ve seen him before and his stop isn’t serviced by any other bus. He had to wait the extra 40 minutes for the next bus on the route to come around.

    There are not enough buses.
    One lady told this to an STM worker, probably a supervisor, he had a walkie talkie and was directing buses here and there. This was early October I believe. He retorted: “No m’am there are too many people”

    So people should naturally just stop taking the bus because there are just too many people.
    What a ridiculous answer.

    Kudos to the municipality who took a stand and helped people who were stuck.

    thanks for reporting on this!

  4. You can’t publicize something like this enough. Here you have a city taking a small initiative to make something easier for it’s citizens, but The Big Machines That Be decide that this makes no one happy, is illegal, immoral, and fattening.This idea came completely out of practical considerations at the local level. So maybe public transit activists need to act locally, think regionally?

    And maybe citizens could carry a Metro flag that they could just pin on a shirt or jacket to let everyone know they could use a ride? C’mon, Montreal! Something fun and constructive surely has to come out of this?

  5. Nice report, but I’ve never seen someone calling it Montreal Est in English, looks amateurish.

  6. There can be no scandal greater than denying the commuting public the opportunity to travel cleanly and efficiently. Really, one bus route operated by a municipality (!) for free (well not really, because presumably those people paid for it through their property tax) is not going to cause Canada’s social model to fall to pieces any more than it would if all those people decided to hail taxis while they waited.

    Re Ricky, boring. How 80s of you. And BTW, check Google, lots of people do, including the Government of Canada.

  7. I agree that privatizing these services is indeed “not” a good idea. And I have to say that it would have been more kosher for Montreal-Est to negotiate for a rapid soluton to alleviate the problem instead of simply acting on its own and without permission. Good intentions for sure, but bad judgement on their part, in my opinion.

    We need to push the city and the provincial government to increase funding to the STM so we can get the services we need to dump our cars. Montreal dreams of a 21st century public transit system but the fuding is just… not… there.

  8. This is a very good reason to break the STM monopoly on public transport as has been done in many other cities. STM cannot provide adequate service on many routes yet they would rather lose clients than permit supplementary services. Who benefits from this?

  9. Stories like this are excellent illustrations of what’s wrong with huge companies, and the problems we have with unions in Montreal.

    This project did nothing but help people, it was created to address an immediate need that the existing infrastructure didn’t serve, and running one bus twice a day would not have been costing the city a lot. It was a great idea all around, major kudos to Montreal East for doing it!

    I’m disappointed but not surprised that the STM had it shut down. The STM isn’t in the business of building a better transport system for all, or if they are they’re sure hiding it well. They waste our time and money with smart cards, new ticket booths, and metro floor signage.. meanwhile escalators stay broken for months, service is unreliable during any kind of bad weather, it STILL COSTS EXTRA to use the metro in Laval, we’re all under the thumb of the STM unions who can cripple public transport in this city any time they want; holding US hostage for the purposes of greed, and of course we can’t forget the unaccountably aggressive fare hikes.

    The STM brass should be forced to commute to work every day. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been late for work because my bus decided not to show up that day. Their employees could use some customer service training too. I’m pretty tired of dealing with ticket vendors and security guards who seem to regard paying customers as lower forms of life.

    While I’m at it, could we please have way less advertising on public transport? It’s kinda depressing to be at Lionel-Groulx and watch people staring slack-jawed and zombie-like at the commercial loops playing on the projectors and LCDs…

  10. …uh, I’ve heard it called Montréal-Est in English, just as I’ve heard what anglos normally call Pine Avenue referred to as Pins (…as in pins and needles). Merely one of the beauties of living in a very bilingual city (which also happens to be the most trilingual city in Canada, too).

  11. I’ve often seen Montréal-Est in English. It is a stylistic choice – nothing to do with amateurism.

  12. “You can’t publicize something like this enough. Here you have a city taking a small initiative to make something easier for it’s citizens, but The Big Machines That Be decide that this makes no one happy, is illegal, immoral, and fattening.”

    Would “the big machines that be” be the union in this case? I suspect the direction of the STM would be more than willing to turn a blind eye to an operation that acts as a feeder system to the metro, while serving as a temporary fix for an overburdened bus line. I think the STM is less a monolithic machine seeking to inconvenience its riders than an ineffient operation paralyzed by an over-powerful union.

  13. “it STILL COSTS EXTRA to use the metro in Laval”

    Euh, oui, mais c’est le maire Vaillancourd qui en a décidé ainsi.

  14. This is outrageous, yet, not surprising. When will we smarten up, make public transit a REAL essential service and therefore be so regulated? We need to smash this union of overcompensated malcontents so they will have to stop holding us hostage and we can get on with our daily lives.

  15. I wonder if this would work…………..make residents of the area sign a membership for a club, the club consists of free transportation. New members can submit their new applications on the bus by given their names and emails on some paper, so only members of this club or association can use the bus, it is exclusive and should be stated on the bus somewhere. By doing this, it is not public transportation but private and not “competing” with the STM since it is only for memebers.

  16. yes, 130 million for the opus smart card system that basically makes technocrats and consultants rich and doesn’t do a fiddlers arse to actually improve service to the customer. I like the six-pack of tickets, easy to share, soon to be a quaint memory, which is both a shame and a disgrace.

    The transit system needs improvements at the customer level, not the systems level. More buses more frequently would be my recipe for improvements, forget trams smart cards, etc.

  17. I actually use the McGill shuttle from Ste-Anne-de-Belevue to the downtown campus (similar to the Concordia shuttle), even though the 221 and 211 STM buses wil get you there, those rides are way too long (approx. 45 mins). The McGill shuttle will gt you there in 20-30 minutes. I can only assume that McGill and Concordia have made an agreement with the STM over this shuttle service.

  18. It seems basically like a matter of ego: the STM reacting to something that makes them look (deservedly) bad. Blame the messenger, etc.

    There does seems to be a directive out to push the Opus card, btw. The carte mensuelle serves my needs just fine for the foreseeable future (I don’t use the other, connecting transit systems at all, and the cost per day even with increases is still economical), but every time I’ve gone to get one in recent months they’ve always asked me if I wouldn’t prefer to get an Opus card. I just give them a “non, merci”, and a “pourquoi?” look.

  19. The Concordia and Mc-Gill shuttles are solely for the benefit of students (I suppose that to get on board, you have to flash your student ID?) of “private” institutions, so it’s really the same thing as someone giving you a lift to his place from the Métro…

    Some appartment blocks (like those along highway 15 in St-Laurent north of Côte-Vertu) also have had shuttle buses to the train station for many years now and the STM certainly doesn’t give a hoot.

    What is prohibited is a shuttle accessible to the public, exactly like Montréal-Est (Boo!!! you can say “Montréal-Ouest”, too) did.

  20. il est revoltant de voir que des gens s’opposent a un service offert par une municipalite a ses citoyens c’est juste du gros bon sens mais c’a doit enlever la possibilite de mettre un autre chauffeur en plus sur la ligne ce qui raporterais plus au employes de la ctm en ce qui me concerne c’est encore une question d’argent et je suis surpris que la ctm n’etait pas au courant du besoin encore une question de sous je suppose.
    Bravo M.Labrosse (maire de Montreal-Est) continuez s.v.p.

  21. I tend to agree with Tux and Mr. Anderson (Neo?) on this one, I believe the real problem here is the union leadership. STM’s monopoly on public transit also implies the STM driver’s union’s monopoly on public transit staff. Boroughs and municipalities feeding into the STM could become an effective way to take jobs out of the hands of that union. (Not necessarily all unions though; I’m sure the functionary driving the Montréal-Est bus was also union-represented… just not the same union!)

  22. At one time, you could travel direct from Bout de L’ile to Montreal!

    As early as 1896!, one could take a streetcar from Rue de Bureau in Bout de L’ile to Montreal 11 miles away.

    Summer ‘Open Car’ facing West Rue de Bureau 1909.


    Tetraultville Wye, Rue des Ormeaux. Looking East, before 1927. Not a lot of change here.


    Westbound Electric Motor Flat approaching crossing.

    Present day CNR to Joliette is to the right.

    Tetraultville 2002.


    In 1927 the CNR took over the electric railway and removed the wires, other streetcars routes to the east having been constructed in the meantime.

  23. Came across this article only know. Looking at immigrating to Montre’al, but is the transport as bad as in South Africa?

    In South Africa, they would have burned the bus down.

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