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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Mind the dou-dou-dou-door

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The STM is introducing a tone to alert passengers before the metro doors close. This is meant to increase efficiency and ensure comfort and safety aboard the metro, presumably by preventing bits of people from being slammed between the doors. Click below to hear the tone:

You can listen to the sound here.

I love that both the STM’s press release and metro newspaper refer to the tones as “le fameux dou-dou-dou,” a home-grown noun for an idiosyncratic local sound.

Last fall I wrote about the source of the sound which is unique to Montreal’s metro system, a by-product of the 70s technology. The real dou-dou-dou will eventually be lost when the 19631973-edition metro cars are replaced (although at this rate it won’t be any time soon). I like that there’ve found a way to preserve this familiar little audio experience in its natural habitat.

The STM is looking for feedback so if readers have any relevant comments, I’ll be happy to forward them…



  1. Having an audible signal for the doors closing on the Metro is a good idea.

    In Toronto, the subway cars also have an audible single-note signal announcing when the doors will open, in some stations the doors open on the right, in other stations the doors open on the left, depending on platform configuration.

    Safety First.

    Thank You.

  2. I was on a metro which did a test-run of the door-closing sound. I didn’t like it at all! Instead of preventing people from trying to go in as the doors were closing I think MORE people will try to rush in because they know that this is the last chance to get in.
    Myself and many commuters also wear headphones, many people won’t even hear it to begin with.
    I love the dou-dou-dou, though..

  3. Je suis contente de voir (ou plutôt d’entendre!) que la STM prend au sérieux ce genre de mémoire collective.

  4. Je peux me tromper, mais il me semble que le hacheur de courant (qui génère le dou-dou-dou) est utilisé par les voitures de 1973, et non par celles de 1963…

  5. Stéphane – t’as raison que c’est les MR-73 qui font le dou-doudou. j’ai mal-cité mon propre article…pas fort ça :(

  6. …also repeated in the famous “il fait beau dans l’métro” ads and I just love the first 2 lines of the song:

    “Il fait beau dans l’métro
    Tout le monde est gai
    Tout le monde a le coeur au soleil”

  7. Absolutely Wonderful!

    When i lived in Montreal i had a few near death experiences getting caught in the door without warning. Seemed like STM employees played whack a’ mole – subway passenger style. Using the familiar acceleration tone is a nice touch to preserve local culture.

    Back home in Toronto, we take the chimes and the subtle role it plays in our daily lives for granted. Although i’m sure there would be an uproar if it was missing from the new subway cars that we expect to recieve early next year.

  8. Oops, forgot to mention my one criticism: the words seem somewhat useless and take away from the simplicity of tones.

    Regular passengers will know what the tone means after a day or two and visitors may not understand the French anyways. Get rid of it!

  9. I agree the words are unnecessary, but even those who speak only Swahili will probably figure out that it means something like “the doors are closing” after the 1st or 2nd stop, never mind day. What else would it be — Attention shoppers, special on Huggies in aisle 8?

  10. I agree the words are useless. Only a small fraction of tourists will understand them and regular commuters will get annoyed to death by it after a week.

    Anyone with 2 brain cells would figure out what the tone meant after a stop or two. Words are redundant.


  11. Tristou,

    Agreed. But that just proves its uselessness. Why take something simple and make it more complicated than it has to be?

  12. The tone they will eventually choose has a good chance to become part of the cities living culture. Like London’s famous “mind the gap”. Back in Berlin the S-Bahn used to make a very characteristic dee-daa-dee, followed by the smack of the doors always after the same time period. They still use that same sound, although three train generations later it’s not quite the same(the new sound can be found here, can’t find the old one). Apparently by 2004, the sound had been played a total of ~4.25 billion times.

    The dou-dou-dou has a similar value to Montrealers as the ‘mind the gap’ for Londoners or the S-Bahn warning signal for Berliners; so it seems like a good idea to use it. And using speech is really not necessary.

  13. Personally I think the tone is too short. When I first heard it I was waiting with expectation for the tones and it fails to really mimic those of the hacheur.

  14. When opened in 1954, the Conductors on the Toronto Subway leaned out of their cabs on the side of the train, looked both ways, then blew a referee’s whistle twice to tell the patrons the doors were about to close.

    He then looked both ways again, and closed the doors with his control.

    As the train started to move he looked both ways once more to make sure no one’s clothing was caught in the doors as the train pulled out, then closed his window.

    ( The Conductor had to cross from side to side inside the train to open and close train doors as some platforms were on the right, others on the left in the Toronto Subway system. )

    Small red lights on the older cars’ sides indicated when the doors were open.

    His position in the train was indicated by a small white light.

    In 1995 the whistle was replaced by the 3-note tone and the flashing yellow lights above the doors now used, altho’ the Conductors still carry their whistles in case the tones fail.

    Thank You.

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