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Why I feel sorry for the public buses in Montreal

July 24, 2015

Dear public buses in Montreal,

you and your drivers do a very good job each and every day, but whoever designed the information system around you did an incredibly poor job and made it hard to build a satisfying relationship with you!

I must confess that I do have some difficulties when it comes to orientation, but even Marco Polo would find it quite hard to navigate through this system.

First of all I often struggle to find you. I can see you driving around but the stations are not easy to spot.


This is what you see when you come from the metro station “Mont Royal”. Can you find the bus station?

When I finally discover a station the next challenge is the information board. The most important information, the departure times, are shown. That’s good.


Apart from the fact that this overview wouldn’t win a design prize, it might help if every second row in the table would have a light grey background. That would make it easier to connect the minutes from the last column with the hours from the first column. But I don’t want to be too demanding here.

The information board also shows me which streets you drive along.


What I definitely miss here is an overview of all stops of a certain line. And not to think of something helpful like the estimated driving time.

Also unlike every other written information in Montreal this board is exclusively in French. I don’t speak much French, but I can understand that I get more information online or with a call. Maybe that wouldn’t be necessary if I could find everything I need to know on that board!

On the website I can find an overview of all the stops in the section “Useful Information”. It certainly is quite useful information, so why not show this overview directly on the information board at the station?


Screenshot stm (Société de transport de Montréal) website

So let’s assume I finally made it and sit inside you. Yeah!

The driving itself is safe and nice, and you are always on schedule. I also love the system to request a stop by pulling a yellow string that goes all along the windows and walls.


But here is the next problem: I can hardly tell when to request a stop, because I never know which station I am at and which will be the next one. There is no overview of all stops inside you and much worse, there is no board or voice that announces the name of the next station!


There are displays in the front and in the middle of you that show when someone wants you to stop at the next station. Couldn’t they be used to show the name of the next station as well?

As much as I like driving with you, I also like to reach my destination. So if the information about the stops is not available within you, I would at least like to be able to keep up with the route by checking the stations we pass by. But the signs at each stop don’t show the name of the station. Of course not, why should it be that easy?!


View out of the bus window

As you can assume I sometimes step out at the wrong station and then I am there stranded and without orientation. In such a situation it would be lovely to be able to look at a map to figure where to go, but of course there is none.

I must say that the other passengers mostly look confident and like they know how to handle this nearly non-existing information system. Maybe my problems result from being a tourist and not being familiar with all the streets, places and routes here. But with over 8 million visitors per year¹ who stay longer than 24 hours in Montreal there must be more people like me who get lost between bus stations.

So, I definitely like taking a tour with you, but in combination with a proper travel information and guidance system I would enjoy it so much more! Maybe it’s not the first time you hear this and sometimes you might look a bit yearningly to your brothers and sisters in other cities.

Bus station in Berlin: Even on a crowded street with posters, cars and people you can easily spot the station from the opposite site of the street. (Photo by Annett Schlenker²)


Bus station in Berlin: This timetable shows all the necessary information well structured and clear. You can even see the estimated driving time in the grey line below the names of the station. (Photo by Annett Schlenker²)

Yeah, I know. Such a nice information system would suit you as well and you definitely deserve it! That’s why I feel sorry for you. But hopefully one day the situation will improve and so long, keep driving.


Kind regards,

Jenny, a passenger


PS: Your drivers are really awesome! Compared to the stereotype/average drivers in Berlin, they are so friendly I couldn’t believe it. They always give willingly and patiently very helpful information and more than once something was wrong with my ticket and they let me board anyway. Very very nice. You are lucky to have them!


Update (July 27, 2015)

I sent a mail with a link to this post to the stm (Société de transport de Montréal) and they answered me very nicely within 2 hours:

… Thank you for taking the time to contact us. For you information (as consolation ), our buses will soon be equipped with an intelligent system that will simplify your life. … 

They also gave me more information about that new system and you can read more about it in this post.




1. I found this report from 2012 on Wikipedia: http://documents.tourisme-montreal.org/Montreal-Tourism/R-and-D/Statistics/EN/ra-2012-en.pdf

2. A big fat “Dankeschön” to Annett for taking and sending me pictures of a bus station in Berlin!

If you couldn’t find the bus station, you can see it here marked green:



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  1. […] weeks ago I wrote that I am sorry for you. I explained that I like you and your awesome drivers but that you definitely deserve a better […]

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