Canada Transit Adventures

A nice two days in Montreal getting half the Metro and Riding two of AMT’s Commuter Rail Lines

My two full days in Montreal were pretty much exactly what I could have hoped for except for the weather on Saturday, rainy and grey. I spent the days and early evenings being a tourist in Montreal and getting about half of the Montreal Metro done. The late evenings I spent hanging out in the M Hostel’s Bar enjoying their really excellent comedy night the first night, and chatting with other travelers as well as meeting a couple of really interesting locals the final two nights. The only downside to this trip was exhaustion. I slept fairly well the first night but Friday night barely slept because I shared my eight-bed dorm room with someone who’s snoring was unbelievably loud and nearly non-stop. The next day I had a “Did you sleep well?” “Nope” “Did you” “No” with one of my roommate, what a strange way to bond. We also both agreed that putting headphones on (something neither of us normally do) wasn’t enough to drain the noise out. I know I could have pushed it and gotten every station on the Metro but I just didn’t feel like pushing it. Montreal will be there again. This was the getaway weekend I needed to get out of the New York bubble and get away to a new place.

In terms of SubwayNut stuff as always my goals were to get enough of a station-to-station together to write at least a bit of a continuous section. I had been up to Montreal about five years ago and never quite got around to writing a section for the few stations I visited, which is just as well. I went back to those photos before that trip and realized just how few and not very good they were of the dark metro stations. Underground station photography has taken much longer for me to perfect, as you’d expect compared to photos of stations above ground. Getting photos of the spectacular Metro Stations each designed that are mostly extremely deep with long passageways to most of the entrances was more tiring and time consuming than I expected. I think I’ve been spoiled with only doing rail systems that are on or near the surface. A rainy Saturday also didn’t help my cause since one of the most unique aspects of the Montreal Metro are their unique entrance houses. I did though have a surprising good and successful time doing the underground Montreal Metro at night. Doing this though I think I missed getting the shadows of the light that shine in from the head houses of their relatively few cut and cover stations just beneath the surface. I had also forgotten just how spectacular the artwork is on the Metro, that isn’t weatherproof and has to be kept with all extensions built underground and fully enclosed. The lines that are coming soon to the SubwayNut (before my next trip to Montreal) are the entire Green Line, the three station Yellow Line Shuttle under the Saint Lawrence River and the portion of the Orange Line near around downtown. The Blue line will have to wait until my next trip to Montreal.

I finally want to go more in depth about my two short trips on two of AMT’s five Commuter Rail Lines that I’m looking forward to exploring further, particularly their one electric line.

Friday: Mont-Saint-Hillarie-Line
On Friday a short trip on the Mont-Saint-Hillarie Line. The goal of the trip was to get the two stations (other than Saint-Lambert), Longeuil-Saint-Hubert, and Saint-Bruno that I could return from Montreal via Longueuil RTL Bus from that I got suckered into buying a six ride pack for since you can’t make transfers on cash fares and I couldn’t figure out a way to add just one ride. The other thing I can’t figure out is if their POP fares will allow me a stopover. I go up to the ticket machines about 15 minutes before the departure of the first outbound Mont-Saint-Hillarie Line train of the PM rush hour. There is an AMT employee helping and I ask her my question. Her English is poor and I first get yelled at to speak slower (I have a habit of speaking fast), I slow down and explain my question: Is a ticket valid for a fixed amount of time or one trip. The answer is what I’m hoping for: 120 minutes of riding to the furthest zone it is from. Stopovers permitted. AMT uses OPUS smart cards. I then have to deal with an OPUS Vending Machine. Montreal I think hands-down gets my reward for the worst ticketing system I’ve ever experienced. The machine (there is a button for English) gives you a list of the various ticket types in grave detail starting with monthly passes for the 7 possible zones and then six carnets tickets and then finally the single ride options. The various options are also listed twice (up to zone 3) with the options of TRAM or TRAIN, Train is a ride on the train only and TRAM includes a bus or Metro connection but only for STM services (on the island of Montreal). I buy a $4.75 ticket. It comes out as a SOLO smart card, nothing printed on it. It’s unclear but I assume I need to tap on the adjacent reader. The display simply says “Merci” and doesn’t give me the time my ticket expires.

I head down to the track for this train line. Confusingly AMT’s operations for the two lines in Central Station are split with VIA in the middle. The electric Deux-Montagnes Trains depart from Track – and diesel Mont-Saint-Hillarie Line trains from the opposite end of the concourse. I board the train about five minutes before departure and feel like I’m getting on New Jersey Transit. AMT is now using the same exact Bombardier BiLevel Cars as NJT complete with the same interiors (but blue exteriors). There are a couple differences I notice. The first is push button doors and the second is only the middle doors (that on NJT trains can only open at high-level platforms) are all that’s available for boarding at Central Station. As I get on I look into the vestibule and notice no traps, the doors are segregated. The ones closer to the middle of the car are only for high platformed stations (just Central Station), the normal vestibule doors just for low platforms, all others. The car is already crowded (all double seats taken) and I sit down at the vestibule window. We leave on time at 3:50.

The train slowly leaves Montreal Central Station, passing the additional 4 train sets (all long trains of MLVs and the dual-mode ) the Mont-Saint-Hilarie Line needs to run its full 7 round-trip schedule (there is also a midday round trip and the last PM rush hour trip returns to Montreal, great for me! And becomes an early evening final trip) going over the rail yards and long bridge over the Saint Lawrence and the island that unforchunately lacks a footpath for the car lanes. We get to Saint-Lambert on time at 4:01 (Amtrak and VIA allow 13-22 minutes for this trip, not just 11). The front car of the train is a ways beyond the platform and I don’t think there are any announcements telling anyone this. There is just an automated voice saying the next stop only in French. I then get nervous that I’m in the wrong car for Longueuil-Saint-Hubert. There is someone waiting to get off who makes it clear I am not.

We zoom through some train yards (somewhere down here the Adirondack curves south on the awful track that needs more repairs) arriving at 4:05 into Longenue-Saint-Hubert. No ticket check for this POP system. A lot of people get off and I’m able to get an awkward locomotive shot from around a fence at one end of the platform. The train is 4 minutes early and although numerous people are getting off the platform basically clears before it deports. I notice there is just one conductor on the train that looks like he is warring jeans, basic street cloths with just an orange vest to alert riders he is a railroad employee.

I photograph the train leaving and realize that I’m getting treated with photos of the current full length modern station platform that opened in August of this year plus the original, tiny wooden platforms that are across a highway underpass (with a walkway along them and staircase down) to the station’s parking lot. As I wander around (and miss photographing a Quebec City-bound VIA train because of misjudging the distances around the station) I start thinking about my fare card. I plop the SOLO card into the station’s one OPUS machine and get a message that says it’s one Zone 3 fare has now been used up. AMT Commuter Rail doesn’t offer intermediate fares (all are based on only distance from downtown Montreal) and I don’t feel like buying another ticket for $6. I end up deciding I will photograph the next train entering and call it a day on the AMT Commuter Rail. The next train comes in at 6:49 and I get my photos before going down to the bus stop. It’s a short wait, I use one of my OPUS card rides and it takes me nearly an hour on bus route 88 to get back to downtown Longenue. There I switch to the Yellow Line, and head back into Montreal to continue some evening photo essays of Montreal Metro Stations.

amt1 amt2

Saturday: The Electric Deux-Montagnes Line
This was probably one of my biggest disappointments of the trip. Saturday was just a cold, grey, rainy day. One of those days when it’s not pouring but just rainy enough that your camera gets a little wet. I still wanted to ride through the Mount Royal tunnel on AMT’s one electric commuter rail route. I also figured out that even on the hourly Saturday schedule I could get the first five stations on the line (walking between two, a short ride and then a walk between the final 3) before returning via STM bus and the Metro. I got back to Central Station around 12:46 to take the 1:00pm train. There is no sign of boarding. I navigated the OPUS machine and buy my 2 zone $4.25 ticket. It turns out that the train is delayed because of single tracking. The inbound train that is supposed to reverse and become our train (at 12:30) hasn’t arrived yet. Were still waiting for it. Staff has closed off the gates down to the AMT boarding platform.

At 1:00, our scheduled departure time, about a train car full of people (I assume just lower Saturday ridership) come up the stairs to exit. We boarding passengers all head downstairs. The AMTs EMU cars are some of the most unusual I’ve ever ridden. They also have completely separate high and low level doors so a crewmember doesn’t need to walk the train resetting traps. There is a middle door on each car only used at Central Station and is push-button operated there to keep the train warm. The vestibules have steps and low-level platform doors that awkwardly slide open outward. The interior is also unique with the same 2 by 2 seating facing each other as found on a Bombardier Bilevel.

It’s a quick trip through the Mount Royal tunnel and two our first station stop of Canora, its another two minutes to Mont-Royal, where I arrive at 1:11, 3 minutes late. We are left hand running, wrong-railing, stopping on the normal Central Station-bound track. I get photos of the train leaving in the drizzle. The LCD departure monitors that all of the AMT commuter rail stations I’ve visited so far have say that the next train to G Centrale is running late, I assume because of the single-tracking. I end up walking to Gare Canora and wait for the next Central Station-bound train to come finally at 1:51, (scheduled for 1:24) almost a half hour late! I photograph this and at this point I’m feeling cold and drenched and decided I will skip going out to Bois-Franc until another trip to Montreal not in the rain. I then have a walk that is longer than I expect to the Acadie Station on the Blue Line.

All in all I had the perfect city escape weekend that I could have asked for in Montreal!

Finally Bixi is in the Place des Arts (I wonder when a Citibike and docking station will enter MoMA or the Met), I didn’t actually try the system, I had already purchased my Metro Pass and was trying to get as many photos of it as I could: