Tag Archives: montreal

Montreal’s Transit System Aims For World-class Status



Yes, it has a rich history. pictures are the inauguration of current system, and historic picture from the deep past.

“World class.” By 2020, that’s how Carl Desrosiers wants Société de transport de Montréal (STM) to be viewed by people who visit or live in Montreal.

And STM’s chief executive officer believes the agency has the right strategy in place to make it one of the world’s top-tier public transportation systems, as measured by the quality of customer experience, service reliability and cost management acumen.

“We still have work to do to, but we really believe we can get there,” says Desrosiers, who was named CEO in 2012 after climbing the ranks at STM over a 30-year career. “We really want everyone around the world telling people that Montreal is different, that it is an incredible city, based on transit. Because in order to have a world-class city, you have to have a world-class transit system.”

STM already has plenty going in its favor. The fourth-largest public transit organization in North America, it serves about 1.2 million passengers daily and records about 413 million trips annually. The system comprises an integrated bus network consisting of 250 lines, as well the underground rail system (known as “metro”) serving 68 stations. STM handles about 80 percent of all public transportation in the Montreal area and accounts for about 70 percent of all public transit use in Quebec.

With a workforce of 9,500, STM is the 14th largest employer in Quebec; in 2013, the agency’s budget totaled $1.3 billion (in Canadian dollars). The agency estimates the replacement value of its assets is worth more than $14.5 billion.

A Subway Filled With Art

The metro also is home to a significant collection of art that began with the subway’s construction in the early 1960s. The collection features dozens of murals, stained glass panels and sculptures installed throughout the 68 stations, making the metro “an essential component of Montreal’s civic heritage,” according to the STM website. And last year, the lifestyle magazine Complex identified Montreal’s Champ-de-Mars Station, which features the stained-glass artwork of

Marcelle Ferron, as the ninth “most beautiful” metro station in the world.

The agency has been acknowledged for more than aesthetics, however. In 2010, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) named STM the best large transit agency in North America. And in 2013, APTA recognized STM for excellence in bus safety and security efforts.

While agency leaders welcome such recognition, they’d like STM to get better reviews, especially from the people who ride STM’s trains and buses. The agency’s customer satisfaction currently is “quite high” — at 85 percent, Desrosiers says — but it has been even higher, clocking in at 89 percent in 2011 and 88 percent in 2012.

The slide in satisfaction occurred around the same time the agency experienced eight major breakdowns (four in 2012 and four in 2013) that affected the entire metro network and paralyzed four subway lines, an STM spokeswoman explained in an email. Most of the disruptions were related to implementation of metro’s new control center, and could explain the decline in customer satisfaction, she added.

Whatever the cause, STM leaders know the decline in customer satisfaction is something they must address. One key component of their plan to make riders happier: new, larger trains.

“My subway system is at capacity; I need more cars,” says Desrosiers.

New Fleet On Its Way

STM will get them later this year. A new fleet of metro cars, dubbed “Azur,” is being manufactured for STM by a consortium comprising Bombardier Transportation and Alstom Transport. Under a $1.2 billion contract STM awarded the consortium in 2010, the agency is purchasing 468 cars.

Over time, the fleet will replace the agency’s MR-63 cars, which have been in operation since metro opened in 1966.

The first Azur car rolled off the assembly line at Bombardier’s plant in La Pocatiere, Quebec, in November 2013. The consortium has been testing a prototype train at the plant, and in April shipped the first car to Montreal for qualification testing with STM.

The first Azur cars are scheduled to enter service in fall. All 468 metro cars are anticipated to be in service by fall 2018.

STM officials believe the nine-car train’s sleek design, layout and technology will offer passengers a smoother, more comfortable and secure ride. Among the cars’ features are wider doors, improved ergonomics, panoramic windows, innovative lighting, a pneumatic suspension system, and a ventilation system that adjusts temperature based on the number of people onboard. Each new train will be able to accommodate up to 8 percent more riders.

The cars also represent an example of “ecodesign,” with assembly techniques and materials selected to meet sustainable development practices, STM officials say.

The new Azur fleet represents a major investment in STM’s future: $2.5 billion over several years once all costs are factored in. The cars are a major component of STM’s Strategic Plan 2020, which also calls for expanding service, improving the customer experience, and growing STM’s ridership by 40 percent to 540 million passenger trips. In 2012, the agency set an all-time record of 412.6 million passenger trips, up 1.9 percent over 2011.

So far, the strategic plan appears to be on track, says Desrosiers.

“We measure the success of the plan based on ridership, and we now have 20 million more trips than we expected to have at this point in the plan,” he says. “What you have to do is attract customers. And now, every day, they are coming. So, our basic plan is to get more cars and also more reserve lanes on the bus side — because that also is an issue in Montreal.”

Additionally, the agency is acquiring new, more energy-efficient buses. In 2012, STM’s board approved the purchase of 203 diesel-electric hybrids, some of which will be used to replace older models and the remainder to expand service. As part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, STM has a goal to purchase solely all-electric buses starting in 2025.

Younger Demographic

Desrosiers believes an all-electric bus system is a must in order to attract millennial-generation riders.

“How can I tell my young customers, ‘You better get out of your car and take the bus or subway if you want to save the planet,’ when in 15 years they will tell me, ‘Hey, I can’t do that because my car is electric and your bus is diesel,’ ” he says.

Ridership is increasing in part because Montreal’s population is rising: According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the Montreal region’s population is projected to grow 20 percent to 4.3 million by 2031. But population growth alone won’t automatically translate into more STM riders. Also key to STM’s future growth equation is making sure those riders have a pleasant experience whenever they use the system.

To that end, STM is taking several steps, including expanding its customer communication through social media, mobile technology and real-time tracking. In 2012, the agency launched “iBus,” which provides real-time bus arrival information via the Internet and mobile applications. And last year, the agency launched a customer loyalty program through an iPhone app called “STM Merci.” Developed by STM and its technology partner SAP, the app provides transit riders access to personalized special offers and discounts for transportation, local events and businesses.

Moreover, the agency has relied on customer opinion and satisfaction surveys to develop a customer relations training program for STM ticket-booth agents and vehicle operators. STM uses customer focus groups to define and gauge their expectations for good service, facility and vehicle cleanliness, and the courtesy of STM employees who interact with riders. As part of a continuous quality improvement effort, every day STM sends “mystery shoppers” to use the system and report back on their perceptions of service quality on buses and trains. The results — positive and negative — are shared with employees.

Offering world-class service also requires a strong commitment to safety. At STM, safety is the responsibility of managers in every department, just as they are responsible for cost control, and service reliability and quality.

“We don’t have a safety department or quality department because we think it’s too important to delegate that responsibility to one staff department,” says Desrosiers.

Since 1997, STM has participated in APTA’s Rail Safety Audit Program, as well as one for bus safety. While the audit examines whether STM is meeting system safety standards, the agency uses the auditors’ recommendations as part of its broader continuous improvement plan.

“We take it really seriously,” Desrosiers says. “But we don’t just do these things to improve safety, we do it to improve reliability. … And basically, if you handle safety correctly, it means you are doing your job well. And if you do your job well, you will be safer, more reliable and have better customer service.”

Desrosiers’ biggest challenges are similar to those of other transit executives: how to manage an aging system, maintain a state of good repair, expand infrastructure, improve and add service, keep existing riders happy and attract new ones — all on an austerity budget that relies on passenger fares and financial support from government.

Making The Case For Transit

In the case of the new Azur car investment, 75 percent of the funding is coming from Quebec’s Minster of Transport and the remaining 25 percent from the Urban Agglomeration of Montreal. STM was fortunate to obtain support from the provincial government for the new cars, Desrosiers says.

“We didn’t have much choice; we were replacing [rolling] stock that is around 48 years old,” he adds. “We had to do it.”

As for securing financial support for future STM initiatives — such as plans for a new tramway system — Desrosiers knows he has to make the case to government and political leaders that transit is good for the economy and Montreal’s overall effort to become a sustainable, world-class city.

One study cited in STM’s strategic plan noted that the region’s public transit authorities injected $1.8 billion into the Montreal area and generated an added value of $1.1 billion. The project to build the new Azur fleet alone involves more than 150 Canadian suppliers, according to STM.

Also, a recent survey of Quebec citizens found that 88 percent of them supported government investment in transit, Desrosiers says.

“If you put a million dollars into the area’s transit industry, that [investment] stays in Canada and especially in Quebec,” he says. “So we’ve tried to tell [political leaders] that it’s wise to invest in transit. If they invest in transit, they will save some money for Quebec and the city will become more productive. And that’s good for the economy.”

See more on Montreal transit, Montreal train stations   and the city of  Montreal


Hockey History


Hockey History – A Small Slice From My Life Experiences

I followed ice hockey throughout the 1950’s and thought I would share a little about this older era.

National Hockey League

The history of the National Hockey League begins with the end of its predecessor league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), in 1917. The NHL’s first quarter-century saw the league compete against two rival major leagues—the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League—for players and the Stanley Cup. The NHL first expanded into the United States in 1924 with the founding of the Boston Bruins, and by 1926 consisted of ten teams in Ontario, Quebec, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeastern United States. At the same time, the NHL emerged as the only major league and the sole competitor for the Stanley Cup; in 1947, the NHL completed a deal with the Stanley Cup trustees to gain full control of the Cup.

The Great Depression and World War II reduced the league to six teams, later known as the “Original Six”, by 1942.
Boston Bruins (joined league in 1924)
Chicago Black Hawks (joined league in 1926)
Detroit Red Wings (joined league in 1926)
Montreal Canadiens (founded in 1909; joined league in 1917)
New York Rangers (joined league in 1926)
Toronto Maple Leafs (joined league in 1917)

The NHL consisted of ten teams during the 1920s, but the league experienced a period of retrenchment during the Great Depression, losing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Maroons in succession to financial pressures. The New York Americans – one of the league’s original expansion franchises, along with the Bruins and Maroons – lasted longer, but World War II provided its own economic strains and also severely depleted the league’s Canadian player base, since Canada entered the war in September 1939 and many players left for military service. The Americans suspended operations in the fall of 1942, leaving the NHL with just six teams. Despite various efforts to initiate expansion after the war, including attempted restarts of the Maroons and Americans franchises, the league’s membership would remain at six teams for the next twenty-five seasons.

The Canadiens

Founded in 1909, the Canadiens are the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team and the only existing NHL club to predate the founding of the NHL, as well as one of the oldest North American sports franchises The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup more times than any other franchise. They have won 24 championships, 22 of them since 1927, when NHL teams became the only ones to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Since 1996, the Canadiens have played their home games at the Bell Centre, which was named the Molson Centre until 2003. Former homes of the team include Jubilee Rink, Montreal Westmount Arena, Mount Royal Arena and the Montreal Forum. The Forum was considered a veritable shrine to hockey fans everywhere, and housed the team for seven decades and all but their first two Stanley Cup championships.

Montreal Maroons

1924/25: The NHL entered its eighth season with two goals, place a team in a major US market and place another team in Canada’s Largest City Montreal for the Anglo fans left behind when the Wanderers were forced to fold, after a fire destroyed their arena just five games into the first NHL season. The team in Montreal would be named the Maroons, and they would play their first game against their American expansion brothers on December 1st, losing the first ever NHL game played in the USA to the Boston Bruins 2-1. The Maroons, who had to pay $10,000 of their $ 15,000 expansion fee to the Montreal Canadiens for territorial rights, would have an arena of their own in Montreal, as they became the first tenant of the brand new Montreal Forum that had been built specially for the Maroons.

In the 1925/1926 Stanley Cup Finals the Maroons would face the Victoria Cougars from the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) who had beaten the Montreal Canadiens a year earlier for the Cup. The Maroons would easily knock off the Cougars winning in four games as Nels Stewart scored all 10 Maroons goals and Clint Benedict recorded three shutouts, winning the Stanley Cup back for the NHL. It would mark the last time the NHL Champion faced another league for the rights to the Stanley Cup as the WCHL folded following the season.

The Maroons were Stanley Cup Champions un 1926 and 1935

1938-: In the years after Maroons folded the Canadiens, where left to represent Montreal, which was upended by Toronto as the largest city in Canada during the 1970’s. Through these years Anglo hockey fans in Montreal either found themselves weaning onto the Habs or found themselves becoming Toronto Maple Leaf fans. Meanwhile the Montreal Forum, which was built specifically for the Maroons, would become the most famous venue in hockey as the Canadiens set a record with 24 Stanley Cup Championships with hockey heroes that will become legends throughout Canada, as the Maroons would be forgotten. A cruel twist to a once great rivalry that once saw the most fights between any two clubs. As many fights even erupted in the crowds, as well as the reporters covering each team would often be mean-spirited in their articles when mentioning their rivals inside the city of Montreal.

New York Americans

The New York Americans (colloquially known as the Amerks) were a professional ice hockey team based in New York, New York from 1925 to 1942. They were the third expansion team in the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the second to play in the United States. The team never won the Stanley Cup, but reached the semifinals twice. While it was the first team in New York, it was eclipsed by the second, the New York Rangers, which arrived in 1926 under the ownership of the Amerks’ landlord, Tex Ricard’s Madison Square Garden. The team operated as the Brooklyn Americans during the 1941–42 season before suspending operations in 1942 due to the twin strains of World War II and longstanding financial difficulties. The demise of the club marked the beginning of the NHL’s Original Six era from 1942 to 1967, though the Amerks’ franchise was not formally canceled until 1946. The New York Metropolitan Area would not have a second NHL team again until the establishment of the New York Islanders in nearby Uniondale, New York, on Long Island, in the 1972–73 season. The team’s overall regular season record was 255-402-127.

The Clinton Comets

Yes, I followed minor league hockey too.

Clinton, New York has had ice hockey since 1918 when Coach Ira Albert Prettyman arrived at Hamilton College and introduced the sport. Clinton has only a couple of thousand residents, but was once known as “Hockey Town, USA”.

Founded in 1927–28 as the Clinton Hockey Club, the team was originally started by Ed Stanley who acted as manager to build a team from local high school students and helped to provide finances for the team to buy equipment and take road trips. He quickly was able to build a very successful team which in the 1933-1934 season played in the National Amateur Championship at Madison Square Garden against the Hershey Bears.

Stanley, along with Coach Prettyman who brought college hockey to nearby Hamilton College went on to be the only two people from the same town or city on the 1940 Olympic hockey committee. The 1940 Winter Olympics were scheduled for Sapporo, Japan but were canceled because of the start of World War II, as well as the hopes of Comets players Wilfred Goering and Art Scoones who were trying out for the Olympic team.

The name Comets was picked in a contest run by the Clinton Civic Group in February 1949 when the first Clinton Arena was dedicated. This team played in the New York-Ontario League from 1951 to 1954 and then in the Eastern Hockey League between 1954 and 1973. During that time the venerable and beloved Comets won five League championships and received the Walker Cup in 1958, 1964, 1968, 1969, and 1970.

Saturday nights were “Hockey Night in Clinton” during those thrilling years when the Comets dominated the EHL. Over 2500 fans jammed the arena filling all seats and sometimes standing 2-3 deep around the catwalk. Cheering for the Comets and jeering for the opponents became normal. The rink was rocking and cars were parked on village streets such as Utica and Mulberry. Fights often broke out and sometimes chairs landed on the ice. This was exciting hockey in which the fans were a big part of the game. One referee and two linesmen tried to keep control.

From 1954 until 1973, the Comets participated in the Eastern Hockey League, dominating for ten of their nineteen seasons. Most notably, under head coach Pat Kelly, the Comets posted a 315–208–64 (wins-losses-ties) record over eight seasons. During that period, in the 1967–68 season, the Comets produced an awe-inspiring 57–5–10 record. The Comets won the EHL playoffs in 1958-59, 1963–64, 1967–68, 1968–69 and 1969-70.

Eastern Hockey League Teams
Baltimore Clippers (1954-55 to 1955-56)
Charlotte Checkers (1956-57 to 1972-73)
Clinton Comets (1954-55 to 1972-73)
Greensboro Generals (1959-60 to 1972-73)
Jersey Larks (1960-61)
Johnstown Jets (1955-56 to 1972-73)
Long Island Ducks (1961-62 to 1972-73)
New Haven Blades (1954-55 to 1971-72)
New York Rovers (1959-60 to 1960-61; 1964-65)
Philadelphia Ramblers (1955-56 to 1963-64)
Washington Lions (1954-55 to 1956-57)
Washington Presidents (1957-58 to 1959-60)
Worcester Warriors (1954-55)
Note: some of these teams “morphed” into NHL teams

The Comets played in the New York Ontario Hockey League 1952-1953
Clinton Comets 26- 6-0-62
Brockville Magedomas 22-15-1-45
Cornwall Falcons 19-16-2-40
Gananoque Gans 17-18-2-36
Inkerman Rockets 4-33-1- 9

See more about my sports interests