Oct 22, 2012 - Personal    1 Comment

Riding the Montreal Métro

I’ve always loved riding the Montréal subway. It’s called the Métro. When I was in cégep and had a few hours to kill, I would take the Métro in Longueuil and ride it all over Montreal just to look at the different stations.

The Métro has four lines: yellow, orange, green, and blue. Yellow links the South Shore at Longueuil to the Island with a stop in Jean-Drapeau Park where La ronde, a Six Flags amusement park, is located. Orange has a U-shape, running north-south in both the east and west of the city, connected at the south. Green runs east-west in the south of the city. Blue runs east-west and connects the east and west branches of orange in the north.

Montreal got its Métro for Expo ’67, a big shinding that celebrated Canada’s centennial. My mother remembers visiting the Métro when it was under construction. When she told me what station I would be taking today, I replied that it was on the blue line. She argued that it was on orange and that the blue was a recent new addition.

I thought that was weird, so when she pulled a map of the system out, I pointed to the station, saying that while she is correct and it is on the orange line, I was also correct as it is a blue line connector. And then I understood something. Even though the blue line has existed all my life since I started taking the Métro, for her it’s still the new line and therefore that the station is also on the blue line isn’t a fact she has absorbed yet. It’s really rather funny. I’ve never had a reason to ride the blue line, but I used to ride it for fun because it has the prettiest stations. But I digress.


Riding the Métro is easy. First, look for one of these signs at street level:

And make a note of the station:

You will descend at least one very steep staircase:

Now, you can either plan your route immediately by consulting one of the many maps of the system available, or you can buy your ticket and figure out your route within the system. I did not need to consult a map, so I bought my ticket immediately.

This is the only place where I noticed a difference from the last time I used the Métro. You used to buy a little cardboard ticket that the operator would slide to you. You then had to return it to him through another slot and he would manually open the gate to let you in. Now, he gives you a card that you have to put into an automated turnstile that will open when you take your ticket back, which you can then use as a transfer if you need to take bus. This eliminates the old system where you had to remember to get a transfer from an automated machine inside the Métro.

Once you are in the Métro system, you can go around and around in any direction for as long as you want as long as you do not take the yellow line and/or do not exit through the turnstiles.

Inside the Métro, I pretended that I did need to look at a map so that I could explain to you fine folks how to figure out where you want to to go.

On the big map above, locate where you are. In my case, I was at Jean Talon, which is a junction of the blue and orange lines on the east side. I wanted to take a bus to Chambly, which meant going to Bonaventure station, on the part of the orange line running east-west. My options were to take the blue line across to the west orange line and transfer, or to just take the orange line around to Bonaventure. The latter was definitely the quickest.

So I had to take the orange line from Jean Talon to Bonaventure. To make sure I got on the right orange train, that is the one going south then west towards Bonaventure rather than the orange train going north to Laval (a new extension to the line), I had to look for the terminus of the line in the direction I wanted, which was Côte-Vértu.

Now, the Métro is super user friendly, so they have another, clearer, way of showing you where you are and where you want to go once you determine what colour line you need to be on. They show the line in a linear fashion:

So now it was just a matter of finding my platform by looking for the orange Côte-Vertu signs:

On the platform, you will always find a map of the station:

And one of the neighbourhood around the station so you know what exit to take, where you’re going to end up above ground, and what buses are available (there is also a full bus map available showing all the routes in the city):

The stations all look pretty much alike, but some have pretty brickwork or mosaics. Jean Talon is ho-hum:

When you feel the rumble, the train is coming!

When the chime rings, the doors close and you’re whisked away.

I had 10 stations to travel and didn’t make a note of the time, but it took less than 15 minutes to get to Bonaventure station.

At your destination, look for the red sortie signs to make your way to the surface:

Bonaventure was aptly named for me tonight as it means good adventure. And a good adventure it was to find the bus terminal for Chambly. This town has always been a bit of the black sheep of the South Shore and the public transportation, and signage to it, has always been horrible. There were few buses on a Sunday night, one at 5:30, one at 7:30, and the last one at 11:30, so I gave myself ample time to find the right gate.

Getting off the Métro at Bonaventure, I exited the system through the turnstile, then used a combination of inadequate signage and memories of 15 years ago to make my way underground to the 1000 de la Gauchetière building, from which I knew I would find my way.

There is now a big skating rink in the atrium there:

In case you have any doubt which country I’m in right now:

Warning: Zamboni crossing

I was an hour early for my bus, so I checked my email as there is free wifi in the atrium, then I went downstairs to the bus terminal because the pounding music of the skating rink was making me feel queasy. Downstairs, I found the correct gate, which was easy since it’s still the same one! I remembered, correctly, that you can’t eat on the buses and when I realised I wouldn’t be home until 6:30 and I had more time to kill, I decided to brave the music to go grab a Subways sandwich upstairs.

The bus arrived on time and cost $7.75, which isn’t much more than I remember it being way back yonder. On paper, the 45 minute drive that passed through the Longueuil terminal and the Promenades St-Bruno seemed long, but it went super quickly. Before I knew it, I was dropped off just two blocks from home.

I wouldn’t want to ride the Chambly bus on a regular basis ever again, but getting back home from Montreal by foot, Métro, and bus Sunday night was fun!

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1 Comment

  • Mastering the Underground in London and the Metro in Paris are two of Dave’s proud accomplishments. Montreal would be a snap for him. 🙂

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