Montreal·CBC Investigates

2017 was the worst on record for Metro interruptions. Here's why

If you rely on the Metro to get around and felt like 2017 was a particularly bad year for delays, it wasn't your imagination. Last year was the worst on record, CBC found through an access to information request.

STM launches awareness campaign to stop passengers from blocking doors, dropping cellphones onto tracks

Passengers at Berri-UQAM station found themselves stranded for 79 minutes on April 6, 2017 due to a train breakdown on the Orange line. (Justin Hayward/CBC)

If you rely on the Metro to get around and felt like 2017 was a particularly bad year for delays, it wasn't your imagination.

Last year was the worst on record, with 1,171 interruptions that lasted five minutes or more — an increase of 246 incidents, or about 25 per cent, from the year before.

CBC News obtained the latest data from Montreal's transit agency, the STM, through an access to information request.

The STM only tracks these longer stoppages. The number of stoppages works out to about three a day, with an average duration of 11 minutes and 25 seconds.

The Orange line had the greatest number, which doesn't surprise Omar Ayesh, a resident of Montreal's west end. 

He says he's often late for work because of delays.

"Those delays sometimes are killers," said Ayesh, who avoids taking the Metro at rush hour if he can. 

The data shows there's a spike in interruptions during peak hours.

However, the STM says that's because there are more trains running and more passengers traveling at those times, which increase the risk. 

Passengers themselves are the leading cause of the delays: in the last two years, they were responsible for approximately 45 per cent of them.


(Darcy Hunter)

Snagged bags, dropped cellphones

The reasons passengers cause delays include everything from someone getting sick, to a bag getting snagged or jammed in the door, to dropping a phone on the tracks.

In 2017 alone, the STM said 550 objects fell on the track, causing more than 19 hours of service interruption. 

As for blocked doors, either deliberately or not,  the STM says it tallied 337 incidents resulting in 25 hours of service delays last year.
Lisa Knyszynska says it's frustrating to find out passengers deliberately blocking doors caused so many delays. (CBC)

Metro user Lisa Knyszynska said she sees passengers deliberately blocking doors way too often.

"It's pretty selfish to do stuff like that, to block doors, because other people are counting on the service to get to work," said Knyszynska.

Some of the reasons for delays were more serious.

Despite signs specifically asking people not to go down onto the electrified tracks, 130 people did just that  last year.

There are also, according to the STM, about 25 suicide attempts a year.
(CBC)

Awareness campaign

The STM launched a four-week awareness campaign this month, showing users how to avoid dropping objects on the tracks and reminding people not to block doors. 

It encourages them to stand back from the yellow tiles along the platform, to stay off their phones while getting on and off the Metro — and to never go down onto the tracks to retrieve dropped items.

The STM has also put more staff on the platforms to help people if there is a problem. 
Trajectoire Québec's François Pepin says as more of the older Metro trains, seen here, are replaced with the new Azur trains, there will likely be fewer breakdowns. (CBC)

Calls for better train maintenance, communication

The second-most common cause of delays on the Metro last year was due to broken train equipment, such as a wheel or a door.

That accounted for about a third of all stoppages of more than five minutes.

Trajectoire Québec's Pepin said the STM's maintenance program could be improved, but he expects fewer delays  as the STM retires older trains.

He also thinks the STM could do a better job of informing commuters when train service is disrupted.

Usually, people only find out about delays when they are already on the train or on the platform.

"At that point, people can't do anything about it," said Pepin. "Maybe it would be less frustrating — and, if you're going to be late anyway — to have some information at the door of the station, near where you pay your fare."

That way, he said, commuters with no time to wait have the option of hopping on a bus or taking a taxi.

But Pepin points out, overall, the STM has one of the best run subway systems in North America.
Metro rider Michel Bonneau says that subway service in Montreal is a lot better than in many other cities he's visited. (CBC)

Metro user Michel Bonneau agrees that, even if he groans when he's stuck on a train that's stopped, Montreal has a better system than a lot of other cities.

"Have you been to New York lately?" he chuckles. "Or Paris? It's not so hot either."

"I think we're doing OK."


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About the Author

Leah Hendry is a TV, radio and online journalist with CBC Montreal Investigates. Contact her via our confidential tipline: 514-597-5155 or on email at montrealinvestigates@cbc.ca.

With files from Roberto Rocha and graphics by Brooke Schreiber

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