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We mapped Montreal’s snowed-in bus stops

Find out which parts of the city did right by bus riders... and which left them buried

January 11, 2024

As bus riders, we don’t need to unearth our automobiles with ice picks and backhoes every time the snow falls. But when a stop is snowed-under, it turns a perfectly normal waiting area into a boot-freezing, foot-soggening, day-ruining expedition, especially for those who can’t climb a mountain of snow just to get to their bus.

Last month, the season’s first big storm dumped 36 centimeters (that’s 14 inches in Yankee Units) on Montreal, our hometown. So we asked bus riders to report which stops were cleared… and which ones required crampons.

Then we ranked them to see which part of the city came out on top.

Photo of person boarding STM bus in snowy conditions.
This stop for the STM’s 31 bus (northbound Saint-Denis at Faillon, in Montreal’s Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension borough) “not at all clear” rating on Monday to a “more or less clear” rating on Tuesday.

Over five days, riders rated more than 6,500 bus stops — that’s about 1 in 7 bus stops across the entire region. On the Island of Montreal, 1 in 4 STM bus stops got a ranking.

Of Montreal’s 19 city boroughs and 15 suburban municipalities, it was two of the wealthiest suburban towns — Mount Royal and Hampstead — that took home the top prizes, followed closely by the Montreal borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville.

Podium of towns and boroughs on Montreal Island with the best bus stop snow removal, illustrated with a snowman holding a trophy.

1st place: Town of Mount Royal
2nd place: Town of Hampstead
3rd place: Borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville

To figure out how each part of the city performed, we assigned points each time a rider submitted a report at their bus stop: 1 point for not at all clear, 3 points for more or less clear, and 5 points for totally clear.

Then we calculated an average score for each stop, and grouped them by borough or municipality to see how the average stop in each area performed on this 1-to-5 scale.

Over the course of the week, the average rating across the entire island was 3.41 out of 5. That means riders said their stops were usually on the “more” side of “more or less clear.” The only place to fall on the “less” side of the equation: last-place Montreal-Est, a heavily industrial area in the island’s east end.

You might think the heart of the city pays more attention to snowy bus stops than auto-oriented zones at the periphery, but reports from riders show that just wasn’t the case on the Island of Montreal. For example: Ville-Marie, which includes downtown, came in near the bottom.

Off-island, suburban bus stops in Laval and on the South Shore also underperformed. Though it’s not all doom and gloom in the ‘burbs: exo bus stops in farther-flung exurbs did almost as well as the average in Montreal itself.

Map of average bus stop snow removal rating within the Greater Montreal area.

Island of Montreal, served by STM: 3.41

Couronnes Nord and Sud, served by exo: 3.36

South Shore, served by RTL: 3.22

Laval, served by STL: 3.17

Now, anyone who’s walked in a snowstorm can tell you: there’s a big difference between conditions the minute snow stops falling, and after a few days of cleanup. We tracked this progress, too, calculating the percentage of reports coming in each day from riders who said their stop was “not at all” clear of snow.

Chart of the percentage of reports from Transit app riders that indicated a snowed-in bus stop, from Monday, December 4 to Friday, December 8. Average falls from 29% to 9% over the course of five days, with bus stops used by the STM performing better than bus stops used by RTL, STL or exo.

Overall, riders came back with positive reports. The day snow stopped falling, 1 in 3 riders reported a snowed-in bus stop. By the end of the week, that number fell to 1 in 10. Not bad for the first big snowstorm of the season, while crews were still shaking out cobwebs from their snowplows and introducing new plow operators to their routes.

Any snow removal progress, of course, is thanks to these municipal employees. In Quebec, it’s local governments — not transit agencies, and not individual property owners — who are responsible for removing snow from most streets, sidewalks, and bus stops.

To get the job done, the City of Montreal alone has 1,000 pint-sized sidewalk plows as part of its gargantuan, 3,000-person-strong snow removal apparatus.

GIF of a sidewalk snow plow being driven on a sidewalk in downtown Montreal during snowy conditions
Yes, Montreal plows its sidewalks. In other, lesser cities, it’s up to each property owner, resulting in a hodgepodge of impassable paths.

Taken together, each rider’s individual report paints a picture of how our city works. Somewhere at City Hall, a data analyst is digging into all this data, typing up a plan to make sure that no bus rider will have to climb over a mini Mont-Tremblant after the next storm passes.

Or at least that’s what we hope is happening. Because bus riders deserve to have their voices heard, and to ride a system that just works. No matter the weather.

Ride public transit? This snowplow experiment is part of our work to hand riders a megaphone, so you can share what’s happening on your ride. Wanna join in? Just tap GO the next time you ride. Have ideas for questions we aren’t asking? We’d love to hear them!

Work for a city or transit agency? Want to know what riders are seeing at your stops (or on your buses and trains)? Drop us a line! We can start asking riders your burning questions.

Map of the average snow removal rating for each bus stop that received ratings across the Greater Montreal region. Dots in red, yellow or green indicate whether a stop was not at all cleared, more or less clear, or totally clear.
How exactly did we calculate these numbers?

Whenever someone is using Transit’s step-by-step GO navigation feature, we add in Rate-My-Ride questions. We ask about things like crowding. On-time expectations. Stop and vehicle cleanliness. Missed buses. And overall ratings out of five stars.

We share the results back with riders in the app, and with our partners at transit agencies.

During last month’s snowstorm, whenever the app detected that a GO user was waiting at a bus stop in Montreal or its suburbs, we added a special question:

Screenshot of Rate-My-Ride feature. In the foreground is the question: “Has snow been removed from this bus stop?” with response options: “not at all,” “more or less” and “totally clear.” In the background are questions asking if the bus arrived when the rider was expecting it and if there are seats available on the bus.

The snow began Saturday, December 2. We started asking the question while the tempest was tapering off at 11 AM Monday morning, and kept it up until 11:59 PM Friday. The whole time, temperatures remained below freezing.

Of the 207,000 people who opened the app over those 5 days in the Montreal area, 8,400 bus riders gave more than 12,200 snow reports covering 6,500 bus stops.

Wanna play around with the data? Knock yourself out with this CSV of average ratings by bus stop.

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