All things considered, Montreal has a pretty great transit system. But the STM still often leaves customers frustrated. Frequent bus breakdowns and interruptions accross the metro lines cause delays in the daily commute of over a million daily users.
A report by the Gazette shows that the STM is facing some serious maintenance issues right about now. Not only are more buses breaking down than ever before, but the STM is reducing its maintenance staff. This is translatting into more delays for passengers.
TL;DR STM buses are breaking down more than ever before, in part due to the changes made to the refuelling system. On top of this, the STM has cut down on maintenance staff. There are therefore less buses on the roads, and many STM drivers cannot drive along their routes, and are forced to sit around and do nothing.
The Gazette reports that more buses are breaking down than ever before. To meet its schedule during rush hour, the STM estimates that it need 1,407 buses on the road. On Thursday morning there were only a little over 1,200 buses on the roads. That means that over 31% of STM buses were parked or waiting for repairs. How did this happen?
The first cause of this is that, even before the winter weather set in, a large number of buses were out of order and waiting for repairs. The difficult winter weather has further complicated things, stated STM spokesperson Alain Legault to the Gazette, going on to say that everyday is a challenge.
More buses are breaking down for reasons other than the weather. In an effort to save money, the STM has switched from refuelling buses everyday, instead refuelling on an as-needed basis. This cuts down the number of employees who need to work on fuelling buses.
This is a little complicated, however, because buses are not equipped with a fuel gauge that can tell drivers when fuel levels are low. Many buses therefore break down unexpectedly, leaving drivers unable to complete their routes.
On January 25, 40 buses were left at the Anjou bus station because they had no more fuel. The STM estimates that this has, however, saved the agency $1,000,000 per year.
Delays are exacerbated by the lack of maintenance staff. Staff are unable to refuel the buses fast enough because of cuts to their teams. There are 230 fewer maintenance employees now than there were in 2015.
Now, when a bus breaks down, one maintenance staff member must drive a new bus out to the place where the other bus broke down to replace it. Another mechanic has to come with a tow truck to tow away the fuel-less bus.
Renée Frenette, president of the STM's maintenance union, estimates that this method costs about as much as what the STM saves in fuel costs and maintenance staff cuts. He goes on to tell the Gazette that his staff has had to log multiple overtime hours, and that many are burning out.
Mechanics working on buses have logged on average over 200 hours of overtime work per employee. And because the mechanics are so preoccupied with buses running out of fuel, they are not using their time properly.
Frenette goes on to mention that, due to the shortage of buses, bus drivers must sit around and wait for available vehicles. These drivers are paid despite being unable to do their jobs.
The STM has made no further comments about this situation.