Montréal’s New Frequent Network Brand

STM réseau 10 minutes max Montréal’s transit agency STM is the latest to introduce a frequent network brand for its buses.  The Réseau 10 Minutes (“ten-minute network”) will consist of 11 all-day services running every 10 minutes or better.  The excellent local urbanist blog Montréalites Urbaines (in French) has been following the story.  Sadly, it is not yet highlighted on the network map, at least not the map for the central city, but these things usually happen in several steps as the idea slowly takes root in different parts of an agency.

[updated]  They are also using a version of the brand to highlight 19 lines that are every 10 minutes in one direction only — one direction in the morning and the other direction in the afternoon.  These lines will be frequent only if you’re making a round trip in a certain direction.  It’s a curious exception.  The real value of a Frequent Network brand comes from the ability to assure customers that they can build their lives around it, not just use it for commuting or for travel in a certain direction.  While I advise clients not to make such compromises, it’s not surprising as a response to the fact that if you just show your network that runs frequently all day, you get a map of your inner city area only, because that’s where you have the density to support such service.  Someday, I hope regional transit agencies will be able to have clear conversations with their constituents about why their service has to be much higher where densities are higher, but for now, many agencies feel unready to take on this battle given their own city’s political climate.

[updated] On the bright side, 10-minute frequency is an impressive threshhold.  Even Los Angeles uses 12 minutes as its cutoff, and 15 is more typical.  The duration, 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM, is also impressive.

Still, it’s been done in North America, specifically in Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Portland.  The idea is going to spread for the best of reasons: because it’s such a simple and powerful idea.  Outside North America, I’m aware of Leeds, UK; Curitiba, Brazil; and Adelaide and Brisbane in Australia.  If you know of others, I’d appreciate a comment and link so that I can promote these as well.

34 Responses to Montréal’s New Frequent Network Brand

  1. eddo August 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Not sure if this has been posted on here before, but this is a map done by the folks at which shows main lines of SF defined as rail and bus lines with 10-min frequency or higher.
    There’s also an awesome spider map of 16th & Mission BART as well.

  2. TransitPlannerMunich August 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    Munich has a so called “Metrobus” system:
    It is operated on all days including sundays with a service of 10 minutes or better (some lines 7-7-6-minutes headway).
    Also those lines are always run with articulated buses.
    There are other bus lines with articulated buses or 10 minutes headway in Munich.
    But Metrobus lines are lines with a high significance for the rider and form the backbone of the bus service. And it is easier to communicate such a system – so it is integrated in one type of the official rail network maps.
    Here is a good overview of the system:
    Most lines are already either completely or in large sections priortized and have often in sensitive sections bus lanes, usually in the center of the street, some with platforms – or a combined tram and bus lane when they overlap in a part of the line with a tram.

  3. Andrew August 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Toronto has quite a few bus and streetcar routes that already meet this standard – see <.”>>. They don’t seem to advertise them very well though.

  4. Joe Clark August 21, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    The badge clearly says it’s every ten minutes from 0600 hours to 2100 hours, not nine AM. That is not a “commuting” schedule.

  5. Jarrett August 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    Joe. I’ve updated to clarify. They say clearly that these 19 lines have a frequent service guarantee in only one direction at a time, which would not be the case on a versatile service designed to support voluntary transit-dependence.

  6. rhywun August 22, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    Berlin also has a “MetroBus” and “MetroTram” network which I think is intended to represent frequent service, but it’s not portrayed as a separate network on the maps I’ve seen. Instead they’ve been added to the traditional “tram map” that so many German cities offer – which in the case of Berlin is kind of ridiculous since all the trams are in the East, but at least it’s a start. Clearly, they need to beef up their marketing if they want to get more serious about a high-frequency network.

  7. rhywun August 22, 2010 at 3:01 am #

    I should add that Berlin’s “MetroBus” network is depicted on the tram map not with the bold colors that all the tram lines get (both Metro and… not Metro) but with a de-emphasized, dull gray – which means they’re still placing a lot of importance on bus vs. rail even though the numbering scheme for the Metro network attempts to say otherwise.

  8. samussas August 22, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    Also, all lines of Berlin’s “MetroBus” and “MetroTram” networks (which are actually one and same network) are identified by a “M” in the BVG network nomenclature. It might be a very small detail but it makes for a huge difference in terms or recognition and ease of use. It think it’s something that agencies trying to higlight there frequent (or express) lines should emulate.

  9. TransitPlannerMunich August 22, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    Hamburg has also a nice network map for its Metrobus system (and a frequency of at least every 10 minutes, guaranteed until 11 PM):
    The “all stops Metrobus network map” looks a bit more complex in contrast:
    In Hamburg about 60% of all bus passengers are using the Metrobus system.

  10. Michael M. August 22, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    I agree that the idea is simple and powerful, but one downside is that it has to be sustainable. In Portland, TriMet is slowly but surely hacking away at the simplicity of the concept by making service cuts that muddy the water. I think most people here were happy enough with the 15-minute benchmark TriMet established for its frequent service lines, but now TriMet has slashed the frequency by as much as 5 minutes on some lines, at least off-peak. Having to wait up to 20 minutes (in theory, sometimes longer in practice) for a “Frequent Service” bus makes a mockery of the term, and hurts the overall brand.

  11. Tcmetro August 22, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Bellingham, WA has a frequent service network where frequent lines are color coded.

  12. Paul K. McGregor August 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    The Utah Transit Authority does their map based on a frequent service network, which is tied to the frequency of light rail which is currently 15 minutes. Weekday service is 15 minutes or 30 minutes with an occasional 45 minute or so frequency. They also operate Fast Bus service which is peak hour only service that operates limited stop service from employment centers to sububran cities. UTA also has a BRT service calle MAX but it operates every 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on Saturday [not very rapid].
    Here is a link to their map:

  13. rhywun August 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Good point about the “M” prefix – I approve. But they still need to map the network clearly so that riders can get a grasp of it.
    @Michael M.
    A 20-minute headway may not be “frequent” but it can be as good as that if it’s both regular and reliable. I once lived in a German town where my bus ran every 20 minutes, all day, every day – I never needed to consult a schedule, which is as good as “frequent” for me. Unfortunately, American schedules tend to be neither regular nor (as) reliable, so I too would probably never consider a 20-minute headway there to be “frequent”.

  14. ant6n August 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    I wonder how one would effectively show those 9-14h one way, 14h-21h other way lines in a map — or whether to show them at all.
    To clearify the Berlin case:
    There are four different technologies
    -S-Bahn (overground rapid transit and commuter rail)
    -U-Bahn (underground)
    -Strassenbahn (streetcar, partly in its own right of way)
    Usually the S- and U-Bahn are considered the rapid transit network; but a couple of years ago Berlin started it’s “Metro-Linien” network. They basically took several streetcar AND bus lines, gave them M-numbers, and high frequency (I belive it’s 5 minutes). There still exist non-metro bus and streetcar lines.
    They then published two maps:
    – The original S+U Bahn map with the metro network added in gray
    – The metro network map with the S+U Bahn added in gray.
    When I last lived there, they put both maps in all the subways etc. Now there’s also a 24 hour network map, not sure what that is all about. There’s also always been the streetcar network map (showing both the streetcar and streetcar-metro lines, and S+U Bahn in gray) – this map is only of East Berlin, since in the West the streetcars were dismantled during capitalist times.

  15. samussas August 22, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    @ant6n: Arf! The 24-Stunden-Netz map… I find myself quite good with maps but this one, I don’t have the patience to read and understand. I find it confusing. At least, it’s confusing when you are not a regular user of Berlin’s night network (and don’t know its subtleties). Because that’s it, the 24 hour network map is a map of the night network.
    The idea was good (to show a map of the 24/7 network) but I’m not sure the final product is as good and useful as it could be.

  16. ant6n August 23, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    @samussas: Yeah I agree. Some symbols don’t seem to be labeled in the legend, it’s really cluttered, and it’s confusing how some lines are subway lines during the day, and bus lines during the night – with slightly deviated routes. It’s also unclear how it relates to the metro-network. I feel like they overdid it with this one.

  17. Brent August 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    re: Toronto — Last year, the TTC put together an initiative called the Transit City Bus Plan, part of which proposes to create a frequent service network (10-minute headways or better) at all times of the day, every day. Unlike Portland and other examples, this would extend later into the evening hours — basically everything except “owl” service — and would also include all day on the weekend. Most of the routes are already at that level during the day, so the majority of the improvements would be later in the evenings.
    The main shortcomings of the plan are identifying where the funding will come from amongst a number of competing initiatives; and the fact that it doesn’t address streetcar routes, or bus routes that are planned (but not committed) for LRT conversion.

  18. Brent August 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Forgot to include a link to the bus plan PDF.

  19. J August 23, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    Youve mentioned Boston (MBTA) before. Theres no frequency map, but the most recent subway map shows the 15 bus lines that run at frequencies of every 15 minutes or less all day (5am to 1am)…..almost* It’s essentially a frequency map, because it says any bus, light rail, subway or brt shown on the map can be relied on without a schedule.
    Ferry is shown as well, but it’s not as frequent.
    *The last bus and trains of the day are held for connections, so the wait can be as much as 30 minutes if delays have built up during the day. For example, on my route, the 77, the last bus is scheduled for 1am, 13 minutes after the previous run, but in reality, schedules are not kept and the last bus leaves at 1:20am or so.

  20. ant6n August 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm #

    I started making a map of Montreal’s frequent service, by basically extending the current metro map, but using the new corporate design of the stm.

  21. ant6n August 24, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    woops, here is the actual link

  22. CLAUDE August 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    In my city (Colmar, France)we have two high frequency line which are “above” the other lines on the map(that’s the red one and the green one)

  23. ninpope August 25, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Montreal frequent network map is now available at

  24. Pete (UK) August 25, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Jarrett, Nottingham (UK) has avfrequent network brand called ‘Go2’, with services running at least every 10 minutes Mon – Sat daytime.
    Scroll down on the link for map:
    Nottingham colour codes its bus corridors, the PDF system map below shows this. So for example the green line consists of services 5, 5a, 6,7,8,9,9x, 10,11,11c of which 6, 10, and 11 are Go2 high frequency.'m%20Jrny%20Plnnr%20Map.pdf

  25. John W August 26, 2010 at 1:38 am #

    I’m wondering how the split schedule in Montreal is going to work. Are they going to leave a bunch of buses at the end of the line until the afternoon? Otherwise, to maintain the (for example) northbound frequency, wouldn’t they have to have almost as frequent service southbound to keep the buses in circulation?

  26. Dennis Sellin August 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    The DC Circulator (in Washington), runs five basic routes, on ten-minute headways. Buses run from 7 am to 9 pm or midnight, and as late as 3:30 am on weekends. The Circulator operates like an express bus service: it does not stop at every corner, and is therefore a faster ride than the Metro bus. It’s cheaper, too. The fare is $1.

  27. Joseph August 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    @John W
    Most of our routes in Montreal already run at very different frequencies in either direction during rush hour. What we do is run a bunch of buses back “hors service”, not on passenger runs. Doing so means we need a couple fewer vehicles than if we had equal frequencies in both directions because vehicles return quickly. This is usually only done in areas with big differences in loads. Most of the routes in the 10-minute-max network run maybe every 15-20 minutes reverse-peak at most, or even every 10 minutes at some points, just not for the whole 6:00-21:00 period.

  28. Joseph August 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    The STM now has a reseau 10-minutes-max map:

  29. ant6n August 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    @John W: I’ve been wondering the same thing. I have a feeling they are running them back going empty. They should be much faster like that. But then they could just ditch the commuter direction constraint altogether, without using tooo many resources.

  30. Jarrett at August 27, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    I agree that Montreal's single direction branding is odd, especially
    extended into the midday as it is. Midday it's normal to have a
    policy frequency that's the same both ways.

  31. calwatch August 28, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    LA’s “12 minute map” is better described as a “5 buses an hour on this street” map, as the current map now has a disclaimer stating that Rapid and local service frequencies are combined to show frequencies. So you may have a Rapid bus running every 20 minutes and a local bus running every half hour, but since it’s five buses an hour, it can be shown on the 12 minute map.

  32. Mike August 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    It should be noted that even on the Montreal routes with frequent service in one direction based on the time of the day. The service in the non 10 minute direction is still pretty frequent. And often is every 10 minutes also, but with dips to 12 minutes or 15 minutes at times.
    It should also be noted that a lot of the more suburban routes do have loads that are heavy in one direction and not in the other. So for these riders knowing a bus comes every 10 minutes in one direction at the times they travel, works well for them.
    So yes it is a little weird. But it works fro Montreal and maybe as funding allows they will just go to full 10 minute service both ways on the routes that don’t offer it.
    But like I mentioned, even if the non high frequency direction you are often not waiting that long for a bus.
    Check some of the schedules out and you will see that.

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  34. sam September 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    Copenhagen has been very successful in re-branding it’s bus net in this way since the 1990’s, and expanded with the opening of the metro in 2002.
    It’s divided into basically two different types of lines:
    The S-bus, which runs every 10/20 min and is more or less what most American cities market as BRT. It connects the suburbs and city with few stops where the S-tog (suburban rail) doesn’t run.
    The A-bus, which is the six busiest lines that run mainly in the denser areas of the city. They were designed to market the existing bus service as a “metro in the streets”, and have about 60% of Cph’s bus ridership. The lines run on intervals of 3-10 min instead of scheduled times. One line, 5A, has a ridership of 65,000 a day and runs every two or three minutes during the day (although bunching is a major problem). If it was a subway line, it would have the 10th highest ridership in the US, just after LA’s Red and Purple lines.
    The success of the system is likely the result of the fact that infrastructure and marketing investments were made simultaneously. All A and S buses are marked with the route and stops on the outside of the bus, and most stops have real-time information as well as printed schedules. Signal priority is also becoming more of the norm in Cph, and streets are often re-designed to speed up service (bus lanes, turning streets into dead-ends for cars with bus controlled bollards, etc).
    These routes, along with the metro and S-tog (which now runs every ten minutes all day) mean that you only need a schedule in Cph if you’re going to some far-flung suburb without train service.