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Montreal Metro

The Montreal Metro is the main form of public transportation within the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The Metro, operated by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), was inaugurated on October 14, 1966, during the tenure of Mayor Jean Drapeau. Originally consisting of 26 stations on three separate lines, the Metro now incorporates 65 stations on four lines measuring 60.8 kilometres (37.8 miles) in length, serving the north, east, and centre of Montreal Island with a connection to Longueuil via the Yellow Line and, soon, Laval, originally to be completed in 2006, but now scheduled to be inaugurated in 2007. The metro system is currently Canada's second longest and second in total annual passenger usage (in both respects to Toronto's subway system), serving 284 million riders a year; according to the STM website, the metro system has transported over 6 billion passengers as of 2006, which is equivalent to the world's population.


Construction began in May, 1962 and was engaged before Montreal was chosen as host of the 1967 World Fair (Expo 67), held in the summer of 1967. Regardless of the fair, the city badly needed a mass transportation system, projects dating back to 1910. The main lines (Green (Line 1), Atwater to Frontenac; and Orange (Line 2), Bonaventure to Henri-Bourassa) were opened gradually starting in October, 1966, with the Yellow line (Line 4) (Berri-de-Montigny) to Longueuil, on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River) not opened until April, 1967.

A Line 3 was originally intended, as a surface metro running in part through the existing railway tracks running under Mount Royal to Cartierville. But then, as negotiations with the Canadian National Railway (CN Rail) for the use of their tracks and tunnel were stalled, Montreal was chosen as host of the Expo 67 (1967 World Fair). Plans and budgets were therefore redirected for the design and construction of a replacement line, Line 4, constructed especially for Expo 67, in place of the never built Line 3, which tracks are now used for the Deux-Montagnes commuter train. The Montreal Metro nonetheless continues to be numbered as if this proposed line had been constructed as Line 3 of the Metro.

With the awarding of the 1976 Summer Olympics to Montreal, construction began in October 1971 for the extension of Line 1 from Frontenac to Honoré-Beaugrand to service the main Olympic site; the new stations were opened in June 1976.

Later, Line 1 was extended from Atwater to Angrignon (September 1978), while Line 2 was extended from Bonaventure to Place-Saint-Henri (April 1980), Snowdon (September 1981), Côte-Sainte-Catherine and Plamondon (January and June 1982), and Du Collège (January 1984).

Two years later, a new line (Blue (Line 5)) was built from De Castelnau to Saint-Michel (June 1986), with transfers to Line 2 at Jean-Talon, and Line 2 was extended further to Côte-Vertu (November 1986). Line 5 was then extended to Parc (June 1987), Acadie (March 1988), and the existing Snowdon station on Line 2 (January 1988). To this date, the Montreal Metro is Canada's second largest subway system.

The lines however, were not planned to end where they eventually did in 1990; Line 2 was originally meant to have two or three more stations beyond Côte-Vertu, however, priority funding was given to Line 5; The plans for Deguire/Poirier, Bois-Franc, and Salaberry stations were scrubbed. Line 5 itself was shortened due to funding issues. It has originally been projected to have stops west of Snowdon (Côte Saint-Luc, Cavendish, Montréal-Ouest, Lafleur) and east of Saint-Michel (Pie-IX, Viau, Lacordaire, Langelier, Galeries d’Anjou).

An entire metro line in initial planning was also scrubbed, the so-called Line 7 / Pie IX - Saint-Leonard / White Line, also due to the same funding issues. Proposed for the first time by the Bureau des Transports de Montréal (BTM) in September 1983, the original project for a new north-south line (Line 7, the number 6 being reserved for another surface metro line proposed by the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ)) would have had 10 stations (from Pie-IX to Léger), which then got formally proposed by the Communauté urbaine de Montréal (CUM) at the start of 1984, this time having 12 stations (from Pie-IX to Maurice-Duplessis/Langelier).

While a number of proposals for further expansion had been studied, the Quebec provincial government placed a moratorium on further metro construction. Only recently has construction begun on an extension of Line 2 from Henri-Bourassa under the Rivière des Prairies to Montmorency on the island of Laval (northwest of the island of Montreal); completion is expected in early 2007.

Other expansion proposals currently being considered involve Line 4 being extended a short distance beyond Longueuil–Université-de-Sherbrooke and Line 5 being extended farther northeast beyond Saint-Michel; the plan to extend Line 5 from Snowdon into the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area of Montreal has apparently been discarded. Expansion plans may also be affected by the ageing of the existing metro cars, which may need to be replaced sometime in the future.


see Table of Montreal metro stations

The four current Montreal Metro lines are identified by colour, by number, or by terminus station. The terminus station in the direction of travel is used to differentiate between directions of travel. The busiest line is the Green Line, while the least busy is the Blue Line. The Yellow Line is the shortest line, with just three stations, built for the Expo 67. For now, it is the only Metro line that leaves the Island of Montreal; however that will change when the Orange Line is extended to Laval, a city to the north of Montreal, in 2007. Line 3 was never built (see above History).

Line # Colour Termini Date Length Stations
1 Green AngrignonHonoré-Beaugrand 1966 22.1 km 27
2 Orange Côte-VertuHenri-Bourassa 1966 24.8 km 28
4 Yellow Berri-UQAMLongueuil–Université-de-Sherbrooke 1967 4.25 km 3
5 Blue SnowdonSaint-Michel 1986 9.7 km 12


The Montreal Metro runs entirely underground and uses exclusively rubber tires instead of steel wheels. As noted in the STM official document, The Montreal Métro, a source of pride, the Metro runs entirely underground because at the time of its initial planning in the early 1960s rubber-tired metro technology was unable to operate in heavy winter conditions.

Conception of the first generation of rolling-stock in Montreal went beyond just adopting the MP 59 metro car from Paris.

North American cities building modern subway systems (Washington D.C., San Francisco, Atlanta, Montreal) in the 1960s and 1970s were in search of modern rolling-stock that not only best fit their needs, but also encompassing a change in industrial design that focused on the aesthetics and performance of public transit vehicles.

Train floor levels are flush with the station platforms, but unlike the Washington D.C. Metro, Montreal's Metro system is not wheelchair accessible. The stations do not have elevators, nor are trains equipped with seating for wheelchair users. This has become a sore point for accessibility advocates in Montreal. However, the STM states that beginning in 2006 there will be "an area... set aside in some cars for wheelchair passengers who will have access in a few years". [1]

Unlike most other major cities subway systems, Montreal's subway cars lack air conditioning, which can make trips very uncomfortable for passengers, especially during the hot summer months. Passengers cannot move between cars once on board with the current train stock, which can be an inconvience if the car becomes overcrowded or when looking for a seat, however, open gangways and AC, along with other features such as a live map, were implemented in the AZUR MPM-10s built by Bombardier.


Careful comparison with other modern subway systems would indicate that the builders of the Montreal Metro were clearly focused on a vehicle design philosophy of highly optimized operation. The inherent high-performance characteristics of Montreal's Metro trains offers elevated levels of efficiency, high capacity service as well as high overall service speeds. Design specifications called for impressive rates of acceleration, powerful brakes and short station dwell times of typically 8 to 15 seconds.

Montreal's metro trains are made of LAHT (low-alloy high-tensile) steel, painted blue with a thick white stripe running its length. Trains are assembled in 3, 6 or 9-car lengths. Each 3-car segment element consists of two motor cab cars encompassing a trailer car. Each car is 2.5 meters wide and has four wide bi-parting leaf doors on each side for rapid passenger entry and egress. The small cross section of the cars allows easier tunnel construction under existing underground utilities. The total capacity of each car is 160 passengers, 39 to 40 of which are seated.

Each car has two sets of bogies (trucks), each with four sets of support tires, guide tires and backup conventional steel wheels. The motor cars each have four direct-current traction motors coupled to reduction gears and differentials. Montreal's metro trains use composite brake pads made of rosewood injected with vegetable oil. Two sets are applied against the treads of the steel wheels for friction braking. Hard braking produces a characteristic burnt popcorn scent. Wooden brake shoes perform well but if subjected to numerous high-speed applications they develop a carbon film that diminishes brake performance.

Rubber tires make the Metro exceptionally quiet, transmit minimal vibration, helps the cars climb uphill more easily and negotiate turns at high speeds. However, the advantages of rubber tires are offset by noise levels generated by traction motors, which are noisier than the typical North American subway car. Trains can climb slopes of up to 6.5% and economize the most energy when following a humped-station profile (track profiles that descend to accelerate after leaving a station and climb before entering the station). Steel-wheel train technology has undergone significant advances and can better round tight curves, climb and descend similar grades and slopes. Despite these advances, steel-wheel trains still cannot operate at high speeds (45 mph) on the same steep or tightly curved track profiles as a train equipped with rubber tires.

Train operation[]

All lines but the Yellow Line are equipped with automatic train control. Generally, the train operator supervises the opening and closing of doors, while the train drives itself. The train operator can also drive the train manually at his or her discretion. Signalling is effected through coded pulses sent through the rails. Coded speed orders and station stop positions transmitted through track beacons are captured by beacon readers mounted under the driver cabs. The information sent to the train's electronic modules conveys speed information, and it is up to the train automatic control system computer to conform to the imposed speed. Additionally, the train computer can receive energy-saving instructions from track beacons, providing the train with 4 different economical coasting modes, plus one mode for maximum performance. In case of manual control, track speed is displayed on the cab speedometer indicating the maximum permissible speed. The wayside signals consist of point (switch/turnout) position indicators in proximity to switches and inter-station signalling placed at each station stop. Trains often reach their maximum speed of 44-45 mph (70-72 km/h) in 16 to 26 seconds depending on grade and load.

Trains are programmed to stop at certain station positions with a precise odometer (accurate to plus or minus 5 centimetres). They receive their braking program and station stop positions orders (one-third, two thirds or end of station) from track beacons prior to entering the station, with additional beacons in the station for ensuring stop precision.

Trains draw current from two sets of 750-volt direct current guide bar/third rails on either side of each motor car. Nine-car trains draw large currents of up to 6,000 amperes, requiring that both models of rolling-stock have calibrated traction motor control systems to prevent power surges, arcing and breaker tripping. Both models have electrical braking (using motors) to assist primary friction braking, reducing the need to replace the brake pads.

Two models of train are used on the Metro:

  • Canadian Vickers MR-63 (delivered for the metro's opening in 1966)

The Canadian Vickers-built MR-63 is used on the Green line and the Bombardier-built MR-73 is used on the other three lines. Motor cars weigh about 27 metric tonnes, trailer cars weigh 20 metric tonnes. A three-car set (one element) weighs a total of 74 metric tonnes.

The MR-63 is identified with grey interiors, four ventilation hoods protruding over the roof of each car, 154 hp traction motors that make a whining noise and have round cab headlights. Montreal's rolling stock is among the oldest still in use on any metro system in the world. A $1.2 billion contract is under negotiation with Bombardier to replace the MR-63 fleet.

Maintenance of Montreal's subway cars is rigorous, as reliability levels (Mean Distance Between Failures/MDBF ratings) are more than double than that of typical North American subway cars.

The MR-63 is the first generation of high-performance subway cars, a mixture of technology dating back to the mid-1960's and modern train technology. The MR-63 model has undergone numerous technological and reliability upgrades. Major upgrades include on-board computer modules for automatic train control in 1976 with subsequent revisions of hardware and software, solid-state door interlocks in 2003, modern ergonomic driver cabs with new digital dashboards and automatic station annunciators in 2005. Most notably, all the MR-63 carshells emerged factory-fresh with new interiors and a new paint scheme after being fully refurbished at the GEC Alstom Pointe St. Charles workshops in 1993. As a result, the MR-63 fleet appears relatively new, gleaming and modern despite being 40 years old (as of 2006).

The MR-63 fleet remains exceptionally reliable (MDBF of 125,000 miles/200,000 km in 2004) by North American standards. However, they suffer elevated levels of vandalism, they retain many obsolete components, parts availability is diminishing and ride quality has deteriorated over the years as their suspension systems and rubber spring packs harden with old age. Poor ride quality has not been attributed to the tires or tracks.

The MR-63 model uses a series-to-parallel servo camshaft rheostat to control and regulate power to its traction motors; this control system can be heard tapping under the floor of a motor car as the train undergoes rapid acceleration at an initial rate of 3.0 mph per second (1.33 m/s²). This control system also features a dynamic rheostatic braking mode that uses the motors to slow the train, turning the motors into generators and dissipating the resulting energy as heat in the rheostat grid.

The 2006 STM action and investment plans indicate that the MR-63 fleet will remain in service up until 2014, with their projected replacement by 2012.

  • Bombardier Transportation MR-73 (delivered in 1976)

The MR-73 is the second generation of high-performance metro cars, identified by rectangular cab headlights, orange interiors (now the orange interiors are slowly being taken out with blue and dark orange interiors, this is all part of the mid-life refurbishment) , traction motors (rated at 176 hp max., 168 hp continuous) that growl while accelerating out of a station, have side vents and a unique three-note sound signature when the train pulls out of a station. The initial rate of acceleration of the MR-73 model is 3.2 mph per second (1.43 m/s²), which is exceptionally high for any subway equipment. The three-note sound is produced by traction motor control equipment called a "current chopper", which is used to control and power the motors on the train in stages without incurring a power surge. The notes are the same as the first three notes as Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man", one of the musical themes for Expo '67, though this is apparently just a coincidence. Some MR-73s originally sported murals of Montreal at the end of cars, although these were damaged by vandalism and removed long ago.

The MR-73 has a different electrical braking system than the MR-63 to assist friction braking. The MR-73's current chopper recuperates energy when in braking mode, turning traction motors into generators and sending a regulated current back into the traction power supply for other trains to use. Electrical braking is most effective when one train draws power while starting while another train at a different location sends power while braking.

The Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) for the MR-73 exceeds 200,000 miles (320,000 km) in 2004. As of December 2005, the MR-73 fleet is undergoing $40 million in renovations to reconfigure interior seating to increase total car capacity, install new poles and new panels with a new ergonomic color scheme that discourages vandalism, decreases motion-sickness and promotes aesthetic harmony. The renovations also include ergonomic full-spectrum lighting system that provides therapeutic anti-depression effects for its passengers. Like the older MR-63 metro fleet, the MR-73 driver cabs will be modernized and equipped with ergonomic features and digital dashboards.


Rolling stock maintenance is effected in three facilities, in two locations.

Plateau d’Youville[]

The Plateau d’Youville, located in the north end of the city is located at the intersection of Boulevards Crémazie and Saint-Laurent.

It provide heavy maintenance of buses, subway cars, light maintenance of MR-73 subway cars and is the main base for the track maintenance workshops (where track sections are pre-assembled prior to installation).

Garage Beaugrand[]

The Garage Beaugrand is located east of line 1 terminus Honoré-Beaugrand. It is entirely underground.

It provides light maintenance on MR-63 subway cars.

Centre d'attachement Duvernay[]

It is a garage and base for maintenance of way equipment. It accesses the network through the line 1/line 2 interchange east/south of Lionel-Groulx. The access building is located at the corner of Duvernay and Vinet streets in Sainte-Cunégonde.

Centre d’attachement Viau[]

It is a garage and base for maintenance of way equipment. It accesses the network immediately west of the Viau station (line 1). The access building is within the Viau station building; in fact, facilities are visible from trains going west of the station.


The interchange track between lines 2 and 5 south/west of Snowdon station is used for the storage of maintenance of way equipment. There are no surface facilities.


Idle trains are stored in 3 garages, Angrignon, Beaugrand and St-Charles (respectively west of Angrignon line 1 terminus, east of Honoré-Beaugrand line 1 terminus and north of Henri-Bourassa terminus. An additionnal terminus north of the future Montmorency terminus is being built.

Next generation of trains[]

In May 2006, the Quebec Government announced the negotiation of a $1.2 billion contract to replace the MR-63 metro fleet of the Montreal Metro. Alstom has voiced its dismay over directly awarding the contract without a bidding process. Negotiations between the STM and Bombardier will be ongoing until 2007. The negotiations will focus on the project's cost controls, terms of contract, train specifications and warranty. If negotiations fail, the Quebec government and the STM will revert to a bidding process.

Production at Bombardier's La Pocatière plant will be winding down as the building of M-7 electric multiple-unit commuter railcars for New York's Long-Island Railroad (LIRR) and Metro-North (MNR) of the Metropolitan Transit Authority nears completion. Production may ramp up again to produce Montreal's Metro cars starting in 2009. The STM indicates that the first train sets will start rolling between 2010 and 2012.

The media in Montreal (particularly the La Presse newspaper) suggests that the new cars will feature full-width walkways between the cars which can be occupied by passengers, resulting in higher train capacities. They also suggest that the new rubber-tire trains will have to meet very demanding performance requirements: higher speeds (up to 80 km/h), powerful accelerations, high-speed gradeability, high-performance brakes, good ride comfort, low-noise, low-maintenance costs, low-energy costs and high levels of reliability. Improving on the performance levels of the current metro fleet and developing new rolling-stock capable of using sheer speed as a means of increasing line capacity will represent a major challenge to Bombardier.


The design of the Metro was heavily influenced by Montreal's winter conditions. Unlike other cities' metros, nearly all station entrances in Montreal are completely enclosed: usually in small, separate buildings with swivelling doors meant to mitigate the wind caused by train movements that can make doors difficult to open.

All separate entrances are set back from the sidewalk; as well several stations in downtown Montreal are directly connected to buildings, and thus have several entrances inside pre-existing buildings as well as street-level entrances, making the Metro an integral part of Montreal's famous underground city despite its lack of elevators. Several metro entrances are also located within building façades. Only three stations have open entrances such as are prevalent in other cities.

Montreal's metro is renowned for its architecture and public art. Under the direction of Drapeau, a competition among Canadian architects was held to decide the design of each station, ensuring that every station was built in a different style by a different architect. Several stations, such as Berri-UQAM are important examples of modernist architecture, and various system-wide design choices were informed by the International Style.

Along with the Stockholm Metro, Montreal pioneered the installation of public art in the metro among capitalist countries, a practise that beforehand was mostly found in Socialist and Communist nations (the Moscow Metro being a case in point). More than fifty stations are decorated with over one hundred works of public art, such as sculpture, stained glass, and murals by noted Quebec artists, including members of the famous art movement, the Automatistes.

Some of the most important works in the Metro include the stained-glass window at Champ-de-Mars station, the masterpiece of major Quebec artist Marcelle Ferron; and the Guimard entrance at Square Victoria station, like the famous metro entrances designed for the Paris Metro, on permanent loan[1] since 1966 by the RATP to commemorate its cooperation in constructing the metro. Installed in 1967 (the 100th anniversary of Guimard's birth) this is the only authentic Guimard entrance in use outside Paris, although reproductions using original molds were given to Mexico City (see Bellas Artes station), Chicago (Van Buren Station on the Metra network) and Lisbon (Picoas station on the yellow line).

See also Montreal metro artists.


Metro service starts at 05:30 and stops at 01:00 on weekdays and Sunday, and 01:30 on Saturday in order to accommodate people coming home later. However, the Blue Line stops service earlier, at 00:15 due to low traffic volume. During rush hour, there are three to five minutes between trains on the Orange and Green Lines. That interval however goes up to 12 minutes at night.

The Société de transport de Montréal operates both the Metro and the bus services in Montreal, thus there is free transfer possible between bus and Metro. Fare payment is via a barrier system, including magnetic tickets and passes, punched-card bus transfers, and non-magnetized reduced fare tickets.

Fares are partially integrated with the Agence métropolitaine de transport's commuter rail system, which links the Metro to the outer suburbs via four interchange stations.

See also[]


  • P.Laprise, ed. (1983). The Montreal Metro. Montreal: Metropolitan Transit Bureau. ISBN 2-920295-20-9
  • Bombardier Transportation. (1974). MR-73: Fiche technique.

External links[]


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Currently operating heavy rail rapid transit systems in Canada
Montréal/REM · Toronto · Vancouver

Passenger railways of Canada
Metro systems: Montreal Metro | Toronto Subway/RT | Vancouver SkyTrain
Light rail: C-Train (Calgary) | Edmonton Light Rail | O-Train (Ottawa) | Toronto streetcars | Toronto Pearson Airport People Mover
Long distance: VIA Rail | Ontario Northland Railway | Canadian National Railway | Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway | Tshiuetin Rail Transportation | White Pass & Yukon Railway
Commuter rail: GO Transit (Toronto) | Agence métropolitaine de transport (Montreal) | West Coast Express (Vancouver)
  1. Interview Pierre Bourgeau by SRC oct 2006