Pilot Project Fail

The STM is running a pilot project at the Berri-UQAM Metro station. On the platform for the Côte Vertu-bound train (orange line), they’ve put some markers on the floor to indicate where the doors for the Metro cars will be when the train comes into the station. The idea is let to you know where not to stand, to enable people to get off the car before the waiting throng pushes its way on.

Here’s what it looks like: on the left is a door location indicator. On the right is a sign explaining (with jaunty typefaces) what it’s all about:

STM pilot project Berri-UQAM

A close up of the sign:

STM pilot project Berri-UQAM

Translation: Avoid the confusion. The yellow markings on the ground indicate the location of the doors. Thanks for leaving this space free in order to facilitate the departure of passengers. Your opinion is important. To respond to the survey: www.stm.info. Pilot Project.

Nice idea. There’s only one problem: This is Montreal! A city notorious for its self-absorbed, mindless public transit users. A place where people regularly push onto the cars without waiting for those inside to get out first. Where guys wearing huge backpacks take one step into a half-empty car and come to a full stop, preventing anyone else from boarding. A place where people sprint across a crowded platform, knocking people over, so they won’t miss that rush-hour train – even though another one will be along in (literally) two minutes. (Dave spells it out rather nicely, here.)

This project has FAIL written all over it. Let’s be clear on something: in Montreal, to point out where the Metro doors will be and then expect people not to stand there is like writing NO MOTHS on the bulb that lights up your patio. FAIL.

17 thoughts on “Pilot Project Fail

  1. This project has FAIL written all over it. Let’s be clear on something: in Montreal, to point out where the Metro doors will be and then expect people not to stand there is like writing NO MOTHS on the bulb that lights up your patio. FAIL.

    Truer words were never spoken.

  2. I’ve always thought it would make an interesting short film to compare commuter behaviour in big cities across the globe. A camera could be fixed above the trains’ doors capturing passenger movement. I have discovered that is it really hard to predict how a city’s passenger population will act.

    I was recently blown away by the politeness of public-transport-using Bostonians; they stand totally away from the spreading doors waiting and then anxiously peering in to make sure everybody has disembarked before climbing in! I so wish Montrealers could act like this. It is such a downer to witness the needless rat race and the survival of the fittest mentality of the STM passengers.

    I really hope this works. But like you, I think it will just aggravate the situation and create a human funnel effect as the commuters line up on the yellow arrows!

  3. Yeah, I’ve kinda noticed that people are less considerate here than back home, but not by much. It may be mean, but I drop my shoulders and swing my elbows when I see people pushing in before letting people off. I don’t get why people don’t stop and think that it would all go faster if they step out of the way first.

    People seem to do the exact same thing for elevators, which I find even worse because the elevator door is stationary and you know that there is likely to be some people getting off. So why stand directly in front of the door.

    Another thing I find comical in the Metro is that people start walking with the train as it enters the station. If they just stay put, there will be a door nearby once the train stops. No need to chase a door since another will come up right behind it.

  4. Though I know what you mean (and have been ranting about STM passengers on my own), I think this campaign might eventually work.
    Going back and forth between Montreal and other cities, I’ve noticed some subtle changes in commuter behaviours every time I came back. I’m not saying people suddenly became courteous. But I notice that more people are aware of the issue. On the opposite platform (Montmorency), I see increasing numbers of people who wait before people get off before they push in. And I see more “dirty looks” from fellow commuters when people push in. Not to mention that, when I ask people to take their backpacks off, they comply rapidly.
    I should also say that, from what I remember, the problem became acute in the last ten years or so. “When I was a kid,” this kind of behaviour was rare. Weirder things happened, but this behaviour surprised me about ten years ago, when I started to notice it.
    Thing is, one reason I noticed was that I was with someone I cared deeply about (someone not raised in Montreal) who started complaining about commuter behaviour all the while doing some of the things she complained other people were doing (for instance, she was moving about in the train with her backpack threshing about).
    Again, I’m not saying that the problem has been solved. But I think that the project makes sense.

    Now, my current pet peeve has to do with the stairs between that Côte-Vertu platform and the eastern part of the Angrignon platform (near the end of the train). People keep using the left side of the stairs even though these stairs make a very crowded two-way path between two major points in the station. Those who go down these stairs (from the Orange Line to the Green One) seem more likely to do this (so, people going to McGill and Concordia from the North). But I haven’t used these stairs the other way around that frequently.
    In this case, there would be mechanical ways to solve the problem.

  5. I totally agree. Even before I read the rest of your post, what I thought when I saw those pictures of signs was, “Are they friggin’ kidding? You know people are just going to use the signs to know exactly where TO stand, not where NOT to stand, to get a seat!”

  6. You sure you’re talking about Montreal? I could have sworn you were describing Washington, DC commuter behavior. Don’t forget “Sit on the outside seat, so that someone has to ask you to move over or let them sit on the inside seat, and hopefully they don’t so you have two seats to yourself.”

  7. I am not too sure that it will worsen the situation. It is already pretty clear from ‘stains’ on the floor where the doors of the train are aligned and commuters are standing right on it. I think that marking them in yellow may in fact make it clearer and people will be a little bit more ashamed of standing on them.

    Don’t forget that on the bus system, people do stand neatly in line to get in. This is something that is unimaginable in other cities.

    You know what, I think it might work.

  8. Ugh. I’ve definitely missed getting off at my stop in Montreal before just because people were pushing in! It’s funny how here in Hong Kong where we’re packed on the trains like sardines even at 6:30-7 pm, people DO wait for others to get off before going in. Though now they have crowd control people patrolling around too, if that means anything.

  9. Alexandre; despite my cynical view, I think you might be correct that things aren’t as bad as we sometimes think. It’s not like ALL riders are so mindless. In fact, some (perhaps even “many”) are quite mindful of their surroundings and are considerate of other people. But there is a high proportion of those “others.” I suspect this pilot project will resonate with those who are already “converted” but I don’t know how much it will affect the others.

    That said, I suppose it’s better to at least try.

    Carl, that “sit on the outside seat” thing is rampant here. Sometimes I barge past the inconsiderate slob and take the inside seat, because I don’t want them to win!

    Simon, it’s true that people tend to line up politely at bus stops. Perhaps that’s a hold-over from the Catholic legacy here (people lining up for communion).

    But the flip side is that many of the people on the bus insist on getting off at the FRONT. A bus has two doors (front and back). The front door is for entry, the back door for exit. If there’s nobody lined up to get on, then there’s no problem exiting by the front. But plenty of times I’ve been one of those people outside, in the cold, windy rain, standing there waiting for people to finish exiting from the FRONT before I can enter the bus. If those people had exited from the back, I could have already been on the bus instead of standing there in the rain!

  10. Just got back from a cruise. A couple of dozen elevators take passengers to the various feeding troughs and then back to their rooms to sleep it off till the next cattle call. On the couple of occasions where my leaving an elevator was blocked by someone simultaneously trying to get on, I gave them the shrug with palms upraised gesture and asked, “What, are you from Montreal?” They were. And in backfire sort of way they were then all excited about meeting a fellow Montrealer and wanted to know how I knew. I used the moment to deke past them while muttering, “Figures”…

  11. As in most use of “FAIL”, I think it’s an incorrect use. The STM is not failing, they are trying something that the people will fail to do ;)

    More importantly, I see it as a tool. I already frequently tell people to let us out before coming in, sometimes stopping until they move the fuck out of the way. Having a nice sign on the floor is a good thing to be able to point to to show that it’s not a personal preference but the actual civilized way of doing things.

  12. Great news! Now I’ll know exactly where to stand in order to barge right into the metro before everyone exits, knock over an elderly person, and take my seat. Go STM!

  13. And what’s with the mix of fonts anyway? ;-)

    I do just like Patrick does and actually tell people “laissez-nous sortir!” when they insist on coming in as soon as the doors open. Education, one selfish montrealer at a time.

    I’ll probably get punched someday.

  14. Having recently moved back from Ottawa, I much prefer the Montreal commuter experience. At least people here line up!

    Having said that, my regular morning frustration has to be with commuters pushing to get ahead. Like you who’ve been sitting the whole ride while we stand, like you couldn’t wait one gd minute to get off the train…

    Again, we’re only talking a few people in a whole trainload. But it only takes a few to get the blood boiling.

    I don’t ride the metro as much, so I don’t have to deal with the particular problem of people pushing to get on, but I am very familiar with it. I usually hold myself wide and just push through. A friend of mind actually grabbed a guy who was trying to push his way on, pushed him all the way to the wall, then held him there until the metro closed its doors and left.

    Ideally, the social graces required for the smooth functioning of the city would be embedded in people. They would just know what to do. Failing that, they have to be taught, preferably as children, but in this case, we’re only getting to them when they are older. No difference: our task is the same.

    At least now, these new signs provide some form of overarching statement that pushing onto a metro before others get off is not acceptable. So in that sense, they are a good thing. But it will take more then signs to change behavior. We each have to reinforce that at every opportunity we get.

    If we are not happy with the culture of the metro and public transportation in Montreal, then we have to do what we can to change it.

  15. I visited the Berri-UQAM metro station yesterday to check out these markers. People were oblivious to their existence and stood on, around and near them without even looking down.

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