Montreal Public Transit - Opus Card and how to use it
Montreal has trains, buses and an underground rail system called the metro. If you are visiting or staying in Montreal and will use the public transit you are most likely to use the metro and possibly a bus to get around, I'll cover using the train in a different hub. To gain access to the bus or metro you can use cash, at the time of writing this hub it is 3$ per trip. If you plan on using the public transit system for a few days or for a greater number of trips, you'll want to get yourself an Opus card.
The first thing to do is to buy one. At the time of writing this hub they are 6$ and can be purchased at any metro station, or at a variety of different retail points. Go to this page at the STM (Societe de Transport de Montreal) website to see where you can get yourself an Opus card. At these same retail locations you can add fares to the card. Currently you can buy groups of ten trips for 22.50$. Once you have your Opus card, you're all set to make use of the transit system. From where I live to get to downtown I have to first take a bus and then the metro, so the next section will describe using the card in each.
You can use Google Maps to plan the public transit route by keying in your starting and ending points and then clicking the public transit icon for it show the route. In my case, if I wanted to get from my house to Place des Arts in the city, it would point me to walk to and then take the 211 bus, then take the Metro from Lionel Groulx to the Place des Arts metro stop. Follow the Google Map instructions to walk to the bus stop, you will find there two separate things:
Taking the Bus
First we'll go over the bus stop sign. At this stop there are four buses that stop here. The 201 and 211 buses are regular buses and some additional information is given for each one - the 201 bus also stops at the Cedar Park train station, and the 211 bus stops at the Pointe-Claire train station and the Lionel-Groulx metro station. The 221 bus travels roughly the same route as the 211, but it only runs during the rush hour (heures de pointe) and only on weekdays. The 354 is a night bus and as such, only runs between about midnight and 5AM. At the bottom of the sign you see a phone number that corresponds to the letters autobus, if you dial that number and then when prompted key in 57772 (the number at the bottom right of the sign), this will give you what time the next two buses will come for each bus that stops at that stop.
The bus stop schedule may not be present at all stops, and it may not always be exactly up to date if the bus schedule has just changed, but just the same, the bus stop schedule shows a simplified version of the route the bus takes and the bottom part gives you the schedule that that bus is supposed to stop at that stop.
Getting on the bus is easy with the Opus card, once you get in there is a card reader, just place your Opus card down on the card reader by holding the card on its edges and wait for a corresponding beep and a light signal that shows green. If you are paying attention, there is also an LCD display that shows how many tokens you have left on your card.
Taking the metro
If your starting point is a metro station, or if, like in my case, you took the bus to the metro, look for signs like these which indicate there is a metro station entrance nearby. As with other underground systems you can anticipate going down, and in some cases quite far down, and once at the level where you have to cross the turnstiles to get into the paid area, it is the same thing with the Opus card: hold it down on the card reader by the edges, wait for the beep, and again the LCD display will show you how many trips you have left. If, like in my case, you came directly from the bus and entered into the metro, instead of it showing that you have X tokens left, it will give you a message something like 'transfer accordee', or something like that. When you travel in the Montreal Public Transit, you pay only once no matter if you have to go from metro to bus, bus to metro, bus to bus, or bus to bus to metro, or bus to metro to bus. If you had paid 3$ cash to get on to the bus, the driver would have handed you a paper transfer. Once you get to the metro, there is a slot in the turnstile for you to put that paper transfer and that will allow you to get into the metro.
So once you pass the turnstile, normally you could go down another level to where the platform is, take a note of the destination you are going to - the platforms will show the destination stations to identify which platform is going which way. In my case I got down into the metro at Lionel Groulx and wanted to get off at the Place des Arts stop, so I looked for the platform marked by Honore-Beaugrand (the end station of the green line). Inside the metro rail cars there are announcements over the PA to indicate what the next station is, there are metro maps distributed sporadically through the rail cars and in some of the rail cars there is an electronic display that, among other advertisements and announcements, will show what station you are entering as you enter it, and what station is next, as you are leaving it.
Note that when you leave the metro, you exit by a turnstile that does not require any scanning, simply walk through it to exit.
If you ever come to Montreal, you will find that taking public transit is easy and will get you very close to where you want to go. One thing to note is that if you are travelling from one suburb to another, often the transit will have you go to a central point and then back out again, so it isn't sometimes the most effective way to travel.
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