2008 YUL Bus Charter
Text and photos by Shanake Mario Seneviratne
On Saturday 3 May 2008, bus and transit enthusiasts from Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, and the Greater Toronto Area gathered at Terminus Centre-Ville for YUL Bus Charters' largest event to date, the 2008 bus charter. As opposed to the private charter held just a week before, this "public" charter was open to all, admittedly at a less expensive cost.
It was determined very much in advance that 2008 was the year for a Réseau de Transport de Longueuil MCI Classic, in order to complete our Classic charters from "the big three" systems in Greater Montreal - STM, STL, and RTL. Thus, our objective was to offer everyone the most comprehensive South Shore bus charter ever seen: from Brossard to Boucherville with almost everything in between. The remaining question was which bus to choose. The 9-0xx series of RTL MCI Classics are split between 1989 and 1990 deliveries. Ultimately, the choice narrowed down to three buses equipped with an older model roll sign dating to the days of the CTRSM (1971-1985) and STRSM (1985-2002), the precursors of the RTL. Ultimately, 9-005 was our charter bus for the day.
With regards to the roll sign: for the most part, the exposures on the destination curtain indicate where we are situated. Furthermore, some of the exposures on the roll sign are obsolete. This charter was specifically designed to make the most out of this roll sign, and it was planned with the use of a CTRSM 1984 system map.
The charter unfortunately began in the rain. The first photo stop was actually in Old Montreal on McGill Street at Place D'Youville. This was selected because I have an affinity towards the namesake of my alma mater, but the stop did provide for a very nice backdrop and is historic in the sense that the former streetcar terminus of the Montreal and Southern Counties which once served the South Shore was a few metres away.
Our second photo stop was LaSalle Metro Station, which the RTL's predecessors served up until the mid 1990s. There was a great demand for a photo stop here by the charter planning team and it would have been difficult not to include this in the itinerary. However, what stole the show was the surprise appearance of 60-013, a STM 1990 Classic that was supposedly retired. Many of the participants were happy to see this bus in service again.
Following the happy (albeit temporary) return of South Shore bus service to LaSalle Metro Station, the group then crossed the Champlain Bridge and officially began the charter on RTL jurisdiction. We immediately made way for the western tip of Brossard to begin our comprehensive journey across the South Shore. In an effort to incorporate some comedy into our charter, the third photo stop on Boul. des Prairies had an obvious error on the roll sign! The charter's participants were able to use a local elementary school's stairway to their advantage in their photography.
After this stop, the charter proceeded to the fourth stop on Boul. Matte, immediately south of Boul. Taschereau, the predominant commercial artery of the South Shore. At this point, we signed up the bus as Inter-municipale, the erstwhile major cross-town bus route which no longer exists as it once did. Our location would be the site of the former western terminus. The Inter-municipale was another highly demanded route by the charter planning team, which would not be ignored.
We then headed towards our fifth stop at Terminus Brossard-Panama, a very important bus hub on the South Shore with one of the most popular (and free!) park-and-rides in the AMT network. The terminus was initially called by its very utilitarian name, Auto parc, and as such, we paid honour to its history by signing up the bus accordingly. Of certain interest, Auto parc is still in the vocabulary of certain older Brossard commuters.
The next stop was the next park-and-ride further along the Autoroute 10 "Transitway," second in importance to Brossard-Panama, which is Brossard-Chevrier. Fortunately, the rain stopped for our sixth stop. This is not a very historic site at all, being that this bus terminal is fairly new and that only one express bus serves it, but since we were in the vicinity, it was deemed to be a worthwhile stop. The park-and-ride was mostly empty, but a LFS did make its way into the terminal and allowed for some comparative shots. Our charter bus was signed up as Voie réservée (Reserved lane), a rare exposure when Express is the commonly used one.
The charter's seventh stop was only across the tracks from the Chevrier park-and-ride, on Beauchemin Street immediately off Bergerac Street (which used to be Lapinière Blvd) in Brossard's Secteur B. However, the roll sign is once more erroneous, signaling "Section" instead of sector, and as a result, this photo opportunity was yet another one not to be missed.
Much to everyone's surprise and delight, our eighth stop was to be Garage Saint-Hubert and when we told the group that we would line up the three different bus types offered by the RTL, the announcement was met with applause. Without a doubt, this was the most popular photo stop of the charter. Here, everyone was presented with a very rare opportunity to take a picture of a Classic, a LFS, and a Van Hool AG300 all together. Two of the buses were signed up on the bus route that immediately passes Garage Saint-Hubert, the RTL's oldest division. Because we were slightly ahead of schedule, everyone got the chance to have a look around at some of the buses parked around the garage.
A historic trip to the South Shore would not be complete without mentioning the Victoria Bridge. Although we could not take the bus over this very important transportation span, we at least took advantages of all the opportunities where its name showed up on our roll sign. One such opportunity was the ninth photo stop, located in a modest gravel loop located next to a rail line. The Montreal and Southern Counties tramway main line once carried commuters from McGill Street in the old financial district of Montreal over the Victoria Bridge all the way to Granby. This loop is situated in Brookline, an isolated community at the boundary of the territory served by the RTL. Here is the successor of the tramway, conveniently signed up with all the towns served from Brookline (St-Hubert) all the way to the Victoria Bridge and Montreal. The group was also fortunate to photograph a LFS on layover at this loop.
A long forgotten bus terminal and park-and-ride facility in Saint-Hubert off Pierre-Thomas-Hurteau Street, now obsolete given the two mega-terminals in Brossard, was our tenth photo stop. It is thanks to this charter's planning committee that we have learned about the existence of this former transit centre, which interestingly enough still sports typical MTQ highway lighting. Suburban sprawl has caught up to the surroundings, and this place is now used as a turnaround facility for a bus route. The bus was signed up accurately as the express route which would take commuters to the outdoor Downtown Montreal bus terminal where 1000 De La Gauchetière (and by no coincidence, Terminus Centre-Ville) now stands. Participants with video camera abilities documented our charter bus circling around the erstwhile terminal's two loops.
Another popular stop was yet another gravel loop, however this one was situated near St-Hubert Airport. This is another important historic transportation hub on the South Shore, at least as far as aviation is concerned. As this was the former site of RCAF Station St-Hubert, our charter acknowledged the former military base that the CTRSM and STRSM used to serve. One of our charter attendees in fact was an army brat who lived only a few hundred metres away! This was one of the few opportunities that we could get a picture of a bus with an airplane. Additionally, our eleventh stop presented a judicious opportunity to photograph the rear of our charter vehicle. It is worth noting that the 9-0xx series never had rear route destination indicators, and that all of the rear taillights have not yet been converted to LED. The license plate is of 1979 stock, meaning that it likely has been recycled from a GM New Look.
Since Boul. Losch per se is no longer served by any buses, our charter restored bus service on this quiet industrial street for our twelfth photo stop.
The sole exposure for Secteur Laflèche (to Montreal via the Victoria Bridge) had an error with regards to the accent used, and it was certainly worthy for the third and final typo on the destination curtain. By the time of our thirteenth photo stop, we were all looking forward to our lunch stop, so we did not waste any time. Our break took place at Terminus Longueuil which offers a fairly substantial variety of fast food.
A pleasant expressway ride took us to the other extremity of RTL territory, Boucherville, thus completing our mandate to offer the most comprehensive South Shore charter yet accomplished. The fourteenth photo stop pays tribute to the sole South Shore bus route that links Boucherville to Radisson Metro Station via the Louis Hipployte-Lafontaine Bridge-Tunnel.
Our second and final Boucherville photo stop at its quiet industrial park was our fifteenth stop of the day, and the roll sign proudly affixed the suburb's most important boulevards.
We attempted a public-relations type of photo by posing our bus in front of the RTL Head Office adjacent to Garage Longueuil, the second division serving the South Shore. The employee parking lot was also the location for our group photo.
None of the destination curtain exposures were chosen at random. Every crossing to Montreal was used. Unfortunately, I missed my opportunity of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge exposure at Papineau Metro Station, but the Metro exposure was certainly suitable for our sixteenth and last photo stop before our arrival at Terminus Centre-Ville. It should be noted that this was also a highly demanded and popular request.
This charter would not have been a success without the invaluable cooperation of our volunteer driver Tristan Roy, RTL Garage St-Hubert. Special thanks are owed to the planification committee: David Demers, Vice-president of YUL Bus Charters; Daniel Poirier, Planning Department RTL Head Office; and again Tristan Roy. Also Claire Bergevin of RTL customer service is sincerely thanked for her co-operation with the preparation and planning of the charter. Steven Faguy wrote a very kind article for us in the Montreal Gazette, and we are grateful for any positive publicity that transit enthusiasts get. As always, the participants help to make events like this a success, so thanks very much to everyone who made it, and we look forward to seeing you next time!
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