Public Transit in Quebec City

Public Transit in Quebec City


by Peter Stuart

For those of you who have a tendency to get around town exclusively by car, you should take a second look at our increasingly spiffy public transit system here in Quebec City. Although lacking such hi-tech niceties as trams and commuter trains (such things are in the works at city hall and in the bowels of the decision-making process at the National Assembly and Parliament in Ottawa), we nevertheless have a very modern fleet of diesel buses, which cover the greater part of the Metro Quebec City area, most of which have been purchased only in the last five to ten years and which are very comfortable and clean. 

Furthermore, these buses now serve areas of our fair city which were heretofore inaccessible to the carless person: Did you know that you can take the Metrobus number 800 on René Lévesque Boulevard all the way out to the Montmorency Waterfalls? Just a couple of years ago this would have been unheard of in Quebec City for public transit to go so far in serving its users. And you can stay out there until midnight before coming back into town. 

Our transit commission, which is called the RTC, or ‘Réseau de Transport de la Capitale’ (Capital Transit Network), offers a whole array of affordable fare options for individuals, families, seniors and so on. You can purchase a day pass for only 6, 70$ and which is good all day between 4:00 A.M. to 4 A.M. the next day. As an added incentive for families to take their kids out with them on the bus, this same day pass allows, on weekends and stat holidays, for a person to bring a second person on board free of charge. So for example, a family of four, mother, father and two kids, could travel all day on the bus throughout town during the summer festival season, when there’s lots going on in town, for only two times 6, 70$, and not have to worry about parking or struggling with downtown traffic snarls and so forth.

There are also a whole series of ‘Park and Ride’ type parking lots on the outskirts of town called ‘Parc-o-Bus’ in French, where you can drop off your vehicle and take the convenient and frequent 800-801 or 802 Metrobuses into the centre of town. There you can spend the whole or part of the day alone or with friends and family visiting the Old City or taking in one of our many museums, historic sites, restaurants, or watch the now-famous ‘Moulin à Image’ sound and light show projected onto the grain elevators in the Port during the summer. Or take in the Festival d’Été, (Summer Festival), the Grand Rire de Québec (Comedy Festival, which increasingly has many big-name English-speaking comedians), the New France Festival, or Military Music Festival.

During the winter you can use transit to go to such municipal parks and recreation facilities as the Domaine Maizeret in Limoilou, which is a lovely old 18th century Roman Catholic agricultural estate, which has been transformed into a park with cross-country ski trails and a skating rink, with a duck pond and activities for the whole family year round. They also have an Arboretum there with hundreds of types of trees. For more information, visit the Ville de Québec web site, or the RTC web site

On certain buses, during certain times of the year, you can even mount your bicycle onto the front of the bus to get from one place to another, then dismount your bike and take off on your merry way. The RTC also has an excellent system of express buses which help working people from all parts of the city get from the outlying areas into downtown as well as the University Laval area in a timely fashion, then back again for the evening rush hour, thereby avoiding nasty bottlenecks on the highways, saving fuel, time, and the environment in the process. 

The transit commission’s bus shelters have also greatly improved over the last thirty or so years. First of all, the bus shelters are now in existence where before there were often none, and now many of them are heated and lit at some of the important transfer points. 

There’s also now a special shuttle bus called the no. 400 Navette Des Jardins, or ‘no. 400 Des Jardins Shuttle’, named after the popular Desjardins credit union in our province, which, during the peak summer festival season, shuttles people from several outlying areas including the Aquarium in west end Ste-Foy, to the downtown core, along the riverfront, where people can enjoy the beautiful view of the river, and the newly-minted bike path along the shore of the St. Lawrence, which the Captial Commission spent a lot of time and money to put into place for the citizenry to enjoy.

You can also travel back and forth on the Québec/Lévis ferry free of charge if you have an RTC monthly pass, either an OPUS card (debit-type card which you load with a month’s worth of transit), or a regular monthly pass. You can also travel freely between the two different public transit systems in Quebec City, (the RTC on the Québec side and the Société de Transport de Lévis for the bedroom communities on the South Shore), if you have what is known as a ‘Metropolitain’ monthly pass, which combines your travelling privileges between both transit commissions, and which works out to be less expensive than having two bus passes, and certainly less expensive then using your car to commute into town from the South Shore. 

All in all, we have an excellent transit system here in Quebec City, which is a far cry fry the era around the first half of the 20th century, when far less of the town was serviced by trains, buses, or trams, and what service there was, was often less reliable in winter, and often dirty and smelly. My mother’s recollections of the Québec Railway Light and Power electric train, or QRLP (one of the precursors of the transit commission), which used to run from Beaupré to Palace Station in the 1940s, which she used to take to come into town to go to school, was that it was nicknamed ‘Qui roule lent et pu’, an acronym for QRLP, and which meant ‘that which travels slowly and smells bad’. 

So we’ve come a long way in the evolution of our public transit system in Québec city. Perhaps Mayor Labeaume could resurrect the idea of some electric trains and trams, like he’s promised to, but make them run somewhat faster and have them smell nicer? I think that it would go a long way towards getting a lot of those naysayers who’re so comfortably ensconced in their cars on Boulevard de la Capitale during rush hour, slowly poisoning themselves to death on their own carbon monoxide fumes, as they listen to their CD or MP3 players, to get out of the driver’s seat and let themselves be taken for a ride, so to speak, in a much more positive way, in a nice, new shiny, transit bus, tram, train.  

All Aboard!!!


About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and is currently working on the publication of his first book. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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