The technological limits of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) have allowed thousands of riders to use the Montreal bus and metro network without paying since April, has learned The duty. Aware of the situation, the STM prefers to warn offenders before taking action.
To date, 8,200 subscribers have received an email warning for using their “year-round OPUS” card, which is still valid, after requesting the suspension of their subscription. “We do not question the good faith of the vast majority of our customers, and that is why our approach is based on issuing warnings before permanently suspending the card, if irregularities continue to be observed”, indicates the STM by email.
However, the number of people taking advantage of the system could be much higher, with some not yet having received a warning, found
The company also admits that it is unable to assess the financial losses associated with this situation. “Customer behavior has been greatly changed by the pandemic and reduced travel needs. We can’t really use a model for a theoretical use of titles. “
Faced with the rapid spread of COVID-19 last March, the vast majority of Quebecers have been sent home, forced to telecommute. Year-round OPUS subscribers were then offered the option of suspending their subscription for the months of April and May. An option renewed for the first time, in May, for the summer period, then a second time, in July, for the rest of 2020.
In all, 45,000 subscribers took advantage of this offer at the height of the health crisis. In September, the STM still had 37,000 suspended subscriptions out of a total of 53,000 annual subscriptions.
In reality, this suspension only involves stopping the monthly automatic payments. The OPUS card has never been deactivated. The STM relied on the good faith of users to ensure that they did not use their transit fares during this period.
One way to maintain their privileges (discounts on tariffs, Bixi discounts and the possibility of becoming a Maestro customer), they say. But also a way to overcome the technological limits of the system, which does not allow a ticket to be suspended on an OPUS card remotely. “It is necessary to perform a physical operation on the card with a device to suspend the subscription or add titles to it […] the only other way would have been to ask the thousands of subscribers to go to an STM service center to suspend their subscription and to repeat the reverse process to reactivate it. “
In addition to complicating the lives of users, this way of proceeding would have generated a significant number of non-essential trips in the company’s facilities, which would have been contrary to public health recommendations, argues the STM.
Vincent was amazed when he received a warning from the STM last month that he had not followed the rules of use. The young man claims to have paid for each of his passes – three to four times a week – since he requested the suspension of his annual pass in April.
The problem – which he only noticed after the warning – was that he added his new titles to his OPUS card each year, which was still active without his knowing it. “I figured that since I had suspended my membership, my card could be used to take individual tickets. […] But every time I ‘scanned’ my card, it was my still active annual subscription that was actually used, ”explains Vincent.
It was never clearly explained
Noémie found herself in the same situation at the beginning of September, returning to the office. It was when she saw that she continued to go through the subway turnstiles without any problem, having passed the ten passages added recently to her card, that she understood the problem.
Since then, she admits – a little ashamed – taking advantage of the system to travel without paying. She is also surprised not to have been lectured by the STM yet. “On the other hand, it’s kind of their fault,” she said. It was never made clear. “
The two subscribers criticize the company for never specifying that their card would remain active even after the subscription was suspended and that they necessarily had to get a new one.
The STM defends itself and claims to have warned of “the obligation to obtain a new OPUS card in order to be able to use other transit tickets” in its initial email.
An argument that Noémie refutes, supporting evidence. In its first email of April 3, the STM specifies that subscribers interested in a suspension of subscription “will be responsible for obtaining a valid transit ticket”. It is only during communications to renew the offer, on May 28 and July 22, that it is specified “you will be responsible for obtaining a valid transport ticket on another OPUS card than the one used for your season ticket. “.
“I confess I didn’t read the other two emails in full when I saw from the first few paragraphs that it was just to extend the offer to suspend the subscription. I’m half at fault, let’s say, “admits Noémie, who however intends to continue to close her eyes until the STM’s warning.