The new smart card is being launched today…but may not be available until September. Although the Gazette published an article about the launch with a photo of a smart-card being used, according to various STM info sources the card will be available either in July or the fall. Magnetic-strip ticket cards, different from the re-useable Opus card, are now available for purchase at some locations.
As already discussed on this site, the infrastructure for this new system of transit payment has been slowly appearing throughout our public transit system over the last few years – and that is what is now operational. One of the big selling points of this technology is its role in limiting fare-evasion, but equally important is the efficiency of the system. The contactless card will allow riders to use their cards without digging them out of their pockets, purses, and backpacks – which is especially lengthy when that involves stripping off mitts or gloves…or balancing your morning coffee. It’s worth noting that one of the often cited elements of Curitiba’s (every novice planner’s favourite city) public transit success was making boarding faster and easier.
However not everything about the Opus card is rosy. The STCUM has said that there will be no fare-change associated with the smart-cards, despite the fact that riders will be charged $3.50 for the Opus card. Furthermore, after the “deployment period” ends in June 2009, the price of the smart card will be $7. In contrast, Boston encourages riders to use the rechargeable Charlie card by making single ride fares added to the Charlie card cheaper than ticketed fares. Even though only 16% of STM riders use tickets or cash, encouraging the switch to a re-useable card can still play a significant role in resource use and boarding times.
The ultimate plan for fare collection on buses doesn’t seem to have changed, but this remains unclear. According to the STM site, riders will still be able to pay their bus fare in cash. Yet the Gazette cites STM spokesperson Odile Paradis as saying that the new system will eliminate bus drivers from the fare collection process.
These little contradictions and possibly unmade decisions will, over time, probably become our new favourite points to pick at the STM about. But for now, pick up a magnetic ticket card where you can, or an Opus card in July or September, and enjoy the ride.
Photo by Cedric Sam