Students stuck in long OPUS card process

While the Société de transport de Montréal was declared one of the top transportation networks in North America by the American Public Transportation Association last month, many students are saying that there is still plenty of room to improve, especially when it comes to getting an OPUS card.

“There is always trouble in the metro but we have to do it, what choice do we have?” said Charlotte Lemay, a Dawson College student in line with hundreds of other students to get her OPUS reduced fare pass at McGill metro station. “We should be able to renew it online so we don’t have to wait this long.”

OPUS cards expire every two years on Oct. 31, leaving many students scrambling to get new cards. These students also need to confirm their student status every year to be eligible for the reduced fare.

Vanessa Scarapeakia, a Marianopolis College student, said “I think the service is relatively okay. I just use the bus and metro and those are fine but things like waiting in this line are kind of inconvenient.”

The APTA award was based on a two-year period from 2007 to 2009. These were also the inaugural years of the OPUS card system. The APTA measured customer satisfaction by surveying 3,000 customers a year, according to STM spokeswoman Marianne Rouette. To be considered, the clients had to use the bus or metro at least four times a month. The 86 per cent satisfaction rate in 2009 is actually up from 84 per cent in 2006.

“I think they do what they can with what they’ve got,” said Phillip Zen from Rosemont CEGEP. “It’s not that great, but … it’s better service than other big cities like Halifax or Toronto. It’s not great, but it’s not that bad.”

Compared to the other Eastern hubs Zen mentioned, Montreal’s prices are a steal. At the top of the heap, Toronto’s post-secondary student monthly Metropass is a whopping $99, but there is a deal that offers it for $89/month if purchased in a one-year package. Halifax’s student MetroPass costs $64 with free bus and ferry transfers. Montreal comes in with the lowest cost at $38.75/month or $148/four months.

“It’s not that great, but … it’s better service than other big cities like Halifax or Toronto. It’s not great, but it’s not that bad.”

“An average of 50,000 cards a month are being sold,” said Rouette. “That includes new cards and replacing those that were lost, stolen or damaged.”

The STM is now also trying to appeal to cyclists. “The people who take bicycles to go to work or school will have to find something else when the bike paths close down on Nov. 15,” said Rouette. ‘’We created a pass where people who are members of Vélo Quebec can buy a pass from Nov. 15 to Apr. 15 and so they don’t have to buy it at the beginning of the month. They don’t have to buy on the first of Nov. and not use it before the 15,” said Rouette.

With winter approaching, this bike pass may not seem like an ideal solution for many students who, for the time being, are forced to deal with the lines and delays.

Student Cynthia Lomardi said that this was actually her third time trying to get a reduced pass after the service was offered at her school temporarily.

“At Dawson, the line was even longer and every time I waited I had to leave to go to class,” she said, indicating she had been waiting for 45 minutes at McGill, forcing her to skip her afternoon class. “They should have more stations you could get this done at so there wouldn’t be this big cluster of people,” she said.

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