At a time when the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is experiencing serious financial problems, many of its buses are welcoming passengers free of charge due to breakdowns in their payment terminal, learned The Press.
A major problem with repairing new validation devices is causing this costly situation for the organization.
Since September 22, bus drivers have reported to the STM 13,483 times that the vehicle in which they left the garage had a terminal problem, according to their union.
“It’s really worse than ever. Personally, I have never seen the level [de problèmes] at that height,” said Pino Tagliaferri, president of CUPE 1983, in a telephone interview. In the event of a terminal problem, its members provide the bus service without charging users.
The STM confirms that it has had serious payment terminal repair problems for several months.
Employees responsible for repairing them must use encryption keys to access them. However, the keys available to two of the STM garages “were no longer functional,” spokesperson Renaud Martel-Théorêt said by email on Thursday.
“Since these are complex instruments that are custom-made for the needs of the STM, the replacement time is significant,” he added. That said, the new keys have been received and will be sent to the relevant transport centers in the coming days. The receipt of these tools “should therefore make it possible to resolve the situation over the next few days”.
However, the organization disputes the number of reports put forward by the union. Thursday, the STM did not offer an alternative count, but gave the example of the day of December 20: that day, “272 STM buses were the subject” of an active report in connection with the operation from their payment terminal.
Despite the STM’s denials, Mr. Tagliaferri maintained that his count was valid last night: from September 22, 2022 to January 8, 2023, his members reported a charging station problem 13,483 times during the visual inspection they must perform each time a bus leaves a garage.
A station with a persistent problem can be reported every day until it is repaired.
On average, according to union data, 124 buses have been reported every day since the end of September. The STM operates approximately 2,000 buses.
“The STM does not seem to be concerned about the problem. With the lack of money and funding, I would manage to make these terminals work,” added the trade unionist. But “the STM, these days, neglects repairs”.
” It’s frustrating ”
These repeated kiosk failures come at the worst time: the pandemic and teleworking have eroded the popularity of monthly passes in favor of piece-rate payment, for which a kiosk is essential.
And this situation does not help.
For “the guy who buys a monthly Opus card, well, it’s frustrating to see that there are people who enter for free”, explained Pino Tagliaferri, adding that the drivers also lived in frustration.
The trade unionist recalled that the STM had put an end – this week – to its commitment to provide bus service every 10 minutes at peak times on 31 of its most popular lines. Last November, it claimed that its budget for 2023 was in deficit by 78 million.
The new payment terminals which the STM teams were struggling to access were installed between May 2019 and November 2020, before being put into service in the spring and summer of 2021, according to the organization’s website. They should eventually make it possible to use the bus or the metro with a simple credit card. The purchase and installation of these devices was to cost 17 million.
“Thanks to their faster reading time, the new equipment will contribute to better fluidity of travel on board the bus and their addition to the rear doors of articulated buses will optimize all-door boarding”, indicated the STM in a press release. of 2019.