This spring, after outfitting all buses and metro stations with new equipment, the STM introduced a new, smarter fare system which uses smart cards instead of magnetic-strip passes, and cards with magnetic strips instead of … tickets with magnetic strips. Both not only serve as fare payment, but also as transfers.
Though Opus, the smart card, is the sexier and more revolutionary of the new fare cards, the STM started with this flimsy paper thing that has caused nothing but confusion and problems (even its website is down)
Below is a list of the problems I’ve noticed with the non-Opus paper card, even though I’ve never actually used one:
- It doesn’t have a name. Unlike the Opus smart card, which has a whole branding effort behind it, this paper magnetic card has neither a proper branding name nor any simple two-word description. The result is that people can’t describe it in a way that obviously differentiates it from the Opus card.
- The card was announced in the same breath as the Opus card, further leading to confusion.
- The card is neither reusable nor recyclable. The result is that they fill trashcans and litter streets.
- The card also acts as a proof-of-payment system, which means it must be carried until the end of the trip. This is a departure from the current fare payment system which has not adequately been explained. Since proof of payment isn’t enforced in the system (because some people still use old tickets and old metro transfers), it leads to even more confusion.
- The card replaces both single fares and strips of six tickets. This has led to a problem where users insert the card into a turnstile and then don’t retrieve it, losing the other five tickets. That has resulted in a change of policy, and they now issue six cards with one fare each, instead of one card with six fares. This leads to more waste.
- Metro turnstiles don’t open until the user retrieves the card. Many users have no reason to retrieve the cards because they’ve already paid their fare.
- While the Opus card arguably makes fare payment faster, this card makes it take longer. The machines on buses take five seconds to process a card or eject a new one, from the time payment is accepted and the green light appears. Five seconds may not seem like much, but multiply that by a dozen people getting on, and the bus is already a minute late. A bus that gets a lot of tourists or occasional riders is going to experience significant delays.
- Bus fare boxes issue cards for every fare paid. But because they’re treated as optional transfers, users who aren’t planning to transfer move to the back of the bus before the card is issued. Drivers have to manually collect the cards, which they then give out when other users pay using tickets. When the number of people paying cash and not wanting a transfer outweighs the number paying tickets and wanting one, a surplus emerges which the driver has to dispose of.
- When inserted into a fare box, no feedback is given other than a green light (fare accepted) or red light (fare rejected). Because the cards act as both fare payment and transfer, there’s no way to tell until after the fact whether the fare box has accepted a transfer or deducted another fare. (This is a larger problem with the Opus card, which has no human-readable indication of how many fares remain on it.)
- Because the card is designed for disposability, it isn’t very tough. As a result it gets folded and wrinkled and then becomes unreadable, causing further delays.
- The cards are not accepted on minibuses or collective taxis.
Have you noticed any problems with the card apart from these? Comment below and I’ll add them to the list.