Opus renewals running smoothly, surprisingly

People get information from workers outside SPEQ Photo at McGill

People get information from workers outside SPEQ Photo at McGill

In early September, when students had to line up for hours to get photo ID Opus cards to take the bus and metro to school, the STM suffered the wrath of users and the media, and appear to be committed to not repeating this problem.

In order to handle increased demand as students renew their Opus photo ID cards, they have setup new temporary locations at Berri-UQAM, Côte-Vertu, Lionel-Groulx, Honoré-Beaugrand and Jean-Talon metro stations, as well as the Fairview bus terminus in Pointe-Claire.

But, as if they were trying to make this whole thing as complicated as possible, there’s one set of locations for renewing cards, and an entirely different set for replacing cards. And they all have different opening hours (and days).

A "zero tolerance" sign suggests violent outbursts from customers is a common occurrence

A "zero tolerance" sign suggests violent outbursts from customers is a common occurrence

First of all, many students are only learning for the first time that Opus ID cards, despite being supposedly valid for two years, need to be renewed every year, at a cost of $9.

The differing opening hours, even for services at the same location (Berri-UQAM offers Opus renewals on Sundays, but not new Opus cards, for example) will also no doubt lead to a lot of confusion and frustration on the part of customers.

SPEQ Photo temporary service centre at Berri-UQAM

SPEQ Photo temporary service centre at Berri-UQAM

Wanting to see how they were working out less than two weeks from the deadline (at which point last year’s Opus ID cards become invalid), I headed to Berri-UQAM and McGill and did some benign stalking of some clients.

Surprisingly, perhaps, even though this was late afternoon when you would assume they’d be at their busiest, both locations had light traffic.

I timed a few people going in to process their renewals or new Opus cards. At SPEQ Photo at McGill, the total time from arrival at the location to departure was less than five minutes. Far lower than the 2-3 hours seen in early September. At Berri, a slightly longer delay, but still the longest I saw someone at the service centre was 12 minutes.

Both locations were well stocked with people in vests saying “INFORMATION” who checked people’s documents and offered them the right forms if necessary.

It certainly seemed like a smooth operation, if anything slightly overstaffed. Perhaps that’s why they feel they can charge $9 for one person to check a paper, a second to take your cash and a third to stick a card in a machine and press a button.

In any case, the fact that nothing’s going wrong means you won’t see many news articles about it.

Let’s see if it holds up past Nov. 1.

Those kids sure seem really excited to have Opus cards

Those kids sure seem really excited to have Opus cards

35 thoughts on “Opus renewals running smoothly, surprisingly

  1. Mathieu

    I am one of those students that had to renew my “privilege to get the reduced fare” at the cost of $9 + tax. It is, of course, difficult to agree with such a fee since all they basically do is put the card in their reader and press a button (I have yet to test the reduced fare for November, crossing my fingers).

    I am still wondering why OPUS was brought in the first place. I don’t want to come across as the anti-technology guy (which I’m not), but the new system has MORE fraud than the old. With the privilege card it was somewhat expected to show both the fare card and the privilege card (with photo) to get in the bus. NOW, I can put by opus card face down and have never been asked to show the picture even though the yellow light comes on. As well, I see almost everyday people who put their card on the reader with the light coming on as RED, and still they get on ! What kind of improved system is this ?

    Could this huge OPUS contract have a link with all the corruption people are uncovering in Montreal ? Was it brought in with a philosophy that “Change once in a while is good” ?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      While I was at Berri I noticed a security agent double-checking people’s Opus cards as they passed through the turnstiles. But you’re right, the vast majority of reduced fare photo IDs are not checked at all.

      Reply
      1. mj_sklar

        Most bus drivers I’ve seen since the opus was introduced haven’t checked the photo ID (I’ve been checked once every 100 trips roughly since I got my Opus). I’ve never seen a driver let someone on the bus when the card reader flashed red, however (and I do see them flash red pretty often…).

        Reply
        1. Gary

          In the STL, I have never been asked to show my photo ID. I take the buss every weekday.

          Also, if the light flashes red, the driver will ask the passenger to try again, if it doesnt work.. after a while he just lets the person go in the person, this is only if the machine says that the card is not visible to read.

          Reply
  2. Vahan

    I am torn between the value of the Opus card. The card works great in the Metro stations but you need to be a contortionist to make it work on the buses. My son, has a student card, broke his Opus, in two pieces, because of the pressure he had to put on the chip side of the card to make it work on the bus, as most drivers were suggesting he do. We had to pay for a new Opus card. Full price for a card that was defective or the readers on the bus are defective and most bus drivers give you the knowing shrug and wave you through after you have spent a few minutes twisting and turning your body to make it work. In the meantime others are huddled outside waiting for you to get through. The advantage of the card, though, is that, as my daughter discovered when she lost her card, the money is not lost and all is transferred to the new one.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      My son, has a student card, broke his Opus, in two pieces, because of the pressure he had to put on the chip side of the card to make it work on the bus, as most drivers were suggesting he do.

      A lot of people have a habit of bending their Opus cards on the card reader. This is the primary cause of card failure (it bends and eventually breaks the circuitry inside). Putting the card in a hard case, or in a wallet with other cards, fixes this problem.

      Reply
      1. Vahan

        The habit is probably brought on by the bus drivers themselves, who have suggested the method. I have seen the shrugs of the drivers, giving me the knowing look, when the card reader is malfunctioning. I have been witness to drivers simply giving up and waving all riders to move into the bus.

        Reply
        1. Jack B.

          Just place the card flat on the reader and do _not_ move it at all for about one (seemingly long) second. My error rate is at perhaps one failed read out of fifty bus trips with this method. I am happy the first bus driver back in August last year told me this when I used OPUS for the first time.

          The red light usually comes on when people move their card back and forth in an effort to make the reader notice it. Don’t do this. It makes the reader fail most of the time.

          Reply
          1. Alex T.

            Don’t blame the OPUS card itself for speed issues on the bus. Blame the stupid readers the STM decided to go with. To see what I mean, take a trip to Brossard, Candiac or Varennes (among many other places). The OPUS card reader is LIGHTNING fast on those buses, taking about a third of a second to validate your ticket/pass.

            Alex

            Reply
          2. Jean Naimard

            Maybe the lightning-fast readers cost 2-3 times the cost of the snail-fast STM readers, too.

            When you have 2000 buses, this has a more serious impact on your budget than if you only have 100…

            Reply
          3. Jack B.

            I’m not blaming the cards. The readers installed in the metro stations are fast too, so it can only be an issue with those on the STM buses.

            Reply
  3. Michael Forian

    The guy in the STM uniform (3rd photo) came to Selwyn House with a bunch of his STM buddies to renew our OPUS cards. I told him it was a bunch of crock that OPUS users had to renew it every year for $9. Anyway, him and I got along pretty well afterwards (I think we ended up talking about Obama or something)…

    Cheers,

    Michael

    Reply
  4. Caroline

    The card is valid for two years, but the privilege rights to the reduced fares have to be renewed every year…just like before. How hard is that to understand?

    Reply
  5. s

    My teenager is currently using an “adult opus”. His “privilege opus” is not working and that means we have to go the Berri to have this thing fixed. It is not conveniant and complexe. I find some positive to this new system. I think it works well for the regular rate user, but it is quite a burden for the privilege rate. It is not only affecting student but elderly. Student and elderly should be able to get on the metro/bus on a privilege rate with prove of age/student at any metro. Who has the time and energy to worry about going around Montreal to have a privilege entree?

    Reply
  6. Mama Fagstein

    I happen to be one of those peaple who assumed that if the card says it expires in 2010 that’s when you have to renew. I now have to renew juniors card at fairview before the end of the week. I am so happy.

    Reply
  7. C

    opus has worked for me! I do back and forth trips on different routes all.the.time, when I could not do that with a printed transfer :) For example, the 103 west on Monkland, then the 162 back east. The system doesn’t ‘get’ directions YET.

    I am not a full-time user, I buy 6 trips at a time and get about 10-11 trips out of it, technically…

    Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

        Actually, no. You could only travel in one (general) direction.

        However, the regulation has been much less enforced by drivers recently, but I recall, as a kid, having to pay another ticket whenever I attempted to go backwards, be it in a loop or not…

        Reply
        1. C

          Jean is right. There was a time (early 90s?) when a 90-minute transfer was good on any route, any direction until the time printed, but then they changed the rules. When they did, doubling back, even on a different route, was a no-no. I tried it on Cote Vertu with the 121 and 171 and the mean driver man made me pay. lol.

          Reply
          1. Jean Naimard

            There was a time (early 90s?) when a 90-minute transfer was good on any route, any direction until the time printed, but then they changed the rules.

            It has been like that for ages, and around 1990, they made the transfer time-based only. But then Géranium Pommier in his great move towards eliminating public transit had that rule scrapped, effectively giving us a fare increase and gutting bus service.
            Ever since, fares have increased more than inflation, and Tremblay sure hasn’t done sweet fuck-all to either stop the unreasonable fare increases nor restored service to the level it was before Géranium Pommier.

            Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Since I’m a parttime student now, and I can’t get the student discount this year (shrug…) is my photo OPUS still good (i.e. can I load a regular price pass onto it?) Or do I have to get a new card?

    Reply
    1. Vahan

      The people in the looooong line ups are stuck in line because of disorganized people. The looong line ups where on the 2nd of November, OPUS card users had so much time before the end of the month to renew and also all of Saturday and Sunday before the work week began. There is also, probably a little known fact, that some retailers also renew the OPUS card. There is no need to stand in line in the metro stations.

      Reply
      1. Jean Naimard

        And sometimes you don’t get paid until the end of the month and are stuck to wait at the last minute. It’s not everybody who got a cushy civil-service job where the paycheque comes down every single week.

        Reply
        1. SMS

          Part of the problem is that people haven’t gotten used to the notion quite yet that you can upload the following month from the 20th of the current month. I did just that in October and as a result I waited zilch minutes. The STM tried to advertise the fact but people haven’t grasped it. This month was compounded by the student card fiasco and so I figured lines would be longer than usual.

          Reply
          1. Jean Naimard

            It’s all fine and nice that you can buy your card in advance, but all this effort comes to nothing when you don’t have to money to do so.

            I get paid on the 1st and the 15th of the month.

            So I am stuck having to wait in line because I just don’t have the goddammed fucking money in the first place when the passes go on sale.

            The rich and the civil servants just don’t understand what it is to be working.

            Reply
          2. SMS

            Lines are shorter in the AM than the PM in my estimation… otherwise I don’t really have a solution for those getting paid on the 1st. I’d rather go in the AM anyway (people seem more pleasant)

            I’m not even aware if an October pass on CAM would be good on 1 November like it used to be back in the day. Maybe not anymore.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              I forgot to buy my November pass before Halloween night and it was still accepted on the night bus even though it was technically Nov. 1. So at least there’s some leeway there.

              Reply
  9. Sawnia

    I’ve had 2 Opus cards break on me. The first one was a mechanical defect, and the second one broke. I went to Berri and the STM jerk off told me I’d have to pay AGAIN to replace it. He compared the cheap card to an ipod and said “if you break your ipod, Apple won’t replacebit for free. I told him that Apple sells me durable products that don’t break in half. When I refused to pay, he called security on me. I wasn’t yelling, I just insisted that I wasn’t going to pay again. I’d loaded it with a day pass for $8. Security came over with their bullet-proof vests because the jerk behind the bullet-proof glass felt threatened by lil ol me – a 5” tall woman who merely spoke to the guy. He finally agreed to give me the day pass in paper form as I told him to keep the broken card, as I’d NEVER buy another one.

    I’ve given up in the STM and went back to using my car. Well, no more perfume-soaked bitches, and no more smelly smokers who carry their used cigarette butts on them. Ewwww. I guess it was fate to be freed from the STM.

    STM= Satan’s Torture Mayhem

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I told him that Apple sells me durable products that don’t break in half.

      If your Opus card is breaking in half, it’s probably because you’re bending it. Don’t bend your Opus card. Put it in a hard plastic case to protect it.

      Reply

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