Just call me Maestro

Now I feel so important

Now I feel so important

The STM gave us a bit of a surprise last month, announcing a new loyalty program (in addition to the 12th month free offered by the government and discounts on Bixi and Communauto) that had a small number of very interesting perks. For people who have subscribed to Opus à l’année or Opus & Cie. for more than a year, the STM offers the Maestro card, which allows users to bring a friend for free (outside of business hours) and ride for free when visiting Quebec City.

As a subscriber to the program myself, I got an email within a few days announcing my eligibility. Even though it’s rare that I go to Quebec City, and I don’t have any friends, I was curious about the process, and it was free, so I decided to get one.

How to get it

The email, which explains the program, includes your Opus card number and a reference number. Print the email out and bring it, a photo ID and your existing Opus card to one of the STM’s service centres, at Côte-Vertu, Honoré-Beaugrand, Jean-Talon or Lionel-Groulx metro stations, or the Fairview bus terminus. Or, like me, you can go to the main service centre at Berri-UQAM, which is open on weekends:

maestro-centre

It might seem like a long wait, but I learned quickly that not all the people sitting in the waiting room are waiting to be served. My wait was maybe 10 minutes.

After showing your documents and filling out some paperwork, you’re asked to step back to get your photo taken:

maestro-camera

Not exactly a top-of-the-line camera, but it gets the job done. Which makes me wonder why all photo ID Opus cards can’t be done from this location.

The new card, which includes a name and photo, replaces your existing one, which they keep.

How it works

Normally, the card functions the same as any other Opus card, with a few exceptions. The most noticeable, besides the photo printed on it, is that it sets off a different beep on the readers. Instead of the single-beep green light, it sets off the double-beep orange light, just like reduced-fare passes do. The message on the reader is the same, and so far nobody has asked to see the photo on it. Nevertheless, the pass is tied to its owner, and you can’t pass it to a friend to use for a day.

The documentation tells me that the card cannot be loaded with other fares valid on the STM network (passes, tickets, or AMT TRAM passes). Tickets not valid on the STM network, like STL and RTL passes, are accepted. I’m not sure about AMT train tickets. The FAQ suggests they wouldn’t be valid, which makes me wonder what a Maestro card user is supposed to do if they want to take the train one day.

The take-a-friend privilege is from 6pm to 4:59am weekdays, as well as all day Saturday and Sunday. It’s valid only on the STM network, with the exception of the 747 airport shuttle bus.

Another important point is that the two must travel together to the same destination. Since anyone in the network can be checked at any time, you have to be with your friend throughout his or her entire journey. This includes, for those taking the metro, walking between the platform and the turnstiles of a metro station, which is also part of the fare-controlled area. Presumably if you’re both taking a bus, you could stay on while your friend gets off.

For adapted transit users, the privilege applies when travelling on regular buses, but not on adapted transit service (unless the friend is a guide).

For the Quebec City privilege (which might expand to other systems), nothing special is required. The Quebec City Opus card readers are programmed to accept STM Maestro cards. The agreement between the two transit agencies is reciprocal, so Quebec City transit users will be able to travel on the STM network as well.

The Maestro card expires after two years, after which you have to go to the service centre and get a new one. There are no fees associated with getting the card or using the program.

See also: Cult MTL

29 thoughts on “Just call me Maestro

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Would this program be worth it if I currently subscribe to a monthly RTL/STM (around $90)?

      I’m not sure what you mean by this. You have two passes, or a TRAM pass?

      Reply
  1. Ant6n

    This seems really useful for business people and government types who travel to Quebec city a lot. Not sure why they need that subsidy. It’s nice about bringing a friend, but if it means the card is non-transferrable, then I don’t know whether that’s better…

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      It’s nice about bringing a friend, but if it means the card is non-transferrable, then I don’t know whether that’s better…

      A transferrable card can’t bring two people anywhere at the same time. And I don’t know too many people who share Opus cards.

      Reply
      1. wkh

        This is actually why we opted not to get it. We do share. On the rare occasions we metro together, I usually borrow our babysitter`s pass or suck up $6.

        Reply
  2. Charlie

    Are those with reduced-fare passes eligible for Maestro?
    If so, would a reduced-fare user have to go to 2020 University to grab a new OPUS, or would they be able to go to one of the other OPUS service centres? I still don’t get why reduced-fare cardholders have to go there…

    Reply
  3. Luc Manuel Soares

    Since i’m more confortable in french, here I go:

    La raison pour laquelle on “ne peut pas” ajouter d’autre titres sur cette carte peut paraître bizarre mais elle est justifiée de par la raison suivante:

    Premièrement, on peut y inscrire d’autres titres car ce n’est rien d’autre qu’une carte Opus normale (mais avec une photo, etc…). Le problème c’est qu’avec Communauto et Opus à l’année, au lieu de réactiver la puce (ou de simplement la laisser active) ils nous renvoient une NOUVELLE carte après 12 mois pour remplacer celle que nous avions et ils désactivent la carte précédente, ce qui annule tous les titres enregistrés dessus.

    Je me suis fait avoir justement avec des tickets de train de l’AMT. J’ai perdu une vingtaine de dollars.

    La question à se poser est pourquoi désactiver une carte encore fonctionnelle au lieu de simplement prolonger le titre déjà inscrit dessus?

    La façon de faire pour avoir d’autres titres est de se procurer une Opus “on the side” …que l’on devra aussi remplacer après 4 ans.

    Gaspillage de plastique, selon moi.

    Reply
    1. Kevin

      C’est mon plainte contre la systeme: Pourquoi y-a-t’il 4 agences de transport dans Montreal et les banlieues? Aucun sens…

      Reply
      1. SMS

        Why are there four transit agencies?

        Because it would be too complicated to amalgamate. Imagine the chaos if all the transit authorities were all in one big pot. Imagine the union uproar. People complain enough when it comes to the STM. Do you really think the STM bigwigs in Place Bonaventure or the AMT bigwigs across the street have a grasp on how transit should be run in Vimont or Greenfield Park? No, each company should stick to what they know.

        Reply
  4. Sebastien Bilodeau

    I have the yearly Opus+ (Train + metro + bus) which is more expensive, but because it’s managed by AMT instead of STM, it appears we don’t get access to the Maestro deal. :-( I regularly go to Quebec city, and would appreciate…

    Reply
  5. Frenchy

    I love this initiative and I think it should be extended to more transit systems. My only regret is that if you have a Québec City Opus card, you are limited to Montréal Island bus and subway lines. The Longueil and Laval subway stations are excluded. I don’t really understand why they need to make stupid exclusions.

    You complained you don’t know anybody in Québec City. I work in Québec City, if you come to town, contact me at my email address. We could go on a couple of bus rides and not have to worry about what we have at the drinking hole.

    Reply
  6. JayJay

    Just to say that my girlfriend and I share our Opus card as well with the monthly pass on it (this means that we also share the car when the other has the OPUS card). I don’t think that it is uncommon in Montreal to have only 1 car for a couple or a family, so sharing an OPUS card with that set-up should also be pretty common. In any way, that will be interesting to know how many share their pass.

    Reply
  7. Apple IIGS

    My first thought about the Maestro card, in regards to letting a friend ride free, are potential problems with over zealot ticket-checking STM cops. You’re only “proof of payment” is your friend showing his/her Maestro card, and their word you’re with them. Your friend doesn’t receive a receipt or ticket, just your verbally vouching for them. A situation could arise (in a case of harassment) where an STM cop claims you are not with them, and therefore need to be fined the usual $500 + administration fees.

    And of course, what if your friend needs to go one metro or bus stop further than you? Or what if you he/she has to leave via a different platform or exit than you at the station? What if it’s crowded, and you get separated? What if there’s an emergency and your friend has to suddenly leave? I just find the STM treats everyone guilty of fare fraud until proven innocent.

    You literally would have to hand-hold your friend from entry to exit into the system. It’s a nice perk, but I’d be nervous about a free ride that hinges on your friend being right by your side at all times.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      And of course, what if your friend needs to go one metro or bus stop further than you?

      The rule is both people have to be headed to the same destination.

      As for the other possibilities, there’s a reason tickets can be fought in court. If the explanation is reasonable, it will be dismissed (assuming the STM doesn’t accept the explanation at face value).

      Reply
      1. Apple IIGS

        The rule is both people have to be headed to the same destination.

        True enough. Though one would hope for a tiny bit of leeway, if say your friend gets off one stop before you (seems it’s necessary to be escorted at all times).

        As for the other possibilities, there’s a reason tickets can be fought in court. If the explanation is reasonable, it will be dismissed (assuming the STM doesn’t accept the explanation at face value).

        Good to know the STM has such a court system in place, I thought not. Only concern is, should you have to fight your case, can the process be conducted in English? It’s a known fact that the STM is adamantly against offering English services. And language aside, I can’t image the STM offering a fair trial based on all the stories I’ve read in recent months from the Gazette, Suburban, CTV News, etc. Sad, but I see them as very seedy (wasn’t the case years ago when they were the STCUM).

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Good to know the STM has such a court system in place, I thought not. Only concern is, should you have to fight your case, can the process be conducted in English?

          The STM doesn’t run the courts. If you get a ticket from the STM or AMT, you fight it just as you would a traffic or parking ticket. It’s an actual judge that hears the case, and you can do it in English or French.

          Reply
        2. Fagstein Post author

          It’s a known fact that the STM is adamantly against offering English services.

          The STM has interpreted the Charter of the French Language strictly as limiting the amount of services they can offer in English, and the number of employees they can require be able to speak in the language. STM executives say they want to provide services in English, but provincial law is tying their hands. They’re currently reviewing this based on different interpretations made by the AMT and even the PQ government that suggests there could be more leniency.

          Reply
          1. Apple IIGS

            The STM doesn’t run the courts. If you get a ticket from the STM or AMT, you fight it just as you would a traffic or parking ticket. It’s an actual judge that hears the case, and you can do it in English or French.

            That’s more encouraging to hear. As for court hearing available in English, I still question that, and if not right now, down the road soon. Good example, I had a work related injury 3 years ago and opened a claim with the CSST. When I had the chance to go to trial, I was informed the court session would be conducted in FRENCH ONLY, even after explaining I struggle in French. I was told two things: If is your responsibly, and at your cost, to hire a translator! Not surprisingly, the CSST now officially declared English services are not available from them any longer (followed by RAMQ shortly after that).

            The STM has interpreted the Charter of the French Language strictly as limiting the amount of services they can offer in English, and the number of employees they can require be able to speak in the language. STM executives say they want to provide services in English, but provincial law is tying their hands. They’re currently reviewing this based on different interpretations made by the AMT and even the PQ government that suggests there could be more leniency.

            Yet the PQ minster Jean-François Lisée stated all it would take to clear that up, is one call to the QOLF and the matter would be cleared. Of course the STM is full of excuses, they clearly do not WANT to offer English services out of spite and disdain for the English community living in Quebec. Hearing the statements coming out of this organization, or the actions of their employees, who I might add have gone without reprimand, speaks volumes.

            Beyond that, the whole concept of the “Charter of the French Language” makes it moot. It is a racist doctrine that states one person, by birth, is superior and has more rights than others. And a REAL charter does not invalidate and repeal rights from an existing charter (i.e. the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

            I know this is straying off topic, but the STM unfortunately always seems to be at the center of language issues. Quite frankly I wish they put their energy into bettering their services and customer support instead.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Yet the PQ minster Jean-François Lisée stated all it would take to clear that up, is one call to the QOLF and the matter would be cleared.

              Which is why the STM is reviewing the rules in light of that statement (which may or may not be true – Lisée is not in charge of the OQLF).

              Hearing the statements coming out of this organization, or the actions of their employees, who I might add have gone without reprimand, speaks volumes.

              On what do you base the statement that actions of the STM’s employees have gone without reprimand?

              Beyond that, the whole concept of the “Charter of the French Language” makes it moot. It is a racist doctrine that states one person, by birth, is superior and has more rights than others.

              What part of the Charter gives certain newborns more rights than others or declares that certain newborns are superior to others?

              Reply
  8. Apple IIGS

    Which is why the STM is reviewing the rules in light of that statement (which may or may not be true – Lisée is not in charge of the OQLF).

    Do you honestly believe the STM will come up with any conclusion, other than they cannot offer English services? Either way, it makes for a very tourist unfriendly city, and worse, threatens safety when if staff cannot or even refuse to use English in an emergency situation.

    On what do you base the statement that actions of the STM’s employees have gone without reprimand?

    How about the ticket booth worker who told a woman to go back to her own country and then physically assaulted her (putting her in a head lock!) for speaking English? Or the workers who put up signs saying “Au Quebec c’est en français que ca se passe”. Or the the ticket booth taker who refused a soccer player access to the subway because he couldn’t speak French. Or the bus driver who had a 12 year old black girl removed from the bus by police for asking her questions in English? Any of these employees fired, or even suspended?

    What part of the Charter gives certain newborns more rights than others or declares that certain newborns are superior to others?

    How about the part that says French parents, because of their born ancestry, do not have the right to choose what language to educate their children in? Yet English parents do. That not does Bill 101 contradict the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but even the the United Nations declared it violates international covenant on civil and political rights.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Do you honestly believe the STM will come up with any conclusion, other than they cannot offer English services?

      I have no idea what the STM will conclude. I’m hoping that the government decides to clarify the law in this case, but that might be asking too much.

      How about the ticket booth worker who told a woman to go back to her own country and then physically assaulted her (putting her in a head lock!) for speaking English? Or the workers who put up signs saying “Au Quebec c’est en français que ca se passe”. Or the the ticket booth taker who refused a soccer player access to the subway because he couldn’t speak French. Or the bus driver who had a 12 year old black girl removed from the bus by police for asking her questions in English? Any of these employees fired, or even suspended?

      I don’t know. The STM, like most employers, doesn’t comment on individual employees’ discipline for privacy reasons, so we might never know. But the lack of information is far from proving that there was no discipline whatsoever.

      How about the part that says French parents, because of their born ancestry, do not have the right to choose what language to educate their children in? Yet English parents do.

      That is, of course, a serious issue, and I suppose you could argue that it’s a right given at birth, but the right (and the specification that the right applies only to minority language communities) comes from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 23).

      Reply
  9. Frenchy

    «Do you honestly believe the STM… Either way, it makes for a very tourist unfriendly city, and worse, threatens safety when if staff cannot or even refuse to use English in an emergency situation.»

    The STM is not just tourist unfriendly, there is worst, but it is certainly very safety concious; just read this story: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/02/montreal-transit-authority-threatens-49200-fine-over-new-counter-strike-map/

    arstechnica.com is a very serious, USA based, tech news online magazine with paid journalists. Today, they are having quite a laugh at the STM. What the STM is doing in this case, is like refusing a movie producer to be filming in Montréal, with all the monetary fallback ($$$) this can bring upon Montrealers.

    Reply
  10. Charline

    I just tried for the first time, my new Maestro opus fare on the bus #7 (Chemin Ste-Foy) in Qc city. When I scanned it, I got a single beep red light & this message on the reader : ”Accès refusé dans ce réseau” I said to the driver: It most be an error cause this is a Maestro VIP opus fare. I should have access to this bus line. She answered: “I never heared about Maestro VIP access.” …
    I am disapointed. Is someone tried to take RTC bus line with their Maestro opus fare?

    *English is my second language, I am sorry if I make some mistakes.

    Reply

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