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Morning Brew: January 27, 2010

Posted by Andrés / January 27, 2010

20100127_morningbrew.jpgFresh brewed opinion for Wednesday, January 27.

STM doldrums. Since last Fall, inspectors have been blocking the exits to various metros around the city to individually check the validity of our OPUS cards. Not to sound overly paranoid, but one would think the inclusion of trackable RFID chips into our transit cards would have been enough. Now our transport system is starting to feel a little bit too much like a police state. Of course, the STM has our best interests at heart.

By posting STM inspectors at random metros and times, the STM hopes to provide a 'visible deterrent' to those abusing the system. These abuses amount to jumping turnstyles. This begs the question: why are they not posting inspectors at random turnstyles rather than stopping everyone at the bottom of escalators or staircases? It is the majority of users who suffer for a few jumpers. I don't so much blame the jumpers for the slowdown in traffic, but rather the questionable method in which the STM has decided to tackle the matter. Were I a turnstyle-jumper and saw STM inspectors from afar, I could turn around, head right back in the metro, and find another way to my destination.

Worse than a few minutes lost during rush hour is the effect these random stops have on the public transport experience. As someone who chooses to ride buses and subways as opposed to purchasing a car, it's important that the experience be as smooth and stress-free as possible. When I start to feel like I'm guilty until proven innocent by forced inspections, this atmosphere starts to degrade. And worse is the STM's claim that they are attempting to reduce costs doing this - right after a $2 hike in 2010 on bus passes. I'll believe it when they bring that back down in 2011.

In actual news, the STM is also at the center of a lawsuit involving Chinese firm Zhu Zhu Electric Locomotive. The STM has been planning a new line of trains for the metro and went through a bidding process. Zhu Zhu claims the bidding process was not as open as it seemed, and gave an unfair advantage to competitors such as Bombardier.

Image courtesy the STM.



Jeff Scott / January 27, 2010 at 08:23 am
Great post, Andrés. If there are any lawyers reading this blog, I'd love to hear whether this kind of warrantless search is legal. Did I agree to have my OPUS card verified on demand when I purchased it? What if I claim I don't have an OPUS card but rather opted to purchase a ticket - and discarded it before exiting the station? Can they scan me to see if I have any RFID tags on me? I really question the legality and benefit of this draconian tactic.

Your points about public transportation to help reduced pollution coupled with the so-called cost reduction benefits should make the STM ashamed of themselves. (This is me not even getting into the abuses of power committed by the metro security forces I've witnessed first-hand. I'll rant about those some other time.)

Again, thanks for bringing light to this issue.

Josh Horner / January 27, 2010 at 09:10 am
Jeff -

"Did I agree to have my OPUS card verified on demand when I purchased it?"

Actually, yes, you did.

"What if I claim I don't have an OPUS card but rather opted to purchase a ticket - and discarded it before exiting the station?"

Then technically you will have to re-pay full fare for the mode of transportation you were taking at the time. Those tickets count as your proof of payment, and are not to be discarded until (1) they expire or (2) your journey is complete.

from the STM website:

"Starting September 1, you must keep your valid transit fare with you throughout your trip, whether it is on a magnetic card or on an OPUS card. A valid transit fare serves as your proof of payment.

From then on, once you pass the turnstiles, and are within station corridors, along métro platforms, inside métro cars or aboard buses, STM inspectors will be checking that you have a valid transit fare by using a portable electronic card scanner. Without proof of fare payment, clients are subject to fines of up to $500, excluding fees."

All of this aside, however, Andrés makes a very good point: no smart turn-style jumper will enter a station, see fare-checkers, and still try to get in. I'd also venture to wager that nearly none of them are doing it at 8:30 in the morning.

That being said, their little trick DOES work, if they're checking people as they exit, since the jumper most likely entered the system at a different station, and once they're off the train, it's too late. (unless they do notice, and get right back on the metro in the same direction, exiting elsewhere)

So I still think that there is no way in hell they're recovering any money at all from this system. In fact, all they're doing is losing what little rider support they have from valid system users, wasting money paying people to check cards, and giving the feeling of a police state.

If they REALLY didn't want fare jumpers, they should have just spent the money up front for person-sized "gate style" turnstyles. (the ones that open like doors, instead of having dinky little rotating metal bars) e.g. like some of the ones in the TfL Tube system or the Paris Metro.
Jeff Scott / January 27, 2010 at 09:17 am
Hey Josh,

I don't disagree with you. My question about entering a shrink-wrap agreement (because that's effectively what buying the an OPUS card amounts to) was sincere - I didn't read the regulations, etc. before I bought it. And you summed up what I really object to very well:

"So I still think that there is no way in hell they're recovering any money at all from this system. In fact, all they're doing is losing what little rider support they have from valid system users, wasting money paying people to check cards, and giving the feeling of a police state."

Top off their disingenuous talk with too many significant abuses of power, and I can't help but conclude there are massive problem within the STM.

I don't have - and generally don't need - a car in Montreal thanks to the public transportation infrastructure, but guilty-until-you-prove-yourself-innocent tactics do not sit well with me.

Thanks, though, for doing the legwork on the :)

@jeffscott / January 27, 2010 at 09:31 am
A Gazette piece about the STM highlights another problem with them: their "contract" with us (the OPUS card for STM service) really only goes one way:
bill / January 27, 2010 at 09:39 am

You will accept your barcode and be tracked! You will surrender your freedom of movement. You are inventory and you are to be done with as the police state decides. Soon you will have this RFID chip under your skin. If you do not cooperate, you will be effectively turned off!
You are now scanned with facial recognition software on CCTV. Montreal metro surveilance is done out of country by the same surveilance firm that held the contracts for the WTC and CCTV London for the 7/7 bombings.

Watch for the next false flag attack to justify the end of more of your civil liberties. The jail has been turned inside-out!
Andrew / January 27, 2010 at 01:08 pm
Rather than this being a huge NWO styled conspiracy, I really think this just amounts to a cashgrab in fines. It's really no different then setting up a speed trap to catch people abusing the traffic system. Sure, it's a little heavy handed, but all they are asking for is verification that you paid for the service that you use. The metro has never been a right, after all, it is simply a service offered.
Andres / January 27, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Despite my described feelings of 'police state', I tend not to believe there is some Machiavellian purpose behind these checks and agree with you that the STM wants to verify their passengers have valid passes (and that it is probably just a cash grab, considering there are many better and less expensive ways they can do these checks... see above posts).

And yes, the metros and buses are technically private property and they have the right to do these checks, making the term 'public' transportation sort of a misnomer. Despite this, I highly doubt anyone would take kindly to inspection agents next to your car outside a grocery store or Walmart and verifying that everything you are carrying was purchased in the store. Consumers' trust and feelings about such companies would begin to erode. I fear the STM, by introducing these measures, is at risk of this.

Frankly it pisses me off. If you offer a service and people pay for it, at increasing rates yearly, and then insult those same users by double-checking their validity with forced inspections, it may no longer be a service people want to use.
Pat / January 27, 2010 at 11:10 pm
I agree...

Frankly it pisses me off. If you offer a service and people pay for it, at increasing rates yearly, [under the ruse of a major overhaul promising an improved transit service only to move the seats around and throw in a cheap three pronged metal pole] and then insult those same users by double-checking their validity with forced inspections, it may no longer be a service people want to use.
Aluminum / January 28, 2010 at 09:42 am
I agree, it has left a bad taste in my mouth.
there are much easier ways to ensure payment. Having "security" block the exit is borderline disrespectful to the STMs clients. I have also noticed that many of these "security agents" are rude, and gloat a sense of "do what we say" mentality.
I have seen a few accounts of disorderly people disrupting the public, harassing commuters, etc. but where are the agents? standing visably at the entrance/exit wasting resources.

AH / January 30, 2010 at 09:47 pm
This argument makes no sense. Of course nobody is going to jump a tunstyle in plain site of an STM employee. But the whole point of the OPUS system is to save money which they won't do by paying guards to watch over every entrance 24-7. The deterrent is the risk that one could get caught illegally riding the metro without paying and face a fine.

They aren't "searching you without a warrant", they are asking to see the ticket that you purchased for the service that you're using. Sounds kind of reasonable. Admittedly bad attitude on the part of the inspectors is not acceptable (though by the sounds of these comments, they probably get a lot of bad attitude directed at them.)

Anyways, the STM is a public service that a lot of us pretty much depend on and that frankly has trouble making ends meet every year. Its not a police state.
Merlin / January 1, 2014 at 07:05 pm
I create a comment whenever I like a post on a website or if I
have something to valuable to contribute to the discussion.
It is a result of the passion communicated in the article I read.
And after this article Morning Brew: January 27, 2010.
I was actually excited enough to post a comment :-P I do have a couple of questions for you if it's okay.
Could it be only me or do some of these responses look
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Maigrir naturellement / August 18, 2014 at 09:54 pm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Morning Brew. Regards
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