Moving towards the digital shift for purchasing transport tickets

Fifteen years after its launch in Quebec and Montreal, the Opus card has had its day. In the age of dematerialized transactions, the system is starting to look like a dinosaur. That’s why the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM) is working with transport companies in the region to implement technology solutions that will start to be rolled out from next year.

Queue 1huh of the month in a ticket machine will soon be a thing of the past. At the beginning of 2024, the Opus card will be able to be topped up with a smartphone.

Gradually, by the end of 2026, other measures will be rolled out to modernize the securities payment system. By the end of 2024, several stations of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) and metro, as well as bus lines in the northern crown will allow payment by credit or debit card, which users of the Société de transport de Laval (STL ) have power to do for years. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) has also committed to installing compatible equipment for contactless payment in metro and bus stations.

Then, in 2025, it will be possible to create a mobility account on a smartphone, which will eliminate the problems linked to the coexistence of different titles.

The Digital Mobility Project business plan, approved by ARTM’s board of directors, estimates the cost of developing the plan at $162 million by 2028. ARTM, however, hopes that the new technology will lead to an increase in the user and additional income of more. more than 360 million between 2024 and 2035 with operating costs of 140 million. It is especially supported by occasional and sporadic users to achieve gains in this area.

According to the ARTM, the system behind the Opus card “is very behind in technology”. But why is it taking so long to modernize the payment system?

The general director of the ARTM, Benoît Gendron, maintains that the pandemic has harmed the progress of the project. “During the pandemic, it was more or less the time to launch projects with the drastic drop in traffic,” he maintains. “We had our minds busy seeing how we managed the finances. » He also points out that the implementation of these systems is a long-term task. Paris began to roll out its plan in 2012 and will be finalized in 2024, he emphasizes.

The ARTM, however, claims that the project is on track with the “Concerto” team, which brings together representatives of the three transport companies of the metropolitan region, Exo and the city of Montreal. Other transport companies in Quebec, which already operate the Opus system, should subsequently join the new system.

But it’s been quite a bumpy road so far. Last September, the press reported that the project called “Céleste”, announced by the STM in 2018, had been thwarted by the ARTM the following year and that there was a lack of collaboration between the organizations. Céleste wanted to create a customer account with access to various modes of transport and easy payment with bank cards.

The ARTM assures, however, that the transport companies are now mobilizing around a common project and that users should see the fruits of this work from next year.


The truth is that the technological change will not solve an irritant that especially exasperates South Shore riders, namely the zoning system that means that a resident of Longueuil will pay more to travel 4 kilometers than a resident of Pointe-aux-Trembles which should cover a little. 20 kilometers

“It is still illogical. Then it will be even more so when the REM arrives in the west of the island”, points out Axel Fournier, of the Association for Collective Transport of the South Bank. “I understand that it is political . The city of Montreal has a very strong grip on what happens in the ARTM, even too tight, because the concerns of the crown people are not really heard. »

At least the technological changes will allow multiple titles to coexist on the same Opus card. Currently, a user with Zone A tickets must purchase another Opus card to put Zone AB tickets on it. Mr. Fournier has two cards from Opus. “But I know people who have four. »

Martin Trépanier, full professor at Polytechnique Montréal, agrees that this zone system is not fair a priori, but that a pricing model based on distance traveled would require the costly addition of validation equipment at the exit. “It is a historical notion. In Hong Kong, they had it in place from the start. In Australia it is part of customs and people pay remotely”, he says, and points out that in certain countries users receive an invoice at the end of the month and the system calculates the most advantageous rate. “ But in the Montreal region, we decided it didn’t work that way. »

Benoît Gendron argues that in the context of the work of 2020 price list redesign, surveyed customers favored the zone system. “In Europe there are prices based on kilometer distance, but here people were more based on the territory. »

However, technology continues to evolve rapidly. The co-founder and president of Transit, Samuel Vermette indicates that with digital wallets, it would no longer be necessary to create a system based on the customer’s account. “The project that the ARTM is trying to implement is a gigantic project. Within this, there is the payment by credit card”, he summarizes, while showing optimism for the future despite the delays.

According to him, however, although the challenge of technological change is important, maintaining the supply of services remains the central concern in a context where transport companies suffer significant deficits.

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