STM lacks compassion

By Tracey Arial

After spending five hours at the Montreal Children’s Hospital with her two-year-old son Xavier, a tired mom got onto the 108 Bannantyne bus to go back home to Verdun on July 22. She usually drives, so she didn’t have OPUS cards and tried to use a five-dollar bill to pay the three-dollar fare.

Unfortunately, Montreal buses do not have equipment that enables them to take bills—only coins or OPUS cards.

The bus driver followed company policy and refused the payment. It was late though—10 at night—so he allowed the woman to stay on the bus without paying.

Two inspectors got on the bus a little while later and gave the woman a $219 fine. She got off the bus crying and vowing to fight the ticket. The inspectors laughed and told her, her efforts would only mean overtime for the agent who handled her complaint.

Then they drove off in their car and left the 24-year-old women with her child in her arms on a dark street corner in Verdun.

She walked home without further incident, but she was scared and angry.

Pauline Tantost’s story made headlines. The bus driver got hassled. Even his union argued that employees should have the right to issue compassion tickets in such cases.

Embarrassed, the Montreal transit authority (STM) revoked their fine in this case, but it remains active in others. The 2013 budget doesn’t specify how much revenue such fines give to the STM, so it’s hard to tell how much the agency benefits from a lack of compassion.

Management hasn’t yet fixed the problem either. Bus drivers still don’t get to give out compassion tickets when they want. The fare boxes on buses still don’t accept bills, interact cards or credit cards.

The STM refused to apologize to Tantost, but she’s relieved they didn’t make her pay the fine.

She hasn’t taken the bus since.

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