Montreal’s Smart Card System

Do a YouTube search for “Il fait beau dans l’métro” and you’ll come across a commercial featuring a charmingly utopian song-and-dance number from 1976, meant to promote the city’s then ten-year-old subway system.

Thirty years later, and, outside of a major decline in leisure suits on the subway – and a few line extensions – little has changed. Little, that is, until the revolutionary smart card system, which the STM introduced earlier this year, and which they’re integrating in full swing this fall.

Scoffing fares in this town used to be laughably easy; all you had to do was wave a rag at bus drivers, and you’d convince them you had a transfer. The new OPUS card (the term is a play on the French term for it, carte aux puces) is an integrated circuit card, similar to the Oyster card used in London.

It makes fare dodging trickier but everything else much simpler. You can cancel stolen cards, and you can charge it with tickets or buy a monthly pass at automated stations (that actually work). Boarding is simply a matter of a swipe across a card reader – no transfers required. While we’ll miss the days of riding across town with last week’s transfer, it’s a small price for a 21st century transit system.

(Photo courtesy of caribb on Flickr)

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