When Pauline Tantost was kicked off a Montreal city bus last week for not paying her fare with exact change, she was shocked. And then a transit inspector handed her a ticket with a $219 fine for not paying her fare.
With her two-year-old son, Xavier, in her arms, she had boarded the 108 Bannantyne bus home to Verdun around 10 p.m. after having spent five hours at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. She boarded the vehicle near Atwater Avenue and Ste-Catherine Street West.
She searched through her purse for $3 in change for the fare, but only came up with a $5 bill. She said she offered it to the driver, who refused because the fare machine doesn’t accept bills.
He warned her that failure to pay a fare could be bad news if the bus was to get inspected. Then the bus took off with Tantost and her son on board, while she clutched the $5 in her hand.
Two inspectors boarded the bus in Verdun at Bannantyne Street and Fourth Avenue, several stops before Tantost’s home. An employee of the STM later told her that it was purely a coincidence that the bus was inspected.
"I find that suspicious," Tantost said.
A passenger on the bus, Darlene Cousins-Larsen, said one inspector entered the bus by the front door while another boarded through the back.
"They went right to the woman who was sitting behind the bus driver with the child. She had to get off the bus," Cousins-Larsen said.
She said another woman on the bus with an invalid ticket was given a warning.
Cousins-Larsen approached the bus driver and offered to pay the woman’s fare, but was shrugged off by the driver and inspectors.
"He said, ‘No no, it's OK, it's free.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, OK, they were just giving her a warning,’" she said.
Instead, Tantost was handed a $219 fine for not paying her fare.
Embarrassed, she got off the bus with her son and stood on the sidewalk in tears. She walked the rest of the way home.
"I think they showed a lack of humanity and a lack of kindness," she said.
Tantost said she told the inspectors she would contest the fine, words that according to her were met with a laugh and a comment about how the only benefit of that would be the overtime the STM employee treating the file would earn.
The STM declined to comment.