STM to create charter of rights, responsibilities for public transit

What if every time the metro stopped, or a bus didn’t show up — the STM had to pay? That's on the table, after the city said it wants the STM to create a Charter of Passenger Rights and Responsibilities for its service.

Similar charters in other cities include compensation for delayed service

The charter is expected to include specific benchmarks for waiting times, accessibility and passenger safety. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

What if every time the metro stopped, or a bus didn't show up, the STM had to pay?

Reimbursement for interruptions is on the table, after the city said it wants the STM to create a Charter of Passenger Rights and Responsibilities.

The bipartisan motion was adopted by the City of Montreal Tuesday.

It calls for public transit users to be treated more like "clients." That includes specific benchmarks for things such as waiting times, accessibility and passenger safety that must be "concrete and measurable."

"This is a way of forcing the STM to raise its bar, raise its game, and be accountable for it," said Opposition Leader Lionel Perez.

The charter will be drafted as part of the STM's strategic plan for 2025.

Similar models in Toronto, Laval

The motion does not give any specifics to what the charter should contain, or what penalties should look like. 

Craig Sauvé, vice-chair of the STM and city councillor for the Sud-Ouest borough, said it was too early to talk specifically about compensation.

"The work's just beginning on all this," he said. "We have to do this work and look at all the options, and see what other available charters we can look to for inspiration."

Just north of the island, Laval's public transit authority (STL) has a quality commitment charter. If a user feels the standards were not met, they can apply for compensation.

Craig Sauvé, the vice-chair of the STM and city councillor for the Sud-Ouest borough, said it was too early to talk about compensation. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

The STL's commitment does not apply during "extreme weather conditions, major traffic jams or in the event of supervening forces."

Meanwhile, the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) charter outlines the commitments expected of both the transit operators and the customers, but does not include compensation.

Transit user Carole Lapointe said she doesn't expect the STM to bring in compensation, because "it would be free for everybody every day!"

'Work to do' before Montreal charter

François Pepin, president of transit advocacy group Trajectoire Québec, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak that charters, like the one in Laval, have an impact.

"It's a kind of contract. It's a promise to passengers," he said. "It builds up better confidence between the passengers and the STM. You can use it as a tool to improve — that's the way we see it."

Pepin, who worked for the STM for 35 years, said that Laval made sure they could deliver the quality of service promised before enacting the charter.

"In Montreal, there would be work to do," he acknowledged.

When it comes to compensation, Pepin said that in Laval in the last 30 months, there were 38,000 complaints which cost them about $18,000 in compensation.

"So it's not that much in Laval, but Laval is ten times smaller than Montreal," he said.

He said the STM could enact a pilot project for a year or two to gather data, before implementing a similar compensation plan in about three years.

However, he said that traffic jams contribute to poor bus service in Montreal, which is a problem that's only getting worse as time goes on.

Pepin suggested more dedicated bus lanes to cut down on delays.

If you're curious about transportation in the city, check out CBC Montreal's new Facebook group: MTL in Transit. It's a place for Montrealers to ask questions, share ideas and get information from our experts on all things related to transportation in the city and its surrounding communities.

To join, head to the CBC Montreal Facebook Page, click on groups and join MTL in Transit.

With files from Simon Nakonechny and CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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