Fill up your Opus card: Front-door boarding of buses to resume in greater Montreal

Along with STM buses, city buses in Laval and Longueuil, as well as EXO commuter trains, will require proof of payment once plexiglass barriers to protect bus drivers from the spread of the coronavirus have been installed.

Plexiglass barriers are being installed, and payment will be required to board

For the last three months, public transit users have had to board the bus from rear doors. The STM will require front-door validation of payment once plexiglass barriers for drivers are installed. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Public transit authorities in the greater Montreal region are preparing for a return to normal service as the first wave of COVID-19 infections abates.

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is preparing for a "gradual return to front-door boarding," which means customers will soon be required once again to show they paid their fare.

For the last three months, caution tape has separated the driver from passengers as they boarded STM buses from the rear. And with no way to validate payment, riding the bus was effectively free.

As of June 29, clients must have a valid bus ticket or pay by cash at the front of the bus on the 212 Sainte-Anne line, which is served by a minibus, as will clients using the STM's adapted transport service.

The STM said it is equipping the rest of its fleet with plexiglass barriers that will separate the driver from the payment station at the front of the bus. 

The union representing STM drivers backs the decision to once again require passengers to pay their fare, as long as those plexiglass barriers are installed first.

"The STM has lost so much money, it's unbelievable," said Lisa Djevahirdjian, a spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

"[Drivers] don't want the STM to go under."

The union has placed signage on buses asking clients to wear masks, but it's not calling on them to be made mandatory for now. The STM strongly encourages the wearing of masks and is handing out free masks over the summer.

Along with the STM, city buses in Laval and Longueuil, as well as the EXO commuter trains, will gradually start requiring proof of payment.

The Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain, the umbrella agency responsible for managing and integrating public transit in the greater Montreal region, says this will only happen once protective barriers are installed.

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