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Montreal, you'll be able to recharge your OPUS card on your phone this spring

The ARTM has also launched a call for tenders to develop entirely virtual payment systems.  (Alice Chiche/Radio Canada - image credit)
The ARTM has also launched a call for tenders to develop entirely virtual payment systems. (Alice Chiche/Radio Canada - image credit)

The days of lining up at ticket counters to recharge your OPUS card are coming to an end. Starting this spring, passengers will be able to recharge their card using a smartphone application, Montreal's regional transit authority announced yesterday.

The Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) has not yet confirmed an exact launch date but said the project "is progressing according to plan" and that it will announce the launch "at the right moment."

Patrick Vasilescu, who takes public transport daily to get around Montreal, says the move will save him valuable time.

"I was just hoping for something like that to happen," he said. "Sometimes, the lines take forever. Everyone has a phone, so it's just more efficient."

Pierre Kossonou also welcomes the change.

Patrick Vasilescu says it the change makes recharging more efficient.
Patrick Vasilescu says it the change makes recharging more efficient.

Patrick Vasilescu says it the change makes recharging more efficient. (John Ngala/CBC)

"I'm one of those people who always forgets their OPUS card," he said. "I always have my phone on me, so it will be easier for me."

But Pierre Barrieau, Université de Montréal lecturer in transportation and urban planning, says Montreal is lagging far behind other cities when it comes to remote charging smart cards.

"Let's be honest. Montreal has been very, very late in the game," he said, adding that virtual cards have existed in many cities around the world for more than a decade.

Implementing the system earlier would have cut costs on having public transit staff help people recharge their cards, according to Barrieau.

Pierre Barrieau, Université de Montréal lecturer in transportation and urban planning, says Montreal is 'very, very late in the game.'
Pierre Barrieau, Université de Montréal lecturer in transportation and urban planning, says Montreal is 'very, very late in the game.'

Pierre Barrieau, Université de Montréal lecturer in transportation and urban planning, says Montreal is 'very, very late in the game.' (CBC)

He says the move benefits regular and occasional users of public transport alike, with the added bonus of encouraging those occasional passengers to become regular commuters.

The ARTM has been testing the application with thousands of users. So far, the success rate is 94 per cent.

Barrieau says it's worth waiting a little while longer before rolling out the technology — something he says Montreal has not always done in the past when it comes to public transportation.

Despite the tardiness, Barrieau welcomes the news and hopes it is a step toward remote charging that eliminates the use of physical cards altogether, a situation he calls a "game changer."

The ARTM has launched a call for tenders to develop entirely virtual payment systems, saying a timetable for its implementation will be released once the tendering process is complete.