Professor makes STM pay for late buses


McGill Engineering professor Jeremy Cooperstock and his 3-year-old son Shalev wait for the the 24 bus at Peel and Sherbrooke Sts. Cooperstock, who spends time calling and writing the STM to improve its service, has been able to get refunded by the STM for taxi fares after his bus was late on several occasions.

McGill Engineering professor Jeremy Cooperstock and his 3-year-old son Shalev wait for the the 24 bus at Peel and Sherbrooke Sts. Cooperstock, who spends time calling and writing the STM to improve its service, has been able to get refunded by the STM for taxi fares after his bus was late on several occasions.

Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette

Next time you’re waiting in the cold for a late bus, think of Jeremy Cooperstock.

The McGill engineering professor has managed to get the Société de transport de Montréal to reimburse him for several taxi fares after the 24 bus was late.

Tardy buses and buses that just don’t show up are a constant source of frustration for commuters. Most just grumble or switch to driving. Few go as far as Cooperstock.

In one case, he took his beef to small claims court. The STM buckled before a judge got involved, paying Cooperstock $28 for his taxi fares, plus $100 in court and registered-mail costs. (The STM rejected his demand for $15 in “compensation for stress” caused by one late bus plus another $90 as “token punitive damages.”) A few months later, Cooperstock submitted a $12 taxi receipt; the STM quickly cut him a cheque.

So, total in reimbursed taxi fares: $40.

Not much, considering the hours he spends hounding the STM by mail, email and telephone about spotty bus service, especially on the four-kilometre stretch of Sherbrooke St. between his home and office.

But Cooperstock said it’s not about money. “I’m doing this to make a point of principle rather than profit from the inconvenience.” He’s fighting for improved punctuality (or at least more realistic schedules) and a faster, more responsive complaint system (it can take weeks to get a response, Cooperstock said).

Though the 24 bus is scheduled to run as frequently as every six minutes during rush hour, Cooperstock said he’s often left standing in cold winter weather for long periods with his 3-year-old son. He ends up late for work; his child ends up shivering.

“I’m reasonable – I don’t expect the STM to stick to its schedule to the minute. I understand: If a bus is supposed to come by every 10 minutes, I’ll allow a 15-minute window from the time I arrive at the bus stop.” But if he waits 15 minutes and there’s no bus in sight, “this is not reasonable,” he said. Often, no bus arrives over a period when two are scheduled.

“They don’t respect the terms of the posted schedule.” As a paying customer (Cooperstock buys a monthly pass), he said he deserves compensation and reimbursement for his taxi fares.

Cooperstock is accumulating evidence for his next complaint. He has a $12 taxi receipt from last fall and plans to demand another $12 for the inconvenience of waiting for two 24 buses that didn’t show up one day last week.

“If enough people stood up and demanded compensation and didn’t take poor customer service as a given, companies would be a little more responsible,” Cooperstock said.

Citing its privacy policy, the STM would not discuss Cooperstock’s case.

Spokesperson Marianne Rouette said she does not know how often taxi fares are reimbursed.

But she said posted bus schedules are meant only to give riders an “indication” of when the bus will show up. Traffic, construction, accidents, weather and snow-clearing can cause delays, she said. STM buses travelled 76 million kilometres in 2008.

Rouette said the complaint system (call 514-786-4636 or visit works well. Complaints are investigated promptly and action is taken if necessary; the source of the complaint is contacted and given an update, she said.

Transit agencies are working to improve punctuality.

Since mid-2008, all 235 buses in Laval have small screens constantly telling Société de transport de Laval drivers how close they are to the timetable. The driver can adjust his speed accordingly. If one bus is far behind schedule, a dispatcher can send out another bus.

The STL keeps statistics on every driver. Those often behind schedule are not punished, but prizes go to those with the best records.

It’s possible to do all this because every Laval bus is equipped with GPS technology. Yesterday, the STL launched a new service that uses the same equipment to send real-time info about late buses to customers via Internet-enabled cellphones and screens at 80 bus stops; next month, it will add a cellphone text-message alert system.

Last year, 90 per cent of Laval buses were within five minutes of being on time; in Montreal, 82.7 per cent were within four minutes of being on time in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.

Laval even has a “quality guarantee.” If a local bus is more than five minutes late “under normal operating conditions,” users can request one free bus ticket.

In Montreal, the STM, which has 1,600 buses and a territory bigger and more prone to traffic delays than Laval’s, has no such guarantee.

But it has set aside $200 million for a GPS system similar to Laval’s; it won’t be in place across the network before 2013, the STM says.

“It’ll be marvellous when we can provide real-time info because customers will know exactly when the bus will arrive,” Rouette said. “If it’s winter and the bus is going to be five minutes late, you can show up a little later.”

That won’t help Cooperstock. He doesn’t have a cellphone.


More on This Story


Story Tools

McGill Engineering professor Jeremy Cooperstock and his 3-year-old son Shalev wait for the the 24 bus at Peel and Sherbrooke Sts. Cooperstock, who spends time calling and writing the STM to improve its service, has been able to get refunded by the STM for taxi fares after his bus was late on several occasions.

McGill Engineering professor Jeremy Cooperstock and his 3-year-old son Shalev wait for the the 24 bus at Peel and Sherbrooke Sts. Cooperstock, who spends time calling and writing the STM to improve its service, has been able to get refunded by the STM for taxi fares after his bus was late on several occasions.

Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette


More Photo Galleries


Gallery: Daily Entertainment

Best Entertainment photos for the past 24 hours.


Gallery: Grammy Fashion

Fashion at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples...


Gallery: Daily News

Best news photos from the past 24 hours.

January 28, 2010 - 1:48 PM

If the STM bus schedules are simply "indications" which may or may not be respected, why not take other STM notices as such? The price of a regular ride is "indicated" as being 2.75$, but maybe I'll just pay whatever change happens to be in my pocket. How does 57 cents bus fare sound?

January 28, 2010 - 10:00 AM

All is fair in love and war... or should I say business... They will retaliate and remove schedules, or once again will raise the fare due to highly demanding citizens! Your choice! The system isn't perfect so stop demanding for perfection and appreciate what you get! Anyhow, you won't be alive when it does reach your standards... so just plan, live and enjoy your life while it still is.

January 28, 2010 - 8:12 AM

Prof. Jeremy Cooperstock,

     I was scandalized while reading the article about you suing the STM for late buses. Although, it’s understandably frustrating waiting in the cold, showing up late for work or an appointment; when people behave in certain ways (implying you suing), I always ask myself “what is their intent?”  In your case, I could only infer a few reasons; it’s either monetary, out of frustration (emotional), five minutes of fame (ego) or to pressure the STM to have better strategic planning of their bus routes. But, before I get to the reasons why I think you sued the STM, I’ll acknowledge that I know that you are a Professor of computer and mechanical engineering, and therefore you are well versed in resource allocation: computer generated algorithms for determining scheduling on bus routes. I’m sure you are familiar with the possibility of errors occurring with so many unknown variables, like traffic and accidents on such a long bus route (Vendome to almost Pie-IX).

First of all, I’d like to remind you that most Montreal Island citizens and I pay for the ‘pay-out’ you received from the STM.  Although, I was hoping that your intent was to pressure the STM to resolve late buses, this seems unlikely mainly due to the out of court settlement. The court system may have forced the STM to fix the problematic bus route, but apparently you preferred the money. Let’s hypothesis if you did go through the court system. There are two possible verdicts; the STM’s guilty, they must pay you and others (benchmark ruling) monetary compensation and fix the situation, or the STM not guilty because the court deemed the STM did everything within there capacity to remedy the situation and now you must pay there court fees. I assume the STM was so afraid of a precedent that it preferred to settle out of court. Let’s say you did win, and the courts asked them to remedy the situation. The easiest way would be to shorten the 24 bus route and create 2 or 3 new bus routes from that one, ultimately reducing error times, but increasing cost substantially (our taxes). Also, this would have consequences on many transit users that instead of taking one bus, they would have to transfer increasing their travel times and pollution.

Although, I sure you are not generally ignorant, your quest to for monetary compensation is drenched with an ignorance of societal interests and, perhaps, an ego trip. What were you trying to prove and to whom? You actions are additional proof that engineering and business schools (I’m majoring in economics), lack mandatory classes in philosophy and ethics. The STM is doing its best with their limited funds (deficit every year). It’s in all of our interest that they succeed.

January 28, 2010 - 7:59 AM

I guess I should jump on this as well; for the amount of times I've had to take taxes because the West Island Buses have stopped running pretty much around midnight. Buses should be on time and if not we should adopt the screen system like Laval and many other places in the world that tell us when our next bus is coming and if it is late,to tell us why it is late.

Though, our buses are always on time according to stations like CJAD and CHOM who always advertise that there is never any delays with the public transit; I hear this as I am waiting in the cold for forty five minutes and my bus has yet to show up.

Mary Jane
January 28, 2010 - 7:54 AM

If more people did this, then the transit system would remove the postings of schedules and we would go back to the old ways. I believe the transit system post these in good faith. We can never predict nuances in the route that is probably a daily occurrence. If more people get reimbursed for his taxi fees for late buses then the added expenses will be passed on to the users.

lil' sis
January 27, 2010 - 9:16 PM

What a great photo! Keep up the good work.

January 27, 2010 - 8:17 PM

107 is ALWAYS late

Victor D'Souza
January 27, 2010 - 8:05 PM

Great Job Jeremy. Wish every one would claim about the Monopoly thrust on the ordinary citizen. One success story is worth a 100 tries.

January 27, 2010 - 7:28 PM

Congrats to Mr. Cooperstock for speaking up.

To Sammy: This article is not about owning a cell; however as Mr. Cooperstock, I do not have a cell, nor have the intention of having one, I refuse to become a slave/addict and feed these multi billionaire companies.

To Manny:

We commuter either wish to contribute and pollute less or cannot afford an automobile, therefore prefer to take public transportation. Wake up and smell the coffee.

There is a reason why the STM posts shcedules...duh

January 27, 2010 - 6:22 PM

A great gesture and admirable efforts Mr. Cooperstock does. Public transit has become one of my pet peaves after I've seen efficient transit systems in other countries, and so disappointed when looking at that of my hometown. The STM really isn't putting any effort at all toward its clients and lazy permanent-status administration workers cost too much, preventing the system to be modernized. If only more people did like Mr. Cooperstock, maybe it would force the STM dinosaurs to let way for some positive change.

D. Upfold
January 27, 2010 - 4:33 PM

Good for Mr. Cooperstock for taking the time to make a public service corporation act in an accountable way to its users.

I salute him, and encourage others to demand the same accountability from any public service that doesn't serve its clients of constituents.

January 27, 2010 - 3:39 PM

What is an Amish man doing living here in Montreal. No cell phone...

January 27, 2010 - 3:36 PM

This guy seems to have a problem and I don't believe iti is with the Montreal transit authority. Get a car and stop compalining you whiner. People have bigger problems than this...

January 27, 2010 - 2:34 PM

If the bus schedules are only "indications" as to when the buses are supposed to show up then why bother posting them at all? Shameful response from this STM spokesperson.

January 27, 2010 - 1:46 PM

Guess what?  In a few years, if Jerry has his way, there'll be a shoddy tram service to complain about.

Keep it clean, and stay on the subject or we might delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. You must have a javascript enabled browser to submit a comment.
Your Name
Your Comment

The Gazette Headline News

Sign up to receive daily headline news from The Gazette.

Latest updates

Inside the fortress: Drama behind Manulife's doors

The National Post's investigation the impact of global financial turmoil inside Manulife Financial Corp. reveals the drama behind the closed doors of ...

Comments (0)
Gay Guest house Montreal
in gay village, near Berri -UQAM
your comfort home away from home
Centre Mont-Royal
Montreal's leading IACC Conference
and Special Event Centre.
School Bus Charter Rental
Nationwide, All U.S. Cities
School Approved, Insured, Licensed