12 thoughts on “TTC Presto Update

  1. Money quote for me so far:

    “Over the past few years, the Province has implemented specific programs to provide a range of funding for transit and the TTC. The funding for some of these programs is, however, contingent upon TTC participation in the PRESTO system (i.e. CSIF; gas tax). In addition, the Province has also stated that the adoption of the PRESTO farecard system will be a requirement for new transit projects (i.e. Transit City; subway extensions). The reality is that through these various programs, there is a significant amount of funding for various transit initiatives that is linked to TTC’s participation in PRESTO. If the TTC did not join PRESTO, it could put funding for these programs at risk. The decision for the TTC to join PRESTO, therefore, has potential implications that go well beyond the smartcard system itself.

    Based on the factors discussed above, there is sufficient justification for the TTC to commit to the concept of smartcards and for joining the PRESTO system.” (emphasis added)

    Such a useful word, implications.

    Steve: Yes. Queen’s Park is right no matter what it costs. Can you say eHealth?


  2. I would like to know what savings (both capital and operational) could result from using Presto. There would be no need to print out metro pass, distribute them and collect unsold ones… all the systems for handling and moving tokens wouldn’t be needed. I would be surprised if it payed the $12m for operating Presto, but it should go some way towards it.

    A quote: “In particular, there is significant interest developing within the transit industry to enable customers to pay their fares using cards issued by financial institutions (e.g. debit and credit cards).”

    Does this mean your debit/credit card doubles up as a smartcard (which would be very cool), or does it mean paying with your card instead of cash for passes etc. (which would be merely cataching up with decades-old technology…).

    Steve: Your credit/debit card would be your smart card.

    Prediction: TTC will join Presto, but they will end up paying at most 10% of the capital costs (over what is already commited).


  3. “In particular, there is significant interest developing within the transit industry to enable customers to pay their fares using cards issued by financial institutions (e.g. debit and credit cards).”

    What about those of us who do not use debit, and don’t care to use credit?

    If I lose a dedicated transit smartcard, I’m out some money. If I lose my debit or credit card, things are worse. There’s no way I’d like a system based on debit or credit cards. Or cell phones, for that matter. There has to be something stand-alone. Preferably refilled by cash.

    Steve: Nothing prevents the creation of a stand-alone smart card, but it should not be the only option.


  4. Just wondering if Presto is the right way to go: in many advanced countries it is possible to use your cellphone to pay for transit (e.g. DB in Germany). Or if Presto is adopted, there should be a pay-by-cellphone application associated with it.

    Steve: One of the TTC’s concerns is that any infrastructure that is implemented not be tied to a specific, proprietary system as payments using credit/debit cards and cell phones are becoming international standards.


  5. On Nov 11/2009 at 5:15pm bus driver lady of bus no 7833 was unable to stop for me. I am a pregnant lady.
    Really irresponsible employee.





    Steve: Over to you, Brad Ross.


  6. Perhaps this is premature — Has the TTC taken the decision to bolt Presto on to turnstiles or have they elected the barrier-free option?

    Steve: Don’t know yet.


  7. I think when we look at the costs, we need to include the cost of transfers. They need to be printed, managed, distributed, tracked and unused ones destroyed. This all needs to be done in a secure manner. Not to mention that many people when they are done with there transfer simply add it to the pile littering the floor of every TTC surface vehicle. Also, transfers do not have, in most cases a time limit, so you never know when your transfer expires. For a TTC driver, I don’t think they often do either. Presto and like systems save the cost of printing and distributing those transfers. Considering the number of routes, and potential maximum number of transfers needed per route, this is probably millions of dollars per year.

    There is also the cost of tokens, getting them made, managed, distributed, collected, also in a secure manner, these and tickets need to be handled in a secure manner, this also costs money.

    Now Presto, and Presto like systems do not need physical handling. However they are not without problems either. Depending on how secure the card is, if someone with a smart card reader can go in with a computer and update the value on a card, then the fraud will make adult tickets look like child’s play.

    Best is if the vehicle card reader checks the card, with the computer system to make sure it matches up, but this takes time, and a 8:00AM when 500 people are trying to get on the first Finch West bus heading East to pass Jane street in the last 20 minutes, That time can really add up.


  8. I don’t think it is the smart card system that is giving TTC nightmares. There have been proven smart card systems for over a decade so it shouldn’t be that hard to implement it in the GTA. I think it is retrofitting all the subway systems to fit Presto! that is holding the TTC back. If you notice, all TTC subway stations have very little room in the concourses. If you had to squeeze in 2 or 3 smart card machines in each station, it would take even more space away from the concourse. So the TTC has to expand the concourse to fit these machines or design a really thin machine. Given how slowly the TTC adopts new technology, I think it may take a court order for TTC to adopt Presto!


  9. There is no need to have machines installed at every station. There is an ability to have the fare collector issue & reload cards, and if experience on other transport systems translates, then most people will reload using the automated IVR or web methods.

    Steve: In this discussion, what seems to be forgotten is that over half of TTC riders use surface routes, and a goodly number don’t go on the subway regularly. Many trips begin on the surface network. What is a rider to do if their card doesn’t have enough stored value to pay for the inbound trip? There needs to be a way for people to reload their cards without reaching a fare card station.

    This is a big advantage of systems that bill people because “stored value” is meaningless. However, a transit user must have the mechanism (bank account, credit/debit card) for billing to work. This has implications for the very poor (who have difficulty accessing banking services) and for families where the number of transit riders probably exceeds the number of bank accounts.


  10. This is a big advantage of systems that bill people because “stored value” is meaningless. However, a transit user must have the mechanism (bank account, credit/debit card) for billing to work. This has implications for the very poor (who have difficulty accessing banking services) and for families where the number of transit riders probably exceeds the number of bank accounts.

    From a business point of view, stored-value is much easier to deal with. You prepay and you recieve a token, be it a chip of aluminum, a ticket, or a fare card or dongle that can be scanned a dozen times. Accounting is simple, and it’s the system we use now so people are used to it.

    Furthermore, the infrastructure to do this is not as enormous as it sounds. There is no reason why cards could not be sold and filled at stores; they already act as agencies for various high value items like metropasses, phone cards, and lottery tickets. Further, I see no reason why machines that can reload cards on the street need to be any more complex than those green pay-and-display parking meters (and as such, scattered every km or so along bus routes)

    Although moving to a billing-based system does offer advantages, the moment the TTC starts lending out credit is when things get messy. As mentioned, linking to bank accounts becomes problematic – although maintaining a prepaid system much like what cell phone companies do could get around this.

    The real issue would be delinquency. Someone doesn’t pay their TTC bill, then what happens? You can’t cut them off, it’s an essential service especially to the working poor in those suburban towers. It’s not worth sending to collections – they doesn’t pursue out-of-province parking tickets for the same reason. It becomes a write-off. They end up having to do credit checks and set up entirely new departments to chase delinquencies that end up costing a whole lot of cash. Once people find out that the TTC doesn’t have any teeth to collect owed money, no equivalent to blocking 407-user’s plate renewal, they will stop paying. For that reason I doubt the TTC will really embrace a monthly billing feature.

    There’s no reason why a prepaid fare card couldn’t count rides in the last 30 days and discount appropriately.

    Steve: If you look at the original proposal for a smart card at the TTC, you will see that it includes a humungous back end system to keep track of rides, including the logic necessary to track linked trips which are charged one fare under the current scheme. This of course would be unnecessary if we included a time-based component in the fare structure — a transfer “good until”.

    Note that time based fares do not preclude zone/distance based, and one could have a fare valid within a zone for a specific period. If you cross into a new zone, you pay the zone premium. However, this would require that everyone “tap out” so that the system can capture the fact that a rider who boarded in zone 1 got off in zone 3. The degree to which this logic would be embedded in the cards as opposed to a back end system would depend on what/whose card you were using, or even your phone/PDA. Doing this on the fly as a device-based function requires access to processing capability on the device, or a back end system that can update info on the device in real time. Once you have a back-end system, you might as well bill people.

    As for credit cards, I offer this not as my own idea but simply as an example of where the industry is moving elsewhere in the world. As you know, the merchant always gets their money, while the banks make a fortune on interest for those who live on credit. Billing would not be done by TTC as a distinct agency.

    I suspect we will wind up with a hybrid system that accepts multiple forms of payment including stored value cards.


  11. I went to HK in 91 and their system is simply breathtaking. everything has a smartreader. The buses run separately from the trains, charging a fee as you step on the bus. The trains are a pay for distance setup. You essentially pay for what you use and you pay for whatever level of convenience you require. I understand why we have our pricing structure, but keeping things on a “one payment fits all” doesn’t allow for the system to grow properly with the needs. A $2.75 fee for travelling 40 km on a bus versus 40km on a subway should be treated quite differently. The only “back” end system that would be needed would be in situations where you already have a lot of infrastruture, and that’s in the stations. I went back recently in 07 and the system has only expanded and improved since then. As a note, the system is able to refund for damaged cards though I’m not sure what else it can do. OH, the card can also be used and refilled for other purchases at other participating businesses (like grocery and mcdonalds!!) like a debit card…how cool is that!!!


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