Correction added July 24 at 10:45pm:
Mark Dowling, in a comment later in this thread, has pointed out that a TTC report last November cited a provincial requirement for participation in Presto as a condition for funding through various programs. (See 4th paragraph on page 7)
This report must be read in the context of the amended recommendations approved by the Commission as reported in the Minutes:
Chair Giambrone moved that recommendation no. 1 contained in the report, be amended as follows:
“It is recommended that the commission:
1. Conditionally approve the adoption of the Presto Fare Collection System subject to satisfactory resolution of the issues outlined in attachment a, subject to:
* TTC and City staff discussions with representatives of the Federal Government, Provincial Government, Metrolinx and the City of Toronto to develop operating and financial agreements necessary to resolve the issues outlined in attachment a;
* TTC staff reporting back to the commission for approval of the operating and financial agreements that have been developed;
* TTC staff developing detailed business requirements for adopting the Presto System at the TTC to the satisfaction of the commission;
* TTC staff undertaking the engineering and design work necessary for future subway infrastructure modifications to provide power and communications to support smartcards”.
The motion by Chair Giambrone carried.
Chair Giambrone moved that the final bullet in attachment ‘a’, be amended as follows:
* “TTC and the City must not be bound to fare payment exclusivity that would preclude implementation of advances in fare payment approaches and technologies, such as and including open payments, mobile phone media, etc”.
The motion by Chair Giambrone carried.
Commissioner Milczyn moved that attachment ‘a’ be amended to include the following:
* “TTC and the City expect the presto system to be designed to support open architecture;
* TTC and the city remain cognizant of our own fare policies and the system must be designed with flexibility to allow for different fare policies”.
The motion by Commissioner Milczyn carried.
Chair Giambrone moved that the commission approve the report, as amended.
The motion by chair Giambrone carried.
Therefore, when I originally reported that the link between Presto and programs other than Transit City had never been brought to the Commission, I erred. The main article below has been updated accordingly.
In turn, this begs the question of why this issue was not raised when the Commission approved a study of a separate system from Presto, and the degree to which the conditions for acceptance of Presto, as set out in the November 2009 motion, have or have not been met.
I have also corrected the expiry date of the current Presto contract to 2016. The original date cited, 2011, appeared in another report that I was using as reference material.
The original post from July 23, with amendments, follows below.
The battle between the Presto and TTC Open Payment factions heated up earlier today with statements by various would-be mayors, the Board of Trade, Minister of Transportation Kathleen Wynne, and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone.
The following article appears on the Ministry’s website:
Minister Kathleen Wynne Stands By PRESTO
July 23, 2010 3:36 PM
The TTC’s recent focus on a duplicate fare system is troubling and a complete waste of precious taxpayer dollars.
The PRESTO card allows transit riders around the GTA to transfer seamlessly with one card from GO Train to bus or streetcar or subway, anywhere in the GTA. And best of all, the PRESTO system is also being developed to accept other cards — like debit or credit cards.
It’s a smart system that connects us and makes the daily commute just a little easier. Already 7,600 commuters are using their PRESTO cards, and 500 more are joining every week.
The city and TTC made a commitment to PRESTO many times.
Gas Tax funding was provided to GTA Municipalities, including the City of Toronto, with the requirement that they participate in the PRESTO fare card system, provincial funding towards the cost of the City of Toronto’s replacement streetcars is also conditional upon the City’s full participation in PRESTO and we’ve communicated to the City that the 182 light rail vehicles for the four Transit City projects in Toronto must be PRESTO ready.
There are a lot of investments to make in public transit, and a lot of improvements to be made at the TTC. To waste money on a duplicate fare system makes no sense.
That’s a fascinating statement for a few reasons.
Updated July 24: The link between Presto and other programs was reported to the Commission in a report from November 2009. For some reason, this was not mentioned during Commission discussions of a study for a separate system based on open payments. However, judging by the long list of conditions, many of which deal with technical and functionality issues with Presto, a related question to Queen’s Park is the degree to which this list has or will been addressed, and the implications for fares in Toronto if it is not.
Second, claims of a duplicate system bear closer examination. There are 7,600 Presto cards in circulation with 500 more per week. That’s going to get us up to something over 20,000 by the end of 2010. The TTC sells over 450,000 Metropasses every month, and has many, many more regular users who pay token fares. That’s a bit of a jump for the scale of Presto implementation. Duplication? Duplicating what?
Third, I believe that the only reason Presto moved on open payment capability was the competition from the TTC’s proposal. Without that pressure, we could have sailed through a region-wide rollout unable to deal with credit cards or smart phones for fare payment.
Presto isn’t even planning to roll out in Toronto in a big way for a few years, by which time it will also support open payment technology. Where is the wasted money? Meanwhile, the TTC needs a new fare system by 2012 when new streetcars will start rolling down the streets of Toronto and use all-door loading.
TTC Chair Giambrone responded with this letter which also appears on his Facebook page.
TTC Chair Giambrone Clarifies PRESTO position
July 23, 7:00 pm
Recent media reports have made it clear that there is confusion about the relationship between PRESTO and the TTC’s proposed Open Standards electronic fare system.
The TTC has been a full participant in PRESTO since 2004 and confirmed its participation as recently as last November. It simply imposed conditions such as open and transparent procurement and an ability to adapt to new technology.
The fact is that funding has not been committed to implement PRESTO on the TTC. In 2004, $140 million was committed, divided evenly between the City, Queen’s Park and Ottawa, based on incomplete estimates that did not account for necessary capital work. The most recent estimate puts the cost of implementation at $490 million – leaving a $350 million shortfall.
The City needs increased funding just to operate the TTC, and to keep it safe and reliable. With its recent cuts to the Transit City light rail plan the Province has made it clear that they also cannot afford new spending on transit projects.
Given that no money is available to bring PRESTO to the TTC, the Commission prudently chose to explore partnerships with the financial sector to find a more cost effective, off-the-shelf solution. I am confident that a public-private partnership to deliver electronic fare collection to the TTC will be achieved in 2010.
Adopting an Open Standard system instead of custom-built, proprietary smart card such as PRESTO is the right thing to do. Even PRESTO staff have indicated that they intend to move towards accepting Open Standard fare payment as early as 2011. The two fare systems will be totally compatible and allow riders to move seamlessly between TTC and other regional transit operators.
PRESTO staff have reportedly expressed concerns that moving to Open payments may affect their business case. The project is governed by a contract between the Province and Accenture. Given that this contract has not been made public or shared with TTC staff I cannot comment on its specifics. This contract needs to be made public before an informed public debate can take place.
Should anyone question the TTC’s cost of Presto implementation, it should be remembered that Ontario already has a $250-million contract with Accenture for the trivial amount of use that Presto gets compared to the size of the TTC’s network. What has that quarter-billion paid for?
In a separate Facebook post, Giambrone reviewed media coverage including this comment.
From the Star:
“Metrolinx said its next generation of readers – expected to be available in 2011 – should accommodate open payment options. But there are questions about how Presto’s revenue model would be affected if its card has to compete with others for transactions.”
The facts: A regional farecard was promised by the McGuinty Liberals in the 2003 election. Seven years later a phased rollout is just beginning, and Presto staff expect it to reach the TTC by 2015 at the earliest. TTC riders can no longer afford to wait. If we can skip a generation of technology we should, especially when we have good reason to believe an open payments system will be much more cost effective.
Media coverage of this is in The Star.
Mayoral candidates (and others) choose to portray Toronto and especially the TTC as a barrier to the transit improvements Presto may bring. Without getting into the various statements, I can’t help feeling that if Presto were a TTC scheme, the candidates would all hate it as a reminder of the Miller era. They need to focus on what various fare systems can do, how much they will cost, and when they will be implemented.
Will the first act of a new Mayor be commit Toronto, sight unseen, to a system that needs to scale up massively to handle TTC requirements, may lack flexibility and may cost more than an alternative? Wouldn’t they demand that we review whether Presto is actually a good deal? Or would a new Mayor be so keen to curry favour at Queen’s Park that he would sign first, and hope that any problems afflicted someone else later.
I have a few questions for Minister Wynne:
- It has been no secret since late 2009 that the TTC was examining an alternative to Presto to obtain better functionality at lower cost, and that the only money Queen’s Park has on the table to date is 1/3 of $140-million, or less than 10% of the estimated rollout cost of Presto for the TTC. With the links of Provincial funding being contingent on accepting Presto, why has this not been raised sooner, and why has Queen’s Park not addressed the substantial implementation costs for the project?
- What are the terms of the Accenture contract? As reported by the TTC quite some time ago, this is a 10-year contract expiring in 2016. How much more will Queen’s Park pay to extend this contract and expand it to the scale of TTC operations, or is this included in the base price?
- What are Presto’s technical capabilities for handling fares with the complexity of travel on the TTC? Will TTC riders be forced into a less attractive or more expensive fare model to fit within the constraints of the regional system?
- Why has there been no public discussion about fare policy and the implications for operating subsidies of consolidated fares across boundaries between the TTC and other systems? That’s the “big win” so many riders are waiting for, but it’s the one nobody who funds transit wants to talk about.
I will be meeting with Presto staff on Monday, July 26 to learn about their capabilities and plans in detail, to the degree that they choose to share the information.