TTC Proposes New Fare Rules for Presto Roll Out

On December 16, 2015, the TTC Board will consider a report from management recommending several changes in the fare collection system. Some of these proposals are straightforward while others are likely to bring confusion and outright complaints from TTC riders.

On December 14, the TTC streetcar system goes to “Proof of Payment” (POP) on all routes and a few days later, Presto will be enabled across the streetcar system. In the short term, paying by Presto will be akin to dropping a token in the farebox on the “old” streetcar fleet. If you need a transfer, board at the front door and get one from the operator. Otherwise, rear door boarding is allowed. Transfers will be required if somewhere in your journey you will encounter a bus that is not Presto equipped. (The TTC is silent on how they will handle a route like 504 King that operates both types of vehicle if a Presto user discovers a non-Presto equipped vehicle is the first thing to show up.)

The roll out of Presto brings the opportunity to revise the fare system, for good or ill, as the TTC migrates away from its conventional model of tickets, tokens and transfers. (It is worth noting that a large number of riders have already made this migration by using Metropasses which are simple, if limited in the fare options they provide.)

The transitional period when both Presto and existing fare payment systems co-exist will be a difficult one. Indeed, there are strong incentives for riders not to shift to Presto until the system is fully functional unless their TTC usage is limited to that part of the network where Presto is active.

Changes to be Implemented in 2016

Daily Caps on Fares on Presto

Presto users who “pay as they play” (as opposed to those using a pass) would have their total daily fare cost capped at the price of a Day Pass regardless of how many trips they take, effectively removing the need for this type of pass. Given that Presto will not “work” system wide, the paper version of the Day Pass will still be required for people whose trips begin on non-Presto routes.

Weekly and Monthly Passes on Presto

Presto users will be able to load a weekly or monthly pass on their Presto card. Like the Day Pass equivalent described above, this is of limited use to anyone whose trips might start on a non-Presto route. There is no point in paying for a monthly pass and not being able to use it for some trips.

Note that the discounted plans for Metropasses will not be supported on Presto in 2016 (see below).

Mixed Mode Routes and Trips

Some routes operate with a mix of buses and streetcars, and there is no guarantee, especially early in the conversion, that the buses will have active Presto devices. This means that, for example, the 504 King buses will not be able to accept monthly passes on Presto, and pay-as-you-play riders will require a supply of tokens “just in case” a bus shows up.

Daily fare caps on Presto won’t include fares paid with tokens, and so this feature will be of limited use.

Changes to be Implemented in 2017

Standard Cash Fare

Although this option was rejected during the 2016 budget debates, management has brought back to the table the idea that there should be no discounted cash fares for seniors or students (children already ride free). The premise is that this change will push more users onto Presto, and that has the earmarks of “it’s easier for management” rather than “it’s better for the customer”. There is no counter-proposal to explain how the system would operate if the discounted cash fares remain in place.

TTC would introduce a single cash price for all customer categories. It would have the greatest impact on seniors and students paying cash, as they can currently take advantage of a discount no matter what type of fare media they choose to use. Seniors and students would still have access to a discount when using the PRESTO card. This option would encourage migration to PRESTO, is consistent with the other Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area transit operators who also have a single cash fare and do not provide cash discounts for seniors and students, and optimizes TTC revenue and operations. [p 5]

“Optimizing” TTC revenue is a polite way of saying that, because some riders would simply pay the full fare because they have no Presto card, TTC revenues would go up. The projected amount is up to $5-million.

Proof of Payment System-Wide

Some form of POP will be required wherever a rider is on the TTC. Presto users (a group that, by 2017, will also include all Metropass users) have their POP by virtue of their “pass” being encoded on their cards, and non-pass users will have a valid “fare” from “tapping in” at vehicles and stations. What will remain will be the cash fares for which a fare receipt (subway stations or new streetcars) will be required.

An outstanding problem for cash fares is that “transfers” as we know them will disappear. If the point of entry to the system is incapable of dispensing a receipt, then a cash-paying rider would not be able to transfer (see below). This will affect all users of bus routes and the old streetcars except to the degree that the TTC provides on-street fare machines that could issue receipts. One option the TTC is considering is that such riders would just be out of luck and would be forced to pay another fare to transfer.

Tap On/Off Requirements

All surface vehicles would require a “tap on” to enter, and a “tap off” would be needed to exit a subway station through a fare gate.

On the subway, this provision is in part to deal with special fare arrangements for riders from York Region on the Spadina extension (TYSSE), although it is very much a “tail wags dog” situation. Although not detailed in the report, the implication is that if the tap in/out both occur in York Region fare territory (however that is defined by that time), then a lower fare would be paid than for a York-to-TTC trip, probably by a refund mechanism similar to that used by GO (charge full fare on entry, partial refund on exit).

Tap off would not be activated until 2017 when legacy media (passes, tokens, transfers, tickets) would no longer be used. This also co-incides with the opening of the TYSSE, although the timing of events may require transitional provisions depending on how long the legacy media survive beyond 2016.

Tapping out of stations would be a new behavior for customers to learn, customers will be required to tap out on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension to avoid paying an additional fare when traveling from York region. For consistency, this functionality should be expanded to the entire subway system. This clear message will help reinforce the correct customer behaviour around tapping on all PRESTO devices and provides the TTC with better customer journey data. [p 6]

It will be interesting to see how long it takes the TTC to make use of the vast amount of customer journey data they will have.

Metropass Discount Plan (MDP) and Volume Incentive Program (VIP) on Presto

For MDP users, the cost of a “pass” would be billed at the start of each month at the rate appropriate for their fare type. The TTC also plans to merge the VIP and MDP plans, possibly into a common fare level.

Not explained in the report is how pass resales under the VIP plan would be handled. In this plan, a business or institution buys a block of passes and then resells them, possibly at a subsidized discount, to staff or students.

For Study in the 2018 Budget

Peak/Off-Peak Pricing

Different fares would be charged depending on the time of a rider’s trip. An issue for Toronto is that unlike many cities, it does not have low off-peak demand and surplus capacity that can absorb time-shifted riders across the system. There is also a potential “equity” issue among riders on two counts:

  • Riders who make short trips do not have to adjust their travel time by as great a degree to avoid the peak period as those who make long journeys.
  • It is unclear how one would establish who “deserves” to get a cheaper fare because they can shift their commute, or be penalized because they don’t have that option.

For Further Study

Single-Ride Presto Cards for Cash Customers

One ride cards would be available from fare vending machines and, possibly, from third-party vendors. This raises a few issues:

  • Why restrict the sale to a single ride card?
  • Will third-party vendors have any inventive to stock these cards when all other TTC media disappear?

One part of the problem here is the high price charged for a “real” Presto card ($6). By contrast, a limited-term use card costs only $1 in New York.

This is not just an issue for riders wanting to purchase fares, but for agencies that give out free TTC tickets and tokens.

Elimination of Cash Fares on Buses (and Older Streetcars)

This policy encourages migration to PRESTO and reduces cash handling costs, however it creates an inconsistent and less convenient journey for customers starting their trip on a bus and paying with cash. To mitigate these issues, contactless payment by debit and credit (open payments), and an extensive PRESTO third party retail network would need to be available to ensure customers can purchase a limited use PRESTO card or load value to a standard PRESTO card. Some transit agencies worldwide are moving towards similar policies e.g. Transport for London, as the relative cost of handling cash increases. Note: This option will also apply to legacy streetcars while they continue to operate. [p 7]

At this point, this is only a proposal, but it begs the issue of availability of fare vending machines throughout the system to accept cash, and the degree to which riders would use other media via open payments. Note that for debit/credit payments there is no mechanism for issuing a fare receipt.

Loyalty Program Options

One option the TTC will study is whether the MDP and VIP options should simply be discontinued and the “Metropass” established as one fare level.

Not discussed in the report is the concept of moving to weekly or monthly capped fares (as for the daily fare discussed above). If a Presto card never charged more than the equivalent of a monthly pass, then the actual concept of a “pass” has less meaning unless the discount for long-term subscription (MDP or VIP) stays in place.

No Further Study At This Time

Two-Hour Time Based Transfers

The TTC recognizes that time based transfers would simplify travel and fare rules, but continues to drag its feet on actual implementation. The estimated $20m annual cost is no doubt a factor here, but the tradeoff for simplicity is lost in the shuffle. Now that we have eliminated children’s fares, and frozen other fare classes for 2016, some eager politician will embrace time based transfers as a sweetener for the 2017 budget.

While introducing a 2 hour time-based transfer is still considered a worthwhile service improvement that would reduce complexity and make the TTC consistent with other transit agencies within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the ongoing Integration work, led by Metrolinx, may propose changes to transfer rules. That being the case, it is recommended that further analysis or implementation should follow the completion of the Fare Integration work if required. [pp2-3]

A two hour time-based transfer can be difficult to manage if there are service delays that affect the transfer window and would cost the TTC an estimated ($20M) in lost revenue from multiple trips made within the two-hour window. This policy however, would make it easier for customers to complete short trips such as getting groceries or going to lunch using transit and create a simpler, easy to understand transfer policy. [p 7]

Is TTC surrendering what would be potentially a very popular fare type to the machinations of Metrolinx who are not known to be sensitive to the needs of urban riders? We don’t know because Metrolinx’ intentions are unknown.

As for delays and the two-hour window, the real question is the amount of travel most riders could expect to make for a single fare. Where time-based transfers are already in use, its benefits appear to outweigh the circumstances in which someone runs “over time”. A related issue here is the “tap out” and whether a journey must be completed within two hours, or only completed to the point of the last “tap in”.

All-Door Boarding on Buses

Despite the benefits of all-door boarding, especially on articulated buses, the TTC does not plan to implement this operation on its bus network except for limited locations with rear door loaders/fare inspectors as at present. Essentially, the TTC position is that it would cost too much to deploy fare enforcement across the bus network, and the potential for fare abuse is too high. All-door loading will only be used on the streetcar system.

Fare by Distance or Zones

The TTC recognizes that a zone or distance based system creates operational headaches:

Customers who use the system for shorter journeys would pay less overall, however this is only true when the initial fare can be reduced, which would have major financial impacts on TTC. Another essential factor is the reliance on customers tapping in and tapping out of both stations and surface vehicles; the latter would have significant negative impacts on dwell times for surface vehicles and may be difficult to enforce without creating major bottlenecks in the system or significantly changing customer behaviors. [p 8]

A Metrolinx analysis of “an integrated distance/zone based system” for publication in 2016. This is no surprise, but the real question is whether Metrolinx will force this option down everyone’s throat to match their own preferences, or leave well enough alone for “local” travel.

Cash POP Receipts on Buses (and Older Streetcars)

The TTC has no intention of providing fare receipts to those who pay cash on buses or the older streetcars. Once transfers are discontinued, they will have no way to avoid paying a double fare when transferring to another route except where a free transfer connection (i.e. within a station) is provided. This is pitched by management as a way to encourage migration to Presto. However, a year’s operation where a fare receipt (a transfer) is available will establish this as “the way things work”, and will be a hard sell when this facility disappears in 2017.

Addressing the Needs of Disadvantaged Groups

This issue will be addressed in a separate report in 2016:

As per the report received by the Board at its November 18, 2013 meeting; it is beyond the mandate and expertise of the TTC to effectively resolve broader social and community issues related to income distribution. In July 2014, City Council directed staff from various City departments to work together to prepare a Transit Fare Equity plan to make the TTC more affordable for low-income Torontonians. This will complement ongoing transit expansion throughout Toronto. The TFE plan is due at the end of Q1 2016, and will include eligibility criteria, costs, and options for pursuing funding partnerships.[p 5]

99 thoughts on “TTC Proposes New Fare Rules for Presto Roll Out

  1. It would be interesting is PRESTO moved to a refundable deposit system like the TFL Oyster card. They cost 5 pounds (expensive) but considering you can get that back when you no longer need it, it seems like a much better balance for the consumer.


  2. Steve said:

    “The TTC has no intention of providing fare receipts to those who pay cash on buses or the older streetcars. Once transfers are discontinued, they will have no way to avoid paying a double fare when transferring to another route except where a free transfer connection (i.e. within a station) exists.”

    So in effect that TTC is basically trying to drive all riders to some form of pass or off transit?? This is essence requires you to know quite a lot about the transfer arrangements – before you ride, which would make the fear of that first ride higher.

    Steve: More accurately, they are trying to drive all riders to some form of prepaid medium. The irony here is that it could result in a reduction of “cash” fares because the most a Presto card will charge someone is a token’s worth of a fare.


  3. Several items came to mind as I read the post and comments…

    The report mentions:

    Proof of Payment System-Wide

    Just what exactly is the benefit of extending proof of payment to bus routes?!? It has been just over 10 years since YRT introduced VIVA BRT routes which are POP routes, but all other YRT routes are pay-upon-entry. For an organization that balks over “lost” (see below) revenue with a 2-hour transfer, going POP on the entire system is a very inconsistent, if not hypocritical, move. As for riders, given that many commutes involve a bus connection, trips with a delay benefit from the last leg being pay-upon-entry as one’s Presto card (or paper transfer) need only be valid at the time of entry. POP technically requires validity for the entire trip on the vehicle (though in my experience, YRT fare inspectors generally don’t fine you if it just ran out during the trip).

    Steve: Even funnier, they have no plans to roll out all door boarding and fare inspectors to the bus network. Ergo, why POP?

    When Zach H commented on benefits of a 2-hour transfer, Steve responded with:

    But TTC doesn’t want to lose that $20m in revenue. Costs always trump convenience.

    One cannot lose what one does not have in the first place. The TTC puts a value on extra trips that a 2-hour transfer will legally permit, but does not consider that (I would say) most of those trips are currently either not being taken at all, or not being taken strictly under their transfer rules.

    As Steve pointed out:

    I know that before passes were introduced, I was a master at maximizing the distance/time I could ride for one fare.

    As I only occasionally have to use the TTC, I still do.

    Deborah McFarlen wrote:

    What about the people I encounter all-too-frequently who get to a turnstile and then stand, blocking the way, while they rummage in their purses, or multiple pockets, for their Metropass, then put everything back in the purse, or several pockets, swipe the Metropass, and finally proceed through the turnstile.

    There will always be those who excel at farting around. I would argue that one third (if not more) of the congestion we all complain about is caused by this faction. That said, I have said here before when others complain that tapping a Presto card on a pay-upon-entry vehicle will slow down things that is bunk because there are all sorts of these fart-a-rounders who wait until they are at the farebox to search for change and/or tickets/tokens. Passholders and Presto users tend to be ready to go, and as a Presto user, I don’t have to take it out of my wallet to tap it. Heck, on the current turnstile readers on the TTC, they are at the right height for me that I don’t even have to take my wallet out of my pocket. Sadly, for me anyways, they will be replacing these readers.

    Robert Wightman wrote:

    The question is how will the TTC force riders to tap off on buses outside of the 416?

    Simple: the same way they collect the non-TTC fare when riders exit a TTC contracted route outside the 416. They currently exit at the front door and pay. Now they will pay or tap.

    Finally, Nathanael wrote:

    The price of the Presto card seems to be the highest in the entire world.

    Will the TTC be having events to help get Presto cards out the way that YRT and GO has in the past (and YRT still occasionally does)? At these events, the $6 is waived and one only pays $19 to get a card with $19 loaded on it, instead of the “usual” price of $25. I have yet to come face to face with someone with a Presto card that paid the $6.


  4. POP should be extended to articulated bus routes (the busiest bus routes should be exclusively articulated). Most people are honest and pay, and random fare inspections will catch the rest.


  5. Hi Steve:-

    Wow, my poor grey matter is boggled. 2017 will be the year of the screaming meemies!!!

    It appears that as a monthly pass user I am going to get screwed out of my preferred fare medium and looks like I’ll be paying more. Too, on/off tapping will delay my trip as I am frequently loaded down with bags that require me to place my stuff on a seat and return to the motorman to show them my carfare. I guess I’ll have to do that when tapping ‘off’ too eh. Maybe the Motorman will hold my bags for me as I do this?

    What crap!

    Dennis Rankin


  6. DavidC wrote:

    If I understand correctly …

    On surface vehicles you will always tap in and never tap out.

    Let me rephrase, and simplify, what DavidC has written about subway tapping. Please let me know if I have taken any liberties with my understanding of DavidC’s understanding (I have moved the rest of his quote further down)…

    “Entering” the transit system at a subway system at a subway station requires a tap on. “Exiting” the transit system at a subway system at a subway station requires a tap off.

    That is no different than what we do now, and have done for 60 years, except it will involve a Presto card: we currently pass through a turnstile that requires a fare “payment” (quotes, because showing a transfer counts as a “payment”) and we exit by going through a turnstile. Passing through a turnstile will require tapping if one uses Presto.

    Steve: Careful. Unless you have Presto or some other turnstile-readable fare receipt, you won’t be able to get out of the subway. It’s not a question of “if” one uses Presto.

    Any current movement that does not require passing through a turnstile (e.g.: getting off a surface vehicle in a fare-paid area to change to the subway or another surface vehicle, or getting off the subway to change to a surface vehicle) will not require any Presto tapping.

    Changing between the Queen car and the subway, or the Dufferin Bus and the subway, will require tapping. This is my take-away from what DavidC understands:

    On the subway you will always tap in AND out BUT if you enter the fare paid area of a station on a bus or streetcar you will not have to tap in at that station, only tap out at your destination station to exit (or if you are catching another surface vehicle never tap out.).

    If you take a subway and THEN a surface vehicle on the street you will initially tap in to enter the subway and tap out to exit the station (as usual) and then tap in again on the surface vehicle – which will know you are transferring.

    If your surface vehicle is inside the fare paid area you will not have to tap out of the station and I assume will have to tap in at the surface vehicle itself. (Presumably this would also apply to a transfer inside a subway station fare paid area from one surface vehicle to another.)

    Not sure about this tapping in at surface vehicles INSIDE subway stations but it makes sense, to me.

    Steve’s response:

    This whole scheme, after 60 years of transfers between subway and surface vehicles within stations having no barrier or fare control at all, will confuse the hell out of riders, I am sure. It is a ridiculous over-complication.

    Only if DavidC misunderstood what Chris Upfold told him, and the TTC is going to totally cock-up what should be just a tiny difference from current scheme.

    Steve: The scheme as I understand DavidC’s presentation, is that one would be expected to tap on when entering ANY surface vehicle including at a “paid” area in a subway station, but NOT when making an enforced transfer due to a short turn.

    The fly in the ointment is the tap out requirement at subway stations. This only works if everyone who meets a turnstile has some sort of fare receipt, pass, etc. that the turnstile “understands”. Initially there will be no tap out from the subway because many riders will still travel with “legacy” media or even cash fares.

    The fact that the subway can be a “bridge” between routes has to be incorporated in the rules about “valid” transfers because one might very well tap on to a route quite remote from the last point where your Presto card met a fare machine. The possibility that an extra fare will be charged in error because all of the permutations will be difficult to map is quite substantial. I suspect this is partly the reason for the idea of tapping on surface vehicles even in paid areas to “update” the record of where a trip has taken someone.

    I don’t even want to contemplate what “rules” will apply to things like subway emergency shuttles that have no fixed route and therefore no standard transfer rules.

    All of this would be immensely simpler with time-based transfer rules.


  7. I’ve been riding the 501 the to and from work the past two days (Between Windermere and Victoria), and only once — when we stopped at Osgoode station — do the drivers use all-door-boarding.

    Steve: The message has not filtered all the way down to the ground yet.


  8. Additional off-board equipment is in the process of being installed along the Bathurst 511 route.

    Which gets at the point I was trying to make if unclear.

    On the streetcar system they will have onboard and offboard machines that take cash and spit out POP receipts/transfers (as long as you don’t board at a stop without a machine or the 1/6th of the fleet that will be ALRV) yet anywhere else you can’t use cash and get a receipt/transfer?

    I can’t even wrap my head around this stupid inconsistency. Either allow it across the board or not at all so we don’t have to deal with all of these hidden gotcha situations!


  9. In response to Malcolm N: Steve:

    More accurately, they are trying to drive all riders to some form of prepaid medium. The irony here is that it could result in a reduction of “cash” fares because the most a Presto card will charge someone is a token’s worth of a fare.

    And that’s the issue here. Forcing everyone on prepaid or at least on a fare media with direct access (Metrolinx is pushing hard on having access to our bank accounts or credit cards for auto-reloads). Which brings a whole set of issues. Either management thinks everyone has a bank account or they don’t care.

    With regards to “losing” cash fares, that’s just in the interim, once everyone is on Presto or RFID debit or credit card, they can raise fares no problem. You won’t have any alternatives.

    I commented earlier about Metrolinx being about GO, what I really mean is that they are a commuter-oriented system. That doesn’t mean they don’t offer service off-peak, but their focus and understanding of their clientele is of the commuter type.

    Users of the TTC are really different and transit usage in Toronto is different. Some commuter-oriented transit system can get away with cash fares providing no transfers, because in such system, the poor and transit-dependent are treated with contempt. I don’t think it would fly in Toronto though.

    But beyond all the issues I have with this, fundamentally what irks me is that this is once again an attempt by a government agency to offload its responsibilities to a third-party (namely banks through debit and credit cards). The goal of Presto is of course to stop issuing the card and have users use their own bank card. It irks me because transit is a social good and the responsibility therefore will always remain with the government. So because politicians want to offload their responsibility, because they believe that technology is driver for policy instead of a tool to assist policy we are in this mess. How will this become the bank’s problem? If you have an issue it will not be the transit system but the bank who fail to provide money to the transit system.

    Of course that’s not strictly true, but that excuse is already being peddled on auto-load when often the problem is with Metrolinx’s contractor.

    Steve: It would be interesting to have examples of how Accenture, who provides back end services for Presto, have screwed up operation of the system and tried to pass the buck, so to speak, to the banks.


  10. Steve wrote:

    The fact that the subway can be a “bridge” between routes has to be incorporated in the rules about “valid” transfers because one might very well tap on to a route quite remote from the last point where your Presto card met a fare machine. The possibility that an extra fare will be charged in error because all of the permutations will be difficult to map is quite substantial. I suspect this is partly the reason for the idea of tapping on surface vehicles even in paid areas to “update” the record of where a trip has taken someone.

    This is my trip to work, if I make it after the end of the morning rush hour. I take the subway for two stops as a “bridge” between two parallel bus routes, before transferring to a third bus route for the last leg. Both subway stations are fully fare-paid areas, and my last transfer is far enough away from where I paid my first fare that the transfer may well be interpreted by a computer as being a separate trip.

    The proposed fare collection scheme post-PRESTO seems to be way more complicated than it needs to be, even for people commenting here that are probably more transit-savvy than the general public. Compare to the current rules:

    (a) show or swipe metropass
    (b) deposit token or cash or ticket, take transfer, show transfer every time you transfer

    I can see confusion coming from the fact that there is no distinction between the thing you use to pay your fare, and the thing you use to transfer. Right now, it is obvious when I am paying a fare. With PRESTO, I won’t know whether the reader is deducting a fare from my card or if it is recognizing a transfer. (Unless there is a different sound for transfer taps and for payment taps… but even then, you don’t know until you have tapped, and there is no way to dispute or explain why the trip should be valid.)


  11. Victor Genova: I’ve been riding the 501 the to and from work the past two days (Between Windermere and Victoria), and only once — when we stopped at Osgoode station — do the drivers use all-door-boarding.

    Steve: The message has not filtered all the way down to the ground yet.

    The message as not filtered all the way to the ground yet? Can I use the same excuse when I’m caught without fare by a fare inspector? The 501 has been POP for the last at least 20 years and if the message has not filtered all the way to the ground yet, then it will never be filtered all the way to the ground.

    Steve: The old rules were that opening the back door was at the discretion of the operator, and was generally not done after 7 pm.


  12. @Mapleson. Perhaps my experience in Ottawa is different than in the GTHA. But when the Presto circus came into the National Capital Metrolinx was big into telling the population that the Presto card would soon (yeah right soon) be replaced by our own debit/credit card. The population didn’t like that so our mayor had to reassure us that it would not happen without the city’s consent.

    What Metrolinx thought hard against was any “not made in Ontario” third party system. Such systems already exist commercially and could have been deployed years earlier at less expense. But make no mistake the plan is always to move us into the cashless society with our own cards. I hope it’s clear to everyone that Presto has nothing to do about transit, it’s all about the form of currency we will be expected to use. Once you understand that, then it becomes much easier to understand how Presto works and is evolving. The Royal Canadian Mint is still trying to develop an App. I am not looking forward to that either.

    There is indeed the auto-reload feature. But initially the contractor used by Metrolinx had bad employees; over 15 000 customers in the GTHA had their ID stolen plus money from their bank accounts. This was easy to predict as that contractor had several issues in the US and was a subsidiary of Accenture which had plenty of criminal issues long after Enron. So I prefer not to use Metrolinx website and go in person to the OC Transpo service centre and pay cash. It’s fast and easy and from my point of view allows my card to update the reader (I don’t have to wait 24 hours for the transaction to be loaded into all readers). There are still plenty of issues with auto-reload.

    I won’t pretend that the TTC has no issues or responsibility here. But I see the same mistakes that Metrolinx made when they came to Ottawa. And they put enormous pressure on the city and OC Transpo to roll along. We are lucky that OC Transpo and city politicians stood up to that pressure. So that’s why I focus on Metrolinx.

    Obviously the TTC should look up for its users interests but…

    I am interested in what happens in Toronto for it’s often indicative of what might happen later in Ottawa and also because I like Toronto. And with the Light Rail system (Confederation Line) being built I am concerned about having to tap in and out, only in order to generate useless data. We seem to have enough fare inspectors, we see them often and they keep the system relatively honest.


  13. I would pick up a Presto card if there’s a free offer, but I would not actually switch to using Presto until either of two things happened:

    I could see some definite advantage to using Presto over using a VIP Metropass
    I’m forced to switch (i.e. rather than advantaging Presto, TTC/Metrolinx disadvantages other options to suit)

    One thing I would definitely not do is give Presto access to my bank account for auto-refill, until the system had proven itself to be well-behaved for my usage patterns, and didn’t overcharge. Anyone who has dealt with utilities who have overcharged on direct-payment plans knows that, once they have your money, getting it back is very, very difficult.

    Apropos of that, is it possible to check the usage history of a non-registered Presto card at a kiosk or at a fare booth? Or does Presto assume that you would want to register, and require that you have mobile internet to be able to check the status while you’re travelling?


  14. Ed wrote:

    One thing I would definitely not do is give Presto access to my bank account for auto-refill, until the system had proven itself to be well-behaved for my usage patterns, and didn’t overcharge.

    I’ve been using auto-refill on Presto for GO Transit for 5 years now, on cards for the entire family. I keep an eye on it, and it works painlessly and simply.

    If you hold the card up to a fare checker machine, it shows you the last 3 or 4 trips.

    You can login to the Presto website with an unregistered card. I can’t do so because my cards are registered – but I think the whole point is to be able to see the usage history.


  15. It would be interesting if after PRESTO gets fully implemented, if the police would be able to request information on who used PRESTO at a certain location and time. Even if a suspect used a cash fare, the police may have a list of witnesses available.


  16. Reformulated from DavidC’s comments:

    One Tap Trips:
    Surface Only

    Two-Tap Trips:
    Subway Only
    Surface to Subway
    Subway to Surface (Fare Paid Zone)
    Surface to Subway to Surface (Fare Paid Zone)

    Three-Tap Trips:
    Subway to Surface (No Fare Paid Zone)
    Surface to Subway to Surface (No Fare Paid Zone)

    It seems like a lot of tapping could be saved just by implementing the 2-hour transfer. Also missing from the table above is what happens if you are transfering surface-to-surface outside a fare paid zone. Is this a 3-tap trip as well?

    Steve, is there any semi-reliable data on trip compositions, such as the rate of transfer usage?

    Steve: Not really. Especially since the introduction of passes in 1980, figuring out what constitutes a “trip” is challenging. However, the ratio of “boardings” (unlinked trips) to “fares” is roughly 2. In other words, on average, each rider transfers once. Note that transfers within the rapid transit system are treated as one link regardless of how many lines are involved, and so 2 probably understates the average count of routes used per linked trip.


    Steve said: More accurately, they are trying to drive all riders to some form of prepaid medium. The irony here is that it could result in a reduction of “cash” fares because the most a Presto card will charge someone is a token’s worth of a fare.

    It’ll be interesting to see the 2015 fare-by-type breakdown. When Senior fares were introduced in 1973, they were the same cash price, but half the ticket price.

    (Note: Tickets is an amalgam of tokens, tickets, and/or Presto)

    Fare by Type         2014     2013     2012     2006     1996     1990
    Adult Cash           $3.00    $3.00    $3.00    $2.75    $2.00    $1.20
    Adult Token          $2.70    $2.65    $2.60    $2.10    $1.60    $1.00
    Adult MetroPass      $133.75  $128.50  $126.00  $99.75   $83.00   $53.00
    Adult Student        $108.00  $106.00  $104.00  ---      ---      ---
    Adult Weekly         $39.25   $38.50   $37.50   ---      ---      ---
    Senior Cash          $2.00    $2.00    $2.00    $1.85    $1.35    $1.20
    Senior Token         $1.850   $1.80    $1.75    $1.40    $1.07    $0.50
    Senior MetroPass     $108.00  $106.00  $104.00  $83.75   $73.00   $34.50
    Senior Weekly        $31.25   $30.50   $29.75   ---      ---      ---
    Usage by Type        2014     2013     2012     2006     1996     1990
    Adult Cash           49,120   48,623   46,467   38,684   32,642   67,296
    Adult Token          121,019  120,554  122,361  143,886  155,021  157,907
    Adult MetroPass      214,932  213,982  205,086  171,314  86,549   116,610
    Adult Student        42,855   38,426   35,019   ---      5,981    25,071
    Adult Weekly         9,361    9,557    10,185   5,413    ---      ---
    Senior Cash          12,037   8,538    8,164    4,581    8,114    6,324
    Senior Token         33,420   35,472   37,039   40,808   52,852   61,358
    Senior MetroPass     23,064   20,509   19,769   12,931   9,098    5,117
    Senior Weekly        515      540      624      372      ---      ---
    Usage by Fare        2014     2013     2012     2006     1996     1990
    Adult Cash           12.8%    12.7%    12.4%    10.9%    11.9%    19.7%
    Adult Token          31.4%    31.5%    32.7%    40.7%    56.5%    46.2%
    Adult MetroPass      55.8%    55.8%    54.8%    48.4%    31.6%    34.1%
    Senior Cash          17.6%    13.2%    12.6%    7.9%     11.6%    8.7%
    Senior Token         48.8%    55.0%    57.0%    70.0%    75.4%    84.3%
    Senior MetroPass     33.7%    31.8%    30.4%    22.2%    13.0%    7.0%
    Cost Multiples       2014     2013     2012     2006     1996     1990
    Adult Cash-Cash      1.0      1.0      1.0      1.0      1.0      1.0
    Adult Ticket-Cash    0.9      0.9      0.9      0.8      0.8      0.8
    Adult MP-Cash        44.6     42.8     42       36.3     41.5     44.2
    Adult MP-Ticket      49.5     48.5     48.5     47.5     51.9     53
    Senior Cash-Cash     1.0      1.0      1.0      1.0      1.0      1.0
    Senior Ticket-Cash   0.9      0.9      0.9      0.8      0.8      0.4
    Senior MP-Cash       54.0     53.0     52.0     45.3     54.1     28.8
    Senior MP-Tkt        58.4     58.9     59.4     59.8     68.2     69.0

    Looking at only the split amongst Cash/Tickets/MetroPass, senior ticket use continually drops as the price difference between cash and tickets shrinks (in 1990 tickets were 42% cash and 84.3% of usage, in 2014 tickets were 93% cash and 48.8% of usage). Conversely, cash usage is way up (in 1990 8.7% of seniors used cash, in 2014 17.6% did). Interestingly, MetroPass rates seem pretty immune to multiple fluxuations.

    The 1990 senior’s numbers are very telling. For $2.40 you could make 2 cash trips or for $2.50 you could buy 5 tickets. It would then seem like those cash trips are in the cases of rare usage (one day a year, forgot ID or tickets) more than truly needful.

    So a reduction in cash fares would mean less Presto usage.


    Tapping On would be equalivant to showing your Metropass. In fact, I’ve used Presto on Mi-Way by just approaching my butt (with wallet) to the scanner. Tapping Off on the subway is a poorly implemented unnecessity.

    I think you have the impression of Presto backwards. They’ve fought not to accept third-party cards and have only done so due to public pressure. Likewise, there are non-debit/credit methods to load a Presto card (I believe all currently have a service charge). This is completely a mess of TTC creation in how they plan to implement the change.

    Steve: This comment has been re-edited and formatted to clean up a problem with lost tabs in the tables above.

    Note that the best way to include such data within a comment is to format it in a text editor using a fixed pitch font like Courier, and then paste the text into the comment bracketed by “pre” formatting tags. Do not use tabs as these are eaten the moment I open the comment in the editor.


  17. Drivers are simply refusing to respect the all door boading. The only time that I have been able to board through the back doors is if someone is exiting. I would like to see some kind of financial penalty for drivers who disrespect the policy. It’s very dangerous for someone going to the back doors which fail to open and then he/she has to run to the front doors on the road (not the sidewalk) and sometimes the streetcar leaves while the customer is running on the road from the back doors to the front doors.


  18. Like other readers I anticipate acquiring the habit of always remembering to “tap to get off” will be expensive for us older riders, and a constant source of annoyance.

    Steve: You will only have to tap out of subway stations, not off of surface vehicles. This practice won’t go into effect until at least 2017.

    If I have understood how Presto works, your balance is not kept on your card itself. Rather using your card generates a transaction that debits your card, but not necessarily in real time. So how does the fare inspector know I paid?

    Steve: The Fare Inspector has a reader that can query activity on the card itself, or by “calling home” to get recent transaction history for the card id.

    Do they scan my card in a special reader? What if my card was scanned properly, but the transaction hasn’t been posted yet? What if the information available to the inspector’s portable device is out of date? Could I think I have paid, but the inspector’s portable device tells him or her I haven’t?

    Steve: The transaction is posted in real time. In the case of a Presto card (as opposed to a bank card or other form of read-only identification) it should also be posted to the card itself.

    What if the transceivers on a vehicle have lost contact with HQ, at the time I use my card? Does the vehicle’s Presto robot save up all the transactions to transmit, in a burst, when contact with HQ is lost? What if contact with HQ is not established?

    Steve: I believe that this is the protocol.

    Those computers that announce the next bus stop? They seem to crash quite frequently. If there are detours, they inform riders of stops that are not in use, or of stops that are used by other routes. They are quite unreliable. Maybe the TTC regards the stop-announcement as a frill, and they don’t regard making sure it is accurate, or robust, as all that important. But Presto is a different matter, if the chance that a fare inspector is going to publicly shame me, for not paying my fare, I would like the chance that that accusation is based on a technical problem to be very slim.

    Steve: The stop announcement system is rather less robust than the Presto card. Where Presto will have problem is with applying transfer rules to short turns and diversions. This is not a technology issue, but rather the boneheaded stupidity of the TTC that will not shift to a time-based rather than location-based transfer rule.


  19. Steve: Careful. Unless you have Presto or some other turnstile-readable fare receipt, you won’t be able to get out of the subway. It’s not a question of “if” one uses Presto.


    What about emergencies? Emergency planning often sucks. And emergency plans, even when well thought out, often get completely undermined by illiterate low-level employees, whose attitude is “Oh Well, the rider/resident/shopper/employee will learn the system is down, when they try to do something, and it fails.”

    Steve: There is supposed to be a station agent to unlock the fare gates, and this should be tied in with any fire alarm. Of course, finding the station agent will be a challenge, and there are no fire alarms in the public areas of subway stations.

    I was locked into a building on the campus of Wilfrid Laurier University, fifteen years ago, when I worked late, one Friday night. The building had some kind of electronic locks, on all doors. The door I usually exited by was beside the loading dock. You had to press a button, and you could hear a buzz as the lock was temporarily unlocked. I had noticed that the mechanism had been buzzing, all week long, but, not my department, I hadn’t worried about it.

    I go to exit, about 7pm. The lock mechanism isn’t buzzing, but it won’t open the door for me. I go to the exits in the other three corners of the building. They are all locked too.

    So I phoned the campus police. The building had been hit by lightning, or there had been a power failure, or for some other reason, the robot that controlled the electronic door locks had crashed. No one knew how to reboot it. So, for the previous five days it had been shut out, or something like that.

    The cop who answered the call told me I could use the handicapped exit, that it was a separate system, and its door opening system was still working. Great, except that his instructions assumed I knew where the handicapped entrance/exit was. Again, I went to all four corners of the building, tried all doors, without success. I could see the campus cop car parked beside mine, in the parking lot. Waving at them didn’t work. I returned to my office, and phone again. Again I was told to use the handicap door, without being given adequate instructions on where it was. I asked him to radio the cops waiting in the parking lot, for me to depart, and he wouldn’t do so.

    It turned out it was in the main lobby, but, it wasn’t in the same bank of doors as those for the able bodied, and it was hidden, behind a pillar.

    Was I ready to panic? Not at first, but I was getting there.

    I think we see this all the time — systems where the failure mode could trap people, if there was a fire. In retrospect I regret I hadn’t phoned the fire department when the lazy-ass campus police were so unhelpful.

    In building after building, you will see a pair of doors, or a bank of several doors, where all but one door will be locked. Presumably when the architects submitted their plans they planned for banks of doors because the number of occupants required that many doors, for a safe exit, in case of emergencies. Locking all but one exit will likely result in injuries, or even deaths, if there is a panic if there is a fire.

    The worst case of this I have seen was in the emergency stair well, at the Eaton’s Centre, just next to the subway, at Shuter. I haven’t exited there recently, but when I used to exit at Shuter, and chose to use the non-TTC stairs, I used to find a hellish danger.

    Inside the mezzanine, there were three or four extra broad fire doors. They were all open. The stair were very broad, more than three meters wide. The stairs curved clockwise, so the most convenient door in the bank of doors was the rightmost one.

    But it is locked. It won’t open. The next one is locked, won’t open. In fact they were all locked, except the very leftmost one. Worse the hinges on these doors were all on the right hand side, and, unlike usual emergency doors, they aren’t opened by a push-bar. They are opened by an L-shaped handle — on the left hand side. A right-handed guy, like me, has to reach across one’s body to open it. It was very awkward.

    As I walked away, the first time, I was very troubled by imagining what it would be like trying to use that exit, in the dark, while being jostled by a hundred other panicky people, only to discover that is seemed all the doors were locked.

    I encourage you to check the public buildings you frequent. I think you will be surprised at how often buildings with pairs of doors, or a bank of doors, will have had janitors or other staff who routinely leave all but one door locked. Everyone is a potential disaster.

    I really hope the big brains at the TTC thoroughly think out all the things that can go wrong in systems where the rider has to use their card to exit. I really hope their planning includes thinking about lazy or poorly-trained employees who undermine their fine plans, as with those lazy-ass campus cops, or those who routinely lock fire doors.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. With regard to driver/operator training not keeping staff up to date on policy changes, on all door boarding — when I was a teenager there was one particular driver who always made me pay an adult fare, because he was two years out of date on the policy on student cards.

    In 1972 a student card was only valid up until 4:30, or 5 pm. They didn’t start to be valid until 7:30 or 8 am. And they could only be used by students who were under eighteen years old. I was sixteen at that time, and sometime that school year, maybe January 1973, the policy was changed, making the card valid 24/7 and dropping the maximum age clause They still needed to be signed by your Principal however.

    Well, two years later, when I was eighteen, I had to change the order of my ID, in my wallet, so my birth certificate didn’t face my student card, as so many drivers would insist on an adult fare. (Luckily student fare was exactly half an adult fare, so a second student ticket sufficed.)

    Even after I changed the order there was one mean SOB who remembered my age, and who continued to insist I pay adult fare.

    I am sorry to learn TTC staff education efforts haven’t improved in the last forty-three years.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think a lot of the complications of the potential uses, abuses, misuses and limits of systems like Presto are due to technological anomalies. I think even if current systems have hard limits, due to those technological anomalies, it makes sense to think of how fare payment would work, without those technological anomalies. If we think of thoses systems for tomorrow, today, maybe we can design today’s system with a better, clearer, transition path to the more ideal system?

    Presto, like the key-fob system I use at my apartment, is unpowered — no battery. A fare system that used an app, on my smart-phone, has many disadvantages. Among them is that I might think I have enough power in my phone’s battery, for my entire trip, only to have the inspector ping me, after my battery died, and determine I am riding illegally, when no device tells him or her when I paid.

    My apartment’s key-fob doesn’t need to be tapped. It just needs to be brought near the reader. I’d like a system which could read my token when I entered a vehicle’s door, and when I exited, without requiring any thought on my part.

    The devices on toll-fobs for freeways have a much greater range. Drivers don’t have to tap them, for them to be read. So why does Presto require a tap? I read a story, in the RISKS digest, about a guy who moved away from New Jersey, without turning in the vehicle fob for the New Jersey turnpike system. So he contacts the New Jersey highway department, about how to return the fob, for his deposit, so he can close out his account. He is instructed to send the device back to a depot, via Fedex. He does so, and receives his final bill. He thinks it should have no charges, as it covers the period after he left New Jersey. But it has one last usage on it. Worse, he think it is actually after he couriered the device back. Now he is mad. He phones up billing, to complain.

    The billing clerk, tells him he thinks he can explain the apparently anomalous charge.

    Did one of his colleagues tell him to send the device back through Fedex?

    Isn’t the date on the anomalous charge a day after he sent the device back?

    And the entry and exit ramps, are their zip-codes this and that? Well those are the ramps nearest the cargo terminal at Newark International Airport, and the ramp nearest our depot. When the Fedex truck carrying his package went on the freeway, that truck’s own fob was charged, and so were all fob’s being carried back to the depot.

    A system like Presto that can be read at a greater distance than Presto, might erroneously record, as passengers, people who are merely waiting on the platform with their girlfiend or boyfriend. They might record, as a passenger, the owner of a Presto card, who merely rides by a vehicle, on their bicycle, with their Presto card in their wallet.

    Steve: Near Field Communications systems (NFC) are usually calibrated for their sensitivity, and things like fare cards are read only at close range. In the case of toll fobs, they have to be set for longer-range sensitivity for obvious reasons. Some people have fantasies about barrier-free stations that would simply record the passage of customers, but this would require longer range sensing, and would also run into a problem if someone was carrying more than one card (analogous to the Fedex Newark story). Requiring a “tap” also brings in a level of “consent” that one has actually paid.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Presto may have its own implementation glitches.

    This evening, a friend of mine had just got off a GO bus at Union Station. She had tapped off properly. We walked up to King to catch the 504 streetcar. I used a token; she used her Presto card, which was declined. Having checked her balance earlier in the weekend and knowing what trips she had taken, I know that her balance was over 20.00.

    There may be a real possibility that the mobile terminals on the streetcars will not accept a card which still has an “active”, i.e. not time-expired GO trip. There is also the problem that the readers provide no diagnostics at all beyond “declined”. When I suggested that the issue should be raised internally, the driver and TTC info person at the front (a) were obviously unwilling and unprepared to do so themselves and (b) suggested that the person to raise it with was the CEO, not their technical department.

    I think they need to get on their game.


  23. I’ve been using my Presto card on TTC trips originating with a streetcar ride. I’m able to transfer by Presto tap from streetcar to streetcar and from streetcar to subway without being charged a second fare.

    It appears the TTC has implemented Presto with a two-hour transfer as I have made long stopovers and boarded streetcars without being charged again.

    I have not tested the scenario where I board another car on the same line where my trip originated.

    Presto taps are immediately posted to your account and are viewable online or via the Presto reload machines in subway stations.


  24. Erick wrote:

    “Some commuter-oriented transit system can get away with cash fares providing no transfers, because in such system, the poor and transit-dependent are treated with contempt. I don’t think it would fly in Toronto though. “

    I concur with you on this Erick. At least with tokens, which can be used at a turnstile, at least groups like the Salvation Army can help out the lower income residents with tokens for transit.

    Novak wrote:

    “The 501 has been POP for the last at least 20 years and if the message has not filtered all the way to the ground yet, then it will never be filtered all the way to the ground.”

    Steve wrote:

    “The old rules were that opening the back door was at the discretion of the operator, and was generally not done after 7 pm.”

    Steve, has the TTC actually changed the rules about all doors boarding. The TTC does not mention this on their website page about POP, and maybe my years of travelling on the TTC makes me critical of the TTC, but has the TTC formally announced that these rules have been updated?

    Steve: See the TTC’s site which claims that all-door boarding is available all the time:

    All-door boarding will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on all streetcar lines beginning December 14. Proof-of-Payment (POP) will be required on streetcar routes. Your transfer or your TTC pass is your proof-of-payment.

    What the website and the press conferences say, and what they tell (or don’t tell) the operators, are two quite different things.


  25. Has the TTC considered abandoning this bizarre technocrat’s dream and simply raising fares to solve short term money woes?


  26. @arcticredriver,
    FYI, key-fobs use batteries. It’s just that they normally use Lithium ion batteries, which end up lasting for years. NFC systems, in addition to being calibrated for their range, can be calibrated for directionality. Steve does raise a few good points, which I’d previously not considered. I would suggest that with “fare-barrier-free station” of the future, Presto cards be issued with a protective sleeve, such that they are unreadable unless you’ve taken it out. So people with multiple cards need only have one read, and by having the card out-of-sleeve, it means that you consent to being charged.

    If you didn’t hear, the TTC is raising fares. The question remains what level of funding will come from the City.


  27. I’ve worked in various IT development and data processing roles. My sense is that adapting the Presto model to the TTC’s transfer policy is going to be much harder to do successfully than anyone expects.

    I believe that it’s fair to say that the TTC’s transfer policy can be boiled down to “a single one-way journey with no stopover”. Currently, it works because operators barely glance at transfers. The actual operational rule is “if you don’t look indigent, don’t proffer a wrinkled and dirty transfer, and don’t get on where there isn’t clearly a transfer point, you’re fine”. I think this will cover 99.9% of transferring activity, if not more.

    But computers and data systems need logical, consistent, well-thought-out business rules (which the TTC’s transfer policy is not), and those rules need to be implemented by someone with good domain knowledge, and then lots of QA needs to be done to find all the bugs that nevertheless will creep into the system.

    If I’m reading the proposed tap on/off rules correctly, I could tap on a westbound 39 Finch East at Seneca College at 3:15 PM, then the next tap might be on a westbound 501 at Lake Shore and Islington at 5:25 PM. One trip or two? (Secret answer: one trip that I can easily explain.) Determining what makes a legit one-way journey is not that easy. Any proposed scheme needs to be able to look possibly three or four levels deep to make an accurate judgement. That’s hard. I’ve gotten bizarre routing suggestions from the TTC’s trip planner because the system is complex and programming that intelligence into lookup tables or what have you is not that easy

    If I tap out at Queen station at 5:15 PM, and I tap onto a westbound 501 at 5:33 PM, did I take a stopover, or was there a big gap, or were the first two streetcars signed up for McCaul and Shaw? An operator would know when there’s a blizzard and service is scattered, but how will the Presto software?

    Given say 1.5 million rides per day, with likely 1-2 transfers, if you correctly charge for 99.9% of the rides, you will still get 1,500 complaints per day that have to be resolved. Unlike a dispute with an operator or ticket collector, there’s significant overhead in figuring it out after the fact, over the phone or via e-mails. (I assume operators will basically stay out of any “Presto mischarged me!” discussions: they are not systems analysts.)

    As far as I am concerned, 2017 for a properly-functioning Presto system incorporating the TTC’s current transfer rules is impossible, despite what the project managers’ MS Project plans look like right now, and despite what the powerpoints of the Presto/TTC Implementation Team say.

    Then the next choice is to go to time-based transfers, which are dead easy to program for. But TTC management apparently doesn’t understand the huge technical risks — which can lead to a public relations debacle — while they hold tightly to the “we’ll lose some revenue!” mantra.

    The alternative elephant in the room is Metrolinx’ regional fare integration study. Whatever they come up with, no matter how unpalatable to current TTC riders who never cross fare boundaries (which would be the vast majority of them), the rules will probably be simpler and easier to implement than what we have on the plate now.

    Steve: Slightly more accurately, I suspect, is that management are not willing to take on their Board by saying that a two hour transfer is the only way Presto will work in the face of some members for whom any imputed loss of revenue goes against their most basic instincts. The debacle that will follow will be of their own making.

    The odd thing is that the more people are using “passes” or their equivalent, the whole transfer issue becomes less important. But again, we run headlong into management’s bias against passes because the TTC “loses money” on them. The simplicity of administration and enforcement has no value to folks with that attitude.


  28. Edward Brain wrote:

    I concur with you on this Erick. At least with tokens, which can be used at a turnstile, at least groups like the Salvation Army can help out the lower income residents with tokens for transit.

    Which makes me think of the current holiday don’t-drink-and-drive ads, which suggest providing inebriated guests with TTC tokens to get home. Which completely doesn’t work if the host needs to buy a bunch of $6 Presto cards loaded (almost definitely) with a far-too-large minimum balance.

    The more we chew on this, the more clear it is to me that there are a lot of valid needs for a single-use no-additional-cost fare medium, be it tokens or tickets. School trips (and not just children, ESL students too), social assistance organizations, party hosts, and even some socially conscious employers in certain circumstances all have uses for fare media that can be simply handed out.

    Presto isn’t that.

    Steve: It has already been repeatedly stated by the TTC that there will be single use (or possibly limited use), Presto cards that could be purchased in bulk like tokens and handed out. This issue has been raised several times by deputations at TTC meetings.

    That said, it would not surprise me in the least to find the Presto cannot actually support such media. This is a classic example of how a demonstration of the capability would simply check off one of the requirements rather than having it surface over and over as a concern.


  29. From several examples that people have posted on-line, it’s become quite clear, that the TTC transfers have (for now at least) on Presto have been implemented with a 2-hour (or more?) transfer. Examples have been given of travelling one-way on the 504, and then returning an hour later with a transfer, rather than a new charge. And more surprisingly, I’ve seen two examples of tapping into a subway station on Yonge, and within 2-hours tapping in again at a different subway stations much further north!

    Is TTC really unaware that that is how it is working, is this some bizarre game of institutional chicken, in an attempt to get Metrolinx to fork out $20 million a year in damages for not being able to put in the TTC’s transfer table (or basically, agreeing in writing to something that was not possible)?

    Steve: This is an intriguing question because of all the talk about time-based transfers and the reluctance of the TTC Board to implement them, coupled with the fact that Presto is not collecting as much revenue as it should if the existing rules (assuming they could be coded) were enforced.


  30. People on UrbanToronto are reporting many examples of de facto 2-hour transfers. I guess that the Presto folk actually can’t cope with the TTC’s transfer rules!

    Steve: Brad Ross reports via Twitter that the current setup is temporary, and the “TTC rules” will kick in in mid-January.


  31. Steve said:

    “It will be interesting to see how long it takes the TTC to make use of the vast amount of customer journey data they will have.”

    I suspect that it will be fairly quick since it would provide hard numbers for the peak pricing, time transfer and fare by distance questions. Of course, I’m assuming that the TTC actually wants to answer those questions and to use quantitative answers for them.


  32. Steve wrote:

    It has already been repeatedly stated by the TTC that there will be single use (or possibly limited use), Presto cards that could be purchased in bulk like tokens and handed out. This issue has been raised several times by deputations at TTC meetings.

    This is a perfect example of how the TTC is aimed at making this fail, just like when the trial of breaking up the Queen car into separate east and west routes.

    Cash will be with us for the foreseeable future and it should be supported in fareboxes, or at least in single-fare-media from vending machines. Implementing a single-use Presto card seems akin to the episode on the Simpsons where the bowling alley receives truckloads of logs that are machined down and painted to be used once as a bowling pin and then thrown out.


  33. Calvin H-C says:

    “Cash will be with us for the foreseeable future and it should be supported in fareboxes, or at least in single-fare-media from vending machines.”

    I always try to use public transit when I visit other cities and, if possible, buy weekly or multi-day passes so I usually do not buy single trip tickets but it seems to me that fewer and fewer large cities accept cash fares on vehicles. (Certainly London does not do so any more and I think NYC stopped too.) The TTC seems to be moving in the same direction and I am sure we will all cope; they are planning single-use (free?) Presto cards and moving to “x day” rather than weekly passes.


  34. Yesterday stopped at a friend’s place had a few. Go out to get bus and happened to see a friend driving by. I got a ride home. Next morning I see a text that my wallet was at friends place. How do I get back there without cash fares on bus or 30 min walk to subway Stn.


  35. Brad Ross reports via Twitter that the current setup is temporary, and the “TTC rules” will kick in in mid-January.

    Is that when they will spring a surprise request for $20 million in additional subsidy on to council because the system isn’t working and can’t be made to work?


  36. I notice that most streetcar drivers are not respecting the all door boarding policy especially at night. A male passenger boarded complaining that the back doors did not open at about 1:13AM on a northbound 511 Bathurst streetcar at Ulster St on 24 Dec, 2015. The driver demanded proof-of-payment but the customer argued that the driver should have opened the back doors. The customer eventually got upset and spat at the male driver and punched him and fled. While violence is never acceptable, the customer was indeed right and I think that the driver unnecessarily wasted everyone’s time. I don’t understand why drivers defy TTC policies and act like tough guys – if you want to act like a tough guy, then get a job in the fare enforcement unit and NOT work as a driver. Merry Christmas to you Steve!

    Steve: The TTC has updated its PoP page with the following text:

    All-door boarding is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on all streetcar lines. Please note that Operators do have discretion and you may be required to board at the front doors overnight, at less busy stops or when it is extremely cold.

    This brings the “official” version into line with actual operations. It’s a shame this was not clarified as part of the original announcement which quite clearly talked about 7×24 all-door boarding with no exceptions.


  37. Steve said:

    This brings the “official” version into line with actual operations. It’s a shame this was not clarified as part of the original announcement which quite clearly talked about 7×24 all-door boarding with no exceptions.

    This is all too typical of TTC announcements (especially those made by the politicians) – the fact that PRESTO is on all streetcars was not qualified by the not unimportant caveat that PRESTO has not yet (??) been trained on the transfer rules and using PRESTO gives one a 2-hour window. Did the TTC really think that nobody would notice or were they actually unaware or ???


  38. Mapleson wrote:

    “@Nathanael, beware those with an axe to grind or in a different country. “

    London costs $0 but has a deposit (refundable), Vancouver costs $0 but has a deposit (refundable). Very few cities have a non-refundable fee. Seattle does, and it causes very low adoption. I take your point that based on current exchange rates Seattle’s ridiculous fee is slightly higher than Toronto’s ridiculous fee.

    Mapleson wrote:

    “For example, does it keep the processing fees charged to local transit authorities lower, and subsequently our fares?”

    No. It raises your fares by $6! It also discourages people from using Presto at all, which means that the local transit authorities are getting a lot less for their money!


    “It is Presto who charge the $6 fee, not the TTC, and it is Presto who are out of line with the rest of the world.”

    TTC is choosing to contract with Presto, are they not? It’s quite feasible to put “no nonrefundable per-card fee” in the contract conditions with Presto; it’s pretty simple. Who is setting fare policy anyway, TTC or Presto? This could be considered part of fare policy.

    Another way to look at it is to note that Presto is a division of Metrolinx! So Metrolinx has no excuse whatsoever for being so far out of line with world standards.

    How can TTC and Metrolinx *both* screw up this badly?

    Anyway, the main point: if you actually want people to pay with a smartcard, you have to make it cheap and easy to *get* the smartcard. For the cost of Presto, I can get a smartcard in Boston or San Diego or LA *and* take two trips (or ride all day, in the case of San Diego). If the upfront cost of the card is too high, the unbanked, those with low cash flow, tourists, and the impatient will all keep using cash; that’s a lot of categories.

    Steve: The TTC and Presto claim that the cost is intended to discourage people from treating these as throwaway cards. This doesn’t explain how other cities get by with much lower purchase costs, and sounds like a made up excuse to replace “cost recovery for making the cards” which seems to have disappeared as a rayionale.


  39. Steve:

    The TTC and Presto claim that the cost is intended to discourage people from treating these as throwaway cards.

    If this were the primary reason, surely a refundable $6 deposit would do as much to prevent seeing them as throwaways as the $6 purchase cost.

    It sounds to me like they got called on an excessive ‘cost recovery’ amount, and are now trying to cover a cash grab.


  40. Why do you have such a hate hard-on for Metrolinx?

    Steve: I was contemplating just deleting this comment/question, but thought it was worth a brief reply.

    Metrolinx does a lot of things well, but it is far from perfect. I have three major issues with Metrolinx as a public transportation agency.

    First, and probably the most serious, is the fact that it is an “agency of the Province of Ontario”. On paper, its mandate may be to build a regional plan and operate service, but an important function is to demonstrate to people in the GTHA, particularly those voters outside of Toronto, how wonderful a job Queen’s Park is doing looking after them. This creates an environment where everything related to Metrolinx is “good news”, and criticism is unwelcome. Planning and decisions take on the mantle of Government Policy which is always “right”, and the agency’s job is to defend those policies no matter what. UPX is a prime example of this, but Metrolinx compounds the problem by packaging the operation as a premium service with its own division and President within the organization. “Pretentious” does not begin to describe the situation. The ongoing denial of problems with pricing and ridership, the dubious “business case”, and the refusal to acknowledge that of all the transit projects the GTHA might have seen, UPX led a charmed life as a project of a former Premier — these all combine to undermine the credibility of the organization and emphasize its political, as opposed to professional, function.

    Comparable problems arose with Presto where technical constraints hamstrung the options for fare structures and media until the “Next Generation” Presto system was introduced. There is still a sense that Metrolinx will foist a fare system onto the GTHA, and particularly in Toronto where transit ridership and fare effects would be huge by comparison with other locations, using Presto and “regional integration” as the justification. The last thing Metrolinx (and by implication Queen’s Park) seems to want is any change to their own status quo that could require additional subsidies.

    Second is the matter of public transparency and responsiveness. Metrolinx inherited GO Transit’s unfriendly manner of conducting public participation on its construction projects which itself was typical of the Ministry of Transportation from which GO sprang. Many of the political problems brought on the Government by the Georgetown South project, notably in Weston, were due to a ham-fisted approach to public input, and the political precedence of the project over local opposition. This was compounded during the early days of the electrification study when GO saw the proposal more as a sop to anti-diesel activists than as a benefit to its future growth. Some statements made at public meetings revealed an appalling lack of knowledge of the technology issues. If an agency expects to be treated as “experts”, “professionals” whose opinions and plans should be respected, the worst possible tactic is a high-handed manner with critics, and a hopelessly inadequate knowledge of the issues.

    Things have changed over the years in an attempt to improve the organization’s responsiveness, and the effects can be seen in the Eglinton Crosstown project. This is a big, intrusive undertaking, but it also has the advantage that the neighbourhoods affected by construction wind up with something in return — a new rapid transit line — rather than a service for people who live somewhere else.

    Metrolinx was originally a planning agency, and operational responsibilities were only folded in with the amalgamation of GO Transit. The two cultures didn’t exactly mix, and there is still a sense that the Planning side of the shop needs to learn more about how real, day-to-day transit actually works. The regional mandate and scope of Metrolinx also shows up as a lack of sensitivity to local transit issues, although that is changing very slowly. At the political level, there is a fundamental problem that real improvement in transit will come not just from building more tracks, bus lanes and LRT, but from operating good service on both the regional and local networks. That costs money, and Queen’s Park isn’t too hot on actually funding the transit vision its agency could enable.

    Finally there is the matter of governance. Unlike local transit agencies, notably the TTC, which report to their local councils, Metrolinx is remote. The Board meets publicly four times a year, and there is a sense that even this is done mostly for show. Actual debate, let alone dissent, in these meetings is rare, and the Board’s primary job appears to be fawning over work done by their staff, and exulting in continued progress and success. There is no sense the Board actually directs anything, and questions from some members indicate only a tenuous knowledge of what Metrolinx actually does. “Seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day” would make an excellent motto.

    Substantive decisions are made not by Metrolinx itself, but by Queen’s Park based on political and financial considerations that are rarely the topic of public debate. The GO/RER plan is the first large-scale funding commitment that goes beyond one budget cycle or the next by-election to a multi-year network view of transit growth. It’s a good first step, but even that is hobbled by future issues of operational funding and the change of GO from a commuter to an all-day truly regional agency. Better funding of local transit will be imperative as a collector/distributor for GO/RER, lest the service be inaccessible to those whose access to and from stations is not by private auto.

    The very nature of Metrolinx as the public face of an otherwise closed debate within the Government precludes a meaningful discussion of what public transit should actually be. We have “The Big Move”, the regional plan, but there is no sense of just what Ontario think transit should look like in the GTHA in a few decades’ time, let alone how they will pay for it.


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