An out of service Presto reader is not exactly an unusual thing to find on a TTC vehicle, but when both readers are not working, this does not inspire confidence in the system. I posed a series of questions to the TTC about this, and today (August 11) received a reply from their Communications team.
Who is responsible for maintaining these devices? TTC or Presto?
PRESTO has responsibility for maintaining the devices. On a temporary basis the TTC is doing first line maintenance, while second line maintenance and all other maintenance activities are done by PRESTO. TTC and PRESTO are currently in discussions about the best long-term approach for maintenance of the PRESTO devices.
Will a vehicle’s not having a working reader become a reason for taking it out of service because it cannot collect fares?
If the devices aren’t working the operator will allow a customer to board and ask them to tap their PRESTO card at the next point of entry into the system.
Is it possible to change out a Presto reader as an on street repair?
The TTC is not doing on-street swapouts of devices – this is due to the potential disruption to service and customers, and the fact that the swap out may not correct the problem. TTC’s emphasis has been to undertake these activities back at the garage or carhouse, where a proper assessment can be undertaken without disrupting service.
Assuming that the TTC retains its existing transfer rules, how does a rider avoid being charged for a new fare when one leg of their journey is not recorded because there is no working reader on the vehicle?
If the non-working device is the first one the customer encounters, there is no fare charged until that customer taps on a second device. If it is the second device that a customer encounters that is not working, the PRESTO card still has a valid payment on it so there is still no issue. It is only if the customer goes to a third device (after the second one isn’t working) that there may be a problem. It would depend on the circumstances whether the customer may get charged a new fare. If this did occur, it would be possible to investigate the situation using the data generated by the PRESTO system to confirm the circumstances and potentially provide any reimbursement to the customer.
In the subway, the new fare gates are TTC infrastructure and I assume TTC is responsible for maintenance (either directly or by contract). By analogy to the vehicles, who is responsible for the Presto component?
The TTC is responsible for the first line maintenance on the gates; the fare gate manufacturer is contractually responsible for second line maintenance. If there are issues with the PRESTO component (e.g. PRESTO software) that component still is the responsibility of PRESTO.
Who maintains the fare machines in subway stations and on surface routes, both on vehicles and on platforms?
As above, contractually this is the responsibility of PRESTO. Currently, first line maintenance of the Fares and Transfers Machines on new streetcars and on off-board locations are being done by TTC under an arrangement with PRESTO. The parties are discussing a long-term approach. For the PRESTO Self-Serve Reload Machines located near the fare lines in subways, PRESTO has the responsibility and is undertaking all maintenance activities related to these devices.
How much of the claimed saving of eliminating fare collection costs is not being achieved because of work TTC has to do to keep Presto operational? A dollar figure may be difficult to come by here, but is there a headcount for the staff who might otherwise have been redeployed who have to stay on fare equipment maintenance to service Presto?
The TTC is still very much in the early phase of transitioning from legacy fare media to PRESTO. Less than 4% of TTC’s rides are currently being undertaken using the PRESTO card. Therefore, there are still ongoing responsibilities for legacy fare media that require maintaining staff until those activities are reduced or eliminated. Significant savings would not occur until legacy fare media was eliminated and the associated business processes were also eliminated.
And so, in brief, the answer is that TTC looks after things, at least for now, but will hand them off to others (Presto or the fare gate provider who has a maintenance contract). Split responsibilities are a recipe for missed communication and problems with tracking repair status, but we will see how this works out.
As for transfer rules, the problem (as discussed on this site before) lies with journeys of more than two vehicles where an intermediate leg is “missing” thanks to a non-working Presto machine. (This also affects riders making non-standard transfer connections such as for diversions and short turns, not to mention GPS errors.) Whether riders will even notice that they are being overbilled for Presto usage or will take the trouble to track their trip history online and complain remains to be seen. If the Presto equipment stays in good working order a very high percentage of the time, this won’t be a problem, but even a 1% out of service rate could affect a large number of trips.