TTC Presto Update December 2016 (Updated)

Updated January 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm: Information has been added about Presto sales within TTC subway stations. See the end of the article.

With a modest fanfare, both the TTC and Metrolinx celebrated the completion, if that’s the right word, of their planned 2016 roll out of the Presto fare card system. The work is not yet finished, and the full conversion away from existing “legacy” media is a year off. According to the TTC:

“Tickets, Tokens and passes will be available for sale and use throughout 2017. We will stop accepting these in 2018.” [Presentation, p 8]

Still to be worked out is the actual final date beyond which any tokens or tickets bought in 2017 can be used or redeemed. With the TTC Board committed to a fare freeze in 2018 (election year) the old media won’t expire on their own, and of course tokens are always good for “one fare”, whatever it may be.

At some point in 2017, the TTC will begin to offer Metropasses on Presto. This will include regular and monthly discount plan versions, but the fate of the bulk purchase “VIP” program is still uncertain. According to the TTC, the roll out of passes by Presto had been delayed awaiting capacity upgrades in the central system to handle the volume of transactions passes will bring. This was confirmed by Metrolinx who said:

“As with any major system expansion, related upgrades are scheduled to roll out gradually as we test and optimize our system for anticipated increases in future use. These upgrades are deliberate and measured, and they include improvements such as the migrating to our new data centre. The system has been built with enhanced scalability features that will accommodate Metropasses.” [email of Dec. 21, 2016]

For now, Metropass users should remain on the “legacy” cards until the same functions and pricing are available through Presto.

Riders wishing to purchase Presto cards have faced a challenge thanks to the limited number of TTC outlets selling them. This is about to change. Already Presto cards can be bought at many Gateway News outlets, and Metrolinx expects this to expand in 2017:

“We are pursuing plans to expand the PRESTO card distribution footprint through a partnership with a third-party retail network. This network would also enable us to increase our ability to set special concessions, such as student and senior discounts. We expect to have more information to share in the new year.”

An important part of the sales process is that riders who are entitled to concession fares will be able to buy cards with that option pre-loaded. However, there is a potential conflict with the TTC’s intended implementation of discount fares that could complicate this type of purchase and account setup.

For a few classes of rider, the TTC proposes that a “Photo ID” be available. This would not be a separate card as in the early days of the Metropass, but a photo integrated into the user’s Presto card and account. The exact mechanism for loading this photo have yet to be determined. Also, it is not yet certain that photos will be required for seniors because, unlike children and students, their eligibility never expires, and linking the card to the rider for fraud prevention is less of an issue. One side effect the TTC did not mention is that a return to photo ID makes the card non-transferable, and this would produce limitations on its use that do not exist with current media.

There have been many questions about how Presto will work for the several fare types now in use. The charts below are taken from the presentation at the TTC Board meeting of December 20, 2016.

20161220_presto_singlefares

The daily and weekly passes will be replaced with a “loyalty” fare cap so that a rider who does not have a monthly pass loaded on their card would be charged no more than the “equivalent to pass” fare per day or per week. For example, the Day Pass is worth the same as four tokens, and so riders would not be charged more than four fares in one day. Similarly, the weekly charge would be no more than the value of a weekly pass. This will give the benefit of passes without the need to actually buy one in advance. There is no word yet on how the “Family Pass” for weekends and holidays will work.

20161220_presto_passes

Premium fare services are simply a different class of Monthly Pass that would be loaded onto a Presto card as an add-on to the regular monthly pass.

One class of fares has come up often in the lead-up to conversion. Many agencies give away tokens and tickets to their clients, and with the disappearance of legacy media they will need an alternative. This will be handled with single use Presto cards. There is no date announced yet for when these will be available.

20161220_presto_misc

The Presto card readers on vehicles have given problems. During the fall when there was so much “good news” about the ongoing installations, it was not unusual to encounter one or more out of service readers on a TTC vehicle. Metrolinx conducted a review, and

  • The review included improving cellular network connectivity, refining the monitoring system, checking validator performance and reviewing first line maintenance processes performed by the TTC.
  • A recent field check of all surface vehicles showed that overall validator availability is now consistently over 98%.
  • Once into steady state next year, the goal is to be over 99%.
  • [Metrolinx December 2016 Presto Update, p 6]

With a daily tap volume in the millions, even 99.9% would leave a few thousand transactions every day that could not be properly handled.

To the basic reliability issues must be added logic issues related to calculating which taps actually constitute a “linked trip” and therefore should only incur one fare. This brings us to the knotty issue of transfer rules versus time-based fares where a rider would get a fixed time (two hours, for example) before a second fare was charged. This functionality is already on Presto for other GTHA systems, but is not enabled on the TTC.

There are many problems with the GPS-based calculations for TTC trips including misreporting of a rider’s location, and double-charging for transfers when these occur at non-standard locations. Probably the most ridiculous example is in the pending split of the 501 Queen route for 2017 where the TTC advises:

When transferring between 501 Queen streetcars and buses using PRESTO, do not tap onto the next vehicle when boarding.

In other words, a year-long route change will use a non-standard protocol for handling transfers rather than having appropriate logic built into the Presto system.

The TTC Board has dragged its heels on a move to time-based transfers citing the estimated $20 million “cost” of lost revenue based on the premise that about 4% of riders would make a second trip “free” within the two-hour window. They have not considered the convenience factor, the simplicity of verifying whether another fare is due, or the cost and annoyance of resolving disputes where Presto overcharges riders. This can occur not only through GPS errors, but also by transfers at non-standard locations such as short turns and diversions.

The silver lining to this setup is that the proposed daily fare cap will make “trip chaining” more practical even without the two-hour fare, although the lost revenue from this will still be about $10m based on the estimate that 2% of riders will benefit from the cap. (Again, remember that only a minority of riders pay for trips by single fares as opposed to passes or some other discount system.)

Problems with the Presto fare load machines are supposed to be fixed with the introduction of replacement units early in 2017. Although Presto is a Metrolinx product, riders see this as a TTC issue because they are at the front lines. TTC staff are responsible for first level support of both the Presto equipment and the new fare gates under contract arrangements with the respective vendors. This simplifies and consolidates basic support, but with the teething problems of both systems, this drops a lot of work in the TTC’s lap. There are no published stats yet on the speed with which failing machines are repaired or the responsiveness of the various groups responsible.

Metrolinx plans to roll out upgraded Presto fare vending machines early in 2017. Early complaints about these were fobbed off with the claim that the TTC was an unusual operating environment, but similar problems have been reported with these machines in GO Transit locations as well. More recently, there are tales of mismatches between customer behaviour and the expectations of software on the machines. That is a classic design problem, and one has to wonder how such machines made it out of the shop.

In the December 2016 Presto Update, Metrolinx reported:

  • The 70 machines are heavily used and perform 35-40,000 loads per week.
  • A custom designed machine, it is not meeting reliability targets and causing challenges for customers.
  • Metrolinx has escalated concerns to the suppliers who are working to resolve the issues.
  • The second generation machines are now in testing and are expected to be significantly improved.
  • The current machines will be replaced with the new generation machines early next year.

Also coming to Presto in 2017 are:

  • Concession fare cards for children, youth (now called “students”) and post-secondary students,
  • Presto support for Wheel-Trans sedan taxis,
  • Passes for the blind and for support persons travelling with disabled riders,
  • Support for York Region fares on TTC buses travelling outside of the 416, and
  • “Open Payment” with the ability to use non-Presto cards as identification for charging transit fares.

When the TYSSE (Line 1 Spadina extension to Vaughan) opens at the end of 2017, the stations will already be configured for a “Presto” world, and legacy fares will only be accepted by a transitional arrangement until they are phased out. Cash fares will be handled as an option by the fare vending machines which will issue single-use Presto cards.

The point about Open Payment goes beyond simply accepting a credit card (something Presto can do already for single adult fares) to a fundamental change in how Presto works. Today, all of the fare transaction takes place between the Presto card and reader on a vehicle or in a station. The activity is reconciled to a central system on a daily basis.

The architecture of Presto will change to shift the fare calculation tracking process to the central system. This allows any card or smartphone app to interact with a reader simply as an identification mechanism. Usage would be accumulated centrally and billed based on the rates to which a rider was entitled including any fare caps or cross-boundary co-fare arrangements. According to Metrolinx:

“2017 will be a busy year as we prepare to offer enhancements in support of TTC. Currently the plan is offer open payment in limited form by the end of 2017. The timing and details are still being finalized.”

This will bring Presto into line with the concept the TTC proposed many years ago before Queen’s Park forced them to adopt Presto as a condition for continued receipt of gas tax revenue.

Presto usage on the TTC remains relatively low, although the volume of “taps” looks impressive beside activity on other systems within the GTHA. Only 5.1% of TTC rides are taken with Presto. This is unsurprising considering that over 60% of fares are paid with Metropasses, and some concession fares are still not available via Presto.

20161208_presto_ttcvolume

[Metrolinx December 2016 Presto Update, p 5]

To put this into context, the TTC carries about 1.8 million rides every day and the “unlinked” trip count roughly doubles this number. (This counts each leg of a journey as a separate transaction, a Presto “tap”, and, on average, each rider transfers once). The monthly volume shown above is in the same range as the daily volume a full roll out on the TTC will bring.

Updated January 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm

In the comment thread, an issue arose regarding service charges by Gateway News outlets selling Presto cards in the TTC subway, and more generally about why the cards were no longer available from TTC vending machines. I asked both the TTC and Metrolinx about this, and here are their replies.

From the TTC:

Why are PRESTO cards are no longer available in TTC Pass Vending Machines?

There are more Gateway Newstands locations to sell PRESTO cards than there are TTC Pass Vending Machines. As a result the decision was made to expand PRESTO card sales at Gateways instead of using PVMs as a sales channel.  Acquiring more PVMs would have been cost prohibitive, especially since each station entrance will have a Fare Media Vending Device available when the PRESTO rollout is complete.

Would it be correct then to say that during the interim until FVMs are available the only way to buy a Presto card in the subway will be at Gateway?

Yes that is correct. More Gateway locations will be added over the coming weeks until all stations that have a Gateway will be selling the cards.

From Metrolinx on the subject of supplementary charges for Presto purchases using credit cards:

Every business in Canada pays a transactional fee to the bank when a customer makes any purchase with a debit or credit card. There are many ways businesses recover these costs. In some cases for smaller businesses, such as the individually operated Gateway franchises, they charge a fee to the customer to recover these costs which the customer approves after they insert their card in the payment terminal.

Every Gateway Newstands location is individually owned and operated and each owner determines and sets the fees they may or may not charge for any credit and debit transactions to recover the bank fees. That is solely the retailers decision and unfortunately outside of our control. Gateway may have further information.

Customers can also order cards online, at GO stations (such as in York Concourse) or at UP Express at Union, and we will be announcing an expansion soon with a major retailer.

And so the combined answer, dear readers, is that the TTC has stopped supporting Presto sales even through its existing fare machines, but meanwhile Metrolinx has no control over any surcharges Gateway might impose. Why the TTC could not simply handle these sales through its own Station Collectors for the year’s transition period is a complete mystery.

This is a spectacular example of failed “Customer Service” when the only goal is to say “people can buy Presto cards everywhere”. Both the TTC and Metrolinx should be ashamed of themselves, but I’m sure there are still a few photo ops to be had for the Mayor and Minister on this one, and that’s all that matters.

61 thoughts on “TTC Presto Update December 2016 (Updated)

  1. Personally I do not like the idea of just anyone being able to put concessions on cards. There are some rather unscrupulous characters out there that would likely end up falsifying information. To that end there needs to be a more official way of putting concessions on to control it a bit better. In the 905 they have to go to actual terminals to get the concessions added (CCTT in Mississauga, Bramalea City Centre etc).

    As for a time based transfer I’m not sure how practical that would be given the TTCs insistence that any information displayed on the readers is a severe breach of privacy and human rights (AODA).

    In Mississauga the readers show how much time is left when you tap it. It makes time based fares practical. In Toronto it is prohibited because a blind person cannot see it. There is also the unrelated matter of balances showing up on the machines which Andy called a privacy issue as well as a minor AODA issue.

    The TTC calls itself world class but from what I can tell Presto will be handled better in the 905 than it is in Toronto. I hate to say it but for Presto to be rolled out smoothly the TTC needs do something unheard of.. ask another local transit agency for help.

    Steve: Frankly I think that the TTC’s “explanations” about Presto and AODA are complete BS. Metrolinx as the Province should say “this is how it’s going to work” and make that a policy everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Regarding Metrolinx’ claim that Presto reader availability is now consistently over 98%, my own recent experience leaves me extremely skeptical. My main mode of transportation is my bicycle, but on the number of occasions this past month when I took the TTC I found non-functioning or out-of-service Presto readers on about 80% of the vehicles I was using. These were mainly downtown routes: 501, 504, 506 and 63. Anecdotal, yes, but it still leaves me thinking Metrolinx is blowing hot air.

    Steve: For what it’s worth, although I am still using a Metropass, I check out the Presto readers when I am travelling and I’m not seeing as many out of service as before. However, the number still isn’t zero.

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  3. Overall Presto reader availability of 98%? Really?

    I ride Queensway division buses, which were the first buses to get the Presto rollout. Presto was appearing in the summer as I recall; maybe even in the spring.

    I have certainly seen buses with one reader not in service, and I know a couple of weeks ago a bus had both readers down. Presto riders go to ride for free.

    I would also expect that Presto readers on Queensway division buses should be reliable, as any initial glitches should have been sorted out over the months since installation. I’m not seeing that either. Or, more worryingly, the readers have a very short Mean Time Between Failure.

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  4. There are still issues with the TTC using Presto:

    1) The first is the garbage about showing the balance and time left – it is not an issue on any other system I have used Presto on. Sounds like another “We don’t want Presto” excuse by the TTC.

    2) Re-loading Presto cards. This could have been easily handled at subway stops – but then again the TTC wants to get rid of their attendants. Although at least some TTC stations have the self re-loaders for Presto. Or if need be, go to a GO Transit station. Seeing the number of people who connect between GO and the TTC at Union Station, this is not a big issue for a large number of the TTC’s commuter passengers. Then again, that’s common sense, and I do agree is not practical for everyone – especially those who do not live close to, or use, a GO station. But at least using TTC employees at a subway station is better in my opinion than letting third party organizations do it.

    3) The card does not always work properly. Living in the west end, I see that with the Long Branch portion of the 501 Queen. If I go in one direction and then get on the same streetcar for my trip home (going in the opposite direction) the card reader will not accept another fare. But if I take two different streetcars, it does accept the second fare. Then speaking on short trips …

    4) The TTC really needs to work on a two hour transfer, not the one direction only one. Frankly, it’s not that difficult with Presto – every time you tap within two hours is a free trip. At the moment it’s a bit harder thanks to the transfer machines at subway stations (people can pick one up and use it for a new two hour period), but that should not be an issue once the conversion from the ‘legacy’ system to Presto is complete. If you pay cash, you automatically get a transfer as your POP, and no transfers are re-issued without another fare being paid. Problem solved. But, that makes way too much sense for the TTC.

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  5. I’m wondering if the TTC will still be accepting cash fares on busses and streetcars? I recall a TTC board presto report from earlier this year stating that they no longer would, and would expect those riders to switch to Presto, but the latest one still mentions accepting cash fares. and I guess a single use paper presto card would be given out as a transfer?

    Steve: The latest word from the TTC is that they will still accept cash, although in the subway that would be done by a fare machine issuing a single-use Presto ticket.

    And now that Presto is supposedly rolled out system wide, how long will they continue to give out transfers for riders who pay with Presto?

    Steve: They will be accepting tokens and tickets, not to mention cash, for another year, and so transfers are still very much with us.

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  6. Very likely the Line 1 extension will not accept tokens, nor will there be a collector’s booth to accept tickets. That would be a “good” date to cut off the tokens and tickets across the system as well, if it is firm.

    Steve: The plan is that the fare vending machine will accept a token and spit out a Presto ticket, at least as a transition. Tokens will be accepted until some time in 2018, TBA.

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  7. “For a few classes of rider, the TTC proposes that a “Photo ID” be available. This would not be a separate card as in the early days of the Metropass, but a photo integrated into the user’s Presto card and account. The exact mechanism for loading this photo have yet to be determined.”

    Hi Steve, is there a source or multiple sources for the above paragraph… an e-mail, or a statement by TTC or Metrolinx? Thanks.

    Steve: At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the requirement for Photo ID is included in the slides I copied from the TTC presentation. This idea has been talked about at TTC Board meetings a few times in staff presentations as an offshoot of the Board’s pre-occupation with fare evasion and how it will be controlled in the Presto environment.

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  8. “A recent field check of all surface vehicles showed that overall validator availability is now consistently over 98%.”

    Riding the King streetcar everyday to work, I confirm the function of the readers is still nowhere near 98%. On trips to and from work this month on the 504/514 I still averaged one free ride per week because all readers were non-functional. That is a decrease from the two to three per week from the summer/fall, however, the number of times I see vehicles with only one working reader, and one unavailable has increased.

    I suspect some TTC hocus pocus at work here. Does this statistic consider any vehicle with one working card reader as a vehicle with a “validator available”? I will not plow my way through 100 people on a super crowded rush-hour ALRV to tap my card at the one working machine at the back, and the operators do not expect you to do that either.

    Steve: Yes, that is the fundamental problem. As long as one reader works, then a validator is “available” even if it is physically inaccessible. And, by the way, I think that the hocus pocus is on Metrolinx’ side where the desire to always have good news is a pre-eminent requirement of any report.

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  9. Steve writes: Cash fares will be handled as an option by the fare vending machines which will issue single-use Presto cards.

    I see this continuing into the future. Little IC cards can be made of paper/cardboard. This is already done in Montreal for transfers when you buy a single fare. The bus fare machine actually spits one out for you when you put in cash. It then works like a presto (tap or insert) except you can’t reload it. Individual day 3-day and weekly passes are also on the paper stock. Despite the IC (Opus) system being around several years in Montreal, there are still fare collectors at stations. I fail to see why the same cannot happen with presto. The fare schemes coming down the pipe will confuse riders greatly. Getting rid of the fare booth will deteriorate service.

    Steve: I am waiting to see what sort of “customer service” we get from a (former) collector who will no longer have the relative comfort of a heated and air conditioned booth. Some stations will be positively brutal locations to work, and I suspect that the staff will spend as much time hiding from the weather as possible.

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  10. Steve: In this comment, personal remarks about an individual have been removed. Also, please note that I have published this comment only for the purpose of correcting erroneous assumptions in it and do not endorse the opinions here.

    Edward Brain said: The first is the garbage about showing the balance and time left – it is not an issue on any other system I have used Presto on. Sounds like another “We don’t want Presto” excuse by the TTC.

    Come to think of it, this may be due in part to the clientele the TTC has. I have encountered a few wheelchair bound customers at TTC board meetings and town halls that are also blind. They might raise a human rights complaint if the TTC put time and balance information on the readers without audio. I believe they would consider it discriminatory.

    Steve: First off, you have not actually found out whether this is the case, or if it is a convenient invention of the TTC’s. Whether any rider considers it discriminatory does not make it so. Indeed, it should not be difficult to have an option on your Presto account to disable or enable visual or audible notifications. Those who do not want to broadcast this information could shut it off. Everyone else will be able to see/hear it. There is a difference between making all services available to all riders and having constraints imposed unreasonably. This is not a human rights issue, it is a corporate BS issue.

    Keep in mind, the TTC has been sued for such things before which is why we have automated stop announcements (along with the visuals). Prior to a human rights complaint it was simple enough that the operator announce stops and if they missed a couple it was not a big deal. One day someone complained and sued the TTC as they were not accommodating their disability leading to the current system.

    Steve: Actually your history is off here. There were enough operators who refused to announce stops and enough who missed (by accident or deliberately) those that were requested that an automated system was essential to achieve accessibility. Note also that the deaf cannot hear an operator announcement, and for that matter on most transit vehicles, hearing announcements from the operator can be a challenge even for those with no disability.

    As for “one day someone complained and sued”, it was more complicated because the TTC fought this tooth and nail at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, but lost. Of particular note in the decision was the observation that the TTC claimed undue hardship and a safety issue to have operators call stops, even though they had done so for decades and indeed were required to do so by TTC policy under certain circumstances. From the interim decision:

    [6] It is clear, and I so find, that the failure of the TTC to announce all bus and streetcar stops is a prima facie breach of the Code. The Complainant and other visibly impaired passengers are entitled to be accommodated under the Code. I also find that the most appropriate accommodation available is to have all stops on both the streetcar line and the bus line regularly and consistently announced in clear terms.

    [7] In my view, the only relevant issue raised by the TTC is that this accommodation would cause undue hardship as referred to in the Code. The TTC has submitted that it would be dangerous to have the drivers announce the stops when they have so many other duties to perform.

    [8] The TTC failed to establish the undue hardship defence for a number of reasons which include:

    1. They did not call an expert or even a driver to testify that the proposed accommodation was dangerous.
    2. Some drivers do announce all stops and the TTC knowing this not only did not indicate to them to stop because it was dangerous but in fact commended them for their performance.
    3. The TTC instruct their drivers to announce major intersections and this is no different from a danger point of view than announcing other stops.
    4. They require the drivers to announce all stops when the weather is inclement and the traffic is very heavy or the view of the route is otherwise obstructed. Surprisingly, they are comfortable with announcements in circumstances where they might think it more dangerous i.e. inclement weather. This condition makes it difficult for sighted people to see. By giving these instructions it is clear that the TTC is prepared to accommodate sighted people who have some difficulties but not prepared to accommodate blind people who have severe difficulties.

    In Mississauga this sort of thing would not come up very often by virtue of it being a smaller system with a more affluent clientele. The same goes with York Region and Durham. The TTC and GO transit are the two largest systems in Ontario and as such they have a different set of customers to deal with. I used to take Miway all the time and nobody ever complained that the readers showed their balance or time. Nobody ever tried suing them for it because they were blind and it did not accommodate their disability.

    Steve: It is no longer a question of a lawsuit, but a provincial legal requirement. You seem to be unloading a lot of venom for something that really does not deserve it. Consider yourself warned.

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  11. Giancarlo said: Despite the IC (Opus) system being around several years in Montreal, there are still fare collectors at stations.

    Budapest has been this way for decades. They are fully POP and have people in booths selling fare media and keeping an eye on the station. Only the TTC would think this is a bad idea.

    Steve: The problem at the TTC is that the concept of a station’s customer service agent has been described as embracing a wide range of duties including wandering around the station checking that all is well. Clearly, CSAs cannot giving out info at the main entrance if they are engaged in duties elsewhere.

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  12. Regarding Collectors Steve, I actually know of a collector (a family friend) who opted to retire as of January 1st because of Presto and the elimination of fare collectors. He knew it was coming and has 30 years on the job. Obviously not everyone has the option to retire but there is a sense among collectors that the end is nigh and those can retire are doing so at the mere mention of Presto.

    There is even a long term collector currently at Old Mill who is considering retirement as well given her age.

    What may end up happening is all the older folks will leave of their own choosing leaving the younger, newer crowd that really did not have that luxury for long.

    I know it is off topic so sorry for any upcoming threads.

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  13. So here we are, two years into the Presto rollout and they are already replacing machines? Didn’t the previous system exist basically unchanged for 50 years…with no need to replace machines (maybe add some features to a few, or replace the odd one that broke)…but here we are replacing an entire set of machines that are two years old because they don’t do what they are supposed to, how is this a better system than before? Plus it seems we will be replacing more readers in the near term so we can scan credit cards, or phones or whatever…and the entire backend is being replaced as well?

    Steve: No comment required.

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  14. Steve said: “The latest word from the TTC is that they will still accept cash, although in the subway that would be done by a fare machine issuing a single-use Presto ticket.”

    Isn’t this a huge waste of resources/generation of unnecessary garbage? A single use Presto card? Is that really necessary?

    I’ve ridden in many systems where you need Presto-like fare media, and there were two options – paper and plastic – however the paper option (for which you pay much less than the plastic option or do not pay at all i.e. you get it free with your fare) was also rechargeable. Paper cards with RFID chips in them are cheap, why not give them out instead of the “single use Presto ticket”, and allow people to recharge them?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I can say, based on experience, that not only will some “station customer service agents” spend time hiding from the weather, a smaller but non-zero number will simply spend their time just plain hiding.

    Personally, I have yet to see one of the ballyhooed “station group managers” or whatever their title is. I would have expected that they would spend at least some of their time interacting with riders. Not so. They may say they are very busy on other jobs. “Hiding” is such a subjective term!

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  16. I had no idea balance display on tap in readers was such a hot button issue. My personal opinion is that it’s better if people have one less reason to loiter around the doorway.

    Between people fumbling around for their fares, those asking for directions to some random building, the ones asking what the sign on the bus means (etc) there are enough boarding delays without people stopping to look at the tiny screen for a number that can be checked online at any time.

    Steve: Not everyone has easy online access, especially when travelling, and knowing that a card is running low is worthwhile.

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  17. Steve writes: “For a few classes of rider, the TTC proposes that a “Photo ID” be available. This would not be a separate card as in the early days of the Metropass, but a photo integrated into the user’s Presto card and account. The exact mechanism for loading this photo have yet to be determined.”

    Beyond the answer Steve Munro supplies, I have to question how Metrolinx views ‘customized requirements’ for Presto cards, even if only a considered option. Once the universality of using a Presto card on all systems is compromised, then the cause d’être of the system portable concept is also greatly eroded.

    If a decision is made to allow the TTC to require photo ID on Presto Cards, then surely that must be the Province’s, and at a higher level than Metrolinx even?

    Just doing a cursory check, this shows from the TTC:

    [Photo ID PRESTO cards (Child – 10-12, Youth, Post-secondary)

    Photo ID PRESTO cards will be introduced.
    Details on timing are still being confirmed and we will let you know when they will be available.

    This is troubling. The Metrolinx Act offers nothing directly on Presto.

    One wonders under what section of the Act (or another one) is the TTC deemed able to affect powers granted to Metrolinx as a provincial agency?

    I realize the TTC is between a rock and a heavy rail on this, but assuming authority without legal reference is as much or more a danger today as it ever has been.

    Steve: I think you have the legal construct all wrong here. Presto is a service provider to the TTC, and there is a contract setting out the TTC’s “business requirements” that Presto has to meet. As to who pays for what, and at what rate, that’s another matter. You seem to argue that Metrolinx is a bakery with only one flavour of cake.

    In the political realm, the Metrolinx bakery has a gang of thugs outside who will force you to shop there whether you want to or not, but you still get to say how the cake is decorated, as long as the icing is green.

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  18. Is the wait for second generation ticket machines that support single-use Presto tickets the reason why we haven’t seen the start of street deployments on the 514 and 505 routes? With the whole system POP now I would have expected 504/514 at the least to have these machines in place now.

    It seems like the TTC has been dragging their feet on every new change from the Flexity implementation report from years back (2013?) when some of the items don’t depend on the Flexity deliveries at all. Heck they still haven’t converted all of the overhead to pan-compatible on the carhouse route along King. This isn’t rocket science!!

    Steve: My suspicion is that we will see far fewer on street vending machines than were originally discussed. Note that these were to be machines handling legacy media, not Presto add value machines.

    As for the overhead, the inconsistencies are ridiculous including intersections with a mix of old and new hardware.

    Like

  19. Further to the Metrolinx Act as mentioned in prior post, a more intense search shows this:

    […]Duties of Corporation re unified fare system

    7. (1) In carrying out its objects as described in clause 5 (1) (a) with respect to the integration of transit systems, the Corporation shall plan, design, develop, acquire by purchase, lease, assignment or otherwise, construct, maintain, operate, dispose of, lease, license or sublicense all or any part of a unified fare system applicable to the regional transit system, the local transit systems in the regional transportation area and the local transit systems of municipalities outside the regional transportation area that agree to participate. 2009, c. 14, s. 7. […]

    The Act has many omnipotent powers over regional and municipal systems, but that only reinforces my point that the TTC’s wish to impose a ‘Photo Image’ on Presto Cards is not their competence. It’s that of Metrolinx, and even there, I still question the legislative reference to allow that to be on the card. It may exist, I just can’t find it to examine it. And I can’t find definitive reference on-line as to the usage of Photo ID.

    Steve: The Metrolinx Act has some rather draconian wording and dates from an era when Queen’s Park, in its folly, actually contemplated a takeover of local systems, if only as a bargaining chip in “negotiations”. I think by now the politicians have learned that having your own transit agency can land you in hot water, not just provide photo ops for the minister and premier.

    Health Cards, for instance, had the photo requirement written into the legislation, and also the proviso that they are not to be used for any other purpose that for health related issues, save, oddly, for Federal use, like voting.

    Further digging reveals:

    Photo Card Act, 2008, S.O. 2008, c. 17 – Bill 85
    (An Act to permit the issuance of photo cards to residents of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to the Highway Traffic Act)

    […]
    No requirement to have or use photo card

    (2) However, a photo card is issued solely for the convenience of the holder of the photo card and there is no requirement under this or any other Act that an individual obtain or carry a photo card or that a photo card be presented or accepted.[…]

    Interpretation of that clause might be open as to how that pertains to other uses within the province. But maybe not. I suspect this would take a legal decision to clarify it.

    There might be a very real problem with the TTC demanding Photo ID Presto Cards, let alone Metrolinx granting it.

    Steve: I must repeat that the photo will not be printed on the cards as it is with Health Care Cards, Drivers’ Licences and Identity Cards. It will exist in electronic form for retrieval when a card is checked by an inspector to determine if the holder is actually eligible to use this card. The photo is part of the user’s account, not part of the card.

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  20. “Regarding Collectors Steve, I actually know of a collector (a family friend) who opted to retire as of January 1st because of Presto and the elimination of fare collectors. “

    If you can get a full pension and retire after only 30 years, good for you! Enjoy retirement. I had to work 40 years to get mine. Best “job” I ever had!

    Like

  21. Andre makes a good point regarding paper Presto cards but I think there may be practical reasons for not doing so.

    By design paper Presto cards are not as durable as the plastic ones are. They would end up being disposable due to wear and tear. Therein lies the problem. It is good as a single use fare medium but as a re-loadable fare medium they would not last very long. I get that they would be somewhat eco-friendly but it would be a pain to have to worry about them tearing, getting wet etc.

    In London UK they have visitor Oyster cards that tourists can obtain for short term usage. They have somewhat limited functionality but are more durable than Paper while still being re-loadable. The way I see it, London has had the Oyster Card since 2003. If paper cards were so practical London would be using them instead of plastic tourist cards.

    Right now the TTC has something called a subway emergency transfer. If the subway is out for whatever reason such as a bomb threat or Neo and Agent Smith fighting in a station they are issued to customers so they can board a surface vehicle. I can see paper Presto cards being a good fit for situations like this where it is needed to help get people out of the affected area but not for anything more than that.

    Steve: The TTC has not yet commented on how subway emergencies will be handled. Just one more “non-standard” transfer connection that Presto won’t be able to handle.

    Like

  22. Why should I have to pre-load a monthly pass onto my Presto card? Shouldn’t it work where I just keep tapping and once I hit the monthly amount, I stop getting charged?

    Liked by 2 people

  23. To add to the discussion by L. Wall about information given by readers. Note, I got a Presto card on the day that GO eliminated two and ten ride tickets, but the Presto card hasn’t worked for a few years and I have not cared to pay $6 for another card.

    1. GO stations, I believe, all have a “check your card balance” machine. The TTC should offer this as an option, either as a separate machine or built as an option on the regular readers. Having this functionality only at subway stations is much, much too restrictive.

    2. Steve’s suggestion that individual users should be able to configure options on their cards makes sense. I wouldn’t mind if the machine would alert me if I have less than $10 left on my card, for example. I don’t care if other people hear that. After all, if I’m using tokens, it’s trivially easy to look at the token holder and see if I should purchase new tokens; why can’t I do that with Presto? Note, I would not likely go for autoreload, and I don’t have a smartphone to check my balance while travelling.

    3. I would also like positive confirmation when tapping whether this is a valid transfer (no charge) or a new trip (fare deducted). This would be useful if the TTC moves to a two-hour fare, and I think it should be mandatory as long as Presto is implementing the TTC’s current transfer rules. How many people would want to go through their Presto record at the end of the week, try to figure out if the fare charge was legit or not, and then go back and complain….and then have the complaint resolved? It’s a lot easier if you know that, when you transferred from route X to route Y, boarding vehicle ZZZZ, you got charged for a fare that you think was wrong.

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  24. Dan said: Why should I have to pre-load a monthly pass onto my Presto card? Shouldn’t it work where I just keep tapping and once I hit the monthly amount, I stop getting charged?

    You would think so but I have seen quite a few systems that do this. Miway has monthly passes and loyalty discounts that cap off after a certain number of rides per week. GO has loyalty discounts and passes as well.

    Even Oyster in London has monthly passes and capping off for loyalty discounts.

    I think the monthly pass thing in Toronto especially may have to do with putting a block of money on the card rather than pay as you go which is easier for some people. In Toronto with all the non-standard transfers you would burn through money on your card quickly. When I worked in Mississauga I would end up reloading my cars twice a week.

    Steve: Another issue with “pass” forms of payment is the concept of prepaying to get the deeper discount, especially for arrangements like MDP where one commits to purchasing a year’s worth of passes. That’s a loyalty program, but one that would continue to apply even if one had a “light” month. MDP replaced the annual pass which only lasted a few years, and had problems with market buy-in due to the big up-front cost and the disastrous effect of losing the pass.

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  25. Steve Munro writes: I must repeat that the photo will not be printed on the cards as it is with Health Care Cards, Drivers’ Licences and Identity Cards. It will exist in electronic form for retrieval when a card is checked by an inspector to determine if the holder is actually eligible to use this card. The photo is part of the user’s account, not part of the card.

    That sounds awkward to implement, but even if the case, here’s from Presto’s own page on privacy:

    […]Personal Information

    Personal information that may be collected by PRESTO in connection with your use of the PRESTO Card is recorded information that identifies individuals and may include:

    information relating to financial transactions in which you have been involved or will be involved with PRESTO, including your credit card number and your bank account information;
    any identifying number, symbol or other particular identifier assigned to you by PRESTO;
    your address or telephone number;
    correspondence sent to PRESTO by you that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence; and/or
    your name where it appears with other personal information relating to you or where the disclosure of your name would reveal other personal information about you.

    In connection with the PRESTO Services to be provided, personal information may be collected by PRESTO from you. As well, PRESTO may collect information about you through your use of the PRESTO Card.

    PRESTO limits the amount and type of personal information collected from you to only the personal information that is required for the purposes outlined below, or the purposes identified to you when PRESTO requests your personal information. PRESTO will not use your personal information for any other purpose without first obtaining your consent.

    PRESTO’s primary purpose for collecting your personal information is to provide the services and/or products requested by you. In addition, you agree that your personal information may be used, among other things, to:

    open and set-up your PRESTO Account;
    verify your identity and/or your eligibility for certain PRESTO Services;
    mail to you your PRESTO Card and other such items or communications;
    operate the PRESTO Services effectively;
    administer loyalty programs associated with the use of the PRESTO Services;
    protect you and PRESTO from error and fraud
    better understand your needs and eligibility for products and services offered by PRESTO or the Service Providers;
    communicate to you those products and services that may be of interest to you;
    improve the products and/or services offered to you; and
    comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
    […]

    Requiring a photo, or digital encoding of same, appears to go beyond what is allowed by law. That question won’t be answered in this forum, but I’m sure the Privacy Commissioners, both federal and provincial, are looking at this.

    There are some serious questions that must be answered before the TTC’s claim of being able to do this can be implemented. I cannot find any reference by Metrolinx on the issue, perhaps wisely so, as they might consider it a non-starter.

    Steve: You seem to have missed a fundamental point here. The list includes the ability to “verify your identity and/or your eligibility”, and that is separate from the bullet about setting up an account. For years the TTC required photo ID as an integral part of their monthly pass program. Having one was a necessary part of getting that fare class.

    Remember that Presto is an agency providing a service on contract for the TTC. If the TTC wants to impose requirements on those who enjoy fare discounts, that is their privilege. I really don’t see where you get a “legal” argument about this.

    The real question is how the TTC expects to collect all of these photos in the first place. There has been talk of users (or parents of users) uploading this info online, but that service is not available to every rider. Too often the TTC makes assumptions about the technology available to its customers.

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  26. Dan makes a very good point above. (Why have monthly/weekly passes at all?). Though there are clearly ‘issues’ with the PRESTO equipment and the PRESTO back-office it seems to me that the TTC is making a complex situation worse by trying to get a new automated system conform to rules that were set for an old manual system. If passes were abolished the fare per ride charged could be lowered if you passed x rides per week/month or eliminated after z rides. If the TTC moved to timed tickets they would avoid all the (many I suspect) hassles about ensuring a transfer is ‘legal’ and it would certainly be easier for customers (those pesky folk who the system is supposed to serve!).

    Though I can see why it would be ‘nice’ to know the time you have left and the amount on your card, if this is really going to be discriminatory to the blind it is really an ‘extra’. If you have to tap onto every trip (as is the plan) it really does not matter – if your tap-on is within the time allowed your trip will be free, if it isn’t it won’t. As long as the clock(s) are right it will be easy to check you were not overcharged. The TTC keeps saying that timed transfers will cost $20 million – I suspect this is exaggerated and I doubt they have factored in the savings on staff time dealing with disputes and the positive effects on customer service.

    Steve: The TTC has always talked of fare discounts as a “cost” (just as they have many types of service improvements) without looking at the offsetting benefits in making their system easier to use and more attractive. This is what happens when transit is run by people (including Council) who regard any spending as “gravy”. When it is perceived as second-rate and too-expensive, this damages not only attractiveness to riders, but gives those who don’t use transit more reason to continue in their ways. Many of these same non-riders will complain about how their taxes are wasted on transit subsidies.

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  27. Steve: My suspicion is that we will see far fewer on street vending machines than were originally discussed. Note that these were to be machines handling legacy media, not Presto add value machines.

    But would they still not be needed for dispensing the paper single fares as illustrated above? I see a lot of people today, far more than I’d expect, using cash fares to pay. I don’t think those people are just going to suddenly switch over to Presto unless the TTC expects a massive uptake in debit/credit payments from the cash demographic.

    Knowing the TTC they probably expect those individuals to fight to get to the onboard machines to pay. As always, instead of changing the system to suit user needs and behaviour, trying to bend users to fit their system.

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  28. Steve wrote: The real question is how the TTC expects to collect all of these photos in the first place. There has been talk of users (or parents of users) uploading this info online, but that service is not available to every rider. Too often the TTC makes assumptions about the technology available to its customers.

    I agree with that, but I don’t think this is practical to collect this electronically. First off it’s too easy to photoshop/fake documents these days. Secondly collecting information online is fraught with so many security problems. If any customer information got out (names, addresses, photos, etc) that would be brutal. Look at all the big companies getting hacked. Third there are no mechanisms for checking what is submitted is actually true. Government agencies won’t share info with other agencies. Schools won’t share whether a student is enrolled there. It’s a privacy issue. Of course these limitations also apply to getting validated in person but it’s easier to spot a fake Health Card/Student Card/Academic timetable in person. Fraud is much easier to perform online. Is there any other government agency that asks you to submit legal/photographic information online in this manner? I don’t think so and those are probably the reasons.

    Steve: You forget that the purpose of the photo is to allow the fare inspector to verify that the holder of the card is the person actually using it. Fake documents won’t do much good except possibly to claim an age the person is not, but it still has to be the same person.

    As for online info, people give this now in order to use online facilities of Presto. It’s not a new requirement.

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  29. I am a senior citizen, and have a presto card issued in Brampton. I can currently use it in Toronto and it charges the senior fare. Will it still work if Toronto requires a photo and what would I need to do to get it?

    Steve: This question has not yet been answered, but is a good example of the barriers to actually implementing this feature. I don’t think it will ever go “live”.

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  30. Steve Munro writes: You seem to have missed a fundamental point here. The list includes the ability to “verify your identity and/or your eligibility”, and that is separate from the bullet about setting up an account. For years the TTC required photo ID as an integral part of their monthly pass program. Having one was a necessary part of getting that fare class.

    This is the crucial point: Providing photo ID is controlled in Ontario (and other provinces by their own legislation) by the Photo Card Act, 2008, S.O. 2008, c. 17 – Bill 85

    Note:

    […]Information on or embedded in a photo card

    2. A reference in this Act or a regulation to a photograph or information on a photo card includes a photograph or information embedded in a photo card.
    […]

    Consider these clauses, for instance, that renders the claim for enforcement purposes moot:

    […]Not admissible

    (2) The photo-comparison technology used by the Minister, the methodology used to compare photographs and the measurements and results used for comparison are not admissible in evidence for any purpose and cannot be required for production in a civil proceeding before a court or tribunal.

    […]Voluntary use of photo card

    9. (1) The holder of a photo card may, in his or her discretion, present it in any transaction or circumstance, including any transaction or circumstance where the holder wishes to identify himself or herself.

    No requirement to have or use photo card

    (2) However, a photo card is issued solely for the convenience of the holder of the photo card and there is no requirement under this or any other Act that an individual obtain or carry a photo card or that a photo card be presented or accepted.

    Steve Munro continues: Remember that Presto is an agency providing a service on contract for the TTC. If the TTC wants to impose requirements on those who enjoy fare discounts, that is their privilege. I really don’t see where you get a “legal” argument about this.

    The Act is quite clear on this, and you conflate ‘required’ with ‘voluntarily show’, the latter ostensibly being a form of ID that already complies with the Act, such as school ID, suffice to satisfy the claims of the holder:

    Interpretation

    Definitions

    1. In this Act,

    “basic photo card” means a card issued under this Act that has on it the holder’s name and photograph and additional information about the holder that may be prescribed;

    […]

    (9) In this section,

    “public body” means,

    (a) any ministry, agency, board, commission, official or other body of the Government of Ontario,

    (b) any municipality in Ontario,

    (c) a local board, as defined in the Municipal Affairs Act, and any authority, board, commission, corporation, office or organization of persons some or all of whose members, directors or officers are appointed or chosen by or under the authority of the council of a municipality in Ontario, or

    (d) a prescribed person or entity; (“organisme public”)

    “related government” means,

    (a) the Government of Canada and the Crown in right of Canada, and any ministry, agency, board, commission or official of either of them, or

    (b) the government of any other province or territory of Canada and the Crown in right of any other province of Canada, and any ministry, agency, board, commission or official of any of them. (“gouvernement lié”)
    […]

    A *combined* photo Presto Card will end up in court, and for good reason. In fact, it won’t even get that far. Metrolinx’ lawyers are savvy enough to realize that.

    There are ways to provide sufficient ID without taking this route. Producing the Ontario Photo ID card is one. Until that is written into the Metrolinx and associated acts, Presto Photo Card isn’t.

    Steve: Extended quotation from legislation does not constitute proof of your argument. Indeed your entire quote of the definitions of “public body” and “related government” are not cited in your comment.

    There are many, many cases where photo id is a basic part of the operation of many agencies and services, and you even suggest that something like a student id is not the same thing as a transit pass. Photos appear on many types of card granting access to services or locations, and having one is an integral part of the agreement between a student, employee, etc., for their role.

    You are reading the Act as prohibiting the existence of any other photo id, and I do not agree with your premise. You say that “Providing photo ID is controlled in Ontario”. The Act enables the creation of photo id for non-drivers as a convenience in providing identification. It does not prohibit the existence of other forms of photo id by other governments or agencies. If this were the intent, there would be explicit offenses and penalties stated in the Act, but there are none.

    Please note that I will not engage in further discussion along this line. There is a valid argument to be made that the TTC is unduly complicating the use of Presto in response to political pressure to curb abuse of concession fares, but that is completely separate from the bogus issue you claim about the legality of requiring photos in the first place.

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  31. As, I am afraid, one expects from the TTC the PRESTO information is out of date. They proudly announced on December 21 or 22 that all bus routes have PRESTO. On their website they have a list of all bus routes which notes which have PRESTO – it has still not been up-dated. Sloppy!

    Steve: TTC’s Customer Information efforts fall short of the mark uncomfortably often.

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  32. Richard White said:

    “Andre makes a good point regarding paper Presto cards but I think there may be practical reasons for not doing so.

    By design paper Presto cards are not as durable as the plastic ones are. They would end up being disposable due to wear and tear. Therein lies the problem. It is good as a single use fare medium but as a re-loadable fare medium they would not last very long. I get that they would be somewhat eco-friendly but it would be a pain to have to worry about them tearing, getting wet etc.”

    Well, if my interpretation of the tables in Steve’s article is correct, paper Presto cards are coming anyway. The “end state” for cash payments is cash/debit/paper presto card, which makes me think you can either get the as yet non-existing single-use Presto ticket by paying by cash or debit, or use a paper presto card. The “end state” for bulk token purchases is a paper presto card, which I interpret to mean that aid agencies which now give out tokens would instead give out paper Presto cards preloaded with some amount of money. Also, the paper Presto card is being shown as a solution for “occasional riders”, meaning if you ride the TTC rarely, it doesn’t make sense to get a plastic card (too expensive for your needs I guess) so you get a paper one instead (cheaper), and since you use it infrequently, it will last you some time (whereas for frequent riders, the paper card would be fit for garbage within 2 weeks tops). This also makes sense to me because it’s the way many other similar systems work. I remember Lisbon (Portugal) did this (way back in 2010 when I was first there, and it looked like quite an established system already, the vending machines for the cards had some wear&tear), I got a paper card as a tourist, and it cost me something like 20-50 cents (instead of a couple of euros for the plastic card).

    So my question was, if a paper Presto card is coming anyway, why introduce a single-fare Presto ticket alongside it? It seems like a waste. For the single fare, the cost of the ticket will have to be included in the fare price, so why not just then charge the customer for a rechargeable paper card?

    Say (with today’s prices), you pay $3.25 for a “cash” fare and you get a paper card with $2.90 loaded on it. Next time you can load multiple fares on it (or just one, if you like) at $2.90 each. The 35 cents difference will more than cover the cost of the card, and also probably motivate people to recharge it next time.

    Also, it has been said multiple times but it must be repeated: the decision to not go to time-based transfers is one of the stupidest decisions the TTC has made ever. Ever.

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  33. Anyways, here is my prediction regarding transfers on Presto:

    Once “legacy fare media” are completely phased out, the transfer thing will be a mess. Glitches in the system and people’s laziness to validate on each transfer (esp. in the first few months) will cause both legal transfers to be counted as illegal, charging people extra fares when they shouldn’t, and illegal transfers to be let through, causing much kvetching (have to borrow that one from you Steve, love that expression) about lost revenue and “fare evasion”. Also, there will be some actual fare evasion since I guess someone will figure out a way to game the system and exploit its faults. People will be very annoyed, there will be tons of complaints, and the TTC will find that dealing with the complaints costs more money than would be “lost” by moving to a timed transfer.

    Since Presto is seen in the public mind as closely connected to Queen’s Park and Metrolinx, the Province will dump all blame on the TTC and their “antiquated” transfer rules and pressure them to change it. Some future (or present) mayor will make a major point in his (re-)election campaign of moving the TTC to timed transfers and making everyone’s lives easier, claiming that any shortfall in revenue will be dealt through “efficiencies” (and an inescapable fare price increase once efficiencies don’t cough up enough money), the people shall enthusiastically support this, and we will get the inevitable (timed transfers) a couple of years later than was originally possible had someone just thought things through for a second.

    Steve: I agree, although with the next elections timed for 2018 and 2022, I don’t like the idea that we have to wait two cycles for the light to dawn at City Hall.

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  34. L. Wall wrote:

    I had no idea balance display on tap in readers was such a hot button issue. My personal opinion is that it’s better if people have one less reason to loiter around the doorway.

    Between people fumbling around for their fares, those asking for directions to some random building, the ones asking what the sign on the bus means (etc) there are enough boarding delays without people stopping to look at the tiny screen for a number that can be checked online at any time.

    The fumblers are a big peeve for me, but the Presto display will NOT add to that (hopefully). When boarding a YRT bus, or tapping on a terminal at a VIVA Station, the display showing the fare charged, balance remaining, and time remaining, is only a second or two. One must read it when looking at the terminal to do the tap, because if one has to glance back, it is gone. The terminal must be ready for the next person coming along, which is why the transaction is done between the terminal and the card. This means that the back-end system does not reflect the reality of what the card knows, so the top-up one did online last night needs to be SEEN to get to the card when one taps on. Also, whatever has been used today can only be known by seeing the display when tapping on (or stopping at a balance checker, where available), as it won’t be available online until the next day.

    The same is true with the Oyster card in London, though the variety of hardware makes one have to do a quick visual search in the seconds before tapping in order to have one’s eyes in the right place to see the display when tapping.

    Dan wrote:

    Why should I have to pre-load a monthly pass onto my Presto card? Shouldn’t it work where I just keep tapping and once I hit the monthly amount, I stop getting charged?

    That’s the way I prefer because my need for a pass is often not known before a month starts. Unfortunately, some GTHA transit agencies choose to only implement the pre-loaded pass. To my chagrin, YRT does it this way.

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  35. Here’s an interesting new Presto maintenance problem: apparently the readers must be informed when there’s a fare change.

    Monday I tapped onto a streetcar to travel to work, and a bus to travel home. In both cases $3 was deducted from my card, the correct new fare.

    This morning I tapped onto a streetcar. A check around lunchtime showed I’d been charged only $2.90.

    I hope the TTC is auditing for this sort of thing, and (since Metrolinx is responsible for implementing the fares as described by the TTC, no?) charging Metrolinx for the lost revenue.

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  36. Calvin Henry-Cotnam said: “That’s the way I prefer because my need for a pass is often not known before a month starts. Unfortunately, some GTHA transit agencies choose to only implement the pre-loaded pass. To my chagrin, YRT does it this way.”

    That’s because a discounted monthly pass (in anything, not just public transit – gym memberships are just as fine an example) is essentially a trade – the company will give you convenience (not having to worry about payment each time you use the service) and a discount (monthly pass cheaper than the equivalent number of one-off fares) in exchange for predictable cash flow, i.e. a large chunk of money you give them in advance each month.

    The “monthly cap” system breaks this bargain, and that is why many companies resist it. They are giving you the benefit (discount) without the advantage it gives them (the cash flow then becomes unpredictable).

    Steve: I think that the larger problem will be how to deal with monthly caps for riders who use more than one GTA system, but with different numbers of trips on each one. In a truly “integrated” fare system, it should not matter where I take my trips. However, this would mean that a frequent TTC rider could end up with a free ride on YRT or Miway even if they ride these systems less often.

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  37. The Gateway News roll-out has left me frustrated.

    Last year I purchased a PRESTO card from a vending machine in Union Station. The process was simple and I was able to use my credit or debit card to make the purchase at any time as long as the station was open.

    Yesterday I went to replace that card (I’d given mine to my mother-in-law), but the vending machine option wasn’t available. Apparently it was “just a pilot” and the machine had been removed. When I asked the TTC staff how to buy a PRESTO card they pointed to the Gateway outlet; apparently you can’t buy PRESTO from TTC collection staff (which seems odd?).

    The owner of the Gateway told me he wouldn’t accept credit card for the purchase, full stop (even if I were to add additional items to my purchase). That certainly is his prerogative as a business owner; however I can imagine many instances when an out of town TTC user might not have cash or Canadian debit to purchase a card. It would even be OK if the vending machine was still present and working, but I was forced to go to a third party because of an agreement (likely sole sourced?) between a corporation and a government agency.

    I took to Twitter to find out what was up, and was informed by Metrolinx that I would indeed be able to purchase the pass today with a credit card at Gateway; I guess they spoke to the owner. What they didn’t mention was that Gateway would only sell it after tacking on a $3 fee for credit card transactions, 15% of the cost of the card and also the cost of a fare. The vendor’s interchange fee is capped at 1.5% by VISA and Mastercard, so charging the transit user 10x his cost is absurd.

    It’s crazy that Metrolinx / TTC have outsourced the sale of PRESTO cards to a third party without ensuring that the needs of all of their users will be met. Metrolinx and the TTC should be improving access and lowering barriers for their new fare system and not discouraging use in such an arbitrary way.

    Do you think this was an oversight by Metrolinx in the distribution agreement they signed with Gateway, or is this just an owner/operator looking to make a few bucks without anyone noticing except transit users?

    Steve: I have asked Metrolinx for an official comment on this.

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  38. Yes Steve it is an interesting question indeed.

    For now, where there is no fare integration yet, the Presto card should just keep track of the spending in the different systems (Miway, TTC, GO) and make sure you hit the “cap” for each separately (i.e. ensure that TTC trips don’t count towards the GO or Miway cap and vice versa). This should not be difficult to implement (I want to say it’s trivial, but with the convoluted way Presto and the TTC work together, I better not).

    For a truly integrated system, the only thing which would make sense would be to divide the GTA into zones, where the City of Toronto would be one zone (as it is for TTC customers at the moment). This means that fares should be zone-determined and thus transit agency-agnostic (as is the case in many if not most of the integrated fare systems in the world – at least in all of the ones I’ve had the opportunity to use). So the rider should be charged the same for trips within a zone regardless of the mode of travel and the agency providing it – i.e. in Toronto itself, regardless of whether it’s the TTC, GO (or the future RER/SmartTrack), or Miway (on the Etobicoke portion of their network) – I don’t know if YRT runs any services on Toronto territory (but if they did, ditto for them). Conversely, this would mean paying a 2-zone ticket if taking Line 1 from Union to the future stations in Vaughan, even though the whole trip is done by TTC.

    In this case again, having just pre-loaded monthly passes is easier than doing the monthly cap – I can have a 1-zone, 2-zone, or 3-zone monthly pass, that’s it. With the monthly cap we would have to keep track not of particular transit agency someone is using with respect to the cap, but what zone one is using. If I make all my trips within one zone, it’s easy – once I hit X trips in zone Y, I get in effect a monthly pass for zone Y. For people doing multi-zone trips it’s more complicated, I mean there are a lot of straightforward examples (the Mississauga to Toronto commuter, he would always use the same 2 zones, so the system would wait until he hits a cap equivalent to a 2-zone pass) but there are many corner cases and strange combinations to take into account. It would have to be some careful programming.

    As for avoiding someone getting free trips on YRT/Miway thanks to travelling on the TTC – well, if we truly want fare integration, we have to let go of the idea that a fare collected on a TTC vehicle is necessary (fully) going to the TTC’s coffers, and that a fare collected on a GO train is necessarily going (fully) to GO’s coffers, and ditto for all the other operators. We should think of fare revenue as a giant common pot, which is then divided up among the transit agencies based on usage patterns and statistics. With Presto, we should be able to have pretty accurate data on which to base that splitting on. Ideally, if in an integrated system, I take Miway from western Etobicoke to Islington Station and the continue on by subway, the $3.00 fare I pay should be split accordingly between Miway and the TTC, regardless of the fact I had the three dollars deducted from my card in the Miway bus. I don’t think this is impossible since I’m sure other countries/cities/regions have done it. Alas, I am very sceptical this will work in any near or medium term due to the bean-counting attitude prevalent in transit thinking in the GTA, and I actually doubt we’ll have actual fare integration any time soon.

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  39. Further to the TTC’s stating that they have intent to require “Presto Photo Cards” for children and students, as touted by Josh Colle, I read an interestingly different take in more recent news as that pertains to low income fare discounts and Presto:

    By Ben Spurr Transportation Reporter, TorStar, Wed., Dec. 14, 2016

    […]
    Councillors approved the Fair Pass Program Wednesday evening in a vote of 30 to 4, as part of the city’s broader poverty reduction strategy.
    […]
    Mihevc successfully moved a motion asking Metrolinx “to advance back-office work” on the Presto fare card system to allow the city to accelerate the implementation of the pass program, which is contingent on Presto.
    […]
    TTC chair Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) said that, in order to fund the program, the city will have to look at whether it wants to continue giving TTC discounts to other groups, such as seniors and students. Concession fares for these groups are expected to cost $72 million this year.

    “Forever, our concession has only ever been based on age,” Colle said. “And, while I understand that seniors vote and that seniors are vocal, they’re also some of the wealthiest people in our city. So it will trigger another discussion.”

    Both Colle and Mihevc may mean well, but their view are inconsistent from what they stated prior:

    Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter, TorStar, Mon., July 11, 2016

    […]
    At a meeting Monday, TTC commissioners voted to approve a slew of new measures that will affect the agency’s youngest riders and are aimed in part at preventing fare evasion.

    Among them are requirements for children aged 10 to 12 to have TTC-issued photo IDs on their Presto fare cards to ride for free, and for children aged 13 to 19 to have TTC photo ID to be eligible for the youth fare discount. Children 6 to 9 would have to have their own Presto cards to ride the TTC for free, but the cards wouldn’t feature photo ID.
    […]
    Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s), who sits on the board, called the new fare measures “reasonable.”
    […]
    TTC chair Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence)…added that he’s hoping for more clarity on how the photo IDs will be distributed to young riders, because he wants to avoid “a bureaucratic mess.” TTC staff say the cards would be distributed through schools. They estimate passengers would be charged a fee of $5 to $7 for the photo ID, which would appear on their Presto cards. The fare cards themselves cost $6.

    Different news reports have stated slightly different details on what TTC’s age and ID requirements will be, understandable as the TTC itself appears to be in a muddle on this, but since the “Presto Photo ID” statements six months ago, other than a notice on the TTC website of it pending, there is no clarification that I can find.

    Is it fair to now believe the reporting a few weeks back

    Mihevc successfully moved a motion asking Metrolinx “to advance back-office work” on the Presto fare card system to allow the city to accelerate the implementation of the pass program, which is contingent on Presto.

    now applies to all fare concession categories equally?

    One wonders just what Metrolinx have or will have stated as a reply?

    Steve: The back office work Metrolinx was doing was primarily to provide additional server capacity to handle the load of Metropasses. The TTC is still in a quandary about how it will handle various fare types, and there are direct contradictions between statements made by various people including Colle and Mayor Tory who has dismissed any talk of getting rid of seniors’ fares.

    What is quite distressing is that various advocates for different groups are at war with each other over the diminishing “pie” of municipal funding rather than attacking the root cause which is the fetish for low tax increases that cannot keep up with city costs.

    As for Metrolinx, they are simply waiting for the TTC and City to decide what their fare structure will look like. There is supposed to be an update on “regional fare integration”, but it is buried somewhere in Metrolinx, and there have already been negative reactions to some earlier proposals from both municipal and provincial pols.

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  40. Steve Munro writes: As for Metrolinx, they are simply waiting for the TTC and City to decide what their fare structure will look like. There is supposed to be an update on “regional fare integration”, but it is buried somewhere in Metrolinx, and there have already been negative reactions to some earlier proposals from both municipal and provincial pols.

    One also has to wonder, as some other posters have alluded to, how what was supposed to be a common cross-platform fare device can cope with all the customization for specific systems, and not produce glitches doing it? There’s also the question of memory capacity on the card.

    I looked for updated information on the latest ‘Business Plan’ (even though this is a “Draft”) and there’s a fair amount on Presto, but not even a hint as to accommodating the multiplicity of ‘customization’ to suit specific transit partners beyond the base system.

    At some point Metrolinx might have to state: “What you see is what you get” and abide by the rules and regs Metrolinx themselves are responsible for. If a transit org wants to add specialty facets, they might have to do it with an additional card. Perhaps inconvenient, but Metrolinx can then stand behind what Presto was designed to do until such time as a more sophisticated card and system can be instituted. Presto seems to have enough challenges as it is without adding even more potential functions that are prone to glitching.

    PS:

    A clarification to previous post. Re-reading the report linked prior, and this could be construed as a nod to finding some way to accommodate the complexities of the TTC various existing or future planned concessions:

    Continue working on plans to deliver additional products and features for TTC in 2017

    : – 8.2 PRESTO Fare Card Highlights, pg 47

    That’s pretty vague, but be aimed at the ‘requests’ from the TTC Board.

    Steve: I have written before about Metrolinx’ plans to move the processing logic eventually away from the cards/readers and into the backend as this will decouple the “accounting” side of Presto from the “identification” function at the vehicle/station. This means one central program knowing all of the rules, and no need to push programs and data out to every card reader in the network. That’s in 2018 at the earliest.

    Metrolinx boxed themselves in with the TTC contract which they were so desperate to have, and they agreed to match all of the TTC’s business requirements, including the transfer rules.

    Saying “the computer can’t do it” when the TTC was already considering a different system simply would not have been possible politically.

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