Presto! The Future of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is Light Rail!

A Presto reader is displayed in one of the new streetcars that are currently in testing before their introduction onto downtown streets. Using the fare card eliminates the need to pass by a driver on entering the vehicle, making it possible for a crowd of passengers to board quickly using all four doors.

As you all know, taking public transit is an environmental alternative to travelling from place to place than by car, but in Toronto, TTC does not always seem to be a too reliable mode of transportation especially with its slow rate of improvement if any in the last few decades or so. The Scarborough Rail Transit (SRT) opened in 1985, Sheppard subway line in 2002, the next vehicle information system in 2010, and new “tech-of-the-art” subway trains from Bombardier released on the Yonge-University and Spadina subway line as of last year. These are just a few of TTC’s expansions since it began back in 1921. But now after 2 years of debate, a new master agreement between  TTC Chair Karen Stintz, City Manager Joe Pennachetti, TTC CEO Andy Byford, Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli, and Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCraig have been signed and it brings about 2 major changes to the TTC and all the commuters that rely on its service:

1) 4 new Light-Rail Transits ; Eglinton, Sheppard East, Finch West and the further expansion of of the SRT’s line.

2) Presto fare card

Implementing Presto, an electronic-payment system, on the TTC was a condition of the province’s $8.4 billion in funding for the LRTs and as of Wednesday, November 28. TTC is now bound to the provincial Presto fare card, and will ultimately eliminate tokens and tickets from Toronto’s transit system.

With this series of expansions will Toronto’s rapid transit map finally meet the demands of the ever-growing demands from GTA commuters at large?

Here is what the officials have to say.

The following infomation are from a Toronto Star’s article :–ttc-signs-up-for-presto-fare-card

The Toronto Star talked to Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig and Robert Hollis, Managing Director and Executive Vice-President of Metrolinx’s Presto division, about what the payment system will mean to TTC riders:

Q: When will Presto be expanded on the TTC?

A: The new streetcars from Bombardier will have Presto readers installed as soon as they are delivered and running, late next year or in 2014. Most of the subway system, the air-rail link and bus routes that serve the Pan American Games venues will have Presto installed by August 2015. Only a few bus routes will still have to be converted after that.

Q: Will the Metropass still be available on Presto?

A: The TTC is getting Presto Next Generation, a newer version of the card system than the one being used on GO Transit and Toronto region bus systems now. It will have what’s called a period pass on it, an enhancement that has been part of the Presto introduction on Ottawa’s OCTranspo buses that means riders can load the equivalent of a Metropass on their Presto card.

The Presto system is one of the most complex fare systems in the world because it involves all the regional transit systems and is customized to the Toronto area. For example, the TTC’s transfer system is unique, and Presto has to be adapted to it, said McCuaig.

In the end, the TTC will use Presto cards and cash fares only, he said.

Q: Will TTC riders be able to use debit and credit cards on their version of Presto?

A: Those payments have already been subject to successful tests at College and Dundas stations, and it’s expected that access will be available as Presto is rolled out on the TTC. It’s particularly handy for visitors and non-regular TTC riders, said McCuaig.

“We’re getting closer and closer to testing mobile devices as well. We’re trying to make sure that we’re going to put in the hands of all the customers all the solutions they need, so they can make the choice about how they want to pay for their system,” he said.

Q: So TTC riders don’t necessarily ever have to get a Presto card?

A: Although it’s important to provide that choice, said Hollis, “Our belief is a majority of people will still want a Presto card because people want to segregate their transit payments from other parts of their life. Mums and dads don’t necessarily want to give a credit card to their son or daughter to ride the transit system. Some people don’t use credit cards.

“We think, as we move more to mobile payments where you have a chip-enabled cellphone, smart phone of some kind, that may be a much more significant substitute for a Presto card,” he said.

Q: How far off is that?

A: “We’ve done some testing in labs of how that system would work. As more enabled phones come on the market in the next three to five years, you’ll start to see that kind of technology come into more widespread use,” said Hollis.

“It’s really about the financial organizations working out the rules around the mobile payments. It’s not a technology question. It’s a question of how we actually deduct from the (electronic) purse,” he said.

Q: Is Toronto getting the same equipment as Ottawa, where there were some difficulties with the launch earlier this year?

A: “We have to do another competitive procurement for Toronto, so it could be a different provider.” The devices installed in Ottawa were the most advanced on the market offering open-payment technology, Hollis said.

Although more testing might have been prudent in Ottawa, the system is working there now, and Metrolinx expects to have it fully rolled out between January and April.

Q: How many devices will be needed by the TTC?

A: About 10,000. “All the world suppliers will be interested in bidding on that work,” said McCuaig.

Q: How many transit users are on Presto now?

A: There are over 400,000 cards in circulation now and the system is adding about 22,000 a month as more GO riders and transit users transition to the system. The system is processing over 5 million transactions a month, said Hollis.

Q: What has Presto cost so far?

A: It has cost about $189 million in capital funds to deliver Presto through Accenture, the company contracted by the province to provide it the system through 2016.

There are about 8,000 Presto devices in the area, so the cost to the TTC would be similar, said McCuaig.

“We’re going to be more than doubling the number of riders because there’s just more frequency on the TTC,” he said.

Q: Does the Next Generation technology cost more?

A: We won’t know until we test the market, but the price of these devices has been dropping, said Hollis.

TTC chair Karen Stintz, along with city manager Joe Pennachetti, TTC CEO Andy Byford, Ontario Transportation Minsiter Bob Chiarelli and Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, signed master agreements to build four LRTs in Toronto and implement the Presto card on the TTC.
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

What do you think? GRAS thinks that this is step towards progress and with the removal of tokens and tickets, TTC will become easier to manage, ride, and more environmental with less waste.


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