By: Wrence Trinidad
It was one year ago that Humber College nursing student Alex Petrakos unexpectedly found himself taking a cab home from his part-time job in the upper Etobicoke area.
Instead of the usual smooth ride home on the 405 TTC bus, Petrakos’ Presto pass, which was purchased less than a week prior, was declined by the card reader.
“It definitely wasn’t my [card’s fault],” Petrakos said.
“I could’ve paid for the fare with coins, but I just didn’t want to hold up the line longer than I already did. I hopped off and ended up calling a taxi.”
Petrakos wasn’t the last TTC rider to suffer from a shoddy Presto card experience.
Last week, the Toronto Star published an article about a 13-year-old boy who was left stranded at an Aurora bus stop after his Presto card malfunctioned.
Faulty Presto card readers have been an on-going issue since its official implementation with the TTC in 2012.
However, almost six years later, some Presto pass users are still experiencing problems with card readers found on the many buses, streetcars and trains servicing the Greater Toronto Area.
A 2016 Metrolinx audit discovered that as many as 12 per cent of all Presto card readers on TTC buses were not functioning and that 5 to 6 per cent of card readers on streetcars were also broken.
In response to this, Metrolinx, the agency responsible for managing public transportation in the Toronto and Hamilton area, has been working with the TTC to improve the reliability rate.
“I, as a rider, have been occasionally billed twice because of a lot of glitches that need to be fixed,” said Jessica Bell, a spokesperson for TTCriders, an advocacy group that “works with and for transit riders.”
“Presto is not very good at computing the complicated system the TTC has,” said Bell.
“The difficulty Presto has had working with complications is one of the reasons Presto is double-booking people and having all these glitches.”
TTC Senior Advisor Vanessa Barrasa says the company has identified the double-booking problem, and have resolved the issue.
“Our initial investigation determined it was as a result of human error and we have instituted a fix to ensure it does not happen again. It is now resolved. We have over 3 million cards in circulation,” she wrote in an email to Humbernews.
As if the Presto bugs infesting the TTC weren’t bad enough, Bell also says the fees handed out to those who don’t pay their Presto bill are unusually high.
“It’s very, very high. Imagine you’re a high school student and you lost your Presto card, you or your parents should not be fined that high because you didn’t pay your $3.25, that’s outrageous.”
The TTC fines, approved by the Ontario Court of Justice can range anywhere from $200 to more than $400. There are over 50 fines riders could be ticketed for, including failure to pay the fare and traveling with an invalid ID card.
Faulty mechanics with the Presto system may put a damper on Metrolinx’s plans, as the agency is currently in the midst of implementing Presto as their sole method of payment for their public transportation service.
Titled ‘Presto rollout,’ the agency has already made noticeable changes to further push the Presto revamp.
In addition to installing Presto machines on several TTC subway stations, Presto has released their own versions of monthly and weekly passes, with prices similar to Metropasses.
“The TTC and [Toronto] have already approved the elimination of tokens and coins for the rollout, and for that to happen, we feel [the need for] Presto to work,” Bell said.
“People who can choose to walk or bike or drive can, and will do so until the TTC is an attractive, cheap option.”
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