Presto and the TTC

May 29th, 2017 by Potato

At my local subway stop they’ve replaced all the old token/metropass gates with Presto ones. So it made sense to get a Presto card and start using that. In just one month of using it, I’ve twice been completely unable to board the subway with my brand-new and fully loaded Presto card at that entrance — yet I got charged for the tap anyway. Then when I walk an extra block to the other entrance, it would still be hit-or-miss, with up to 15 tap attempts needed to get in. I’ve seen many other people at the station having to tap multiple times or seeing declined messages on these new gates.

The good news is that Presto has refunded the extra money they charged me.

But I figure if I have to walk an extra block anyway, with the possibility of having to phone in to initiate an investigation to possibly get a refund of the extra charges, I may as well just go back to using tokens (which are now only accepted by the collector at the other entrance a block further away).

I’m amazed at how many problems the system seems to have. In addition to my personal failure rate of about 10%, I took the King streetcar the other day and watched many people try to tap their cards for transfers when it intersected north/south bus lines, only to have the machines give errors (I couldn’t see the screen, but could see people’s puzzled expressions and multiple attempts to tap). I’ve looked around online, and there are many reports of issues with Presto, from transfers not working correctly to others getting declined at fare gates and getting charged, as well as general equipment failures that are more common than they should be for a system that’s nearly fully rolled out (indeed, the TTC has indicated that in 2017 — just 7 months left now — all other forms of payment will be eliminated).

And that is hard to believe, especially as Presto really isn’t set up for the occasional TTC rider. In the terms and conditions, I was surprised to see that it takes 24 hours for a new balance to load — but that it will expire in 30 days if not used! So if you maybe sometimes take the bus or subway, for the past few decades you could pick up a few tokens and keep them just in case. But now you’ll have to know at least 24 hours in advance when you’ll be using transit, but not more than 30 days. Fortunately, I cleared up with Presto that when they say the scary word “expire” they actually meant “automatically refunded”. Phew — though that also suggests a lack of real-world testing. But still, there’s such a long way to go for all the TTC use cases, plus the reliability issues, that I find it hard to believe that in a few short months that will be the only option.

2 Responses to “Presto and the TTC”

  1. Potato Says:

    Via Twitter, Brian G says: “the TTC has said that there is a software fix coming in July.”

  2. Matthew Says:

    Presto launched in Ottawa around ~5-years ago and had similar issues, though we don’t have the 30-day restriction. Insult to injury on the 24-hour load, the website won’t show your funds until the card is used again so as a user you have no way to know if the payment processing more quickly. That said, I do like the card instead of going to a store to buy a monthly pass or carrying tickets.

    The shocking part about Presto given how poorly it has been implemented – 5-years ago the costs were already over $700-million.