More Presto, more problems

A photo of a Presto card reader at a TTC subway station.

As many as five to six per cent of card readers aren’t working across the TTC system at any given time. (Kevin John Siazon)

Presto card-holders across the city are frustrated. Again.

The Toronto Star reported that an audit conducted by the TTC last week revealed that as much as five to six per cent of Presto card readers within the system aren’t working at any given time.

The card reader malfunction isn’t the first challenge the TTC has faced since rolling out the integrated pay system in 2009. The program is a part of Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan and allows passengers to tap prepaid fare cards at TTC and GO Transit stations equipped with card readers.

Vanessa Barrasa, spokesperson for Metrolinx, said it remains unclear what is causing the card readers to fail.

“As with all technology, we need time to troubleshoot when issues arise,” said Barrasa. “When your computer freezes, you don’t know what the issue is right away. The same is true for when a Presto reader goes out of service — it could be a minor issue that can be easily fixed, or it could be something we’d need more time to problem solve.”  

However, for the 80 per cent of Ryerson students relying on transit to get to school, these frequent glitches can cause commuter frustrations to run high.

Nina Neskevic, a third-year professional communication student, has used PRESTO for three years to pay for her commute from Whitby.

She said that dysfunctional scanners often force her to choose between missing her train or potentially being fined for boarding with a Presto card that did not scan.

“A lot of times, I’ll be at Union Station and I’ll hit tap at the stations right before going on the train and it says the machine isn’t working but my train leaves in less than a minute,” said Neskevic. “So I’m caught on the train without paying and basically can be charged, all because the machine wasn’t working.”

The glitch also poses the problem of leaving passengers with no  way to pay their fare at all. Devin Thewaoaperuma said a dysfunctional card reader nearly left him stranded when he had no other way to pay to board the bus.

“Luckily they said I didn’t have to pay because it was their fault the system wasn’t working,” said Thewaoaperuma.

Barrasa said all riders should carry a variety of payment options while the program is being phased into the TTC so they can move from vehicle to vehicle, whether it has a functioning Presto reader or not. According to the TTC, Presto is now available on all new and legacy streetcars, 35 subway stations and a number of buses within the system.

Brad Ross, TTC spokesperson, said glitches like these are common when rolling out a project of this size but do not threaten the long-term success.

“This is a monumental change for the TTC and its customers,” said Ross. “With such change, there are going to be teething problems. We remain confident, however, that Presto will be ready to deliver the new system to the TTC and its customers in 2017.”

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