EDITORIAL: Presto isn’t ready to replace tokens, tickets

by | Nov 20, 2019 | City News, Editorial

ETC Staff

The TTC announced in October that tokens will no longer be sold after Nov. 30. Its replacement will be the Presto system.

Single-use Presto tickets cost $3.25 for a single ride, $6.50 for a two-way trip or $13 for a day pass. Presto Cards cost $6 and can be reloaded online.

The TTC is planning to distribute free Presto cards before the deadline so people can load up their cards.

Nevertheless, the TTC should either rethink how it’s applying Presto or even delay it. Presto clearly has its issues, and the TTC can’t afford to leave behind their tokens just yet. It’s not cost effective for those who find public transit expensive. It’s technology is unreliable, although the TTC and Metrolinx, the over-arching GTA transit authority, are working to fix the expensive bugs.

Shifting to the online system seems to make sense, however single fairs are pricey. Buying one ticket is more expensive per unit than when buying three tokens.

It’s been 10 years since Presto launched and it continues to have problems.

On Sept. 3, the first day of school for many students, those commuting could only use cash to reload their Presto cards because the debit and credit options on the machines were out of order.

Presto vending devices are regularly out of order because the coin boxes are constantly full. In one instance, a machine was out of order for seven days until its coin box was finally emptied.

The card readers tend to freeze up as well. In a two-day period in June, 168 buses reportedly had 300 cases of frozen Presto readers.

These issues are costing the TTC $3.4 million annually.

Metrolinx gave its users a way around malfunctioning machines with the Presto app, which launched in January. Commuters have the ability to load funds on the app. But the app has numerous technical issues and users can’t tap their phones to pay for their fares.

Those that don’t use Presto cards are also dealing with inconveniences.

Buying single Presto tickets is difficult for those that aren’t close to a subway station that has fare vending machines. And while 136 Shoppers Drug Mart locations can sell tickets, it doesn’t beat the 1,200 locations that tokens are available.

The token was a reliable currency for the TTC, which has struggled to transfer those qualities to Presto. Making that switch for its users is a tough sell.

“We have advocated for a couple of years now to keep the best features of tokens with whatever Presto pushes forward,” Susan Bender, manager of Toronto Drop In Network and long term member of Fair Fare Coalition, said in a press release.

“Tokens are available in many locations, less expensive if you can buy three or more, indestructible, easy to use and to give to someone else to use, and there is no expiry date for something that you have already paid for,” she said.

“The Single Presto Ticket has almost none of these features — and it goes in the garbage after it has been used for one ride,” Bender said.

Presto has even received backlash from TTC employees.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, representing 11,000 TTC employees, sent a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking the government take “immediate and urgent action” to what it sees as an unreliable system with machines that regularly break down.

“We want (the government) to address the fact that the Presto system has failed,” said Kevin Morton, spokesman for the ATU 113. “It’s just a debacle.”

At the very least, Metrolinx and the TTC should ensure Presto’s reliability and make it affordable for those who rely on public transit before ending the use of tokens.