TTC wants report on fares lost because of malfunctioning Presto readers
The transit agency says that 8 to 10 per cent of card readers on buses and streetcars are out of service.
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The TTC board has asked for a clear accounting of how much money the transit agency is losing as a result of malfunctioning Presto devices.
At a meeting of the board on Tuesday, commissioners voted to have agency staff produce a report later this year on the “failure rate and loss revenue cost” of the Presto fare card system.
Board member and Councillor Joe Mihevc, who moved the motion for the report, said it was important to get a “methodologically rigorous” report of how much the TTC is losing. Under a deal reached in 2012, Metrolinx, the provincial agency that owns Presto, is contractually obligated to compensate the TTC for forgone revenue due to Presto problems.
“The cost of the failure of the readers is not a TTC issue, it’s a Metrolinx issue,” said Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s).
“Let’s find out what that bill is, and make sure that they pay for it.”
The TTC’s deputy CEO Chris Upfold told the board that the TTC is working to put a number on Presto losses but has yet to finalize the figure with Metrolinx.He said that Presto readers on buses and streetcars are exhibiting new failures at a rate of less than 1 per cent, but because of a backlog to fix them, about 8 to 10 per cent are out of service at any given time.
Asked in an interview whether he was concerned that the TTC is bleeding money as a result of the glitches, Upfold said he would be more concerned if he didn’t believe the situation was improving.
“We think we know what the root causes are, we’re fixing those root causes and it’s getting better,” he said. Metrolinx has issued a string of software updates intended to address the malfunctions.
TTC chair and councillor for Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence Josh Colle said he trusted transit staff’s assurances that Presto isn’t causing major revenue loss. But he added that “even if it’s one fare we have to know what it is so we can get the money back from the province. So that’s the exercise at this point.”
The TTC and Metrolinx completed the installation of Presto devices on every streetcar and bus and at least one entrance of every subway station at the end of last year.
Although a significant number of the devices are out of service, the hit to TTC revenue is likely mitigated by the fact that Presto users still make up a minority of Toronto transit users. In December customers used Presto to pay for 4.2 million trips, according to the TTC. That represented 8.5 per cent of all journeys that month.
While Metrolinx is on the hook for the TTC’s lost revenue, figuring out the dollar amount the provincial agency owes is no simple task. Each bus and streetcar has several Presto readers, and it’s TTC policy that if one is not working riders should pay by tapping on one of the functional devices on the same vehicle.
If all of the readers on a vehicle are malfunctioning, passengers are advised to tap at the next reader on their journey if they’re transferring to another vehicle.
Because of this, it could be difficult to determine how much revenue has been lost by one out-of-service reader.
To make matters more complicated the TTC, not Metrolinx, owns the fare gates at subway stations, and the provincial agency isn’t responsible paying for failures of that technology. But Metrolinx does own some of the software for the gates, and would be obligated to reimburse the TTC for those glitches.
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said the provincial agency is working with the TTC to determine how much it owes.
She stressed that reliability of the system is increasing since last year, when there were widespread outages to bus and streetcar readers. “It’s absolutely going to steadily improve because we haven’t stopped sending (software) updates to the readers and will continue to do that as we identify any issues,” she said.
Some members of the board took the opportunity Tuesday to rail against the Presto system, which the TTC agreed to adopt under pressure from the province. The contract expires in 2027.
“We never should have entered into this arrangement. This is not the TTC’s fault,” said Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong. He called Presto a “horrible disaster.”
“We’re stuck with it and we’ve got to make it work. I just don’t want the TTC to wear any of this.”
According to a revised timetable, the TTC is planning to phase out existing tokens, passes, and tickets sometime in 2018. Upfold said that the agency won’t compel customers to make the switch until Presto is completely reliable.