Transit riders could have other payment options

Ottawans could be the first ones in Ontario using open payment when the Presto electronic fare card rolls out on city buses July 1, the Sun has learned.

That means OC Transpo riders can skip buying the $6 Presto card, and tap their wallets on the card reader, a la the MasterCard PayPass.

The fare — and a transaction fee — will be charged to their debit/credit card, or even cell phone, although the details aren’t yet clear.

But the decision to offer open payment as an option for customers is up to OC Transpo.

“The current system we’re on in production is nearly five years old,” said Steve Zucker, managing director and executive vice-president for Presto, a division of Metrolinx.

“And so we’ve done a number of upgrades to the new system. So one of the things that people are looking forward to is open payments.”

At the beginning of the month, Transpo launched the Presto pilot program, giving green cards to 400 friends and family.

In June, 500 more folks will be guinea pigs.

The Presto cards are one of the items in the Manconi Dozen – transit boss John Manconi’s priorities for 2012, tabled at last Friday’s transit commission meeting.

“Convenience, simplicity and transferability will all improve the transit user’s experience and will lead to increases (in) ridership,” reads the plan.

Zucker said major changes are invisible to most users.

“But the infrastructure or the hardware that drives the entire system has been completely upgraded,” he said.

In addition, things should be easier for daily commuters.

“Ottawa has a special requirement because a large majority of OC Transpo riders use a monthly pass,” said Zucker.

“So the system we implemented on the new version (is) a monthly pass function, so that users can now use their Presto card as a monthly pass. Currently, no one in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton area has that capability.”

Presto is being installed on the fleet of almost 1,000 Transpo buses, said Zucker.

In Toronto, “there’s only 14 subway stations with readers on them, no vehicles,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross, adding there are 69 stations.

While Presto is a done deal in Ottawa, “we’re working through the final stages of a final agreement. And it’s moving forward,” said Ross.

A tentative plan will see a pilot project for open payment on the TTC this summer.


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