Presto a waste of money: Ex-transit boss

The former chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission warns Presto could be likened to the next e-Health scandal.

“I actually think it’s like an atrocious waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Adam Giambrone, who now works at Montreal’s Agence Metropolitaine de Transport.

Global tech giant Accenture was awarded a 10-year, $250-million contract with the province in 2006.

Presto’s July 1 rollout on OC Transpo in Ottawa is being delayed by at least one month, amid technical difficulties during the two-month trial, city officials announced Thursday.

Giambrone recalls Toronto’s technical issues with Presto.

“The early testing models, you know, had trouble in the weather,” he said.

“They were freezing up, there were a lot of problems.”

In all fairness, “early models can evolve and change,” said Giambrone.

But bureaucrats weren’t satisfied the technical requirements had been met.

“TTC keeps trying to nail them down on commitments, like can you guarantee that this will work,” said Giambrone, adding Toronto collects about $1.5 million in cash each day and lost fare revenue is a concern.

“So you know, your system goes down…you can’t collect fares. So what you end up doing is opening the gates, right?”

Presto’s response?

“They will not sign on the dotted line to commit to these things,” he said.

Presto executives have also been evasive about how it will save the transit company money, even behind closed doors with the TTC, Giambrone said.

“Ottawa’s going to have its own funding issues,” said Giambrone.

“These are taxpayer dollars and, you know, it’s nice to have a fancy, shiny new system, but it better work.”

A Metrolinx spokeswoman told the Sun the glitches will be worked out.

“We are working hard to ensure any issues with the Presto system are fixed,” wrote Vanessa Thomas in an e-mail.

“The Presto friends and family pilot has done what it was supposed to do. It allowed us to field test the system end-to-end from the bus, to the website and to the call centre … We want to ensure the OC Transpo has an effective system and that is what we plan to deliver with Presto.”

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

@ottawasunkroche

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