Presto Card Allows Public Transit Riders to Move Quickly and Efficiently

Presto is one Metrolinx initiative and more specifically, a key component of Metrolinx’s strategic plan “The Big Move” to address congestion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) for riders and to support the region’s economic development and quality of life. Presto is very similar to other global efare systems such as the Oyster card in London, UK or Hong Kong’s Octopus card.

It is an advanced electronic payment system that is designed to allow transit riders to travel seamlessly and more conveniently throughout the GTHA. From Oshawa to Hamilton, Presto riders can move quickly and efficiently. Currently there are more than 400,000 active Presto card holders and growing at a rate of more than 22,000 per month on average.

From concept to an active community in the 100,000s has taken only six years. A solid achievement particularly when considering, prior to Presto, no meaningful investment in GTHA public transit fare infrastructure had been made in decades. We were well behind other urban centres, particularly in North America.

Today Presto riders tap their card on a payment device and the system instantly calculates and deducts the lowest fare. The rider never has to fumble for change, tokens or paper transfers. The transit system automatically gets the fare, without the considerable expense and operations required to handle, reconcile and secure cash. Riders have tapped their Presto card more than 59 million times.

If the card is registered online at the Presto website the funds are automatically secure from loss or theft. Riders can choose to autoload their cards online for maximum convenience. For our transit partners it means more business intelligence insights, operational efficiencies and the opportunity to potentially introduce new rider services and products such as GO Transit’s’ recent “Service Guarantee” program. Presto can meet the needs of any transit agency in Ontario and is customizable to various partners, including OC Transpo and GO Transit each of which have differing needs and specifications.

These are only some of the benefits that Presto offers, but some recent media coverage — such as the article by The Tornoto Star posted in Mass Transit — overlook these facts.

By February 2013, Presto will realize 500,000 cardholders and has a technology platform that will allow the system to continually evolve over the next few years and even contemplate public and private sector partnerships.

We have continually benchmarked ourselves against similar projects around the world and according to an independent review conducted by accounting, audit and business advisory firm Grant Thornton “value for money” has been created and will continue to be for riders, transit partners and Ontario taxpayers alike. Grant Thornton confirmed that Presto is one of only 10 to 15 e-fare systems in the world relative to its level of sophistication. From first launch to active community has only taken 24 months.

Finally, some are insisting we “sole-sourced” too much of the technology and have not followed proper competitive procurement practices. We disagree and so do others. Our initial procurement chose Accenture as our technology partner. We made a series of project decisions over the six years, evaluated by Grant Thornton, that were concluded to be in the best interests of leveraging each level of investment, maintaining our technology relevance and retaining our aggressive timelines for the benefit of our transit partners and riders. These practices were examined by Ontario’s former Integrity Commissioner, retired Justice of the Ontario Superior Court, Coulter Osborne, at our request, and found to be a fair, open and justified. We have been good stewards.

Looking forward, we are eager to add the TTC and OC Transpo among our transit partners. By 2016, we anticipate there will be 2.5 million transit users relying on a modern world-class e-fare system with their Presto card.

Presto is becoming a valued, everyday part of the lives of commuters and transit riders across the GTHA. We couldn’t be prouder.