City of Ottawa to offer 10,000 free Presto cards

The City of Ottawa will release a batch of computerized transit passes for Ottawa's fledgling version of Metrolinx system in January.

OC Transpo says it will begin distributing 10,000 free Presto smart cards next month to anybody who wants one.

The city's public transit authority had originally planned to distribute 200,000 of the free cards last June, but that was before the Presto system failed its first test dubbed, 'the Presto family and friends pilot', involving 2,000 free cards.

The 10,000 cards will be available for two weeks starting Jan. 18 through OC Transpo's four Sales and Information Centres, the Presto website and call centre.

OC Transpo will study how well these newest free cards work and then announce in April whether the system is reliable enough to fully implement.

At the beginning of December, Provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter’s report on government spending said the $700 million invested on development fees for Presto made it among the most expensive transit pass-cards in the world.

The system is already up and running in limited locations in Toronto and Hamilton and was supposed to be fully operational in Ottawa by July 1, however technical glitches delayed the rollout.

Metrolinx, the provincial agency that administers the system, said it would reimburse Ottawa up to $7 million in costs the city incurred managing the delays, and offered a $3 million rebate on the original $25 million purchase price.