Ottawa is sticking with the troubled Presto pass-card in spite of a scathing review of Metrolinx, the provincial agency implementing the new public transit payment system in cities across Ontario.
Provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter’s report on government spending on Wednesday said the $700 million invested on development fees for Presto makes 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 continue to delay Presto’s rollout.
Metrolinx 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.
However, McCarter’s report calls into question the decision to go with Metrolinx in the first place.
City councillor Peter Clark said Ottawa was "bulldozed" by the provincial government into implementing the Presto card and called the current situation irritating.
"I think we’re jumping into the technological revolution with both feet before finding out if there’s anything to jump onto," he said.
For Mayor Jim Watson, Presto is running out of second chances and the mayor insisted Ottawa rate-payers are protected in the event Presto is unworkable, or scrapped altogether.
"We’ve obviously given Presto one last kick at the can, number one. And secondly, our taxpayers are going to be protected because we have a guarantee," said Watson.
"At the end of the day we want to make sure the card system that we do give our transit users works, we’re satisfied with it and we’ll not be paying Presto a nickel if the system doesn’t work."