Metrolinx doesn't know why its $15K Presto machines aren't working

Frustrated riders have flooded the transit agency with complaints about 70 self-serve machines around the GTA that now have to be replaced or repaired.

The transit agency says it will begin replacing the machines in early 2017

The faulty machines have been installed at TTC, UP Express and GO Transit stations.

Metrolinx says it is working to replace or repair the 70 self-serve Presto machines that cost a collective $1 million, but haven't worked reliably since they were installed.

The machines are designed to allow riders to add funds and check the balance on their cards. They were custom-designed for the Presto system and have been installed at TTC, UP Express and GO Transit stations.

Metrolinx says the machines are not meeting reliability targets, and they've generated a slew of fresh complaints from riders.

"We do feel badly that a lot of customers have had a very frustrating experience," said Robert Hollis, executive vice president of Presto.

The findings were part of a Presto update report that Hollis delivered to the Metrolinx board at its Thursday meeting.

Hollis says the $15,000 machines performed well during "vigorous" lab testing before they were rolled out, but an unidentified problem has plagued them since they were installed. Sometimes they don't work at all; at other times, they won't load money onto the cards.

Metrolinx says the problems may be related to the network the machines use or their payment system. But he said the machines are still processing between 35,000 and 40,000 transactions every week.

New machines in 2017

Metrolinx has also received a "considerably upgraded" version of the machines that it says are performing well in the lab.

It is planning to begin installing those new machines in early 2017. It may also try to repair some of the current machines.

"We are not going to rest until those devices are replaced and up to standard," said Hollis, who says Metrolinx will not pay any additional costs for the replacements or repairs.

The report also forecasts that all TTC subway stations, buses, streetcars and Wheel-Trans vehicles will be equipped with Presto readers by the end of December.

"We're still confident in the endgame that we'll have a sound and very reliable system," Hollis said.