Toronto

Plan to sell Presto cards exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart stores prompts concern about accessibility

With the clock ticking on the Toronto Transit Commission's plan to phase out tokens, some are raising concerns the move to an exclusively Presto-based system will make it harder for people to purchase fares — specifically those living in low-income areas. 

Move will leave low-income neighbourhoods shortchanged, new report says

A new report presented at the TTC board Wednesday suggests that once tokens are phased out, a deal by Metrolinx to sell Presto cards at only at Shoppers Drug Mart locations will leave whole neighbourhoods shortchanged. (Metrolinx)

With the clock ticking on the Toronto Transit Commission's plan to phase out tokens, some are raising concerns the move to an exclusively Presto-based system will make it harder for people to purchase fares — specifically those living in low-income areas. 

A new report presented at the TTC board Wednesday suggests that once tokens are phased out, a deal by Metrolinx to sell Presto cards only at Shoppers Drug Mart locations will leave whole neighbourhoods shortchanged.

Those neighbourhoods include a large section of Scarborough and Weston, where Presto cards would be hard to come by on foot.

Mike Sullivan, who has been living in Weston for 20 years, is among those worried about the arrangement between the provincial transit agency and Shoppers Drug Mart that would phase out Presto sales at any other corner stores.

"Here in this part of the city, we are in a Shoppers desert, if you will, because there's only two for 65,000 households," Sullivan said.

"What it means for people living here is a long commute to get your fare media, and there are many people who live here who don't have access to the internet, don't have credit cards."

Sullivan worries the change could negatively affect low-income residents, seniors and anyone with accessibility issues.

The report illustrates what the coverage areas for purchasing Presto cards will look like after the plan takes effect:

This map shows the coverage areas where TTC fares can be purchased now. (Toronto Transit Commission)
This map shows the coverage range for purchasing TTC fares when Presto is sold exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart. (Toronto Transit Commission)

"If you're a person with a disability and you just reduce accessibility from 800 locations down to 125 — that's a huge human rights violation," Sullivan said. 

That concern isn't lost on city councillor and TTC board member Brad Bradford.

"We are not going to meet the agreed-upon terms for accessibility on Presto. And the TTC, we'll be pushing back on that," he said. 

As for Metrolinx, it says it acknowledges the concerns and will be working find ways to address them.

"Our job is to make transit accessible to everybody and we've been in discussions with the TTC as to how we can fill those gaps because we share that concern," said spokesperson Annalise Czerny. 

The Presto fare system has been plagued with issues in Toronto, including malfunctioning top-up machines and faulty card readers. The TTC logged 620 complaints about Presto in 2016.

 

With files from Lauren Pelley

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