Presto primer: How to pay your TTC fare electronically if you don't already

A quick primer on buying and using Presto, the electronic fare card now being integrated across the entire TTC system.

Electronic fare card will eventually replace tokens, tickets and the Metropass. Here's how it works

Instead of cash, tokens and paper transfers, the TTC is encouraging riders to use Presto to pay their fares in the new year.

After years of forcing passengers to fiddle with tokens, paper transfers and loose change, the TTC is moving to integrate the Presto electronic fare card across its network.

Phasing out what the TTC calls "old fare media," Presto will streamline how customers pay fares. And with no tokens to produce or coins to store, it should also save the TTC some operating costs. 

Despite all Presto's plusses, introducing an electronic fare card into the TTC's old-timey fare payment system isn't easy and for some passengers, old habits die hard.

But with integration well underway, 2016 may be the year even the most hardcore holdouts get one of these green cards.

Here's a list of questions asked and answered about how Presto works. 

Q: What is the Presto card?

Presto is a prepaid electronic fare card linked to an account of money you can load online or at special vending machines. When you board a bus, streetcar or enter a subway station, tap an electronic reader and the money is deducted from your account. 

Buying a Presto card

Q: I'm tired of tokens, hate scrounging for change and don't buy a Metropass. So I'm ready for Presto, now where can I buy one?

You can buy a Presto card here or by calling 1-877-378-6123, TTY #711 or 1-800-855-0511. The card will be mailed to you. It will take seven to 10 business days to arrive. 

You can also buy them in person at:

  • TTC head office at Yonge and Davisville.
  • In person at Queen's Park and Union stations using the same machines that sell the monthly Metropasses. 

You can also buy Presto cards in person at Gateway news stands at the following subway stations:

  • Bathurst
  • Spadina
  • Broadview
  • Bloor-Yonge
  • Dundas

​Note that only adult Presto cards are dispensed at these machines. To have a senior/student concession fare applied, you'll need to go to the TTC Customer Service Centre at Davisville Station, 1900 Yonge St.

Q: Is the Presto card free?

No. New cards cost $6. But that's a one-time fee. After that, the card is yours to keep and reload repeatedly. 

Using a Presto card

Q: So I tapped my Presto card when I boarded the streetcar. Next I'm transferring onto the subway. If I tap the card to get into the subway station, will I pay a second fare?

No, the system tracks where and when you tapped and will interpret this as a transfer. So you no longer need a paper transfer when transferring between streetcar and subway.

OK, what if I'm transferring onto a bus?

Buses are not yet Presto-enabled so you'll need a paper transfer in this case. You'll have to get a transfer from the driver or at the subway station where you paid your fare. 

So I can board at the rear doors of all streetcars now using Presto?

Yes, tap the card by the rear doors as you board. If you're thinking of not tapping your card to evade the fare, be warned: TTC fare checkers can tell if you paid by checking your card with an electronic scanner. If you didn't tap it, you're liable for a fine.

Can I use Presto to purchase a monthly pass, in a transaction that essentially turns my Presto card into a Metropass?

No. Right now you can't buy monthly passes or day passes for Presto but the TTC wants to make this possible. Stay tuned. 

I like the Presto card so much I'm using it like crazy and it's running out of money. How do I reload this sucker?

Machines where you can check your balance and add more money are located at many subway stations. The full list is here but the TTC is in the process of adding more machines.

You can also set the card to auto load when the balance dips below a certain level. You do this by logging in to your Presto account online. 

So is Presto rolled out system wide?

Not yet. The card works on all streetcars (even the old ones). A total of 26 stations are Presto-enabled now and the goal is to have all 69 TTC stations Presto-enabled by year's end.

Where else can I use Presto?

The following GTA transit systems use Presto:

  • Brampton Transit
  • Burlington Transit
  • Durham Region Transit (DRT)
  • GO Transit
  • Union Pearson Express (UPX) airport train
  • Hamilton Street Railway (HSR)
  • Miway
  • Oakville Transit
  • OC Transpo (Ottawa)
  • UP Express
  • York Region Transit/Viva (YRT/Viva)
Presto can now be used on all TTC streetcars. The card serves as passengers' proof of payment. (CBC)


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