TTC asked to look into how much money it's losing from broken Presto card readers

If you've been waved onto a bus or streetcar because of a broken Presto machine, you know the glitchy fare readers are costing the TTC money.

Metrolinx to pay TTC back for lost fares, but transit agencies need to agree on a price tag

TTC riders have likely seen this once or twice. Now, the transit agency has to figure out how many fares it's losing due to broken Presto machines. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

If you've been waved onto a bus or streetcar because of a broken Presto machine, you know the glitchy fare readers are costing the TTC money.

On Tuesday, the transit agency's board will start figuring out how to get some of that cash back.

Coun. Joe Mihevc is recommending the TTC look into Presto's failure rate, and how much Metrolinx, which runs the Presto system, should pay to make up for that lost revenue. Mihevc said he wants the TTC to develop a mathematical formula to calculate exactly how many fares are going unpaid due to the well-documented problems with Presto machines.

"We know we are losing money … what the bleeding rate is, we don't know," Mihevc told CBC Toronto.

Mihevc said the TTC needs to get its formula right — factoring in things like the fairly low number of Presto users in the city, as well as the large number of people who pay their fares with monthly Metropasses — so there are no disagreements with Metrolinx over the eventual price tag. 

"I don't want the TTC, frankly, at the end of the day to be ripped off by Presto implementation," he said, noting he doesn't believe Metrolinx would do that to the city.

Coun. Joe Mihevc said the city won't launch a major campaign to have more people get Presto cards until the glitches are sorted out. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Presto machines are now available on all TTC vehicles and subway stations, however, due to a range of technical issues, fare readers can go out of service. Last fall, Metrolinx conducted a field audit that found some 12 per cent of fare readers on buses weren't working, while five per cent of the machines on streetcars were also out of service. 

Metrolinx wants 99%-plus reliability for Presto machines

Metrolinx's board heard last week that the machines have been given multiple software updates to improve their performance since that time. And in January, there were some 4.5 million Presto boardings on the TTC, according to the presentation.

Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig previously told CBC's Metro Morning the Presto issues are unacceptable, and said his organization is aiming for 99 per cent or better reliability for the thousands of machines.

Mihevc said once the problems are fixed, the city will work harder to get more people using Presto cards.

"We want to work out all the kinks in the system before we do aggressive advertising," he said.  

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said in an email he expects Mihevc's recommendation to be accepted and the issue investigated. It's unclear when the TTC will be paid.

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.


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