Transit users in the GTA may finally be able to pay their fares by tapping a contactless credit card, debit card or cell phone on a Presto reader as early as 2020.
Metrolinx announced the launch of an “open payment trial” on Monday at a joint press conference with Mayor John Tory and Premier Doug Ford.
"We need to move the Presto product as it stands now into the new age," said Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster.
"We are busy finalizing a way forward that would put Presto on your mobile device, allow for open transactions with credit cards on the system, and a couple of exciting features that would take Presto into the next generation."
Metrolinx, the provincial organization that owns Presto, plans to install new readers capable of supporting the open payment system on GO Transit buses later this month, before rolling it out on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) next year.
This should be welcome news for riders of the TTC and GO transit systems, who have had to deal with many troubles over the last year, including Presto fare loading issues and malfunctioning equipment.
The provincial government halted the implementation of the open payment system in July 2010, arguing that the system was “troubling and confusing”, given that Ontario had already spent $200 million on a system with one card to get commuters into and around all the GTA transit systems.
There will be some changes to the way users can interact with the new Presto readers. For example, the new readers won’t allow transit riders to tap their Presto card while it’s inside a wallet, in order to prevent any accidental charges to credit cards that are also inside the wallet.
Implementation could be bumpy, however, given the ongoing tension between the TTC and Metrolinx. For instance, the TTC claims Metrolinx hasn’t delivered about 40% of the features promised under the terms of the 2012 Presto contract, including the open payment system.
And Toronto’s Auditor General concluded in a report last month that “there is a governance gap for TTC and Metrolinx to address TTC's contractual and ongoing operational needs.”
As far as the open payment system goes, TTC spokesperson Heather Brown told the Hamilton Spectator on Monday that the TTC was unaware Metrolinx was going to launch a trial of the system next year.
“This is the first I've heard about this," she said in an email, indicating, however, that it had always been a part of the TTC and Metrolinx’s master agreement.
“Having open payment available to our customers makes it even faster and easier for them to pay their fare ... Open payment has always been part of our master agreement and a priority for us to provide our customers.”
Metrolinx has not specified when open payments could be available on the TTC but a software upgrade required to actually introduce the system isn't expected until some time in 2020.