Thirty two million dollars. Thousands of training hours. Young folks paid to wear Presto shirts. Thousands of hours of installations. The smart way to go in the capital has been officially postponed to February of 2013. Seems the pilot project flew right into the side of a mountain.
I have yet to successfully process one single Presto transaction since this pilot project left the Toronto airport it came from. They couldn't even get the training readers to work properly at the garage.
The tendency here is to blame OC Transpo, or council, or He Who's Name Must Not Be Spoken who actually signed off on this crazy no-opt-out contract, but let's point some fingers at the nerds running Metrolinx... or Accenture... or Presto... or whomever it is that has built, supplied, installed, and programmed these readers into our buses. They have done much to ruin the credibility of the smart card program.
The official word may very well be a relaunch in February, but from what I gather from the meeting this morning, the Presto folks don't even know why the readers aren't working yet. They haven found the root causes, and are "working" on it. When David Copperfield said Presto!, the Statue of Liberty disappeared. When Presto says it's working on it, I get the feeling we're going to be watching our tax dollars disappear.
From a driver's standpoint, this whole situation is quite frustrating. Some customers are annoyed that the machines don't work. Sometimes the machines appear to work, but prompt the customers to tap-on more than once before declining the transaction. Most times the machines simply say that the cards are unreadable, or they simply do not boot up at all displaying an "Unready" status.
Our idling policy requires us to (rightly) shut our buses down during breaks. The Presto readers shut down with the bus, and can take up to 6 minutes to boot up. That is a huge technical oversight, in my opinion.
And what of this pilot program?
This may come as a huge shock to honest Ottawans, but the scammers have figured things out already. I am seeing daily increases in the number of Presto cards I am being presented. How can that be possible? Well, how about because Presto sells the cards for six measly dollars on their website? When Presto says it will reimburse costs, does it factor in the hundreds of people who figured out that the Bill Holmes memo to bus drivers that was publicized in the Ottawa Citizen grants anyone with a Presto card a free ride on OC Transpo? People are ordering these cards from the Presto website, then opting in to the pilot project all on their own! Not a bad deal that for $6.00, you can ride as much transit as you can fit in until PrestoMetrolinxAccenture gets its technical issues sorted out!
I talked to a passenger this morning who openly admitted that he had bought his card online after a friend had suggested that he try it out. "What do I have to lose? Six bucks?"
That really is a smart way to go in the capital. It's like magic. Soon we'll be watching our revenues disappear. Just wave the magic card, and Presto!