Tuesday, 30 October 2012



David Reevely on Presto's launch, and its possible delays.

In reading this, I think he's right on target. The overwhelming response these days to a Presto card tap-on, at least on the buses I've been driving, is a happy green screen. The system seems to have made significant progress towards functionality.

I'm a little worried that the system is duping me, however. Without knowledge of the technical processes that make the screen flash a check mark and a happy green light, I've noticed a few things that I'm hoping will get sorted out before the launch goes supernova.

Quebec cards produce a green light. And Quebecers are tapping on regardless of what the drivers say to them. The requirement for STO customers is that they must show OC Transpo drivers their smart cards, with a proof of purchase voucher to validate their fare. As far as I know, Presto doesn't speak STO. Nor will STO readers speak Presto. Which is why I question whether the Presto readers are actually reading the bits and bytes of the cards, or simply flashing green when the introductory protocol of proximity chips shakes hands with the reader. What I'm getting at here is that I think the green light may have nothing to do with fare collection so much as it may simply be saying it has detected a card.

Regular fare Presto cards do not register with the driver's console. I was expecting a check mark of some sort to let the driver know whether or not the Presto card has successfully put money in the till. I hope that is not permanent. I cannot see the face of the reader from the driver's seat.

Other than that, the system seems to have found its legs.

One note to consider about the delay:

We are not simply talking technology with Presto. I would rather that the Commission take two years to get this right than roll out a half baked product that doesn't work properly.

This project is going to completely take over the collection of fares at OC Transpo. Presto will hold the entire user-fee bankroll within its coffers, and will be the lone fare box by which the city collects revenue from OC Transpo customers.

When you have one company that can put your entire revenue stream in jeopardy with even the slightest modicum of error, you had best be sure every T is crossed.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

One Year Later

"Thanks for not forgetting me, man."

A line taken from Kelly Egan's recent column on the so-called "Berating Bus Driver"

The 57 year old bus driver is struggling to reestablish himself as he approaches retirement age. Despite his own personal issues on that night, with his mom and ex wife passing away recently, and having been sent home 2 days earlier after a kid spat in his face over a fare dispute, The 25 year veteran lost his temper on another type of passenger, that well known confrontational type. The professional aggravator.

So one year later, thanks to Kelly Egan, we know what the fired bus driver is up to. His life in shambles, still fighting to be able to convert a 25 year career into a retirement income so that he doesn't have to wash dishes or guard buildings at 70 to make ends meet. Click the link above and read the column if you haven't already. Now that your temper's calmed down about him, do you still want the man fired outright? Would a suspension have been more appropriate? I think so. But then again, I knew the driver. I'm admittedly biased.

So what of the passenger? The victim of the tirade?

Still up to the same old stuff. Check out his YouTube Channels at

He's a pretty good actor as you can see from his videos. In a small space with good acoustics, I think he brings out a certain type of character that most people would really like to connect with. He has that perfect combination of vocal projection, voice changes, and random actions that you want in an actor, especially at night on a city bus.

Really brings out the emotion in you, doesn't it?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

You Don't Know Jack.

There are folks in this world that get a raw deal in life. Some are handed cards that that they fritter away in bouts of selfishness, some don't play the game enough to realize how great a hand they have to play, but some get a hand that is just downright lousy.

Meet Jack. Jack is a legendary passenger on OC Transpo. If you have driven the 2 route, or any route that chugs it's way around the Hintonberg or Mechanicsville area, you've likely run into Jack. He's the guy wearing the leather hat, smiling and friendly, and pushing his old bike everywhere he goes. Jack is a really nice guy to talk to, though many avoid Jack's sort of demeanour. He likely has a few slight mental issues, which might as well be a sign around his neck for most folks to pretend they don't see him. It's unfair the way folks look at him sometimes, but I guess that's life and it doesn't seem to bother him. Jack's great to everyone. I've often wondered if he's homeless and to be honest, I've never asked that question of him, only assumed.  I guess it doesn't matter though. Jack is good people. Down to earth, and nice.

Last night my friend Greg picked Jack up on his bus. Greg grew up around Mechanicsville, and has known Jack for many years. Like Jack, Greg is one of the good guys. Down to earth, approachable, the kind of driver we all like to see when the front door swings open. Having served Jack for years, Greg's built up the inevitable reparté that drivers build up with a regular like Jack. Something was a little different tonight, however.

"Hey Jack, where's your bike?"
"They stole it."
"Who stole it???"

Jack went on to explain that he put his bike on the rack of a crowded bus. He took a seat somewhere, and when he went to exit the bus, somebody had taken his bike off of the rack. Imagine for a second what Jack's bike might look like. This wasn't a Cannondale road bike with a trip computer and custom seat. It was a half broken down jalopy owned by a man whom most of us assume is homeless. Who on earth steals this kind of bike? It wasn't something you're looking to flip for a few bucks. It may have been worth the world to Jack, but it really wasn't worth Jack to the world.

Greg was angry.

Jack then told Greg that it wasn't the driver's fault, the bus was really full, and the driver could not have known.

Jack's compassion and understanding for a driver is inspiring. It really is amazing what we can learn about humanity from a person who spends much of his time wading through people who don't treat him like he is, in fact, human..

What is also really amazing to see what a few of my co-workers have done with this story.

It all started with Greg sharing the story on a local forum. Most of us know Jack, and we all know Greg. No less than twenty drivers began plotting to get Jack a new bike. But how? And What? It isn't just as simple as heading to Canadian Tire with the $200-$300 that these drivers have already pledged and buying him a brand new bike. Some big flashy new wheels will just get Jack a nice reason to worry about the next guy looking to steal his bike. These drivers surmised that he needs a bike to get around, but not something that will get him right back in the same predicament the next time he parks the bike somewhere.

Four or five drivers already had bikes to donate, and wanted Greg to give them an address to drop them off. It was almost like competitive donation planning, each driver wanting to be the one to help out the most. One driver won the sweepstakes by offering to donate an older Trek bicycle, with a good Kryptonite lock to help the man keep his bike where it belongs. You can't argue with Kryptonite. That stuff defeated Superman. The driver is going to drop the bike and lock off with Greg today, less that a day after Jack told Greg about his story.

Greg's told us that he plans to carry the bike around with him until he runs into Jack again, as Jack is a regular customer on Greg's line. I only wish I could be there to see Jack's face when he gets his new wheels, and the keys to his new lock.

I work with some pretty awesome people. Sometimes it takes a bad hand to realize that the hand you're holding is really pretty good.

And from the seat I'm sitting in, this city is all aces.