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.


  1. I don't like that it can take up to 24 hours for my card to load. It means I have to carry tickets as back-up. So far, because the print is so small on the screen and it disappears so quickly, I have not been able to read my balance on the screen (accessibility concern?). It seems I will have to be disciplined and check my balance online on occasion, and re-load my card before it runs out of funds...

  2. I know if I hold my wallet with a contactless VISA card in it up to a reader the lights across the top of the reader will flash green. I can't remember what the screen says when I do this, but it is just the reader detecting a card in proximity. I have also seen this happen to a woman who had one in her purse when she leaned on the reader in the back of an artic.

    In Presto 1.0, like the GTA currently has, the driver has a screen to verify correct fare and type of card was used (child, adult, pass)