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Thursday, April 17, 2014

GO Transit messily divorces PRESTO - shuts down on-board PRESTO loads on buses

Beginning June 16, GO Transit bus passengers will no longer be able to load funds onto their PRESTO cards when boarding buses. No explanation was given other than a one-sentence announcement made on GO Transit's Facebook page and on GO Transit's website. The announcement is shown alongside a graphic that reads "Load before you GO".

I was surprised by the announcement, even more surprised by the initiative because if GO Transit thinks loading PRESTO cards is part of the delay when boarding, I can't say I've witnessed it. What I found slows down my CAN WE GET TO THE STATION NOW?! commute is on-board ticket sales. People counting out change. The driver counting out change. Passengers rummaging around for change to help out Nana on her way downtown to the hospital who is short on fare. This is what slows down the commute.

In fact, in the three years I've been bus-riding the green limo, only once did I witness someone load $20 onto a PRESTO card. The driver at first had no idea how to do it because no one had asked him to do it before and he had to call into bus operations for instructions. This was in the Spring of 2012. Sure, that was two years ago but I haven't seen another transaction since. Even myself as a bus passenger have never done it. However, some passengers who have taken advantage of this service have encountered problems.

There was a whole Twitter exchange between myself (@thiscrazytrain), @MichaelSuddard, @GOvoygr, @Prestocard and @ellenroseman (yes, *that* Ellen Roseman) about an incident involving @eliphae who loaded funds on a bus and never saw those funds make their way into her PRESTO e-wallet. It took over three weeks for her situation to be resolved and it was only resolved when Ellen Roseman contacted the Media relations manager with Metrolinx (@femwriter). It was a wild west kind of day that day on Twitter.

Reading through the comments on Facebook, it's an even mix of joy and anger at this news. A lot of anger is stemming from people who commute from rural communities who don't necessarily use GO Stations. They rely on the on-board PRESTO terminal to load funds. A lot of joy is stemming from people who hate any kind of bus-passenger payment transactions. "It's one less thing for drivers to worry about", wrote one person. I guess these people don't have anyone on their routes who pay for single rides, and in quarters.

I guess this is a sign of the times, folks. PRESTO allows for online transactions. Bus passengers will have to watch their balances more closely and load funds before the balance enters into red alert, and well before 24 hours til mayday, allowing time for the load to work its way across the GO system.

Below is the account from @eliphae. Did her situation drive the final nail in the coffin for on-board PRESTO loads?

from: eliphae
date: Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 7:54 PM
subject: Babbling records of a Presto mess

Hello :D~!

I'd like to thank you again for your help in clearing up my recent Presto nightmare~! Looking back from where I am now, now that its all over, I can't imagine how it'd been solved without tackling the incident face on and making the necessary calls to nag at their customer service to get something done. For that, I'd have to thank you and numerous others on Twitter for keeping me grounded and pointed in the right direction!

So now that its over, GO Voyageur kindly poked at me to make a documentation of the entire recent run in with Presto and the particular circumstances that started off this entire month-long epic fail by the transit system. This will probably not be very concise and will definitely run off random tangents, but please bear with me.

I work in Hamilton, and journey there and back to Oakville everyday for the past few years. I usually make my transit by taking the more economical option of carpooling with coworkers, but now and then I found myself having to take the GO Transit instead. Now, one of my coworkers had previous let me in on the ability to load your card while boarding the bus, a feature which I found liberating and very convenient. Up to a few weeks ago, I haven't experienced any problems doing this.

So on Friday 14th of March, I boarded the bus as usual and inquired to load my card with a 20$. The driver complied and I was given my receipt. There was a charge for underpayment, and I worried a bit that I may have forgotten to tap off the day before, and thus made doubly sure to tap off hence after. I came home that day by carpool. Imagine my surprise the following Monday, when I tapped on only to be flashed Non-Sufficient Funds!

My usual trip of Oakville to Hamilton, with a stopover at the Hwy407 Oakville carpool lot, comes to the amount of $6.84. I originally had $5.68 in balance, and upon loading a 20, I was definitely expecting more than one ride before it hit the bottom!

That evening, I logged onto the Presto website to try and check my transition records. Unfortunately, it was my parents' card, which they failed to activate properly within the 30 day limit. Therefore another week was spent on trying to get it activated.

At this time, I raged on Twitter and randomly on the Presto Facebook page, giving a go at the passive aggressive approach. Thankfully, you and GOVoyageur and a few other friendly mates heard my aimless flailing and reached out a hand!!

I phoned in numerous times to Presto, and had various well meaning CSR agents insinuate on why patience is a virtue when using their system, and how one must wait a full 24 (if not more) hours before starting the next stage. I refused to load anymore onto the card for fear of it becoming even more muddled up than it is already, and had to instead run downtown several times to the GO Station to flash the card at the balance checker. Apparently you must wait a full 24 hours (if not more) after the card is initiated for activation, before attempting to activate it. Any tries at flashing the card within this 24 hour waiting time is useless.

Finally, on March 21st, one week later, my card was activated on my Presto account, and I was able to check my transit history. Here I shall link once again to the screencap I posted to Twitter;

Anyone who has accessed their online Presto account has no doubt seen this table. And then possibly spent a good while trying to make heads or tails out of it. The invisible deductions doesn't make it any clearer. But in the end I supposed I made a decent connection of how much funds went or out at each line.

GOVoyageur came to the rescue and made a much in-depth diagnosis of the catpuke chart of doom. I shall attempt to copy and transcript it in its entirety.

8:21 Tap ON. Debit $5.20 base fare. Next, attempt to load $20 to ePurse
8:21 System closes trip. Debit $3.50 Underpayment to York U. Credit ePurse with $16.50.
8:28 Exit bus and tap OFF. System interprets this as tap ON. Debit $5.20 base fare.
8:55 Transfer to Hamilton bound bus and tap ON. This is 2nd Zone 13 entry showing as $0.00 (also a bug)
8:55 System thinks you didn't tap OFF 1st bus, so debit $3.50 Underpayment (reflected in balance)
8:55 At this point you also lost the GO-to-GO transfer credit within 3 hr Travel Window
8:55 (1st Zone 13 entry) Tap ON. Debit base fare of $5.20.
9:38 Exit bus & tap OFF. Debit $1.64 to complete 2nd bus trip to Hamilton.


Apparently the transaction log is read bottom to top, with the newest at the top, except for the Zone 13 entries, which are in reverse order.

From what I gather, the card was tapped on before the driver managed to set the machine on load mode. Then upon the switch, the original trip was cancelled and an underpayment charge was deducted. A new trip wasn't activated until my tap off the bus at the Hwy 407 stop over, which then of course registered as a tap on. I don't really understand the GO-to-GO transfer within the 3 hour travel window, exactly, since it was all within a one hour duration. So the third trip was initiated, somehow...

Anyways, I ended up phoning in to GO Transit, now with some solid evidence of a bugged card system and feeling more credited to ask for a refund. A friendly CSR informed me I would have to wait a week for the inquiry to reach the head of the queue, and that they are apparently very much backlogged.

Over a week later, I was still waiting. And if it were not for the friendly folks on Twitter, I reckon I'd still be waiting. As it were, Michael Suddard managed to direct me to Ellen Roseman, who sent me to Anne Marie Aikins who was able to take up the issue to GO Transit and have it looked at immediately! Cheers for joy!

I was rather hazy and feeling worn out at this point, but was anxious as ever to see it through. Fortunately, a call came the following day at work, from a lady at the GO Transit call center. A credit coupon has been mailed out!! And indeed, I have received it shortly before typing this wall of text.

So the moral of the entire mess? Either load money at a GO Station, or make sure the bus driver know you wish to load, and have it done before any tapping is done! I admit at certain times during the entire mess, I envisioned myself buying paper passes daily instead. No doubt I'd receive the stink-eye from every other passenger for holding up the bus, but at least I'd know where my money is going~!!

So glad it's over.


Rip a cord on a chainsaw. That'll work

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Engineer decides he's not about to let #trainselfie become a "thing"

To quote the star of this video, Jared Michael, "I tried to take a selfie while a train passed a "safe" distance behind. I guess I was still too close and got kicked in the head. I messed up".

If a train engineer can reach out and boot you in the head, you're not a "safe" distance away from any train...

Remember kids:

Thanks to C.S. for the heads-up about this story.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hey, what did a seat cushion ever do to you?

Angry at a signal delay? Why not flip some seat cushions around and leave an angry note?
All the passive-aggressiveness right here, in one picture.

This be Instagram gold! Thanks casomorphine for capturing this for the world!

I feel like I should buy her dinner.

Fun fact. We are having the same weather today that we had on April 16, 2011

I only remember because it was a Saturday and my daughter's 6th birthday. My husband and I made the mistake of inviting all of her class (23 kids) to a bowling party at Liberty Bowl in Bowmanville (RIP by the way - it's been demolished).

What a disaster. One kid broke two fingers and bled all over the alley, the concession stand and the bathroom, and every single parent stuck around hoping we might throw them a slice of pizza. My husband and I vowed - NEVER AGAIN. We don't speak much of that day.

So today's weather is not unusual for April. It's just sucky this year because of the winter that will never end.

And I don't know what I would do without Facebook or Twitter when it comes to weather updates. I'd be a ball of naivety.

Société de transport de Montréal (STM) launches public commuting etiquette campaign - and it's brilliant

Metrolinx could do better with PSA initiatives to highlight all of the crap passengers do that make the GO train unbearable at times. There was the print-based campaign called, "What would happen if we all did it?" that Metrolinx ran in the fall and also on the trains, but it didn't make a dent. I don't even think passengers paid attention to it. We were all happy when we first saw them run and then suddenly, they were gone.

I'll give Metrolinx some applause for The Quiet Zone which is both a success and a failure. It depends on who you ask.

The STM campaign called "Riding together - Make it better!" involves a series of infographic cards highlighting behavior passengers should curb.

As you can probably guess, ^ is my favourite.

You can view all the cards here.

Because it's all about them, and their comfort...

Remember "Dumb Ways to Die"? Well now there's a game and it's addicting

Dumb Ways to Die was a public safety ad created by Metro Trains, a rail service in Melbourne Australia. Although the campaign, released in 2102, hasn't demonstrated to show any impact at preventing rail deaths, the initiative went viral mainly because of this video.

Despite its viral success, the campaign was also criticized on the basis that suicide is one of the most influential causes of rail trauma, and the ad reinforces deadly trains as a possible suicide method. But that didn't stop the folks at Metro and thus, they created a game available for iPhone and Android. You can download it for your phone using the links here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bored on the subway? Break out a game of Twister

No seats available on your morning/evening commute? Try a hammock

Maybe you can help me understand

NDP commits to GO service to Niagara. It's easy to promise, not so easy to deliver

Not only does NDP Leader Andrea Horwath support regular GO commuter rail service in Niagara, it’s a key part of her transit platform.
“Absolutely, unequivocally yes, we support all-day GO service to Niagara,” Horwath said during a visit to Niagara Friday.
“We know how important it is. We have been listening to the municipal leaders across the region talk about this as a big priority. This is absolutely something that we support.”
Horwath would not say how the NDP would pay for the initiative, adding those details would have to wait until the next election campaign.
“We have actually a significant plan when it comes to transit infrastructure investment, not only for the Niagara region, but for other communities as well.
“We will be unveiling the full details of that, including funding, when, and if, we’re into an election campaign.”

Presto - Why U No Math?

I received a lot of feedback since Thursday about my beef with Presto and their 25 cent service charge for underpayments. As a courtesy, Presto allows for you to tap and enter a negative balance if you don't have enough funds in your e-purse for your trip. When you clear the underpayment, you are charged 25 cents for this transaction.

I understand why it's done.

What I don't like is that I also learned that if you go into overdraft because your funds weren't loaded onto your card within the 24-hour window, as has happened for many customers, you still are charged 25 cents.

But it is what it is and I remain a "bitter bitch".

Anyhow, Presto is unable to calculate the balance of my e-purse correctly. It's really hard to have confidence in this system.

Am I still a bitter bitch? Or am I a bitch with a point?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Presto charges for courtesy. I guess I can be okay with that

BACKGROUND: See TIL Presto wants 25 cents to clear your negative balance. I didn't know this was a thing 


"All your space" is getting more aggressive. They're building personal forts now

Are you pregnant? Are you sitting down? You may not like this news

What's that?
You can't sit down?

Right. Because no one will give up a seat.

There are some of us who still do. However, I have erred in the past presuming a woman is pregnant when in fact she just drinks a lot of beer. It shouldn't be offensive if someone thinks you're pregnant when you're not. It can be hurtful if you were never able to have kids but my God, we put too much stock in what is an honest mistake. We've chatted about the "seats for all things pregnant" before and many men weighed in claiming they've been burned in the past assuming a woman is pregnant. One guy was tore a new butthole over it. Mike, that woman was a cow, you have to get past it, dude.

The reality is we now live in a world of uncommon courtesy where if someone holds a door open for us we run to social media to tell the world about it. We write letters to the editor to tell the local readership about the man who helped us in the parking lot of the Whitby Sobey's when our grocery bag broke, and a cucumber was squashed, and it was kindly replaced by the same man who then disappeared in the night -- refusing the 89 cents you tried to give him to pay for the cucumber. We tweet about the lady who turned in the watch lost on a TTC train claiming, "faith in humanity has been restored" and lastly, we write Shout Outs in a commuter rag to thank strangers for the random acts of kindness demonstrated on the GO train.

It's a shame. No, really. It's a damn shame. And this is why, Pregnant Women of the Commute, you need to ask to sit.

I meant to say "standing at this stage" in my email to C.