Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Are we back to paying $16 for a glass of orange juice? Presto under fire by Ontario Legislative committee

Metrolinx board chairman Robert Prichard and Bruce McCuaig, CEO and president, appeared before a legislative committee to answer questions about the government agency charged with developing and implementing an integrated transportation system for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.


“You are forcing municipalities . . . to take a technology that is light years behind what is available in the marketplace today and you are continuing to pour multi-millions of dollars into the development of the Presto technology just to catch up,” PC MPP Frank Klees (Newmarket-Aurora) said.


Klees said the fact that Waterloo Region recently turned its back on the Presto system is further proof that it was not current enough to adapt to the region’s transit needs.
The MPP told reporters later the Region of Waterloo “has confirmed” the Presto system is already outdated.

“They (Region of Waterloo) are going to an open tender because they want the advance technology, an open payment system that Metrolinx simply can’t deliver. Metrolinx had to resort to coercion and essentially blackmail to force Presto on the TTC. We know that the same thing happened in Ottawa and we know there are problems through the entire Presto system,” he said.
- From the Toronto Star
If there's an audit of spending, I hope to not see any $16 glasses of orange juice or reimbursement of consultants' bagels with cream cheese from Tim's.
For the whole article, click here


TomW said...

Not at all an MPP trying to make score poltical points
1) Presto isn't "light-years" behind. When the original (fixed price!) contract was signed, it was the most up-to-date proven technology available. No large-scale transit system had implemented open payments, so the risk would have been very high. Presto's technology was the tried-and-tested option.
As for spending money to make it better... it seems rich to complain both that it isn't good enough and that Metrolinx is trying to make it better.
The roll-out has taken long time because getting nine transit agencies to agree is like herding cats.

2) Waterloo opted for an open tender in the hope of getting a lower price *and* because they the flexability to set their own rules (e.g. age limits for child fares). They were concerned that if they wanted to make any changes, they'd have to convince everyone else (see cats, above).

3) Metrolinx is moving Presto towards open payment. It's going to happen, so it's simply untrue to say Metrolinx can't deliver.

As for the spending audit... all the companies engaged by Metrolinx are on fixed-price contracts. There's no reimbursement for anything.

Squiggles said...

A) There needs to be an audit in spending.
B) Some yahoo making 500+ grand a year will have charged gum to his expense account
C) We all pay for it in the end.

What needs to happen is these people need to live a month or two, hell, even a year at the average salary, with normal expenses and see what it is like to be the little guy (aka the walking wallet). Maybe then they could see things from our point of view instead of thinking of ways to screw us over.

C.J. Smith said...

Good to know.

Anonymous said...

They really need to fix the glitches and those onerous rules such as wait 24 hours, tap balance in 7 days, yada yada.

Peter said...

I agree with the herding cats analogy. If the business architectures aren’t aligned, then the technology solution becomes complex and fragile.

There is at least one subsystem of the overall Presto solution that was never “the most up-to-date proven technology available”. I’m referring to the Thales POS terminal on buses. I worked for a Point Of Sale solutions firm some 20 years ago, and if our products had failed half as often as Presto devices do, retailers would have switched banks very quickly.

Drivers are hired to drive, not fix printer jams on route, and not to be forensic accountants to determine how to balance their cash sales without an end of trip report, because the Thales terminal crashed. Has Presto really made cash management easier for Bus Ops? And why are so many screen taps required to issue a ticket? Are drivers (and their union) not concerned about RSI? As a passenger, I get worried when I see a stressed driver, and lately I’ve seen many.

The business process (and Presto’s solution) for the GO Train Service Guarantee, needs to be re-engineered. Banks use black-box adjudication engines, but I’ve never heard of one sending out nonsensical e-mails to clients telling them their application has been denied.

Presto may be infatuated with open payment, but based on the status quo, they have their work cut out for them.

Is my commuting experience better because of Presto? Absolutely not. Even a relatively simple thing like the co-fare with DRT is no longer available to me, because of the infernal Travel Window. In the not so distant past, I knew GO Transit and DRT would get me home with my 10-trip ticket and $0.65 in my pocket. No more with Presto.

TomW said...

I agree about the POS terminals clearly being selected for cost rather than ability. The 'up-to-date' part referred to the cards themselves.

The 'travel window' is annoying as hell. I still haven't got a straight answer from GO about it. However, that's a policy failing, not a system failing.

deepfish said...

I remember the first time I used a Presto type card system. I was very impressed at how up to date it was.

This was 1995, in Korea.

Peter said...

The travel window is also a system design failure. One size does not fit all. Presto can define a default trip to a card. Why can’t the same be done with the travel window, i.e. why not make it the maximum of either (i) the system default (recently increased to 3 hr.) or (ii) the maximum trip duration for a card based on its transaction history? That still wouldn’t be the perfect solution, because trips from hell happen occasionally, e.g.

Vintage CCG said...

Yes, Ottawa's OC Transpo also adopted the abomination that is Presto.
Our charging delay is 48 hours not 24.
Online charging and auto-charging of the card is abysmal.
OC blames Metrolinx for any problems, instead of standing accountable for the system that they imposed.
Oh, and there are exactly four (4!) staffed ticket counters in all of Ottawa, and only one (1!) of those is open outside of banking hours.

Anonymous said...

This is Accenture, remember Ontario Works and the automated computer-generated "oops, you're cut off" letters?
What do we think we owe Accenture? The RCMP should be taken off the senate investigation and the organized crime squad investigate THIS.