Tuesday, January 13, 2015

GO Transit winds up a loser in our year-end round-up of Metrolinx "achievements"

by Chris P. Bacon

Because the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) didn’t bestow an award on GO Transit, as it did in 2013, Metrolinx is advertising its own TOP TEN achievements for 2014.

Why didn’t GO Transit repeat as a winner in 2014?  Is it because Glen Murray was replaced by Steven Del Duca as Minister of Transportation?  Is it because former president Gary McNeil retired and was replaced by Greg Percy?  Is it that the newbies can’t work the same magic to make things happen?  Is it because the Customer Service Advisory Committee no longer meets?  Their last report was for November 2013.

Or is it something simpler?  Is it because APTA tuned in the social media channels and used our views as the true litmus test of Metrolinx’s award-worthiness?  Well, Metrolinx wants to hear from us on Twitter or Facebook.  We can provide our feedback on, thank you very much.  So, without further ado, here is our recap of 2014.

The year started badly.  The refurbishment of Burlington GO station was supposed to be finished in December 2013, but it was nowhere near ready.  Passengers had to endure another winter with the station in shambles.  The revised completion date of June 2014 came and went without a ribbon cutting ceremony.  After this blog skewered the project not once, but twice, the Toronto Star jumped on the bandwagon, because the Clarkson GO parking structure was also lagging.  Metrolinx couldn’t light a fire under the contractors (Bondfield Construction Company Ltd) to move the projects along.  Burlington GO now has a tentative completion date of June 2015.  Commuters will need to suffer through another winter without a proper train station.

The real-time bus information system was promised for January 2014, but it, too, was not delivered.  It wasn’t until November that on-board next-stop announcements and variable message signs were turned on – not without on-going problems.  The most important part of the system – next bus arrival notification – was nowhere in sight.  As one blog submitter pointed out, local municipal transit systems have had such systems in place for years.  Why can’t the laggards at Metrolinx roll out theirs?  E-mail and SMS alerts continue to fail. (Note – CJ still has yet to receive a single SMS message on her phone, a problem now 27 months in the making)

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a few words about PRESTO.  In 2014, PRESTO provoked the ire of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) because the Transit Usage Reports did not conform to CRA’s requirements.  Where is the sign-off for User Acceptance Testing?

This blog exposed non-trivial bugs in the system.  We showed how PRESTO steals money from a passenger’s account when they attempt to load funds to their e-Purse when there is an “open trip” in effect.  Since this happened most often on buses, GO Transit’s response was to stop the practice of loading money to a card on buses.  This was a completely untenable position, and GO Transit eventually had to eat crow on the matter.

PRESTO can pilfer funds from your account when a bus trip is setup in the reverse direction.  The matter is still being discussed with PRESTO and GO Transit.  Stay tuned for a future article on this topic.

Then there was the Auto-load problem that went on for months (years?) and was resolved finally by one of PRESTO’s senior business analysts and her financial and technical support teams, but not before further bugs in the system were identified.

We showed how PRESTO allows double-taps prior to boarding a train, and if the passenger realizes their mistake and reverses the second tap-on, the card status during a fare inspection is a failed tap-on.

All this illustrates the requirement for cardholders to remain vigilant and audit their transaction history religiously.  No discount is big enough to compensate us for our lost time in this endeavor.  On this point alone, PRESTO is an epic failure.  Most GO Transit employees I’ve talked to long for the good ol’ days of cardboard monthly and 10-ride passes.

We looked at PRESTO’s three-hour Travel Window and how it discriminates against certain passengers.  An on-going investigation revealed that the bus system was designed to allow the Travel Window to be extended when adverse traffic or weather conditions lengthen a bus trip, but that facility does not work.  Sadly, most bus drivers do not know how to extend the Travel Window, and only one driver could confirm our findings that this part of PRESTO is broken.

Also in 2014, we saw how The Burlington GO parking lot continues to be an auto parts warehouse for thieves.  GO Transit even provided the concrete blocks that thieves used to jack up at least one victim’s vehicle.  The GO Transit Passenger Charter speaks of “creating a sense of security in our parking lots”.  What does that mean?

We don’t suspect 2015 to be a stellar year unless Metrolinx manages to fix all that was awry in 2014.


Anonymous said...

PRESTO and Metrolinx are not the same entity (yet). There was an OpEd piece in today's Star recommending a blended regional transit authorit (

Bicky said...

I can assure you that the Customer Service Advisory Committee still meets quarterly. :)

Peter said...

Suggested 1st order of business for next meeting of the Customer Service Advisory Committee ... Post the minutes of the meetings since Nov. 2013. Or do the members of the Customer Service Advisory Committee not want transparency to what happens in those meetings?

TomW said...

Presto is a division of Metrolinx, in the same way GO Transit it.

Also: annual usage reports won't be available until March 1st, to give people until end of Jan to register the cards (!!?!?).
There is no reason why registered cardholders can't have the annual summary in the first week of Jan.

Bicky said...

TomW... let's hope the Transit Useless, uh, Usage, Reports are correct the first time out! And that they have everyone's damn name on them!

Last year, I was missing rides on the report when compared to my Transaction History and Summary Reports. *smh* How does that even happen?

Anonymous said...

Another stellar year. I still can't believe the condo on Bay St. north of College was built in less time than the Bronte S. parking lot a couple years ago. An alltime GO classic.