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Monday, October 15, 2018

Sit round the fire kids, it's time for another Presto card story kindly contributed by a reader of the blog

There’s a special feeling you get in your gut when you try to deal with anything Presto. It’s knotty and hollow and saps all of your energy. Like when you call the Bell helpdesk or ask Rogers about those pesky extra charges…
But wait - that’s just being mean to Mama Bell and Ted.
I honestly believe there is no other entity on the planet that can rival Presto for sheer inanity.
My hate-affair with the crappy piece of plastic goes back two years, to when I first signed up. And, I’m pleased to say, that after wrapping up yet another head shaking chit-chat chat with a Presto Apologist Operator just 5 minutes ago, my hate is as strong as ever.
Why do I hate you Presto? Let me count a few ways:
You use two tap machines for UP Express
For a system that is supposed to be built on ease of use and consistency, it’s a sticky business hopping the train to the airport. Last week I ran to the Union platform and tapped on. I got a friendly green arrow punched the air and went on my merry way. It was only when I tried to tap on again the next day when green turned to red…
What have I done?
The nice lady at the desk explained that I had ‘tapped the wrong machine’ the day before and now my account was in arrears.
What?
She explained that they’ve put two machines at Union, one for Bloor and Weston commuters and one for Pearson travelers.
‘If you tap the wrong one it gets confused’
‘It’s not the only one.’
As we watched my train chug away, she turned her head to yell at another errant customer about to tap into the abyss.
‘Are you going to the airport?’
‘Er, yes?’
‘Wrong machine!’
She showed me the error on her screen and gave me a number to call to fix it.
‘Can’t you fix it?’ I asked
‘No’
‘Why not?’
‘The system doesn’t let me’
‘Oh’
I called the number and a nice bloke told me he’d put the request through to Customer Service.
‘They’ll call you back in 5-7 business days’
‘Can’t you fix it?’ I asked him
‘No’
‘Why not’
‘The system won’t let me’
‘Oh’
Everything takes 24 hours
When I bought my new card I explained to the nice lady at the counter that I needed to transfer funds from a lost card and could she please give me very simple, super specific instructions because this happened once before and I ended up with three new cards because I went and registered the account and, you know, you can’t transfer $ to a registered card…And then I found my lost card but I couldn’t ‘un-lose’ it because somebody at Presto had marked it as lost and when it’s lost, well – it’s gone forever.

She looked at me sideways and gave me a little business card with very simple, super specific instructions.
I went home, signed on and followed the instructions...

Ah crap.

It didn’t work.

The nice man on the phone told me that I’d have to wait 24 hours before I can transfer the funds.
‘Why?’
‘Because we don’t get the newly purchased card numbers until the end of each day’
‘Why not?’
‘I don’t know’
Regular Presto users are all too familiar with the 24 hour rule.
 - Want to register your card? Wait 24 hours
 - Autoload? 24 hours.
  - Transfer funds? Sure! In 24 hours…
For a transit system that prides itself on its on-time performance the payment system is pretty tardy.
You can’t tap on the train

I picked my wife up from the station the other day and she told me how she’d watched a whole slew of passengers getting fined for non-payment. They all had Presto cards. And they all complained that they couldn’t tap on because they were running for the train.
Were they lying?
Well, let’s see…1. Do people run for trains? Yup. 2. Are the Presto machines plentiful, and stationed at regular intervals along the platform? Er, nope. 3. Do these customers have a history of skipping the fare? Well, we’ll never know because the TSOs didn’t check. This was a zero tolerance kind of a day.
The GO fare payment model is unique and inane. In Europe gate-only access is the predominant mode. Either that or blind trust (Danke Wiener Stra├čenbahn!). Metrolinx is neither of both and nothing of anything.
Metrolinx needs to understand that their transit system is supposed to serve its customers - not the other way around. They need to remember what people are like: People don’t want to line up, people make mistakes, people are always in a rush and people are usually trustworthy.
Metrolinx, if you want a fool proof spoof-proof system then put gates in. If you want a trust-based system then put readers everywhere and give your customers the benefit of the doubt. Don’t punish people for the mess you made.
I could add a dozen more how-do-I-hate-you reasons for this heart breaking piece of crappy plastic.   I could bemoan the:
  • Alpha-numeric-online-usernames? Ouch.
  • Replace-lost-card-doesn’t-give-me-the-option-to-change-the-card-type? Ah!
  • Pre-boarding-ticket-inspection-at-Pearson-but-nowhere-else? Why??!
But, I can’t dwell on our differences. I need to pull myself away.  After all, it’s not me, Presto – it’s you.

It's Fall and I have a new phone with a fancy triple camera with a Leica lens, so here's my "Sunday morning in Courtice" album







Monday, October 1, 2018

This Crazy Train's Presto Chronicles, Chapter 35: — Lost revenue



Special to This Crazy Train
By Bea N. Counter

Classes are back in session at TCT Academy.  I teach accounting, and I like to share with my students real life financial situations, like the following two brought to light by Ben Spurr of the Toronto Star:







In this article, I won’t dwell on what Mr. Spurr documented.  Rather, I’ll look at how it is possible for PRESTO technology (and some mismanagement) to shortchange GO Transit Bus Ops revenue.

TCT highlighted previously the fragility of PRESTO cards.  What happens when a GO Transit bus driver’s card becomes inoperable (or is lost)?  Quite simply, the bus point of sale device cannot be activated.  No one can tap on; no one can load funds to their card; no tickets can be issued — everyone rides for free with that driver.  It’s a case of lost fare revenue until the driver has a new card.  In one case, it took the driver’s supervisor(s) one and a half weeks to issue a replacement card.

Consider a different scenario.  The PRESTO device on a GO Transit bus synchronizes with the system via WiFi only when the bus is at a garage.  What happens when the WiFi doesn’t work?  A passenger’s card cannot be updated with online fund loads executed after the WiFi failed.  The bus trip(s) made by a passenger won’t appear in their transaction history.  And what happens when the WiFi outage is for an extended period of time, say ten days?  Well, the on board PRESTO device disables itself, and we’re in a period of revenue loss, because everyone rides for free, again.  If you think this is a purely academic hypothetical scenario, it isn’t.  Recently, four buses assigned to Route 12 were in service for over three days in this state of revenue loss.

You are no doubt wondering how GO Transit management could knowingly let the garage’s WiFi sit in a state of disrepair for so long.  And why couldn’t the supervisor(s) change-off the affected buses with ones from Hamilton, or Streetsville, or Steeprock garages?  GO Transit management can authorize chauffeuring one passenger from Union Station to Niagara Falls, but they won’t follow operational process and swap equipment at Burlington GO or P+R — why?  Why did the escalation procedure(s) fail?

In the scenarios cited, will GO Transit’s finance department execute an inquisition to identify the individual(s) responsible for lost revenue and garnishee their wages?  I SURE HOPE NOT.  However, it would behoove Phil Verster, President and CEO at Metrolinx, to have “career discussions” with the GO Transit managers who allow these debacles to play out.  The cost of continued non-compliance outweighs the cost of compliance.

No lesson at TCT Academy is complete without some homework to do.  Seeing as the topic at hand is lost revenue, your assignment is as follows:

The last Niagara Falls seasonal trains of the year will operate on Thanksgiving weekend.  Discuss how you would use your PRESTO card legitimately to travel to The Falls for said weekend and pay less than the discounted PRESTO fare.

Class dismissed!