Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This Crazy Train's Presto Chronicles, Chapter 33: Some more research into the "travel window"

By Frank E. Futor
Special to This Crazy Train

As with all things PRESTO, nothing is simple – like an answer to issues raised in Chapter 28.  After a number of “Thank you for your patience” responses from the CSR I was dealing with, I thought it was time to call for an answer.  Well, my CSR was “out of the office”, so another CSR stepped in and provided the following reply:

Subject: RE: GO Transit, A Division of Metrolinx
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2014 20:46:28
From: LH
To: FF

Thank you Mr. F for your patience and again, I am sorry for the delay in responding.

I believe there is confusion between the length of time involved to travel and the ‘transfer window’. I want to clarify that the ‘transfer window’ is a three hour time limit for passengers to receive applicable Co-Fare or for a GO Transit trip to be considered continuous, regardless of the time it will take a customer to go from one destination to another.

Our drivers do not have the ability to change the three hour time span as it’s programed into the software. The communication you received in the case file (Reference # 2012005893) is correct. The GO bus driver cannot make any adjustments to this three hour time span on the PRESTO card. If there is a delay and we are going to accommodate passengers, we instruct them to not tap onto the bus.

The extension Mr. A is referring to, is when we instruct a bus to wait for a delayed connection and this has nothing to do with the PRESTO card itself. This would be what we refer to as a scheduled transfer between two connections, and the holds are done in 15 minute increments as we need to be mindful of the impact this will have on others commuting.

In reference to the blogger JeNNy the Jet, there is no physical way to change the window on the card. The most the driver can do, based on the information provided by the customer, is to accommodate the passenger to the location they are traveling to and have the customer not tap their card. Alternatively, the customer taps as normal and then follows up with Customer Relations for any additional monies a person has been charged.

I realize we make use of the word ‘transfer’ to reference multiple aspects of our service, such as to transfer between our service and local transit, scheduled transfers between our own service, and the transfer window on PRESTO cards. I am sorry there has been a misunderstanding surrounding this. Further, if a customer has exceeded their transfer window (meaning the three hour time frame on their PRESTO card)  due to a delay (whether it was on our service or not) and approaches our driver, our staff will direct the individual to contact Customer Relations so that we may assist them.

I hope this explanation helps.

L.H. | Customer Service Representative
GO Transit, A Division of METROLINX

20 Bay Street, Toronto ON, M5J 2W3
416.869.3600 Ext.****

Cc.       Greg Percy, President, GO Transit
            C.J Smith, This Crazy Train

Well, this response is just silliness from the 20 Bay Street.  How can the driver know in advance whether there will be a delay, so they can instruct passengers “not tap onto the bus”?  Here is a TCT example of what I mean.

Even during times of inclement weather, like that which triggered the following e-mail alert, I have never heard a driver advise passengers to “not tap onto the bus” (because we have no hope in hell of keeping to the schedule).

The extension CSR R.A. referred to back in March 2012 had nothing to do with a “delayed connection”.  I talked to Mr. A. directly; Ms. H. did not participate in the conversation.  Mr. A. made specific reference to delays caused by weather or traffic conditions.

Does the explanation around the “scheduled transfer between two connections” make sense to you?  If a bus is made to wait for a train that is 15 minutes late for reasons satisfying the GO Train Service Guarantee, then train passengers qualify for a refund, but the passengers who are held hostage on the bus are not compensated, i.e. they’re screwed.

Not satisfied with the perfunctory reply from head office, I set out to gather evidence.  My task was to determine whether there was any way the Travel Window could be extended by a bus driver.  I executed two field tests with different drivers.  Both experiments ended in failure.

During my search for the truth, I had opportunity to discuss the Travel Window extension problem with two of the drivers who are, IMO, most PRESTO savvy.  One of them confirmed my suspicions.  During my third and final experiment, I ran from the bus to the card checker at Burlington station.  It showed nothing of interest other than I had tapped on in Zone 83 (St. Catharines).

Back at the bus, we selected SettingsWindow Ext. to show the default time for the Travel Window, namely, 180 minutes.

Then we increased the Travel Window by an hour, and I tapped off.

Back at the card checker, I captured the following image, which confirmed the Travel Window was not extended, because the time left is 1 hr. 45 min. – St. Catharines to Burlington is roughly a one hour trip.

There you have it.  This is the Travel Window extension capability Mr. A. referred to three years ago.  It’s clearly not a matter of the assertion that drivers don’t have “the ability to change the three hour time span”.  The PRESTO device on buses can increase the time of the Travel Window, but the extension is NOT transferred to PRESTO cards.  It’s plainly another software deficiency in the $700+ million PRESTO “solution”.

Yes, fellow bus passengers, we’re screwed – again.


Anonymous said...

Just more proof that Presto cant do anything right.

In Mississauga, drivers do have the discretion of issuing 4 hour transfers (instead of 2 hours) in extreme snow storms.

TomW said...

I've had a bus driver tell me not tap on after a (very) late train. The bus was an 'extra' put on purely for late train users (i.e. the bus we were supposed to be on left on time), so that might affect things.

TomW said...

"I realize we make use of the word ‘transfer’ to reference multiple aspects of our service, such as to transfer between our service and local transit, scheduled transfers between our own service, and the transfer window on PRESTO cards"
Good golly, don't tell your communications department that!