With some of the TTC now accepting PRESTO and other parts of it not yet, it's in a bit of an awkward phase in Toronto at the moment, but the green fare payment cards from Metrolinx are "growing up", and will be available for use on the entire TTC network by early-2017. The new fare payment system has been a long time in the making, as the rollout began in 2009 at GO stations and on buses from municipal transit services of the 905 belt around Toronto, and even before that, the PRESTO fare card system has been in development since Accenture was awarded the contract in 2006.

PRESTO card and reader, image courtesy of Metrolinx

On the TTC, PRESTO has been implemented in waves, the first of which has seen the installation of PRESTO devices on new streetcars, and 26 subway stations. Wave two, to completely fulfill all of the TTC's business requirements and include device installations for all streetcars, buses, Wheel-Trans, and remaining subway stations, was originally slated to be completed at the end of this year, but some subway stations will likely still be getting their new faregates installed into 2017. (More than half of the 69 stations now accept Presto cards, and new stations are added every week currently.)

With a complete roll-out a just a few months away, a new more robust and mobile-friendly PRESTO website was launched over the Thanksgiving weekend. Despite the update, Metrolinx still quotes a 24 hour card load time for any online transaction, a frequently cited shortfall of system. In a benchmarking table published by Metrolinx as part of a 2012 Auditor General report, however, TTC's PRESTO system is planned to allow—at some point—for "instant load – online loading recognized by card immediately". When asked for comment, Metrolinx clarified that the devices installed on the TTC and OC Transpo are connected to the central system through a cellular model and update several times a day. It was also noted that customers should not have to wait more than a few hours to tap their cards on a TTC or OC Transpo device after loading online.

To avoid load lags, PRESTO card holders can set up Autoload on their accounts, so that more money can be added to the card whenever the balance drops below a chosen amount. For example, a card holder could choose to have the system draw another $100 into their PRESTO account whenever their balance dropped below $20.

Once "everyone" has a card, the TTC will pay 5.25% spent via PRESTO to Metrolinx. Although PRESTO currently operates on a closed loop, Metrolinx is looking at ways to enhance the customer experience noting that the system was designed to accommodate developments in fare payment technology-- including using the full potential of PRESTO's open architecture and open payment capability. The open architecture supports multiple vendors and emerging technologies like contactless payment on cards and mobile phones. There is also an obscure listing of the TTC as a merchant in Apple Pay's coming soon section. New PRESTO features are included in a fifth 'value-added' wave.

PRESTO implementation waves, image courtesy of Metrolinx.

If you have thoughts you would like to share as PRESTO matures, join the discussion on the Forum thread.