PRESTO machines regularly fail because no one is emptying them of coins: report

Oct 21 2019, 1:47 pm

Chances are if you’ve ever ridden on one of the new streetcars, you’ve probably encountered an ‘Out of Service’ PRESTO fare machine from time to time.

And while you might revel in the fact that this means you get to enjoy your ride without paying, it’s costing the TTC millions of dollars – $3.4 million to be exact.

A new report from the city’s auditor general on PRESTO equipment and lost revenue on the TTC has found that when PRESTO vending devices on the new streetcars are out of service, it’s because no one is regularly emptying coins from the machines.

“Due to issues, limitations, and a complicated system, the TTC may not be getting all the passenger revenue it should,” reads the report, which was released Monday.

The report revealed that the auditor general’s office monitored the PRESTO fare machines on new model streetcars this past August.

As they monitored these streetcars, they found that of the machines that stopped working during the month, 56% of them were failing because the coin box was full.

That happened 188 times during August, according to the report.

The report also found that six PRESTO vending machines were out-of-service on average per day for August 2019 due to the coin box being full.

Moreover, the report said in one instance, it took seven days before a machine with a “coin box full” warning was emptied. The previous coin collection for that same streetcar was 14 days prior.

“From our audit work, it appears that neither TTC, Presto, nor its vendors are currently ensuring that the coin box is emptied on a regular basis for all Presto vending machines on new streetcars,” the report says.

The auditor general also highlighted frozen card readers as an ongoing issue across the system. This error occurs when a reader appears to be in service when it’s not actually working.

To monitor frozen readers, auditors monitored 100 bus drivers, who drove a total of 168 buses, over two days this past June.

During this time, the drivers noted 330 PRESTO issues, 300 of which (91%), were identified as frozen PRESTO card readers.

According to the report, a frozen PRESTO card reader is when a passenger taps their card but the reader is stuck and doesn’t accept the tap.

Not only does this result in revenue loss if the passenger doesn’t tap on another reader successfully, but the device may be captured as “in-service” rather than “out-of-service” in the availability calculation and the availability rate could be overstated for this issue.

The report and its 34 recommendations will be presented to the TTC board and Toronto city council’s audit committee later this week.