Presto electronic transit card system comes under attack
By:Richard J. Brennan Provincial Politics, Published on Tue Nov 19 2013
A Tory MPP levelled a barrage of criticism at Metrolinx officials Tuesday claiming the Presto smart card system has all the earmarks of the eHealth scandal that rocked the last Liberal government.
Metrolinx board chairman Robert Prichard and Bruce McCuaig, CEO and president, appeared before a legislative committee to answer questions about the government agency charged with developing and implementing an integrated transportation system for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The cost of introducing the Presto card system across various transit systems, including the Toronto Transit Commission system, has been set at about $700 million.
“You are forcing municipalities . . . to take a technology that is light years behind what is available in the marketplace today and you are continuing to pour multi-millions of dollars into the development of the Presto technology just to catch up,” PC MPP Frank Klees (Newmarket-Aurora) said.
“The problem we have here is this rings very similar to the eHealth issue . . . where the government continued to pour multi-millions of dollars into the development of a technology and it never did appear,” he said, adding that management consulting, technology services firm Accenture is the common denominator.
In 2009 the provincial auditor general released a scathing 50-page report concluding successive Progressive Conservative and Liberal administrations squandered more than $1 billion on electronic health records for patients with little to show for it.
Prichard bristled at this analogy, saying it was “unfair and misleading to the excellent work my colleagues have done with Presto.”
“Presto has 900,000 users. Presto is in effect in all our systems, is working and has done over a half a billion dollars of service, so some notion that this isn’t working is something that’s inconsistent with the facts,” he said.
“There was no off-the-shelf system available to meet the needs that Presto was obliged to meet for the 10 transit systems that make up the GTHA.”
Klees said the fact that Waterloo Region recently turned its back on the Presto system is further proof that it was not current enough to adapt to the region’s transit needs.
The MPP told reporters later the Region of Waterloo “has confirmed” the Presto system is already outdated.
“They are going to an open tender because they want the advance technology, an open payment system that Metrolinx simply can’t deliver. Metrolinx had to resort to coercion and essentially blackmail to force Presto on the TTC. We know that the same thing happened in Ottawa and we know there are problems through the entire Presto system,” he said.
McCuaig later defended the system.
“We believe that Presto is a fully up-to-date, innovative, front of the pack, integrated fare card system. It’s the same kind of system that you would see with the London (England) Oyster card or with the Hong Kong card . . . which will continue to evolve all the time,” he told reporters.