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Waging battle over TTC fares

The TTC is moving full-steam toward an open-payment electronic fare system, despite fresh warnings Thursday from Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne.

The TTC is moving full-steam toward an open-payment electronic fare system, despite fresh warnings Thursday from Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne.

Companies interested in bidding on the TTC’s fare business, worth about $900 million annually, have until 4 p.m. Friday to formally state their intent.

The transit agency wants to give riders the option of tapping a credit or debit card, or a cellphone, on an electronic reader to pay their fare. Open payment means the cost of managing fare collections would go to an outside provider that makes money on the transaction fees.

But the province is just rolling out its own Presto fare card system. It has committed $250 million to developing that card for all nine regional transit providers, including the TTC. It expects to add an open payment option to Presto in about three years.

In the meantime, the TTC argues the Presto technology is passé and it doesn’t have the $400 million it will cost to install Presto readers on all its buses and subway stations. The provincial plan calls for a $148-million investment in the TTC, but it would pay only one-third of that cost, with the city and Ottawa each expected to kick in one-third.

Wynne, who was part of an announcement Thursday that Presto has already signed on 10,000 users, said the TTC could face financial penalties if it doesn’t get on board with Presto.

“We need the TTC on board; we absolutely do, no question about it,” she said.

The province wants to see 1.8 million commuters across the region using Presto when it’s fully rolled out. But with the TTC providing more than 80 per cent of Toronto area transit trips, it’s clear the card needs to be viable on that system.

The TTC will take until Oct. 25 — the same day as the municipal election — to go over its requirements with interested providers, who then have to provide a final bid.

Theoretically, the TTC could contract the successful bidder before the new council takes power Dec. 1.

TTC?chair Adam Giambrone denied the process was being rushed through by the current transit board.

 
 
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