May 5 , 2010

Metrolinx rolls out contactless fare cards

by Robin Arnfield, News Editor
TORONTO--With a pilot stage behind it, transit operator Metrolinx is rolling out its Presto proprietary contactless stored value fare cards across Go Transit stations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Go Transit is an inter-regional public transportation service for Southern Ontario.

“We expect the cards to be in use across the whole of the 905 (GTA telephone area code) by May 1, 2011,” Ernie Wallace, executive director for Presto, tells Payments Business.

However, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), which manages the central Toronto transit area, has yet to commit to full rollout of the Presto fare system. The TTC is considering the case for an open payment system which is capable of accepting contactless Visa- or MasterCard- branded cards issued by banks. New York City is in the process of setting up such a payment system.

Mr Wallace recently took part in a public information meeting at Toronto City Hall, where he presented the case for Presto. The meeting was chaired by Toronto Transit Commission chairman, Adam Giambrone. The case for an open payment system was put by Paul Korczak, who helped with the development of an open payment system for New York City.

The TTC is concerned with the estimated C$400 million cost of rolling out the Presto system. One argument put forward is that in an open system, the cost of processing payments is borne by the bank card systems.

“Card processing is not free,” points out Wallace. “In the end, the consumer will have to pay for the cost of the open system.”

Another problem with open-system cards is that banks have not yet started issuing contactless cards on a large scale. This is because they are busy with rolling out EMV chip-and-PIN cards, Wallace points out.

“As banks begin to roll out contactless cards, so we will upgrade the Presto system,” Wallace says. “Upgrades could start as early as next year.” After a software upgrade it will be possible for Presto readers to accept contactless bank cards, Wallace says.

Meantime, Wallace wants to increase the functions of the Presto card, for example using it to pay for parking.



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