Presto child cards now play show and tell on the TTC, shocking some adult users

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From now on, locating rent evaders on TTC should be a child’s play.

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The transit agency announced late last month that it was making changes to the Presto system to make it easier to track whether a rider is using a child card. From now on, passengers boarding with the card, which allows unlimited travel on TTC at no cost, will trigger a distinct three-tone chime and flashing yellow light when tapping on the updated fare machines.

The screens for buses and street cars were updated on September 25 and the upgrade to the fair gates at stations will begin on October 4.


Adults using child cards to ride for free have been identified as a major source of fare theft, and the TTC hopes the new displays will help prevent such abuse.

“This will make it easier for fare inspectors and station staff to identify an adult who is misusing a child card,” TTC spokesman Stuart Green said. “Then we can take steps to determine whether we need to issue tickets.”

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The ease of adults appropriating child cards has been an open secret among a subset of riders in recent years, and thousands are believed to have taken advantage of it. As news of the Presto upgrade spread last month, some residents took to social media to express their dismay.

“These New TTC Presto Machines Are Going To Show If You’re Using Child Presto Now??? Is Nothing Sacred Now?????” A Twitter user wrote.

“I had to put money on a reputation for the first time in my life, I’m going to get sick,” wrote another.

TTC issues child cards to enable its policy of free rides to children below 12 years, which was implemented in 2015. Although kids don’t have to pay, the only way to access the Metro is to tap the Presto card to open the fare. door

But the physical cards look identical to the regular adult version, and didn’t initially activate a different response from Presto readers. Because of this, fraud has come to the fore.

In early 2020, the TTC reported that most of the 23,000 child cards in circulation showed travel activity late at night or during school hours, which the agency said would be “unusual” for children under 13. Another clue was that the busiest location on the system for one of these child cards was York University Station.

The TTC estimated that 89 percent of trips using a child card were the result of misuse, and that the cost of lost fare revenue could exceed $23 million a year as a result. (Ridership and fare revenues have dropped dramatically as a result of the pandemic).

In 2019, the City Auditor General cited “several serious control vulnerabilities” with the Child card, making the Child card look different from other versions and triggering different lights and sounds, according to the Presto-owned provincial agency Metrolinx. Recommended work with TTC.

When asked why it took the TTC more than two years to implement the auditor’s recommendation, Green said the agency wants to “make many changes in one comprehensive update to avoid too many small changes.”

Other upgrades included in the recent update will allow riders to see their balances and how much they paid by tapping. TTC has not yet introduced visually specific Presto Child cards.

Although child card abuse has been costly for the TTC, some adults say they found it appropriate to discount the fare because of how expensive Toronto Transit is.

City of Toronto employees reported in 2016 that TTC’s monthly pass was the second least affordable in Canada, and a transit-dependent household earning the minimum wage can expect to pay up to 35 percent of their after-tax income in rent. .

The cost of an adult monthly TTC pass is currently $156. And while the city’s “Fair Pass” program offers discounts for low-income users, most residents living below the poverty line don’t meet eligibility criteria, and cost $123.25. Even the less expensive pass is still not affordable for many people.

“It’s really hard for me to take transit,” said a woman using a child card. The 23-year-old, whom Starr has agreed not to name, is a full-time college student who earns about $1,400 a month through disability assistance and a part-time job. She pays $1,100 in rent and relies on TTC to go to work and school.

She said she was initially terrified of using the child card, but believed her financial situation forgave it.

She was shocked to see the new Presto display when she recently tapped her kid’s card on a bus, and since then she and her roommate, who has been using a baby Presto, to find loose change in their apartment. Rumor is doing “that’s all we can get the space.”

Green said the TTC understands that “there are people who need relief because of financial circumstances,” but that’s why the city introduced the Fair Pass. “It is a suitable way for people facing financial challenges to reduce the cost of public transport,” he said.

Ben Spur is a Toronto-based reporter who covers transportation. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr
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