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Presto! Is it the answer?

City, province trying to cut transit fraud

By BRIAN GRAY AND ROB LAMBERTI, SUN MEDIA
Last Updated: 8th March 2009, 7:29am

There’s more than a token effort going on to combat fraudsters who take the TTC for a ride.

A transit smart card is one of only a couple of answers to people who produce fake TTC tokens and bilk the system to the tune of thousands of dollars a week, transit experts have said. And there’s one in the works for GTA-area transit systems — sooner or later.

“As long as there are human beings, there will be people who will attempt to build a good system and there will be people who attempt to abuse a good system,” TTC Commission vice-chairman Joe Mihevc said. “We’re are doing everything we can (to cut fraud).”

The city is working with the province in developing the smart card, he said.

“Some of this will be solved as we develop the smart card,” Mihevc said. “We’re part of that process.”

As revealed in the Sun yesterday, the TTC averages up to 1,500 fake tokens a day despite the introduction of the new two-colour “teeny toonie tokens” introduced in 2006 to thwart counterfeiters.

At $2.10 per token, the loss to the transit commission and ultimately city residents, is between $2,520 and $3,150 a day, or up to $22,050 a week, the TTC says.

The TTC lost $10 million in the two years prior to the introduction of the new tokens.

The Presto card was originally unveiled by then-provincial transportation minister Donna Cansfield at the Cooksville GO station in Mississauga in June 2007 with the promise the pilot project would soon be expanded.

But that promise has yet to be realized and, in fact, it has been extended.

The province now says the Presto card will be rolled out later this year in field trials at GO’s Oakville and Bronte rail stations and at Union Station.

The Presto card also plays a prominent role in the Metrolinx plan to link the entire GTA and Hamilton area with seamless transit.

Once field trials are complete, the entire Lakeshore West GO train line as well as the Oakville and Burlington Transit systems will be online by early next year with the access at TTC subway stations planned at Finch, Don Mills and Downsview in the fall of 2010.

SMALL PROBLEM

While Presto is being tested on the GO rail line, officials at the regional transit system have said they have a relatively small problem with fare evasion because of the proof-of-payment system in use since 1988.

Riders are trusted to pay their fare but are subject to random checks on board trains and buses by GO Transit security officers.

And systems with smart cards already in use also report very little fraud in their system.

Washington D.C. has used the electronic system since 1999 on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

There are two strikes against the smart card system, however. It makes discounted fares for children and seniors almost impossible while diverting scarce cash from other areas of transit including services improvements.




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