Presto card system lacking improvement

Ever since PRESTO was first introduced by OC Transpo, it has been a pain for students around Ottawa. Its well-publicized errors have been spoken about around the city and now passengers are hoping for some answers.

The most common errors include error messages that pop up when attempting to use the card to board a bus. This could result in a charge if an OC Transpo official is checking for proof-of-purchase, as the card will show that there was no payment made when boarding.

These problems seem to be frequent and can be caused by not tapping the right part of the card on the machine, but there is no official word on what causes these errors.

Another issue with PRESTO is the lack of places in the city to add funds to your card. The city has sale centres, but these are only found at various bus stations and select places such as City Hall. For most, it will be quite the trip just to load up your card.

Thankfully there is an online system to add funds to your card, but that seems to be where more issues come up. The online system will only take payments from a credit card in most cases. Customers can also fill out a form to have their PRESTO auto-renewed every month with through auto-withdrawals from their bank accounts. For some though, the site is just confusing.

“The only real problem I faced was trying to put money onto the card online,” said Ryan Ziegler, a third-year criminology student at the University of Ottawa. “To me personally, (the website) wasn’t clear on how to do it.”

OC Transpo believes that despite some confusion with the online system, there is still plenty of potential with it. They are looking at every way possible to make sure that the customer experience is a good one. This could mean the online system may see some changes in the near future.

“We strongly encourage customers to enjoy the convenient online PRESTO features,” said Courtney Ferguson, an OC Transpo representative. “Which can allow customers to manage a number of their PRESTO transit needs from the comfort of their home.”

For those who can’t use the online system for whatever their reason may be, they’ll have to wait at one of the sales centres, which could result in upwards of a two-hour wait just to load up their PRESTO card. Nobody wants to deal with that.

“I hated having to wait in line at the bus station to put any money on the card, so I switched back to tickets,” said Brandon Pomery, a grade 13 student.

Ferguson made it clear though that OC Transpo realizes that this is an issue and that improvements were set to happen.

“Next month, passes are available a full 14 days before the end of each month and customers may wish to access this option if it meets their need,” said Ferguson.

For those who can’t make it out in the middle of the month for whatever the reason may be, Ferguson says more staff will be available to make sure wait times are lessened.

Even with some improvements being added to the system, the paper-based tickets and passes will still play a large role in the transit system.

“At this time, no schedule has been identified to phase out our paper-based products,” said Ferguson. “There will be ample public notice for customers when such a decision is made.”

Even with the PRESTO system still battling with problems, OC Transpo continues to look at ways to help improve the outlook on things.

Ferguson says that priority for OC Transpo is to ensure that customers have a positive and convenient transit experience.

“Further improvements to the PRESTO system are currently being worked on that will continue to improve the PRESTO experience for customers.”