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TTC, Metrolinx phaseout of tokens raises worries, anti-poverty advocates warn

Anti-poverty advocates in Toronto say they are concerned that a phaseout of TTC tokens will make it more difficult for the homeless, low income people and seniors to access public transit.

TTC tokens are to be discontinued at the end of 2019. In their place, the TTC will offer a single ride Presto paper ticket that will have an expiry date. The Presto tickets, to be introduced in 2019, will be sold through fare vending machines and at Shoppers Drug Mart stores for the same price as a cash fare.

Concerns about the impact of the change are expected to come up at a public meeting in downtown Toronto on Tuesday. The TTC and Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency, are jointly hosting the meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 203, at 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Members of social service agencies say they are concerned about the availability of tickets, their expiry date, whether bulk sales will be available, and their affordability. They say how people access, pay for and use TTC fares are all issues.

According to the Fair Fare Coalition, which represents Toronto organizations that work with and support people living on low incomes, social service agencies in the city distribute between 3,000 and 30,000 tokens a year to clients who use their programs and services. 

The TTC said it is still finalizing details about the Presto paper ticket.

“Certainly, tonight will be a good opportunity to hear feedback from the participants in the room,” Heather Brown, acting manager of customer communications for the TTC, said on Tuesday. 

“Because we are still finalizing the details, we will certainly listen to feedback that is provided and see where we can make things as smooth as possible for people.”

Brown said the meeting is being held to enable members of the public to express concerns. Issues on the agenda include bulk sales, status of the Presto rollout, locations to buy Presto tickets and the cost of Presto cards. Brown said the TTC recognizes that not all of its customers live near a Shoppers Drug Mart.

“We are working with our social service agencies,” she said.

The Presto ticket will not be available for bulk sales until June 2019. Presto tickets bought at Shoppers Drug Mart will not have an expiry date, while those bought at fare vending machines and through bulk sales will.

The device issuing tickets at Shoppers Drug Mart has a “limitation” that means it is not able to print an expiry date, she added.

“We will be talking high level about it this evening, but there is still more work to be done around what that bulk distribution will look like for social service agencies. There are still discussions happening.”

The Fair Fare Coalition wants Presto tickets to be: widely available at convenient locations across Toronto; affordable at current token or ticket concession rates; available for bulk purchase at a discounted rate; able to be transferred from one person to another; with no expiry date; and available for purchase with cash.

Metrolinx ‘actively working toward solutions’

In a emailed statement on Tuesday, Metrolinx said it is looking at ease of use and access, including affordability, as it makes decisions about the rollout of Presto. The agency said it is listening to feedback from customers.

“For many of the concerns, we’re already actively working toward solutions,” Metrolinx said.

For example, the agency said it recognizes that the $6 fee for a Presto card could be a barrier for some transit riders and it is exploring the idea of providing cards and discount codes to social service agencies to distribute. 

“Having these conversations is a key part of modernizing the fare system on the TTC so it works better for everyone,” Metrolinx added. 

The meeting will feature a presentation, followed by a question and answer session with a moderated panel. The panel includes Kirsten Watson, TTC deputy chief executive officer of operations, and Annalise Czerny, Metrolinx executive vice president of Presto.

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