By Ciara McGrath, co-op student
The new OC Transpo smart card should be operational on July 1.
The new Presto smart card, presented here by the president of the Transit Commission, Diane Deans, should be operational from July 1st. (Photo: Benjamin Vachet)
This summer, the City of Ottawa will finally follow the lead of cities such as Montreal, who adopted the smart card several years ago in their transport system. Offering greater convenience and flexibility, the smart card will eliminate long queues at the counters, OC Transpo says.
Users can buy and renew their monthly pass or fund their payment card as needed over the Internet or by telephone, using debit or credit cards. They can also go in person to Presto ATMs installed in various malls, including Bayshore, Rideau and St. Laurent, and the Hurdman Transitway. To pay with cash, however, they will still have to move to OC Transpo service points.
"The technology of the smart card is the easiest, most convenient and safest way to manage the system of tariffs for transit for both users and for the City," said Mayor Jim Watson.
200,000 Presto cards free
OC Transpo has negotiated an agreement for free distribution of the first 200,000 smart cards to its customers, available as of June 10. The following users will need to make a payment of $6 to buy their smart card while the paper tickets are phased out.
"Two hundred thousand free Presto cards will help our customers make the transition to the new smart card technology," thinks the president of the Transit Commission, Diane Deans.
The new travel card will be compatible with nine transit systems in the Toronto area, including the GO trains, but not with that of the Transport Corporation of Ottawa.
If the Presto card will be in service in the majority of OC Transpo bus and O-Train as of July 1, users of paratransit service Para-Transpo will have to wait for their share.
New map, new rates
Announced as good news by the City of Ottawa, the arrival of the smart card will be accompanied by a new fee schedule, which will definitely delight less users.
Effective July 1, the monthly pass will cost $96.25 instead of $94, and the pair of paper tickets will be available but cost $3 instead of $ 2.6. To encourage people to adopt the Presto card, the "electronic" ticket deducted from the smart card will be charged as $2.65 instead of $3.
For their part, seniors will have their monthly pass increased from $37 to $39 and it will no longer be free on Monday and Friday afternoon. However, Wednesdays will remain free for seniors, all day.
Finally, despite protests from students last fall, the price of the U-Pass will increase from $145 to $180. Discussions are underway to expand this program to college students.