I have read of some problems that people have had with Presto and, for the most part, they mainly had to do with applying for and activating the card online. I am also aware of an issue when tapping onto a vehicle when another RFID card is near the Presto card, such as a credit card equipped with this technology. Until now, I have never run into a real problem.
All that changed last week when my daughter returned to school after the break. We didn’t think to check her Presto balance until the evening of Sunday January 8. At that time, it was $2.90 and I did a $20 I-POS transfer, knowing it would take about 24 hours to get to her card. With the continuing strike at YRT, she would be getting a ride to school in the morning and wouldn’t need to use the card until the afternoon. The new ticket price for student fare is $2.10, so there would be enough to cover her until the e-purse load occurs.
At the end of Monday January 9, her e-purse balance was $0.80, still awaiting the $20 load. She did not need to use transit until Wednesday afternoon and boarded as usual. The bus she boarded had a non-working Presto terminal, so there was no need to top on. Her next use of transit was not until Friday after school, when she again tapped on without her nor the operator noticing an error, though one of her friends indicated she thought she saw a red light on the terminal. She needed a second fare a few hours later on Friday and when she tapped on, the operator indicated that there were insufficient funds on the Presto card, so she had to pay the cash fare of $3.50.
Looking at her card online Friday evening, it only showed a balance of $0.80 and the transaction from the Monday that brought it down to that balance. I called Presto’s customer service line and they could see that the card went into a negative balance and could see the load but could offer no explanation as to why the load was not there by the Wednesday. They also could not do anything about bringing it “out of a negative balance” over the phone, and that I would have to either go to a GO station or a transit operator’s customer service office.
This will cost me $2.80 (plus my time), and since I have my daughter’s Presto card, she is using my wife’s card to get to school, which will charge us $0.70 more than necessary (adult ticket/Presto fare is $2.80 and student ticket/Presto fare is $2.10).
Will they be able to restore her Presto card balance and reimburse today’s costs plus the extra amount paid on Friday ($1.40 - $3.50 cash fare was paid instead of $2.10)?
Update at 10:45 am: I am reasonably happy with the results of this, but that may only be because my daughter received a “free” trip last week. I do have some new understanding into the workings of Presto.
When there is not enough balance on the card when it is tapped, one of two things will occur. If your card is not registered, it will be denied. If your card is registered, it will be allowed to enter into having a negative balance. I suspect this occurred with my daughter tapped on the first trip on Friday. The terminal probably did display a red light, but the operator likely did not receive a message that the fare was invalid.
When this occurs, the card is locked. At this point, nothing can be done with the card until the negative balance plus a 25 cent service charge is paid. This can only be done at a GO station or at a transit operator’s customer service centre. This wasn’t totally made clear by the Presto representative I spoke with on Friday. They did say that the card could only be unlocked, but mentioned nothing about what was needed. It doesn’t matter if there is a new balance to be loaded onto the card, because it can’t be loaded while the card is locked. Ergo, that balance cannot be used to pay what is needed to unlock the card. Oddly, in looking at the transactions on my daughter’s card, there is no transaction that deducted $2.10 from the balance of $0.80. There were two attempts to load the $20.00 when it was locked, so the balance remained at -$1.10. Why it wasn’t -$1.30 is a mystery.
I was hoping to leave YRT’s office with a $19.40 balance on my daughter’s card, which was $20 less the trips she took last week, plus the costs of all this mess. I had to pay $1.35 ($1.10 negative balance plus $0.25 service charge) to get the card unlocked, leaving it’s balance at zero. The load would not take place until a balance check was done on the card, though why they could not perform that operation at the YRT office is another mystery. If one goes there to pay and add a balance on the card, it is loaded immediately. I suspect there is a way the office can do a balance check, but lack of training prevents them from doing so. Since Richmond Hill Centre terminal is a five minute walk from the offices, I immediately went there to perform a balance check. The balance now showed $20. Given that I had to pay $1.35, the net effect is $18.65.