by Marianne Van der Wel
PRESTO is an electronic fare card system now in place across 10 provincial and municipal transit agencies in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) and Ottawa. They are: Brampton Transit; Burlington Transit; Durham Region Transit (DRT); Hamilton Street Railway (HSR); Miway; Oakville Transit; OC Transpo; the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC, all streetcars and 26 subway stations); UP Express; York Region Transit/Viva (YRT/Viva) and GO Transit.
Each transit system has its own fares, rules and regulations, which means there is no easy description to cover all situations. You may need to check with the individual transit agency for details.
Using PRESTO on the city bus
In general, when using a municipal transit system with only one fare zone — as for those in the cities of Burlington, Oakville and Hamilton — you tap your card on the device nearest the entry when you get on the bus and that's it.
Using PRESTO on GO transit
When using GO transit, the rules for using PRESTO are more complicated and if these rules are not followed, mistakes can be quite costly.
Taking the GO bus with PRESTO
- Tap on when boarding the bus. The PRESTO fare payment device is located on the bus, near the driver.
- Tap off when leaving the bus. You should do this even when using the bus to connect to a GO train.
- If you fail to tap off when exiting the bus, you will be charged the fare for the farthest distance on that bus route. The amount you owe will be deducted the next time you use your PRESTO card.
Taking the GO train with PRESTO
- Tap on using one of the GREEN PRESTO fare payment devices located in the train station. Be sure to check the screen on the device to confirm that a fare has been deducted from your card. A beep and a green or yellow light indicates a successful transaction. If you see a red light, talk to a station attendant prior to taking your trip. If you forget to tap on, you will not be able to pay on the train, will be considered to be travelling without valid payment, and may be fined.
- Tap off on a GREEN PRESTO fare payment device in the station when you reach your destination. If you forget to tap off, you will be charged the fare plus an additional amount. There is no senior’s discount on these “missed tap off adjustments”, which may range from $2 to $11.30.
Setting a default trip for the GO train
One way to avoid potential problems resulting from failure to tap off after a train journey is to set a default journey. For example, if your usual train journey is from Aldershot to Union Station, set this as your default. You will no longer need to tap off at the end of any train journey to Union Station where you have tapped on at Aldershot. To take a trip from your default station to a destination other than your default, you will need to use the “override” button before you tap your card at the beginning of the journey and tap off at the end.
Get to know your tapping devices
- Be aware that there are PRESTO devices in the train stations other than green fare payment devices. Similar devices with a YELLOW background are for activating or checking the balance on your PRESTO card.
- If you accidentally check your balance at a device with a GREEN background, instead of a YELLOW one, push the CORRECT button on the device or ask a GO agent to help you. Otherwise, the PRESTO system will assume that you are starting a train journey.
For more information on PRESTO
- See PRESTO card & public transit in GTA/Hamilton area, Summer 2013.
- Go to the Presto web site or the GO Transit web site
- Visit a customer service outlet (e.g., HSR Ticket Office, 36 Hunter St. E., Hamilton; Municipal Service Centre, City Hall, 71 Main Street West, Hamilton; Municipal Service Centre, Dundas, 60 Main Street, Dundas)
- Call 1-8-PRESTO-123 (1-877-378-6123).
For information about fares and discounts, transit schedules, transfers, customer service outlet locations and PRESTO device locations, call GO Transit (1-888-438-6646), Hamilton Street Railway (905-527-4441) or Burlington Transit (905-639-0550).
If, however, you are an infrequent user of public transit or find using PRESTO not to your liking, you can continue to use cash and paper tickets in accordance to the rules of the transit system in question.