OC Transpo is set to roll out an additional 10,000 presto cards for the public to use in the next phase of an aggressive testing period. Forecasting the potential for a bumpy road, transit officials say they are moving forward even though there may be some “hiccups” along the way.

In spite of this, Transit Committee chair Diane Deans says the technology has been customized to OC Transpo’s needs and is the best they could find.

Deans says OC Transpo has looked at technology across North America and that what is being offered by Metrolinx, the company behind Presto, will be the best – if it works.

But for some people that’s a big “IF.” So far, the Presto card has had its fair share of problems causing delays for its much-anticipated release.

OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi says there was a software update applied two weeks ago and that most of the glitches should be fixed. Manconi also told the Transit Committee Wednesday morning, no new problems have popped up since the last report given in November.

One of the areas still of concern is the handheld unit fare-enforcement officers are supposed to use to check if users have paid.  According to Manconi, this is not working the way it should.

A concern from Councillor Shad Qadri is who will pay if this continues to be a costly and less-than-perfect endeavour? Manconi responded by saying the delay so far has gained taxpayers a $3 million discount on the $23.5 million deal and that he doesn’t see the savings getting any deeper.

Ridership down

Transit Committee also received a quarterly report for the months of July, August and September which showed ridership had taken a dip from the year before. The dip in ridership was less than 2 per cent for each of the months reported on; however it is still a concern for the service which noticed a steady decrease from 0.5 per cent down to 1.1 per cent down to 1.6 per cent down for July, August and September respectively.

The decrease is being blamed on what OC Transpo is calling a “decrease in downtown employment” while making no mention of public service cuts at the federal level.

Transit officials say gas prices and weather are also factors.

Marketing controversy

Among the technical Presto problems arises an ethical one. On the information pamphlets being handed out there is an image of a hand holding a Presto card. On one pamphlet the hand is Caucasian and on the other it seems to be someone of African heritage; but appears to be the same hand.

Mediaplus Advertising, the company contracted to produce the brochures, told News Talk Radio 580 CFRA the hand was darkened to reflect the diversity of the community.

Transit users who would like to test out one of the 10,000 being given away can get one at Hurdman Station on Friday between 7 a.m. and 6.pm., Baseline Station on Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Fallowfield station next Thursday between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

OC Transpo officials say staff will be at the station to distribute the cards.