Ontario’s auditor general took a swipe at the Presto smart card system saying when it’s fully developed it will be “…one of the more expensive fare card systems in the world.”

Jim McCarter says the system will cost upwards of more than $700 million. The key issue, it had to be completely redeveloped before being sold to cities like Ottawa and Toronto.

“When they talked to Ottawa and the TTC they basically found out you know what the money we spent to date on the system it's not going to be, we're not going to be able to modify it. They basically had to go with Presto 2,” says McCarter.

Ottawa is currently in a testing phase with Presto after numerous system problems and delays.

Friends and family trials showed the Presto cards were not properly tapping and some monthly passes were not being loaded to the smart cards.

“From our local perspective we feel we've negotiated a good deal for our taxpayers for the Presto system,” says Ottawa transit commission chair Diane Deans.

Deans says with a new money-back guarantee and a $3 million rebate, taxpayers are protected.

Councillor Tim Tierney says the new Presto system will become an industry leader if it works but at great cost.

“This new software will probably put them back on top again, but again, you are correct it is at the taxpayers’ expense,” says Tierney.

Presto smart cards were supposed to be fully implemented on July 1.

The next deadline will be April 17. That’s when the transit commission decides whether to move towards a full roll-out of the system or back out of the deal completely.

Ottawa’s system costs $32 million.

More to come…