Have questions about the TTC? Rocket Talk is a regular Torontoist column, featuring TTC Chair Adam Giambrone and Director of Communications Brad Ross’s answers to Torontoist readers’ questions. Submit your questions to email@example.com!
Reader Travis Bird asks:My question has to do with buying tickets/passes from the ticket booths in the subway stations. I find it very inconvenient that the TTC does not accept debit payments at the ticket booths when I need to buy my tokens. In order for me to get cash, I have to get off the TTC system, go to an ATM and then get back on to a bus/subway. Why not even have automated vending machines that users could use their credit cards or debit cards to buy fares (there used to be vending machines, but I haven’t noticed them lately)? If I can buy gas at the pump with my debit card, there must be a way that I can buy TTC fares too.
TTC Chair Adam Giambrone says:The TTC is behind other systems in its fare collection methods, but this might just end up being an advantage in an unexpected way. Electronic payment technology is changing rapidly, and we are in a position to adopt the newest forms of it, which may supersede the current smart card systems in a number of cities. Effectively, we may be able to skip a generation of smartcards entirely and save many millions of dollars.
Bringing communications and electrical lines into stations is expensive, and is sometimes complicated in older stations by the presence of asbestos, which is time-consuming and expensive to remove. This is the reason, for example, why OneStop screens are not yet in some stations.
There will soon be new token and pass vending machines that will augment the small number of existing pass vending machines that accept credit and debit cards. Additionally, we will begin to replace the old token vending machines that only accept cash and are prone to breaking down. These machines will also be designed to sell pre-paid farecards, so when an open-payment/smartcard system comes, they will not become redundant.
While everyone wants a farecard system in place (including me), we don’t want to be the last to adopt what is now old technology. The TTC, working with the Government of Ontario, is close to announcing an “open payment” system, where you tap your bank card or credit card directly at the turnstile. “Open payments” would use the new chip cards and allow passes (Metropass, weekly pass, etc.) to be loaded onto a credit or debit card through the internet or at new vending machines. Bear in mind that it took London nine years to fully roll out the Oyster card, so even at half that, full implementation of this system will be three to five years away. In the meantime, TTC is also rolling out an e-commerce function on the website, which will allow the purchase of passes and perhaps larger volumes of tokens or tickets, with delivery right to your door.