Over the next few weeks, the TTC will be testing a newfangled fare box on one of its buses on the 31 Greenwood route. The box (pictured above) features the latest technology from the 1970s, including a magnetic card reader, a token slot, a slot for cash and tickets, and a flashing light that will alert drivers to counterfeit tokens or Metropasses.
“It’s designed to try to limit the counterfeiting of tokens and some of our passes,” Danny Nicholson, the TTC’s corporate communications supervisor, told Torontoist. “The technology is very similar to the current turnstiles in our subway systems.”
The TTC loses just over a million dollars a year to fraud, and although counterfeit Metropasses are a problem, the box is primarily aimed at counterfeit tokens. According to Nicholson, that’s where the problem is.
Over the next few weeks, the TTC will be studying the effects of the new box on the 31 Greenwood route, and then in the first week of February the project will be extended to a bus on the 72 Pape route, and, shortly after, a streetcar on the 501 Carlton route. The TTC’s biggest concern is that the new magnetic card reader might result in increased loading times on busier routes, possibly causing delays.
The estimated cost to install the new fare box on buses, streetcars, and by collectors’ booths is $5.3 million. According to Nicholson, “the money that we’re putting into this project now will be made back through less loss of revenue through counterfeiting”—which, at a loss of a million dollars a year, will take at least five years to recuperate. The boxes also aren’t compatible with smart card technology, so they’ll have to be replaced, or at least upgraded, when the province’s Presto card is widely introduced.
“If Toronto is moving to automatic fare collection, why are we spending money on the ‘old’ fare system?” asked transit sage Steve Munro in an email to us. “Is this another case of the Commission failing to challenge management?”
In a previous installment of Torontoist’s Rocket Talk on fare collection methods, Chair Adam Giambrone wrote that the TTC doesn’t “want to be the last to adopt what is now old technology.” Calling this new fare box old is an understatement; it could easily belong in a museum.
Thanks to Joe Clark for tipping us off. Photos by Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist.