By: Rory MacDonald-Gauthier

Second-year broadcasting student James Berti is one of many OC Transpo riders waiting for Presto to work

OC Transpo has expanded its user base for the Presto pass from 10,000 to 12,000 riders, after the company handed out 10,000 free passes earlier this month.

Students who were unable to collect the free pass can order one from the company’s website at a rate of $6.

The goal of the “Next-On” campaign is to “launch a readiness deployment plan, which will test the loading of the updated system with 10,000 customers beginning Jan. 18,” according to OC Transpo general manager John Manconi. He explained at a Transit Commission meeting on Jan. 16.

Come April 2013, OC Transpo and Presto will look at the data gathered over the trial period, including first tap success rates with the card and payments for the pass with debit and credit.

The program will test customer convenience features including the auto-renewing and auto-loading components of the Presto card services.

The auto-renew feature allows Presto to withdraw a one-time fee at the end of each month from users’ debit or credit accounts, and will charge them accordingly based on their age group. This feature will give users a paperless, self-renewing bus pass for each month. The auto-load feature will work similarly in the withdrawal of funds from users’ debit or credit accounts, but will only do so when a user reaches a low account balance. This feature ensures that customers will always have enough money on their card to travel, granted their debit or credit cards have sufficient funds.

“We will come back in April with the results of the technical system criteria. We will then also provide the commissions with recommendation of the feasibility to a full-system rollout,” Manconi said.

Once this information has been provided to the city council, the councilors will have until June 1 to decide whether they will continue with a full-launch of the program to the public, or to change its direction.

“If you [councilors] do not give them [Presto] system acceptance by June 1, either party reserves the option to consider other directions on the program,” Manconi said.

Andrew Denny, a first year business marketing student, isn’t convinced that the paperless Presto card will be effective, and reminisces on the card’s first debut, which was shut down in fall of 2012 after consistent technical errors.

“I don’t agree with OC Transpo’s business practices, let alone their servicing strategy,” he said. “I’m not going to buy into a system that has already failed. Personally, I haven’t seen any indication of any change in their re-launch.”

Phil Comeau, a second year game development student, feels that despite the idea of a faster paperless system, the Presto pass could in fact slow customers from entering and exiting the buses.

“You have to pull your card out and tap it on the Presto panels inside each door,” he said. “When everyone is on the new system, are we just going to be lining up to do that? My initial thought is that it would slow service down, and they’re hardly speedy at the best of times already.”

In the event that the “Next-On” campaign is a success, students of Algonquin College could see a full rollout of the Presto pass as early as June 2013.