Sunday, October 30, 2016



The new Presto card for riding the TTC and neighbouring transits kind of snuck up on me.
And I'm not alone.
Apparently we will all need this card next year and tickets and tokens are banished to eternal darkness. Cash is so suspect, it may well be banned.
Which will be awkward for visitors to the Big Smoke who actually believe that the TTC is the better way but just want to ride once or twice. Then there are all the occasional riders like Mary and me.
Mary started bugging me about it after I ignored reading anything to do with Presto on the grounds as a casual rider I would continue to be able to buy and use a seniors' ticket.
No, I was informed by phone after a long wait. I needed a card, and I would have to go to the Davisville transit headquarters to get this new card if I wanted the reduced seniors/student rate.
Only one outlet for the hundreds of thousands of seniors and students in Toronto seems both stupid and inconvenient, I told the info line. I assumed there must be some way to buy it on line but then I descended into the maze of all the careful internet postings about Presto and after meandering through all the language,  decided it was quicker to go to the TTC headquarters at Davisville and Yonge.
After my waste of time there, I decided that whoever named the card Presto, which is a traditional term for magicians to use instead of saying "quickly," had a sick humour.
I just hope the system actually lives up to the password instead of disappointing us at awkward times.
Once upon a time, I wrote so much about transit that I was a pop expert on the TTC. I was asked to write its official history. Later I was approached from the top to be its VP of advertising and PR.
So I often consider what the TTC does from the standpoint of what would I be doing or recommending if I was part of the inner group. I would give this operation an F.
I had medical appointments across Yonge St. at Davisville so I went early to the TTC customers' service office. Too many were lined up. So I returned an hour later and waited for more than an hour because there were only two people serving the public and one of them was tied up with an old lady who was baffled for 30 minutes about everything to do with Presto.
Some brisk young matron let her kid kick the hell out of the wall and then told me when I showed exasperation with the baffled lady that "I would understand when I was 20 years older."
She demonstrated ignorance of both judging age and tolerance when she ended up demanding to see the manager.
It was just a mess stuck in tar where everyone seemed to talk in slow mo. And then I found that the new magic card cost $6 each before I loaded it with money to pay for the trips.
So now we have to pay for permission to buy fares. Wow! The airlines will be jealous of this gimmick.
Since I live near Bloor and Royal York, a trip downtown used to be not a long commute by car but now we have hellish traffic there caused by inept councillors, construction, traffic engineers and police.
On the day that I made my pilgrimage to buy the Presto card, I rode two subways eight times instead of driving.  The irritating day ended when I was returning home at 10.30 p.m. and the St. George station was drowning in passengers.
 I stood there trying not to be pushed off the platform and wondered just how the hell this outfit could be losing money and requiring tens of millions from you and me and other taxpayers who never ride it daily when it's not unusual to have crowded cars at 10.30 p.m.
A week later, I went to the opera via subway with a friend who is a plugged-in prof. I had been feeling guilty about how I let Presto sneak up on me to such an extent that I still don't know all the angles. Then he started asking questions which showed he may often take the subway to the university but Presto is still unknown to him too.
It turned out that it has been most convenient for him to use the east end of the Royal York station where you can only pass through the turnstiles of cow gate bars with tokens. He's a senior but has just sucked it up and paid the extra because it's simpler.
Just a typical Torontonian who has had to adjust to the transit system rather than have the system adjust to him and all the seniors using such turnstiles. And our union reps, who would be the 44 councillors and the mayor, are so busy caving in to the transit workers and cops and civil service unions on their compensation and working conditions that making us stand in line or delivering lousy service or multiplying the hassles is just business as usual.
And then these crummy stewards of our taxes wonder why we're mad at them.
Mary had a dental appointment at Bloor and Bay and the traffic is so snarled there we again took the TTC instead. After all, the subway almost ends up in the basement of the dentists' office.
What should have been a simple trip that illustrates the value of transit in the big city was ruined by the escalators being shut down at either end.
So Mary and her arthritis had to drag herself up two useless escalators. The Royal York ticket seller was not sympathetic when I complained. His excuse? The Royal York escalator had been shut down because "someone fell."
Since now there was no one around the escalator, whether victim, paramedics or TTC personnel, it seemed dumb to make all the people climb to the street.  Yet too often red tape strangles common sense when it comes to the TTC and its lax bosses of councillors.
I used the subway twice to go to the York Club at St. George and Bloor because I don't believe in drinking a lot and then driving. The club boasts that it is right beside the western end of the St. George station.
A better way when going but not when returning home because you can only pass through the cow gate bars with tokens and a pass but not a Presto pass. The ticket booth is dark and features a battered sign that the ticket seller will be back later. Maybe around 2020, I guess.
I got back through the first time because part of the subway was shut down and fleets of shuttle buses were arriving. I was waved through by some TTC staffers. The second time I couldn't pass and had to walk down to Bloor and then a long block east to the other entrance. When I grumbled, wave my cane and demanded to know when the commission was going to make the change to allow Presto cards at the other end, the ticket taker said I would have to ask customer relations.
Yeah, I know all about that.
Of course the obvious question is why the western ticket booth isn't staffed when all the students from Canada's largest university and all the Bloor foot traffic would find it convenient.
The TTC's failure to facilitate entrance at one end of one of its busiest stations has created a thriving business for a youth lounging near the token machines, one of which was broken. He was selling individual tokens and doing a brisk business.
For him, this transit goof was the better way to earn beer money.