Earlier this year, York Regional Transit finally joined the 21st century and implemented an electronic fare system. That might sound tragic, but the TTC has yet to implement the same system! Meanwhile if you head over to London or HK or Tokyo, everyone is using their transit cards to ride their system and buy snacks etc. I can only say that it is about time!

Even now, it’s only partially implemented. If I were to ride on a TTC bus, I would have to use a token. If I were to go to some less-frequented subway stations, I would need to use a token too! I can probably pay for parking or buy from Tim Hortons with it in 2050 or so.

I’m sure there was a lot of politics behind this, but my user impression is that it just doesn’t work well. I wanted to get a Presto Card, but I couldn’t even buy one! I tried the local store that sold transit tickets and they didn’t sell them (with no plan to get them). I’ve seen booths at Richmond Hill Centre selling the cards, but why would I want to get off the bus to buy one? I was finally able to get one by filling out a form on their website, paying $16 by credit card and receiving it in the mail 5 days later. Yay I finally simplified my life right?

Wait – you can’t use it yet though. First, you have to make sure your card is registered on their website. Since I bought my card online, I had to complete the registration process before they would mail me my generic card (they could have at least printed my name on it!). If you were to buy your card elsewhere, you would need to register online first!

Wait – still not done. After you have a card, you need to activate your card. You click a button on the website and are told that your card will be activated “within 24 hours” and then you must use your card within 7 days! Why are there these restrictions? Why doesn’t my card come pre-activated even though I specifically ordered it from their website?

So in all, it takes me 6 days to get my Presto card and have it working. Good thing I’m not a tourist to the city! An e-fare system isn’t bleeding or even cutting edge. It can’t be that hard to design so that it is simple to use.

I can’t wait until I have to reload my card, hopefully that will be straightforward.