The company that provided Ottawa's transit system with misfiring fare card readers is one of ten firms in the running to overhaul the TTC's payment system.
The capital's transit authority, OC Transpo, is currently experiencing major problems with the roll out of its Presto smartcard system, which was supposed to start replacing ticket fares next month. But major glitches have pushed the launch date back until at least February 2013, and the city has stopped payment on $4 million it owes to Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency in charge of implementing the smartcards.
Although the source of the error that causes OC Transpo's card readers to scan Presto cards inaccurately or not at all has yet to be located, at a Metrolinx board meeting Thursday executives said they believe the problem lies with the reading devices themselves. They were supplied by German company Scheidt & Bachmann, and appear to be incompatible with pre-existing Metrolinx software.
Steve Zucker, head of Metrolinx's smartcard division, also revealed that Scheidt & Bachmann is one of ten companies on the agency's "preferred vendors" list which are being asked to submit proposals to implement Presto on the TTC.
Board members expressed confidence that the German company will soon resolve OC Transpo's problems and praised the firm as "a world leader," but Metrolinx president Bruce McQuaig also warned that how the supplier handles the mess in Ottawa will impact its chances of winning the contract for the TTC.
"The focus right now is getting the Ottawa devices fully operational and reliable," McQuaig told reporters after the meeting. "And of course, we're watching [Scheidt & Bachmann] very carefully. We'll want to see them perform, and how they perform is going to be a factor on how we consider them for future business."
McQuaig did not say that the company would be disqualified from the TTC bid, however.
Presto has been launched without serious incident on several transit systems in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, including GO Transit, Brampton Transit, and Burlington Transit. It is also in use at 14 TTC subway stations on a pilot project basis.
But OC Transpo's readers are part of the first "second generation" Presto system Metrolinx has attempted, and are designed to also allow "open payment" with contactless credit cards and mobile devices.
Toronto's Presto system is slated for full implementation by the Pan Am Games in 2015, and will also be second generation.
Replacing the TTC's tickets and tokens with the Presto card is seen by the commission as essential to modernizing its operations because it would allow commuters to use a single fare medium to pass seamlessly between transit systems in the GTHA.
As well, it's expected to save the TTC millions of dollars in operating costs and could allow for a new, more efficient fare structure that would replace the current one price, one ride model.