“Please have your proof of payment ready.”
That’s what TTC riders hear when they exit the streetcar at Spadina Station. What happens next boggles my mind.
Passengers squeeze into a bottleneck, where TTC Fare Inspectors may or may not be waiting. If they’re waiting, they will use NFC mobile readers to scan your Presto Card. Or they’ll scrutinize your transfer or ticket.
The experience is annoying. You never know when the Fare Inspectors will be there. So you have to stay alert and keep your proof of payment (POP) accessible. For me, that means taking my Presto card out of my wallet to ensure it can get scanned.
People exit an often crowded streetcar and get jammed into another small space. Tempers sometimes flare. With only one or two Fare Inspectors it’s possible to scooch past without showing your POP. I’ve watched it happen.
The fix isn’t easy. Complicating matters is that I keep hearing that Presto machines are unreliable. But here’s a suggestion I’ve seen in many metropolitan cities. Stick gates down there. Make it easier for riders to simple tap, scan or feed their ticket before advancing to the next leg of their trip.
People know the gate experience. The TTC could get more effective at policing fare evasion. If the gates work well, I could keep my Presto card in my wallet. When I reach the gates, I could tap my wallet and walk past.
But for that to work, we need gates that work consistently. And we’d need a ticket/transfer system that worked with those gates like in New York. Oh, and we’d need someone who can empathize with riders and see a solution. I’m not sure which will come first: that bottleneck avoiding hero or the Downtown Relief Line?