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TTC to introduce two-colour token to combat counterfeits

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Crossposted to Transit Toronto.

This coming Monday, the TTC will unveil a new token designed to combat the counterfeits that have flooded the system. According to a TTC press release, the special unveiling ceremony will take place on Monday, November 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Toronto’s City Hall, Committee Room 3.

According to the press release, “the new token is designed with the latest in technology, making it next to impossible to re-produce.”

That, of course, remains to be seen. The release gives few other details, but hopefully these will be provided on Monday. One key question: will the TTC stop accepting the current subway tokens, some of which have been in circulation for over fifty years. If the tokens we have stocked away in sock drawers are to become obsolete, how long will the TTC accept these before phasing them out, and what program will the commission provide to allow individuals to exchange old tokens for new?

Studies suggest that the TTC has lost approximately $10 million due to the sale of counterfeit tokens. Riders report that the counterfeits have become so pervasive that some have been included with legitimate tokens dispensed by token machines.

The TTC has ordered 20 million new tokens at a cost of $1.7 million.

Worth commenting here is whether this purchase makes sense at this time when the Greater Toronto Transit Authority is working towards implementing a smart card system. Will the GTTA’s smart cards make the new tokens obsolete?

In other news, TTC Chair Howard Moscoe is musing about the possibility of automatic train control, as is currently in place on the Scarborough RT. He notes that it might be expensive to implement, but it could improve system capacity by allowing trains to operate more frequently.



  1. The smart card is a great idea. The TTC is way behind what other transit systems in terms of payment options. Often while using plastic reusable cards in US cities I wonder why the TTC is till using tokens. New york started using cards in 1994 but did not stop selling tokens until 2003.

    One of the great things about smartcards is that the system can set up all sorts of different payment/ride options and discounts; all on one card. So a smart card could take the place of a day pass well. I cant wait for this to happen here.

  2. Just a small correction. The Greater Toronto Transportion Authority is working towards a smart-card system. The Greater Toronto Transit Authority, more commonly known as GO Transit, is not. Eventually, the new GTTA will take over GO Transit, but for now we have to deal with two confusingly-named entities.

  3. if moscoe needs to reassign the drivers to something else, they could always become streetcar operators, or even a ‘special constable’ because we all know the ttc lacks those grossly

  4. We’ve been through this before but to repeat.

    What they have in NY is NOT like what is being proposed by the GTTA, the NY system works on the MTA only, it does not integrate with the commuter rail systems (except some very limited interchange with the PATH trains) or surrounding municipal systems.

    It’s been estimated that it would cost $250 Million dollars to put card readers on the entire TTC fleet. Previous attempts to sell a card based fare system to the TTC have been met with the legitimate response “do you realize how many new buses we could buy with that money?”. Card systems make some more sense in the states because the transit systems there were choking to death on paper money, the cost of handling cash fares was significant, here we have loonies and twonies. It’s not the same problem. Tickets and tokens have one big advantage, as a system they are dirt cheap to operate and process.

    Tokens and tickets are massively more convienent than Metrocards, you can’t sell Metrocards at the local corner store.

  5. Is there any reason why the TTC has turnstile machines that scan passes and accept tokens but don’t accept tickets? Montreal does. It would cut down on the number of people who need to pass by the collector booth … leaving all the retards who stand in front of the window as they rummage for change.

    Really, why don’t you have money ready beforehand? Most stations are spacious enough for you to stand in a corner while you count your dimes and nickels.

  6. Automated trains alone won’t allow the TTC to get rid of human drivers, to he harsh about it, not unless they also enclose the platforms, they need someone in that position to act as a saftey observer if no actually driving the train.

  7. One more reason to give serious consideration to making transit free. No collection, no counting, no cards, no counterfeiting, no transfers, no monthly passes: just hop on, hop off and pay for the whole thing as a public good through the tax base. What would it cost, per capita, to run such a system? What proportion of the current system is related to the management of money, tokens and tickets?

  8. The Montreal tickets are machine readable because they have a little magnetic stripe on them. It’s a not bad system. But montreal doesn’t have tokens at all. In terms of cost per ride to process customer fares it goes in order, pass->token->ticket->cash so in terms of keeping costs down the TTC wants to encourage token use over tickets so that argues against a ticket redesign and spending cash to add readers to all sixtyodd stations.

    Frankly if we must have a “modern” alternative to tokens I would argue we should skip right over smart cards and go to a proximity tag system like they have at the gas station.

  9. the money the card readers save in fraud would definitely add up. plus collectors could be eliminated at stations like yonge + bloor and those giant, tall revolving doors could let people into the station with your mandatory, multi-lingual fare card.

  10. The Vancouver SkyTrain operates without drivers on open platforms (and, if I recall, the San Francisco area BART trains as well). These systems, though, were designed as automated systems from the beginning.

  11. A smart card is useless until it works for GO, VIVA and other transit systems in the GTA. It needs to be integrated or it useless. The TTC has more pressing concerns than to spend $150 million to stop a small amount of fraud.

    Automated drivers/ticket booths would either mean layoffs or re-deployment, which the union will fight tooth and nail.

  12. Instead of a new token, a better option is the way Calgary and Vancouver have done it.

    While I cannot speak for Vancouver, I can describe for Calgary. This is how it works:

    If you have a Bus Pass, you just go up to the train and get in.

    If you have prepaid tickets, you just get them stamped at a machine. The final way is you simply get a ticket from one of those machines. Then after that you get on the train.

    Then to enforce the fare system, transit cops patrol the trains and hand out tickets to anyone who has not paid their fare. The cost of those tickets makes up for the few people who ignore the fare system. So far it has worked quite well.

    I should also add, the city saves a lot of money by installing pressure sensitive doors. As I understand it, the TTC has special conductors monitoring all the doors to make sure no one gets stuck in them. In Calgary the doors are opened by the person, and they have sensors installed to make sure no one gets stuck in the doors. The pressure sensitive doors, also sense if something is the way and open by themselves. So far we haven’t had any issues with them closing. The doors used to open like Streetcar/Bus doors. We have had some minor issue when they are opening, since their were no pressure sensors as they opened The city just bought new carriages, which open more like Subway doors in the TTC. With the new car doors we have had no problems.

    Both of these measures could save a lot of money.

  13. Oh I forgot to mention, a freefare zone could work in Toronto. Calgary has a Freefare zone in downtown.

  14. I believe the TTC is generally opposed to adopting smart cards for payment – I recall a piece in Eye in Feb or March that talked about their preference to spend the money on more buses to improve service. Is the money spent on new tokens a way of dragging their feet on the issue? Or does it matter? Hard to imagine someone visiting Toronto for a weekend really wanting to buy a smart card – tokens would still be useful in such a case.

    Chester Pape, the proximity tags are available for smart cards as well – they are contactless (as opposed to contact, which must be scanned or inserted into a machine to be read).

    I agree with Matt that the system needs to be integrated or it will be useless. To that end, it looks like the top-down approach of using the GTTA appears to be best. It ensures that all machines in the system work to the same set of standards, and would likely be sourced from the same supplier. The alternative, piecemeal implementation, will likely result in different software and different hardware for cards and readers. Too much proprietary equipment will make interoperability almost impossible down the road.

    I am also interested in whether anyone is looking further down the line. Will the system be open enough that banks and credit cards can eventually play a role? It would be easier for me to pay via contactless bank card than to buy and top up a transit card. Will local merchants be able to participate in the system, so I can also buy my coffee and newspaper with the same card? Are these questions even being asked by the transit authorities??

  15. A proof-of-payment system like Aman mentions would also speed up passenger loading at major intersections – especially the subway-streetcar transfers downtown.

  16. The ‘Driverless’ system will operate much the same way as the SRT-it will have a guard at the front of the train to operate the doors and for emergencies. Some of the other train operators (the former guards) can be used to run more trains, as tighter headways can expand the capacity, which is what Moscoe should be stating to get the union on his side.

  17. Why even use tokens? If you’re visiting Toronto for a weekend, get a day pass. It’s the best deal.

  18. I really think a smartcard system would help, but only if it worked like the London Oyster Cards and offered integrated service between *all* regional forms of Transit.

    Here in Singapore they use a smartcard system that is shared between the various transit companies. They are proximity read cards. You can also use them at selected shops and food places to buy things.

  19. I believe that all the transit authorities in the NYC area are in the process of testing a “contactless card” system for future integration. As well I was pretty sure that the MTA wanted to get rid of tokens as the main force behind MetroCards. Some thought that the abolishment of tokens was a state conspiracy to make it easier to raise fares.

    The quality of a transit system is not just the number of buses. Everybody agrees that the TTC is underfunded but that should not stop it (and other transit systems) from investigating technologies that may save money and improve service. Integration is very important and there is no reason why it cannot be viewed within the larger vision of updating technology. People buy their morning coffees with debit cards and debit tokens, probably bluetooth soon as well. It will come to the TTC one way or another.

  20. Scott, I think you are right about NYC. I am pretty sure CitiBank is involved in the trial there, in fact.

  21. The NY system has a variety of farecards ranging from pre-paid amount where you can “load” money onto the card and fares are automatically deducted to unlimited use cards for a month, week and day. The system does have its problems when for whatever reason the turnstile refuses to accept your card and you need to have the person in the booth manually let you in. There is also the issue of losing your MetroCard. I was always conscious of where my card was because it’s the equivalent of cash/credit/debit even though it was made of very thin plastic.

    The pre-paid cards are available in corner stores. The unlimited use ones I believe however are only available at the subway station.

    The interface at the subway is also different from the one on the bus. At the subway you just swipe your card much like the readers at the TTC turnstile, while the bus reader requires you to insert the card at the farebox, wait for a beep, and then retrieve your card once it pops back out, which certainly slows things down when boarding.

    One final issue is what to do with all the one-time (a.k.a. unlimited) use cards? I’ve seen hundreds of them scattered all over the floor in stations. Are these cards recyclable? Can they be reprogrammed for future use? If so then they need to install a receptacle to collect them all. Otherwise it looks like a colossal waste of money if they all end up in the landfill.

  22. I don’t know about driverless trains. ” If there’s no communication, the system shuts down” and all this… uhh wouldn’t that be adding to the delays that we face up to 10 times a week?
    I mean, microsoft windows is likely to crash computers at any given time. And I dunno if they will be using windows whatever… But computers were needed to be fixed and debugged when the T-1’s came into service 14 years ago.


    The DWA’s will have to be replaced and relocated on all 69 stations to the front of each platform. Thus making it more than just a costly $750 Million. The lights, fixtures, communications equipment, cameras and supplementary benches for 69 stations x2 platforms would increase the invoice to a billion per say? Should the driver be the only on the job on every train.

    I wonder how the union is taking this idea.

    Please… for the love of God, no wildcat strike becuase of this!
    I have a seven week run of Radio City Christmas Spectacular to work. And uhh… brotha needs to get paid, ya feel me?

  23. No way moving 69 (not x2, since many stations have central platforms) will cost $250. Also, say what you will about the crappiness of the Skytrain, but the automation works fine, and I’ve seen how close together the trains can operate. One can come into the station 10 seconds after the other’s left.

  24. This is just a waste of taxpayer money again by the TTC board. Their reluctance to adopt smart card technology and instead spend it on token just shows their lack of vision, or a willingness to pay off certain political donors. I can guarantee you that once smart card technology comes, the tickets and tokens will be made obsolete. So why spend money on it? It’s been proven that once smart card technology comes, a majority of the transactions on the transit system will be made by it. By spending money on an old technology now, this just shows that they are apt at spending money, not making money. If they wanted to do this, why didn’t they think about this 10 years ago when the toonie first came out?

  25. One central platform, two front ends on each side. Still counts as two DWA’s necessary. St Gerorge Stations both have two DWA’s and ther’re much closer. Kennedy RT Station, Yonge (Sheppard) Station, only has one platform with a DWA. finch Kennedy etc, i think they do, i dunno. But anyway, Granted. As for Sheppard Line Stations, I have no idea.

    If you are saying that they could make a central DWA, but that somewhat takes away from the “safety partner” merit that the TTC envisions on it’s passengers.

    Uhh I ain’t hatin on no skytrain. I’m addressing concerns in general with automation.

  26. Two things the TTC can take away from Calgary Transit. First, pressure-sensitive doors on the TTC would grind the system to a halt. I remember many a time on the C-Train where the train was unable to leave the station because someone was holding the door open while their friend fumbled with the ticket dispenser. The last thing the TTC needs is people sticking their arms, bags etc in the door and forcing the doors open. Secondly, Calgary Transit is currently piloting an E-ticket system whereby riders set-up an account using a credit card. On your way to the bus or train stop you send a text message to CT and within 60 seconds CT charges your credit card for the cost of the fare and sends you a text message confirming payment. When asked, you simply show the text to prove that you have paid. Due to the TTC’s current infastructure of turnstiles and barriers this idea will not solve subway station crowding but may have some merit for allowing full-time POP access on streetcars.

  27. ^Yeah, you probably do need the guillotine-like feeling of current TTC subway doors to keep people…moving.

    The text messaging system sounds fantastic though. It could work on subways, and texters would just show their phone like people with transfers do now — though as you say, doesn’t increase the efficiency down there.