Later this year, Grand River Transit will change the way we pay for our rides.
The EasyGO electronic fare card will be available to passengers at many GRT terminals. You load at least $10 on the card and swipe it in front of a card reader as you enter the bus.
The computer calculates the cost of the ride and deducts it from the money you have loaded on the card.
EasyGO will likely allow Grand River Transit to do away with paper tickets. Monthly passes can be loaded onto the card as well.
This system should be familiar to GO Transit users, who are already flashing their Presto cards as they board trains and buses throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
In fact, EasyGO’s system seems so similar to Presto that one can be forgiven for asking why the Region of Waterloo didn’t just adopt Presto in the first place. I know I did.
But Grand River Transit has a reasonable explanation on their website (www.grt.ca/en/fares/EasyGO-FAQ.asp). Presto did not respond to a Request for Proposals when the issue came up.
The region was also unable to make Metrolinx commit to allowing Presto to pay for other regional services, such as MobilityPlus, or accommodate the local universities’ transit pass programs.
Based on this explanation, I can mostly forgive Grand River Transit for adding another card to my wallet next to my Presto card.
EasyGO follows in the footsteps not only of Presto, but transit agencies across the world who are establishing electronic fare payment. The change may still be worrisome to those used to the old ways, but from my experience with Presto, EasyGO will be a big improvement for riders.
I like how you can register your Presto card and have it automatically refilled from your bank account or credit card when it dips below a certain level. I never have to stand in line for tickets and I’m never caught short.
Registering your card also keeps your balance safe. If you lose the card or have it stolen, you can notify the card company and have your balance transferred to a new card.
There are legitimate concerns over the growing prevalence of debit cards and our move to a cashless society, but for me the risks are manageable and the convenience is considerable.
I do hope, however, that Grand River Transit explores other ways to make their EasyGO farecard even more useful to riders. Other transit agencies offer day passes, allowing unlimited travel across a system for the price of about four cash fares.
Grand River Transit does the same, but only on weekends and holidays. The day pass should be extended for the whole week, and EasyGO makes it extremely easy to implement: simply cap the cost of rides charged on the EasyGO card. After three or four rides on the system, every subsequent ride on that day is free.
In a region known for its high tech industry, an electronic fare card was long overdue, but we run the risk of the technology becoming obsolete as it is introduced.
Smartphones are increasingly replacing the cards in our wallets, with apps like ApplePay and Google Wallet allowing you to pay via your phone. Fortunately, it should be easy for both Presto and EasyGO to make the switch.
Which will make me happy, as I can ride both GRT and GO with two less cards in my wallet.