Scattered Presto Card Readers

Have you ever wondered why the GO Transit’s Presto card readers are installed all over the place, “scattered” to every nook in a very inconsistent manner, whether at Union or suburban stations?

At Union, readers are found literally throughout the station, seemingly without reason or purpose. They are sometimes placed near doors leading to stairs to platforms, were scattered throughout the old concourse and now all over the new concourse. At suburban stations readers are sometimes found on platforms, or in parking lots, at stairways, and/or at station entrances.

CardReaderLine _20151213_113137

Neat line of readers, one per column, but bearing no relationship to platform doorways.

I do know that as an occasional user of GO, figuring out where to tap is difficult, sometimes requiring a search. Entering Union station I first need to see if there is a train, or if it is running, thence determine a platform. By that time I have already passed a half dozen card readers scattered around the concourse, so do I now go back to find one, or if I continue, will I find another? Will I find one in the doorway, leading to stairs to platform? Will I find one on the platform? Will one stand in my way as does a subway fare gate, to serve as a reminder? There is clearly no set pattern and there is a real danger of forgetting and therefore getting fined.

ExitToBayWestTeamway _20151213_112106

At Union from a platform to Bay West Teamway. No Presto card readers in sight. Oh, it’s just around the corner.

At suburban stations the situation is worse, it being quite possible to leave a station without seeing a reader. Sometimes they are to be found on a platform, sometimes at station entrance, sometimes in a tunnel. Often, if I don’t bump into one, and I don’t forget, I must search for one, and on GO’s long stations that can take some walking.

The other day I went to Mount Pleasant on the new, well, renewed, but politically ‘new’ daytime service. Arriving on platform 3, (or is it track 3?,) no card readers were visible. I walked the length of the station (300m) looking for one, but alas, none! So I went down the stairs to the tunnel. Still none, so go up to the bus parking area, search again, and, wonderful, I find one partially hidden around the corner off the beaten track. Out of interest, I then went to platform 1 and found several of them on that platform. Scratch your head – yes indeed!

Regular users of GO, likely over 80% of the total, have long since determined a routine, repeating it every day, using the same station entry, same card reader, same stairs to same platform, to same train door and same seat! They ‘learn’ (as opposed to intuitive) this routine, and thereafter repeat it, and are not concerned with the scattered placement of the readers. If 80% don’t complain, good reason I suppose for GO to ignore the rest of us.


At Danforth GO the reader is ‘laid back’, instead of front and centre.

Also, the same 80% do not tap out – a quirk of GO compared to most jurisdictions – and therefore have no need to find a card reader to leave the station – Union in the morning, and suburban stations at night – which explains why readers are more difficult to find leaving than arriving at all stations.

GO’s chosen methods are an oddity in my travels! I am used to some kind of gate, whether open or activated by a card, that serves as a defined entry point, a threshold to one or more platforms. A station might have more than one set of gates, or separate gates for each platform, but laid out as parallel route to platforms, not in series. I ‘expect’ to encounter such ‘gate’ when entering or leaving platforms, and that is where I tap. Readers at gates only, not scattered around.

StairwayFromYorkCon _20151213_112909

Stairs to platforms 4 and 5. The reader – can you see it? – very subordinate to the advertising.

Positioning of readers seems like Metrolinx is embarrassed to place them front and centre, and instead hides them away from pedestrian flows, around corners, behind doors and pillars. Lets have a gate of some kind, to send the message ‘this is where you pay’, this is the line, after which there are no more readers.

Last week I got off a train at Union, descended the closest stairs, and it wasn’t until I was looking for a washroom in the VIA area that I saw a card reader and was suddenly reminded to tap out.

At the brand new and little used Weston station, two readers were situated on the platform near the entrance to the elevator enclosure, but none at the stairway enclosure.

Exhibition station required a search to find the only reader on south side, well off the beaten track. Why cannot there be a ‘gate’, albeit open, at the entrance to suburban station platforms?

I would suggest that at Union a pair of card readers should flank all the doorways leading to stairs to platforms. The readers should not be set back, behind things or require a detour, instead they should be front and centre, creating what is essentially an ‘open’ gate, but gate nonetheless.

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