ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT DODGES OUR REQUEST THAT PRESTO SMART CARD NOT BE INSTALLED AT TTC UNTIL FULLY ACCESSIBLE - BUT AODA ALLIANCE PRESSES AGAIN FOR A CLEAR COMMITMENT

June 10, 2011

SUMMARY

As reported in an earlier update, on June 6, 2011 we wrote to Ontario Transportation Minister Wynne, TTC Chair Stintz, and Toronto Mayor Ford. We sought a commitment that they would not install the Presto Smart Card technology for paying transit fares on the Toronto Transit Commission until and unless it was made fully accessible to persons with disabilities. To see this letter, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06072011.asp

Here's the next chapter in this ongoing saga. On June 8, 2011 we got a letter in response. It was not from any of the people to whom we wrote. Instead, evidently on the Transportation Minister's behalf, it was from the President of Metrolinx, the Ontario Government's public agency that deals with public transit activity in the greater Toronto area. The Presto Smart Card technology was designed by the Presto Project, a part of the Ontario Government directly accountable to the Transportation Ministry.

That June 8, 2011 letter does not give us the specific and full commitment we requested and need. When one first reads it, it sounds like a strong endorsement of accessibility. However, when read more closely, it turns out to be much less than that.

In response, on June 9, 2011, the AODA Alliance wrote back to Transportation Minister Wynne. We repeat our request for the commitment that no one has yet given us. We also point out our serious concerns with what the Metrolinx president said on this topic on behalf of the Ontario Government in his June 8, 2011 letter to us.

The June 9, 2011 Toronto Star reports that TTC has approved the adoption of the Presto Smart Card system for Toronto, but has also kept some other options potentially open. The June 6, 2011 Toronto Star on-line reports on the huge sums of money, well exceeding one hundred million dollars, that would be involved in fully installing the Presto technology in the TTC.

Remember that the Presto Smart Card is just a different way of paying transit fares, so you can use the same card to pay fares on different public transit systems.

Below we set out:

* The June 8, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance from the president of Metrolinx, written on behalf of Transportation Minister Wynne, in response to our June 6, 2011 letter on the Presto Smart Card roll-out in Toronto;

* The AAODA Alliance's June 9, 2011 letter to Transportation Minister Wynne, again pressing our call for a clear commitment that the Presto Smart Card technology will not be rolled out in Toronto until fully accessible;

* The June 6, 2011 Toronto Star on-line article about the enormous cost to the taxpayer of installing the Presto Smart Card in Toronto; and

* The June 9, 2011 Toronto Star article confirming that TTC has approved adoption of the Presto Smart Card.

Send your feedback to us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com

*****

Bay Street, Suite 600

Toronto ON  M5J 2W3

www.metrolinx.com

Office of the President and Chief Executive Officer

Bruce McCuaig

416-874-5903

Bruce.McCuaig@metrolinx.com

June 8, 2011

Mr. David Lepofsky

Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario

M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter regarding the PRESTO Fare Card System and your concerns with respect to the accessibility of the present system. 

The Province of Ontario has shown its commitment to breaking down barriers for people with disabilities as demonstrated by the proclamation of the Integrated Accessibility Standards this month.  The PRESTO system was designed with a focus on both accessibility and customer service.  The current PRESTO system will meet AODA standards and provide equivalent service to all members of the public including those with disabilities.  As the system continues to evolve, we value the insight of the accessibility community to assist us in overcoming barriers and providing a convenient and easy method for transit fare payment.

In October 2010, the Provincial government reiterated its commitment to ensuring PRESTO is an accessible system and detailed the accessible features within PRESTO. 

PRESTO has been successfully rolled out across the GO Transit rail network, along with municipal transit services in Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton and 12 TTC subway stations.  PRESTO will be available in York and Durham Regions this summer and in Ottawa starting in early 2012.  Over 45,000 customers now use PRESTO regularly to pay their transit fares.  PRESTO has processed over 4 million fares with a value exceeding $20M.  Usage grows weekly.  Customer response has been very positive and they appreciate its convenience.

On the accessibility front, we have made substantial progress on items you have raised including web site and kiosks.  PRESTO's web site will be fully WCAG 2.0 AA compliant by August 2011, well ahead of the schedule laid out in the recent Integrated Accessibility Standards timeframes. We will be installing, as a pilot, a fully accessible self service kiosk including audio jack in Union Station by fall this year.  Ottawa will be installing a new generation of devices complete with audio jacks on unattended devices in 2012 when PRESTO rolls out there.  This is substantial and real progress.

We look forward to TTC being part of the PRESTO system. In keeping with the recently proclaimed Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS), any procurements for TTC equipment will meet the requirements of sections 5 and 6 as applicable of the IAS, once a decision is made by the TTC to implement PRESTO.

As you know, we have an Accessibility Test Panel. Currently this group of seven members of the disability community have been provided with value-loaded PRESTO cards for use on various modes of transit on various transit agencies.  The initial mandate of the test panel will be complete this month and the final report will contain their observations, experiences and suggestions for improvements.  The PRESTO team will be consulting regularly with the members of the test panel including on future accessibility initiatives.  We also continue to meet with the Accessibility Advisory Committees of each of the participating transit partners to make them aware of PRESTO and provide an opportunity for feedback.

PRESTO is removing the barriers that existing fare collection systems have for those persons with disabilities. Moving forward we will work with our municipal partners to ensure the accessibility of devices and services does not create barriers to take transit for any Ontarians.

We appreciate your interest in the development of PRESTO.

Sincerely,

Original Signed By

Bruce McCuaig

President and Chief Executive Officer

c:         Premier of Ontario

Minister of Transportation

Minister of Community & Social Services

Mayor of Toronto

Chair of the TTC

*****

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Visit our website at http://www.aodaalliance.org

Fax (416) 480-7014

June 9, 2011

Via email

Kathleen O. Wynne, Minister - kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Ministry of Transportation

Ferguson Block

77 Wellesley Street West, 3rd Floor

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1Z8

Dear Minister Wynne,

Re:  Removing Barriers to Public Transit Passengers with Disabilities in the Presto Smart Card Technology

I wrote to you, the TTC Chair and the Toronto Mayor on June 6, 2011, to ask for a commitment that the Presto Smart Card technology will not be deployed in the TTC, until and unless the barriers in that technology impeding public transit patrons with disabilities are removed. On June 8, 2011 Mr. Bruce McCuaig, the president of Metrolinx wrote to me, evidently responding for you.

We are deeply concerned about his response. His letter initially sounds like a resounding embrace of accessibility for persons with disabilities. However, when it is read closely, the reality falls far short of the rhetoric.

The Metrolinx president repeats commitments we have so often received in the past from your Government, that the Presto Smart Card technology aims to be accessible to persons with disabilities. However, he does not specifically commit that this technology will not be rolled out in the TTC until the barriers in that technology are removed – the very commitment we sought.

For example, the Metrolinx president does not make the important commitment we requested, that the Presto system will not be rolled out in the TTC until and unless it complies with the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His only qualified commitment pertains to the Integrated Accessibility Regulation your Government enacted last Friday. In several respects, including those applicable to this kind of technology, that regulation's requirements, while helpful,  fall well short of the accessibility requirements of the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

In addition, the Metrolinx president's commitment on complying with the new Integrated Accessibility Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is guarded. We had wanted the Presto technology to now fully comply with the letter and spirit of the new Integrated Accessibility Regulation. Yet the Metrolinx president's carefully worded response on your behalf was that "in keeping with the recently proclaimed Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS), any procurements for TTC equipment will meet the requirements of sections 5 and 6 as applicable of the IAS, once a decision is made by the TTC to implement PRESTO."

His guarded statement leaves wiggle room for TTC or your Government to later argue that the accessibility requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation are not "applicable." For example, that regulation's requirements for TTC's procurement of technology such as Presto do not even go into effect until 2013. Any deployment of Presto in 2012 would not need to comply with the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, even though it must still comply with the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

That is one reason why we need a commitment that your Government and TTC will obey all of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights, and will do so now.

The Metrolinx president only commits that the Presto technology will provide "equivalent service." "Equivalent service" is a term which is at times used to mean something very different from, and manifestly less than fully accessible and equal service.

The Metrolinx president does not deny the existence of the barriers we have identified in the Presto Smart Card technology. He does not deny that your Government has refused to halt the Presto roll-out until those barriers are removed.

The Metrolinx president proclaims with pride how far the Presto roll-out has proceeded and how many people are using it. He says it was successfully rolled out in GO Transit rail network, along with municipal transit services in Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton and 12 TTC subway stations. This, with respect, is not "successful," from the perspective of those persons with disabilities who cannot fully use it. It only shows how far the use of public of public money has gone, in a growing number of communities, to implement a system of new technology that is not fully accessible to all persons with disabilities.

The Metrolinx president   notes that as a result of concerns we expressed to your Government, "We will be installing, as a pilot, a fully accessible self service kiosk including audio jack in Union Station by fall this year." A new, fully-accessible kiosk is, of course, a good thing.

However, with the extensive existing roll-out of Presto that his letter details, the fact that there will be only one single accessible electronic kiosk, anywhere in the system, by the end of 2011, is unacceptable. People without disabilities would not find it acceptable to have only one fully-usable electronic kiosk in the entire Presto system.  

On your behalf, the Metrolinx president states: "PRESTO is removing the barriers that existing fare collection systems have for those persons with disabilities." With respect, this is incorrect, as our correspondence last year with you and the Presto team who work for you documents. Right now, a TTC patron with vision loss or dyslexia can reach in his or her pocket and count the number of tokens they have. In contrast, with the current Presto technology, if they are in a transit station equipped with a card-reader for checking their balance, their card balance comes up on a video screen that people with these disabilities cannot read. For them, Presto adds a serious barrier, rather than removing one.

The Metrolinx president advises that the panel of persons with disabilities you established last fall to assess accessibility barriers in the Presto system, will report their findings after this month. That panel was re-established after we raised our accessibility concerns, and they were the subject of media coverage.

We appreciate any effort to get the input of persons with disabilities. However there was no need for over eight months of testing for your Government to learn that people with vision loss and dyslexia cannot read a Presto Smart Card balance-reader's video screen.

We ask that the report of your accessibility testers be promptly sent to us and made public. We ask the same about any actions your Government will take in response to it.

The Metrolinx president generally described some future plans to consult with persons with disabilities on accessibility issues. However, as you know, your Government's Presto team solicited input from persons with disabilities on Presto barriers over the past years, but did not implement sound recommendations they received. Last August, when the media approached your office to raise our accessibility concerns, your office reportedly said in your defence that Presto had consulted with persons with disabilities. Yet it turned out that although Presto had consulted, it didn't properly listen to what they were told about the barriers.

You can understand that vague promises of future consultations with persons with disabilities offer us little comfort. We ask for you to commit to prompt, concrete measures to ensure that that is not repeated again now.

The June 6, 2011 Toronto Star on line reported that deployment of Presto in the TTC could cost as much as $300 million, and that your Government may be asked to pay as much as $160 million to TTC to cover part of this cost, in exchange for implementing this new technology. The June 9, 2011 Toronto Star reports that TTC is now facing an operating budget shortfall, and faces the prospect of fare hikes and/or service cuts.

Especially in these circumstances, we propose that not a dime of public money should be spent creating new barriers against public transit passengers with disabilities. Before such mammoth sums of public money are spent on a technology that does not increase any actual transit ride opportunities for anyone, at the very least the Government should ensure that it is fully accessible.

Just a few years ago, TTC unwisely spent fully $450,000 of public money on lawyers, to oppose human rights complaints that forced TTC to announce all subway, bus and streetcar stops – an obvious and simple accommodation for passengers that many now welcome. It makes more sense to ensure that a public transit authority's fare-collection technology is fully accessible in advance, then to have to later fight such a losing battle to justify such denials of accessibility guaranteed under the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

It was a cruel irony that the Metrolinx president sent us his June 8, 2011 letter, voicing a strong commitment to accessibility, in an inaccessible PDF file. We appreciate that his assistant promptly rectified this and apologized, after I asked for a copy I could read in an accessible format. However this  illustrates in a small way, as does this entire exchange, the distance we still must go from accessibility rhetoric to accessibility reality, especially in the area of public transportation.

Metrolinx didn't alone design the Presto Smart Card. It is not ultimately responsible for the barriers against persons with disabilities in it. That is ultimately your responsibility as the Minister of Transportation. As such, we ask you to commit that the Presto Smart Card technology will not be rolled out in the TTC, until and unless it is fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and that it will fully comply with the Human Rights Code  and the Charter of Rights.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.,

Chair, AODA Alliance

cc:        Karen Stintz, Chair, Toronto Transit Commission -   councillor_stintz@toronto.ca

            Toronto City Hall

            100 Queen Street West, Suite B32

            Toronto, Ontario

            M5H 2N2

            Mayor Rob Ford - mayor_ford@toronto.ca

            Office of the Mayor

            Toronto City Hall,

            100 Queen St. West, 2nd Floor

            Toronto, Ontario

            M5H 2N2

            Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO - Bruce.McCuaig@metrolinx.com

            Metrolinx

            20 Bay Street, Suite 600

            Toronto, Ontario

            M5J 2W3

            Hon. Premier Dalton McGuinty - dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

            Premier And President Of The Council

            Room 281, Legislative Building

            Queen's Park

            Toronto, Ontario

            M7A 1A1

            Hon. Madeleine Meilleur,

            Minister of Community & Social Services -   madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca

            Hepburn Block

            80 Grosvenor Street, 6th Floor

            Toronto, Ontario

            M7A 1E9

            *****

June 6 2011

Toronto Star online

‘Creativity’ to fill Presto cash gap

Robyn Doolittle

Don’t worry about the money.

This is the message the TTC has been sent when it comes to the province’s Presto fare card system.

“It’s been clear to Metrolinx and the province that the TTC doesn’t have any more up-front capital to implement Presto,” said Metrolinx president Bruce McCuaig.

McCuaig said the parties involved will use “some creativity” to close what appears to be a $160 million funding gap associated with getting Toronto on board the province’s regional transit fare program.

On Wednesday, members of Toronto’s transit commission will be asked to scrap a proposal for an open fare pay system. The method, which would have been contracted out to a third party, allows users to pay for their ride by tapping a debit card, credit card or eventually a cellphone on a reader.

The TTC has spent two years and $1.8 million researching open payment systems, after resisting pressure from Queen’s Park to cooperate in the Presto fare card system, which integrates fares across nine transit systems.

Although Presto’s developers say open payment could be incorporated into the system in future, some consider it an outdated technology. But Mayor Rob Ford faced considerable pressure to adopt the provincial system during recent subway negotiations, say officials at Queen’s Park.

If the TTC approves the deal, as expected, the transition to Presto could begin as early as 2012, with most routes online by 2015.

“It’s really good news,” said Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, who has long maintained it is imprudent for Toronto commuters to use a system incompatible with that of their GTA neighbours.

“We need to move people out of their cars and onto transit. And to do that, we need to make transit as convenient as possible,” she said. “Part of doing that is not to have three different tickets if you’re moving from a Mississauga bus, to the GO train, to the TTC.”

Former TTC chair Adam Giambrone was a strong advocate for open payment.

Globally, big transit systems are working on open payment, not one-card options, he said Monday, the biggest benefit being that it is more adaptable to new technologies.

“The open payment system is the perfect public-private partnership, where the private sector comes in, designs the specifics of the system, takes on the risk, and at the end of the day you’re likely to develop a better product.”

The TTC had attracted a bid from a third-party operator — U.S.-based ACS Transport Solutions — to pay for and maintain the open fare system. The TTC would have to invest $50 million in updates.

That cash will now be put towards Presto, said TTC chair Karen Stintz, who issued a statement affirming her support, provided the TTC isn’t on the hook for more funding.

Early estimates on the cost of rolling out Presto in Toronto came in at about $300 million. Combined with the $50 million from the TTC, $90 million has been promised by the province and Ottawa. That leaves a $160 million gap.

But McCuaig said it is far too early to attach a price tag. Wynne said she isn’t convinced open fare would be cheaper when long-term savings associated with a more efficient regional system are considered.

Presto is already active in Oakville, Hamilton, Burlington, Brampton, Mississauga and 12 TTC subway stations. Durham joins soon.

Mississauga officials welcomed the news. “I don’t think it would make sense from an operational standpoint if Toronto went a different direction,” said Councillor Pat Saito. “Toronto has held out for a long time with the system. The fact they’re with us is a huge step forward.”

With files from Robert Benzie

*****

The Toronto Star June 9, 2011

Greater Toronto

TTC eyes staff cuts before fare hikes; Deficit, increased ridership may mean doing more with less

The Toronto Transit Commission will consider whether it can serve more riders with fewer workers before it looks at fare hikes and service cuts to solve an $85 million operating budget shortfall next year.

"There is a sense in the public we can do our work better. We need to respond to that," said TTC chair Karen Stintz, after councillors on the transit commission took a first look at the financial challenges the system faces in 2012. That "sense" extends to management and unionized TTC employees, she said.

This summer, the TTC will undergo a core service and efficiency review. In the fall, transit officials will decide whether to make riders pay more or cut some service - which drew fierce protest earlier this year when the TTC dropped some of its least-used bus routes on evenings and weekends.

The TTC's preliminary budget report called for hiring 128 people, which officials say are needed to maintain service for an expected ridership growth of 15 million next year. The report did not incorporate the cost of a new contract with the TTC's 10,000 unionized staff. If TTC workers, now considered an essential service, were to get the same contract provisions as the police, it could cost the transit system an extra $300 million.

"That's their answer to everything: Cut, cut, cut," said Amalgamated Transit Union president Bob Kinnear. "There are 1.5 million people out there that would disagree with cutting us, particularly service."

He criticized Stintz for failing to speak to front line transit workers.

"I think we have a number of ideas in which they can find efficiencies," Kinnear said, citing no specifics.

Stintz has been called to a meeting in the mayor's office Thursday to discuss the TTC's capital spending plan, which predicts a $1.5 billion shortfall over the next decade.

Next year's overall operating shortfall is predicted to be $85 million, based on growing ridership projections, the current $429 million city subsidy, and this year's level of service. That figure incorporates a $39 million shortfall on operating costs and the 10 per cent cut being demanded of all city departments - about $46 million.

Overall, the TTC expects the costs of running the system to climb by $71.2 million, or about 5 per cent.

Higher diesel prices will account for about $31 million of that. About $19.3 million is needed to pay extra staff to provide service for a growing number of riders. The fact that 2012 is a leap year means spending $3 million for the extra day.

The TTC plans to adopt the provincial Presto fare card, but it's going to keep ties to open payments provider ACS Transport Solutions - just in case talks don't work out with the Ontario government.

ACS, which has bid to underwrite an open payment plan that would allow riders to use credit or debit cards or cellphones to pay, has extended its offer until November. Meanwhile, the TTC will negotiate with the province to adopt Presto as long as it costs the city no more than the $47 million budgeted for card readers and other start-up costs of switching from tickets and tokens.

Tess Kalinowski Toronto Star