Toronto transit riders will soon be able to use a single-fare Presto card to get around on the TTC or seven other municipal transit systems in Ontario.

Transit and government officials announced Wednesday the Presto fare system will be in place throughout the entire TTC system – subway stations, buses and new streetcars – by 2016.

Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s minister of transportation and infrastructure, said Toronto transit riders have been requesting the electronic fare system for some time.

“This is a tremendous technological step forward for transit riders,” Chiarelli said during a news conference in Toronto, where he was joined by Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig, TTC CEO Andy Byford and TTC chair Karen Stintz.

Plastic, reloadable Presto cards can already be used at 14 subway stations within the TTC’s network.

The TTC is moving toward a single-fare system for the entire network because it is a condition of the $8.4 billion in provincial funding for light-rail transit expansion in Toronto.

As the TTC moves away from tokens and passes, it is eyeing technology that would allow customers to use their credit cards or smartphones to access transit services, Byford told CP24 reporter Cam Woolley after the news conference.

As for the Presto card, he said users are currently armed with a first-generation card, but riders will be using the more sophisticated second-generation card when the TTC is added to the Presto system.

Once that happens, TTC users can use the same card to travel on transit systems from Hamilton to Durham Region, including GO Transit services.

Transit agencies are switching to the electronic fare card because, they say, it gives riders flexible payment options, reduces administrative costs for transit agencies, and can be used on a number of transit systems.

Currently, people can deposit value to their cards via the Internet, by visiting a customer service desk or by telephone, or through automatic payments.

Metrolinx, the province's transit agency, is testing self-service kiosks that would accept credit or debit cards for payment.

According to Metrolinx, more than 400,000 transit users in the Toronto and Hamilton areas are already using Presto fare cards, with an average of 22,000 new users a month.

The system is currently available at all GO stations, on all GO buses and eight municipal transit systems, including parts of the TTC, Metrolinx said.

LRT master plan finalized

Meanwhile, government and transit officials have formalized a 10-year master agreement that sets out the roles and responsibilities of Metrolinx, the TTC and the city for the construction and operation of four new LRT lines that will add 52 kilometres to Toronto's public transit network.

Metrolinx will own the lines and the TTC will operate them.

In the largest LRT expansion in Toronto's history, the province is spending $8.4 billion to build the Eglinton Crosstown, Finch West and Sheppard lines, and replace and extend the existing Scarborough RT line.

Construction of the Eglinton Crosstown line is underway and scheduled to be completed by 2020. The line will run 19 kilometres, from Jane Street and Black Creek Drive to Kennedy Station.

The Scarborough RT and Finch West projects are also scheduled to be finished by 2020, while the Sheppard East line is due to be completed by 2021.

The Toronto LRT project is part of "The Big Move," a 25-year, $50-billion plan to transform regional transportation in the Toronto and Hamilton areas.

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