The TTC plans to hand out free Presto cards this summer to customers in areas of the city where Presto use is notably low.

In a report to the TTC board, which will meet on Wednesday, TTC CEO Rick Leary said the transit agency wants to encourage more customers to use contactless payment on buses, streetcars, and subways by distributing complimentary Presto cards to riders.

"As part of an effort to further encourage customers to use Presto, the TTC will distribute complimentary Presto cards to customers this summer and fall," the report read.

"A plan is being developed to distribute these cards in areas of the city where Presto use is relatively low, and where customers could benefit from receiving a Presto card."

The report noted that a similar program was carried out this past November at select subway stations.

"As always, customers can continue to pay with cash, tickets and tokens for the foreseeable future," the report read.

An estimated 90 per cent of all riders on the TTC use Presto, according to the report.

Refund for monthly pass holders

Riders who purchased monthly passes during March and April could also be getting a bit of a break.

The TTC is proposing that pass holders receive a pro-rated credit based on their daily TTC usage between March 18 and March 31, and for the entire month of April.

"The TTC has a no-refund policy for any fare media, including monthly passes, unless it is an exceptional circumstance," the report read.

"During this unprecedented time, the TTC recognizes the impacts the pandemic has had on customers and is recommending a temporary change to the current refund policy."

The move is expected to cost the TTC about $12.8 million.

The TTC has been under substantial financial pressure in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report to the board indicates that while ridership has increased slightly since the start of the pandemic, the transit agency is still currently experiencing about an 82 per cent drop in ridership from pre-pandemic levels.

Ridership is expected to reach between 30 to 60 per cent of normal levels by the fall, but that will still result in a budget shortfall of between $463 million and nearly $600 million by the end of the year.

The increase in ridership is also dependent on the reopening of elementary schools and high schools and a rolling back of work from home initiatives by the fall.

"The TTC’s financial pressures will primarily be driven by revenue ridership levels," the report read.