Without formal research, an observation:
I made a trip into Brampton yesterday; to do so I used public transit. This necessitates using both the Go Transit and Brampton regular city Transit. I own a Presto card. For those who don’t know, it is a re-loadable magnetic card that can be used with an increasing number of transit authorities and supposedly increases payment efficiency and ease for the rider. Over the course of time I have been making frequent sojourns through Brampton to visit family (almost four years) I have noted a price-hike of nearly a dollar, now at 3.75$ per fare. Presumably, this covers the average needs of expanded service (such as the newer Zoom lines), gas prices, inflation, wage-levels, etc.
However, and this is also true of the Go system, Presto card holders reap a discounted fare. On the city bus, price jumps from 3.75$ to something like 2.70$ – cheaper than the three-dollar fare I first paid. This rate was also unchanged when the cost of a cash-fare rose form 3.50$ to 3.75$ All advertising and service announcements point towards incentivising riders to use the Presto. But suddenly the price-hike seems nonsensical. If it is necessary to increase the price to “continue quality service” why is it cheaper than ever to ride with the Presto card system? Could the higher cash price be an unspoken and inappropriately hard-ball stratagem to coerce riders into tacit reliance on Presto?
As to what this could possibly accomplish, aside from increasing my convenience and efficiency as a service-consumer, all I have are two paranoid conspiracies:
1. They ply you to register your card online to tie it to your name and information – in case you lose it. Even if you neglect to do this, these cards are obviously tracked electronically. This data can then be collected for market information. It also means that each cardholder’s movements are tracked and recorded in a database. One giant personal receipt scroll logging your every movement available at the touch of a button, PRESTO! Your movements become able to be made known and so the business of where you are and when you are there is not really your private business anymore. I don’t really like that, to be honest. But I supposed the other breaches of privacy occurring online and via phone companies is something we seem to live pretty placidly with everyday. Obama. Stephen Harper. Bomb. 9/11. Assassination. Oil-sands. Al Qaeda. Boko Haram. There. I just got this post red-flagged and wasted somebody’s time investigating these trigger words. You’re welcome Intelligence community.
2. The Plastic Conspiracy as insinuated to me by a homeless person. Last week I was asked for some bus money by a disabled person who had forgotten her special pass she had purchased and thereby lacked fare to get home – or wherever she’d half-said she was going (nobody gets a free ride on this continent – except for students of Certain universities, but they are being made to pay enough to take the ride already). I didn’t have any. this time I was in a city whose public transit has not yet been absorbed into the Presto matrix, so I let the question of cash vs. pass lapse. Later, a panhandler asked me for change for something to eat. I explained I didn’t have any change since I’d walked from where I was staying nearby and been on plastic all day to make any purchases. He grumbled about “fuckin’ plastic” and how everybody had the fuckin’ plastic and nobody had any change for somebody who needs it. I wonder, could that guy be right in his neurotic aggression? Maybe the true aim of the plastic conspiracy, both debit and transit (credit is far more a far more insidious player in the ring of lending and poverty; we’ve been economically aware of that since ’29) is the elimination of the the unemployed and the homeless. Slice the burnt bottom layer off the pyramid of cake and butter; we can eat that and keep the rest. Make some incredibly ass-holey cake-pops out of the crumbled mess of our social service sector and in-need demographic and sell them back to the Starbucks-class consumer at next to no cost and a marked up recyclable price we can sell to their armchair conscience. Let them spit out the fingernails.
Is any of this true? Mayhap, it could come to be found so….mayhap not. But is the heuristic exercise of looking at what it could mean for us both personally and in a broader social context? Absolutely why not.