Charlie is more fun than Mr Presto

In a move that might surprise some readers to whom I appear a dedicated technophobe, I have a Presto card and like it. It works on the bus or OTrain when I try to use it.

But reloading it is another issue. Register. Set secret passcodes. Register with Visa Online, with secret passcode. Go through various steps, hoping I get it right. Remember secret passodes, damn what were they? Have I loaded it? Damn, did I just lose every thing? Hey, it timed out ! Dunno, log on again later to see if it worked. All is lost if I lose my cheat sheet. And I gotta do it for the wife too.

Frankly, it’s not technophobe-friendly. It stresses me to use the reload function. I don’t want more stress in my life.

So it was with increased interest that I reloaded by Massachusetts Transit Card, while in Boston last week. The Charlie Card – named after the Charles River that runs through Boston – looks much better than the Ottawa card.

It’s more fun. Ottawa, of course, is the town fun forgot.

charlie card


There is a nominal charge to acquire a Charlie Card, but an attendant at the booth gave us ones, free. Walk up to a pop-sized vending machine, insert cash, or a credit card, or debit card, or even a Canadian credit card, select the amount of money to put on the card, tap it to the touch pad, and before you can say presto, its uploaded.

And it works right away.

Each station had groups of these machines. No need to go to the bike-rack-free Rideau Centre or out to Lincoln Fields (assuming those offices will reload a card…).  No secret codes.

Heck, even the back of the Charlie Card was more fun. And no funny signature panels. Or expiry date.



Maybe, by 2017 when the new Ottawa LRT stations open, they will have modern technology too.

7 thoughts on “Charlie is more fun than Mr Presto

  1. I think the Charlie Card might actually be named after the fellow in the song who “may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston, He’s the man who never returned.”

  2. Ah, Charlie: back in the old days, one paid to get on the subway,and then paid the zone fare to get off. Charlie paid to get on, but hadn’t the money to get off, so he was stuck on the train. His wife visited the platform every day at noon to give him his lunch as his train went by. A fun song.

  3. I do believe that machines will be installed at all LRT stations that will allow reloads and what not… so that you will be able to do the same in Ottawa come 2017… better late then never?

  4. For the love of God, enough with the “city that fun forgot” clichés, already. We’re talking about a transit card, folks. I also want to see card-loading machines one day, but the load-online system is great and gives a lot of flexibility. You can load from wherever you have an internet connection! As for passwords… I suggest using one of thos apps where you can store all your passwords (it’s password-protected, of course, so as not to be easily snooped on).

    1. Presto is a giant technological clusterfudge from start to finish. It is entirely indefensible, especially in a city that has dubious pretentions to be a high-tech centre. Presto was designed by (terrible) programmers for (terrible) programmers; the needs of the end user weren’t even secondary in their consideration. They were tertiary at best.

  5. Right it’s just a transit card but the actual of loading it is needlessly complicated. Two different actions to load ‘value” on the card? 48 hours to have it applied? I’ve used the Charlie card foe years on The in Boston, our system is definitely second rate.

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