Hamilton signs on to PRESTO agreement, set to enforce speaking limit for councillors

Hamilton politicians are struggling with the question of maintaining paper HSR tickets while getting more riders to use PRESTO cards. Global News

Hamilton politicians have agreed to a 10-year agreement with Metrolinx that will ensure the city receives $11 million a year from the provincial gas tax.

Under the deal, the city is also committed to persuading 85 per cent of Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) customers to switch to PRESTO cards.

Despite that lofty goal, the city will continue to sell paper tickets for at least the next year.

READ MORE: Province extends Presto discount to Guelph, other transit systems

While some councillors agree that the end of paper tickets may be “inevitable,” Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla says doing away with them now would “hurt a lot of people,” such as the working poor, students and seniors.

Metrolinx has directed municipalities to aim for 85 per cent PRESTO tap card usage by 2021.

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READ MORE: HSR director questioned about morale as driver absenteeism soars

The city is required to sign the agreement with the province’s transportation agency to ensure it receives its share of provincial gas tax funding, currently $11 million each year.

Hamilton politicians, in a bid to shorten meetings, have also voted 9-7 to enforce a five-minute speech limit for councillors asking questions.

It’s a rule that already existed within the procedural bylaw, but was never actively followed.

There are a number of opposing viewpoints with Ward 8 Coun. Terry Whitehead saying he “doesn’t think democracy is served by time limits,” however Ward 3’s Matthew Green insists that “every report doesn’t have to be a congressional hearing.”

Mayor Fred Eisenberger predicts attempts to enforce the procedural bylaw won’t work because the rule wasn’t followed before and “it’s not likely to happen heretofore.”

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