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Hamilton to end paper ticket sales by September as part of Presto agreement

File photo - Presto cards. Don Mitchell / Global News

Hamilton will soon say goodbye to paper Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) tickets.

On Monday, the city’s public works committee voted to eliminate the tickets in favour of using only Presto cards by September.

The tap cards are earmarked to become the primary form of payment for transit in Hamilton per a 10-year agreement signed by the city in January 2018.

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Under the deal with the province, the city committed to persuading 85 per cent of HSR customers to switch to Presto as a condition to receiving $11 million in annual federal gas tax funds.

A staff report presented to the committee showed that about 55 per cent of HSR riders had already made the switch to Presto by December 2019.

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The last day paper tickets will be accepted is Dec. 31, 2020, with the sale of tickets being discontinued in September.

Since signing on with Presto in 2011, a number of councillors have voiced concern about ending paper ticket sales.

Last year, Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla said doing away with tickets would “hurt a lot of people,” such as the working poor, students and seniors.

On Monday, Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins and Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson showed some more resistance to the change, insinuating that Presto was “forced” upon the city as part of the agreement to receive gas tax money.

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Collins called it a form of “political blackmail.”

“If you don’t get everyone on the card, you’re going to pay,” said Collins. “I’m still a little disturbed about the tactics being used to get us on it.”

Meanwhile, Jackson called it a “forced marriage” and said he was concerned about “golden-age pass” holders not being exempt from a one-time $6 fee.

“That’s really unfortunate. That’s not the way the golden-age pass was set up,” said Jackson.

“Seniors that live on limited disposable income who wouldn’t have to put a dollar out of their pocket now have to put $6 out.”

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

Most transit operators in the Greater Toronto Area, including Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, York, Oakville and Burlington, are already using Presto tap cards as a form payment with a number of transportation options including the TTC and GO Transit.

Currently, Presto cards can be purchased through a third-party network set up by the province that includes 30 Shoppers Drug Marts and nine Fortino’s locations in Hamilton, according to manager of transit support services Nancy Purser.

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