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Suspension of college, university transit pass agreements cost City of Hamilton $3.7M

The City of Hamilton is set to lose $3.7 million as it suspends its transit pass agreements with Mohawk College and McMaster University.
The City of Hamilton is set to lose $3.7 million as it suspends its transit pass agreements with Mohawk College and McMaster University. City of Hamilton

The City of Hamilton is taking another financial hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to online courses by post-secondary schools.

Hamilton’s public works committee has agreed to suspend transit agreements with Mohawk College and McMaster University through the fall semester since students won’t generally be travelling to campus for classes.

Read more: Coronavirus — Hamilton transit riders will be required to wear masks as system ramps up capacity

The result is a financial loss to the city’s transit division of more than $3.7 million.

When the agreements involving Mohawk, McMaster and the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) are active, they cover approximately 42,000 students and allow unlimited access to the city’s buses at a discounted rate.

Manager of transit support services Nancy Purser says the agreements “remain intact” and will be revived when students “show back up to campus.”

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The committee’s decision followed requests by both post-secondary institutions to pause the agreements because of the impacts of the coronavirus.

Mohawk College is planning to offer some in-person labs in the fall, and the college’s students association has asked that those who need to use transit on those occasions be able to access the HSR at a student rate.

The suspension of the University/College Transit Pass Agreements (UCTP) was factored into the most recent budget projections presented to Hamilton city council, which forecasted a $61.6-million deficit for 2020 as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.

Read more: Hamilton’s deficit projection grows as wait continues for federal, provincial assistance

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger has voiced optimism that the provincial and federal governments will address the urgent needs of cities to “avoid cuts to vital services, facility closures and potential tax increases.”