Metrolinx launches e-ticket system for Hamilton transit to reduce physical contact

Metrolinx has launched a new COVID-era plan that allows Hamilton transit users of both HSR and GO to use e-tickets.

The city is phasing out paper bus tickets next month because of its agreement with Metrolinx

Metrolinx has launched a new e-ticket system for GO and HSR. Right now, the system is only in Hamilton and Durham. (Metrolinx)

Metrolinx has launched a new COVID-era plan that allows Hamilton transit users of both HSR and GO to use single-use e-tickets on their phones.

The transit agency says with the new system, people purchase tickets on their phone, call up the ticket on their screens and show it to the driver. The agency has planned to develop something like this for a while, said Annalise Czerny, head of PRESTO. But it sped up the process because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new system means no paper changes hands, and people can stay a safe distance. It's an alternative for people who don't use PRESTO cards, Czerny said.

"We wanted to get something in place in time for the start of the school year, whatever that may look like."

The system is only in Hamilton and Durham right now, she said, but Metrolinx plans to expand it. 

People can download the e-tickets app, which launched Tuesday, then select the relevant transit agency and buy an e-ticket. The customer has to activate the ticket before it's used.

The move comes as HSR prepares to phase out paper bus tickets completely next month.

The city will stop selling paper monthly passes and single-use HSR tickets on Oct. 31. It will accept paper tickets until Dec. 31. Now, people will have to spend $6 to buy a new PRESTO card, and use the card to ride HSR.

Hamilton buses will still accept cash fares. 

City officials say HSR had little choice in phasing out paper tickets. The city has to pay Metrolinx a commission for PRESTO usage, which doesn't pay off unless 80 per cent of riders use PRESTO. The city also has to participate to receive $11 million per year in provincial gas tax revenue.

Other GTHA municipalities, including Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, York and Toronto, have scrapped paper tickets too. 

The city will still offer paper versions of special occasion bus passes, which can be used by charitable organizations that give out bus passes to participants.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca