Paper or Plastic? In years passed it was a question of shopping bag preference. Recylable paper bags or ‘stuck-in-a-landfill-forever’ plastic bags. But today that question that is about to take on a whole new meaning.

In the new era of public transportation users of the Hamilton Street Railway have a choice. They can use paper media to pay for their transit ride with bus tickets or a bus pass or they can use plastic in the new Presto fare card.

We have a choice. But for how long?

Don Hull, director of transportation for the city and the head of the HSR, stated Monday that there are no plans to discontinue paper media in Hamilton in the near future. Certainly this is a sigh of relief to many who don’t want to adopt the Presto card but for users of Brampton Transit they are already out of luck.

Paper bus tickets are officially on the clock.

Starting on January 1st, 2013 the city of Brampton will stop selling paper bus tickets. While any tickets aleady in the hands of can still be used, they won’t be available for purchase. If Bramptonians who use bus tickets don’t have a Presto card yet they will soon have to adopt the smartcard.

Of course they could always pay cash. But who carries cash anymore?

Brampton has a similar fare discount as Hamilton in that using bus tickets or Presto is cheaper than the cash fare. The Presto fare is actually even cheaper than tickets and costs 10 cents less to use the plastic fare card.

The one sticking point with a full transition in Hamilton is the lack of places to purchase and load Presto cards. Currently the only places to do this is at HSR Customer Service and the GO Transit Ticket Booth, both of which are located at the Hamilton GO Centre. With more than a hundred paper ticket vendors now having just one outlet to purchase a Presto card just won’t cut it.

There are automated Presto “ATM” machines being tested in Toronto, but the HSR hasn’t explored options for rolling out other Presto purchasing options in the city yet.

Counselor Russ Powers is lukewarm to the Presto based on his experiences with the farecard so far.

“I have a Presto card. I travel on a Presto card,” Powers stated in the Public Works committee meeting on Monday, “and I’ll tell you the ease of this card is great when you’ve finally got it going.”

Powers then went to explain his headache in activating the card, including having to travel to Toronto to trade in his ten-ride GO Transit tickets and seven day window to register the card.

“On principle it’s great. On implementation it’s utterly lousy.”

If you’re planning on purchasing the card without trading in paper media from GO Transit you won’t need to go to Toronto and can get the card at the Hamilton GO Centre.

So while paper media isn’t going anywhere in Hamilton for the foreseeable future, the day may come when Presto will be the only non-cash fare method.

So I ask you again. Paper or plastic?

I am an avid follower of sports in the Hamilton region with a passion for sport. If it's a sport and if it's in Hamilton, I'll bring it to you. I'm also a big follower, advocate and knowledge nut about transit in Hamilton. (@HSRTransit) Ask me anything! Catch daily Hamilton sports recaps and highlights on the Bay Observer here:

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