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The Hamilton Spectator
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Thursday July 10, 2008
City buses will be free on smog and heat alert days this summer -- but only twice under a penny-pinching proposal.

Councillor Sam Merulla, who believes year-round free transit is inevitable, won preliminary support for his smog pilot yesterday.

"You can't put a price tag on public health and the environment," said Merulla, adding the initiative will help the city's most marginalized residents.

The $100,000 pilot, which narrowly passed 4-3 at committee yesterday, must still be approved by council in the face of a budget crunch.

Each day of free transit costs $50,000 to $60,000 in lost fares. The city's downtown had seven days when the air quality was poor and no heat alerts last year.

Merulla originally requested free transit on all smog and heat days, but backed off when staff explained there was no money for the plan. The city is already $7.6 million over budget this year because of energy costs and snow clearing. A two-day pilot -- which staff don't know how the city would implement yet -- will help gauge the ridership benefits, said Merulla. More...

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Free bus rides on smog, heat days
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