Rail and bus fares will go up in December

After six public hearings, and despite more than 1,700 signatures on a petition opposing them, fares will increase on Connecticut’s rail and bus systems. State Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker made the announcement Monday.

Train fares will go up 6% on Dec. 1, including a previously approved 1% increase to pay for new M8 rail cars; bus fares will go up 16.7%, or 25 cents on a single one-way CTtransit bus trip on Dec. 4. The rail fare increase will apply to the New Haven Line and Shore Line East on tickets purchased for travel to or from stations in Connecticut.

The state Department of Transportation, which announced the fare hike in late July, said it expects the increase will generate $5.9 million. The department’s budget was cut by $37 million as part of the 2016-2017 revised state budget.  

“This is yet another Connecticut tax hike, yet another burden, and yet another slap in the face to Connecticut commuters,” state Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Hundreds and hundreds of commuters spoke out against these fare hikes by signing the No Fare Increase petition. They told state officials they could not accommodate another demand on their wallets. They told state officials how they have no other options to get to and from work,” she said.

“Their voices were ignored. There’s no other way to put it.”

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143)  agreed. “The decision to increase rail fares is disappointing, but the unwillingness of majority legislative leaders and the administration to address or even to acknowledge widespread public opposition to the increase is far more disturbing,” she said.

“Eighteen legislators submitted to the governor, legislative leadership, and the DOT commissioner a letter proposing an alternative to the fare increase that would not involve service reductions, along with almost 1,800 petition signatures. We received no response, no acknowledgement, not even an official refusal to consider our proposal. This is disrespectful to the people of Connecticut, and demonstrates that listening to commuters is not a priority for either the legislative majority or the administration.”

The alternatives Lavielle spoke of would raise $5.8 million, she said. One of the alternatives would be to eliminate the tax exemption on sales of tickets to events at the XL Center in Hartford, the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, and the Harbor Yard Ballpark in Bridgeport. The other would be to eliminate a tax exemption that applies to one gas company in the state.

Both Lavielle and Boucher noted House Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides (R-114) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Len Fasano (R-34) wrote to Gov. Malloy to request that the scope of the legislature’s Sept. 28 special session be expanded to include transit fares, among other topics. That request was denied, and when the request was made again on the senate floor it was voted down.

Jim Cameron of Darien, founder of the Commuter Action Group, sees this fare hike as just one of many that will come in the future.

“Without an iron-clad lock box on the Special Transportation Fund, which helps subsidize mass transit in this state, none of the governor’s vision for a 30-year $100-billion transportation improvement will be possible,” he said in a press release. “And as the [fund] dwindles due to smaller gasoline tax revenues, there will be ever-greater pressure to raise fares again and again.”

Cameron noted the fare increase was a measure no one wanted to fill a financial hole. “Not Governor Malloy, not the CDOT and certainly not the commuters,” he said. “But it was necessitated by the failure of the legislature to pass a balanced budget this spring.  The majority Democrats handed their own governor a $192-million deficit and said ‘you figure it out’, and he did, with layoffs, budget cuts and this fare hike.”

In addition to the 6% fare increase, the current 2% discount on “Mail and Ride” tickets will be eliminated and the discount on the combined monthly rail ticket and unlimited-ride MetroCard will be reduced from 4% to 2% beginning with the purchase of December tickets.

The bus fare increase will apply to the eight CTtransit service areas, including Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, Bristol, New Britain, Stamford, Wallingford and Meriden, as well as CTfastrak.

*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments by Rep. Gail Lavielle.

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