From the Capitol / State Sen. Toni Boucher
Less than five months after passing the largest tax increase and most expensive budget in state history, the administration has enacted a new fare increase on our beleaguered commuters to cover expenses that should have been anticipated during the budget setting process.
This rate increase was a fallback position if the unions did not accept the remarkably generous package offered to them by the governor. In the end, the union benefit package was accepted. In my view, that made this rate increase unnecessary.
It seems as if tax hikes, fee hikes and fare hikes will continue unabated unless Hartford changes it budget strategy, embraces spending reductions and consolidations. Nearly 44 other states have done so and have balanced their budgets.
Here are the DOT announced fare increases:
Bus fares will increase 4 percent on Jan. 1 and will increase another 4 percent in 2013 and another 4 percent in 2014.
Rail fares will also increase 4 percent in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
The increase in rail fares is over and above an already scheduled increase of 1.25 percent in January of 2012 and 1 percent each year from 2013 until 2018 for New Haven Rail Line commuters to help pay for new M-8 rail cars.
What this means to you?
From the Dept. of Transportation
Effective Jan. 1 changes in price:
Monthly commutation -- to/from Manhattan
Stamford $278 new ($14 more)
Westport $325 new ($17 more)
New Canaan $278 new ($14 more)
Danbury $324 new ($16 more)
One-way senior/disabled/Medicare to/from Manhattan
Stamford $6.50 new (50 cents more)
Westport $7.50 new (50 cents more)
New Canaan $6.50 new (50 cents more)
Danbury $7.50 new (50 cents more)
Our train service has been less than adequate and even dangerous at times. There was the triple digit heat fiasco this past July, frozen overhead lines and 50 percent of rail cars out of service last winter.
The irony is the fare hike will not go into making service better but will be part of the administration's budget balancing plan. The CT DOT held a number of hearings on the proposed fare hike and I had the opportunity to attend one in Stamford. The message by the public was loud and clear. This is not the time to raise fares.
Improved service should go hand in hand with rate increases. Commuters stated that they have been continually frustrated by noisy, hot, smelly and downright dirty rail cars. Management should take these complaints seriously and revisit their maintenance account.
There is an indication that some positive steps are being taken. A "Commuter Bill of Rights" has been agreed to by rail system management for our Tri-State area. Much of that progress is a result of strong advocacy on the part of the public.
I have provided links to several letters on this issue from this past year and invite you to read them and stay up to speed.
Also please be advised Metro-North made several policy changes over the last year with regard to tickets. They are as follows:
A regular one way, or round trip ticket expires after 14 days. (A change from the six months you used to have.)
There is a $10 transaction fee when you try to refund any ticket.
Your active participation has produced results, but further progress is needed. My office is here for you so please stay in touch.
State Sen. Toni Boucher represents the 26th District, which includes New Canaan.