Train fare increases, rail service cuts in Connecticut canceled
After January’s statement that train fares on Metro-North for area commuters might increase, Gov. Dan Malloy recently announced those plans have been canceled.
In addition to the fare increases, some branch service was also targeted for some cuts — and that has also been canceled.
Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker recently announced that with the signing of the state budget adjustment bill bus and train fare increases and service reductions that had been scheduled to take effect on July 1 have been canceled.
“I am relieved that we were able to avoid drastic fare increases and disruptive service reductions. This is welcome news to the thousands of Connecticut commuters who utilize our buses and trains every day,” Malloy said.
“That said, if we want to make the necessary investments to keep our transportation infrastructure in a state of good repair in future years, the state will need to find new, long-term funding sources to replace dwindling gas tax revenues. This should not be seen as optional – it’s critical to Connecticut’s future,” he said.
“This is great news for Connecticut commuters and I commend the General Assembly for passing a budget that maintains full funding for public transportation and the Department of Transportation in general — at least in the near term,” Commissioner Redeker said.
With a pending Special Transportation Fund (STF) shortfall, plans had been made for a 10% fare increase for rail commuters, a 14% fare increase for bus riders, and service reductions on several rail lines and transit districts. The budget passed by the General Assembly and signed by Malloy accelerated the transfer of motor vehicle sales tax revenues from the General Fund to the STF beginning this year, stabilizing the STF in the short-term.
“This is great news for Darien and Stamford residents who use Metro-North and CT Transit buses,” State Rep. William Tong, a Democrat who represents part of Darien and Stamford, said. “Because of the bipartisan budget agreement the legislature passed, there now is sufficient funding to make up for a shortfall in the Special Transportation Fund.”
Sen. Bob Duff, a Democrat who represents part of Darien and Norwalk, and serves as Senate Majority Leader, responded to The Darien Times with a joint comment including Sen. Carlo Leone, a Democrat who represents part of Darien and Stamford.
“We vehemently opposed the proposed fare increases and service reductions for bus and rail service, which is why we fought for a bipartisan budget that provides the funding necessary to ensure that the thousands of commuters who rely on public transportation can get to work and home without having to pay more or enduring the headache of having their routine disrupted,” they wrote.
State Rep. Terrie Wood, a Republican who represents Rowayton and Darien, said this “is very good news for all commuters on our area.”
“It is critically important to our economy that people be able to get to work in a safe, efficient and cost effective way. Many of us advocated for the governor's proposed bus/train fare increases and service reductions be rescinded,” Wood said. “Both parties working together came up with a budget solution — transferring motor vehicle sale taxes from the General Fund to the Special Transportation Fund — to keep these cuts and fare increases from coming to fruition,” she said.
Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson echoed the positive response to the cancellation of fare increases and cuts, but said she retained some concern for the future.
“While I’m very pleased the hardworking people of Connecticut will not have to suffer with higher transit fares and reduced service at this time, I continue to have concerns about the long-term sustainability of the Special Transportation Fund,” she said.
“Living in constant fear of higher transportation costs or the inability to get to work is taking its toll, no pun intended, on Connecticut residents. Transportation is so critical to the livelihood of families, businesses and the overall economic health of our state,” she said.
“I hope a long-term fix for the STF is a priority for current state leadership as I know it will be for the next administration,” Stevenson, who is running for lieutenant governor, said.
Darien’s Jim Cameron, who is the founder of the Commuter Action Group, said the decision was a “a major victory for commuters and the communities where they live … the result of a lot of lobbying, not of the governor or CDOT, but of lawmakers.”
“Neither the governor or CDOT wanted these draconian cuts on service and further rate hikes. But by forcing the issue of long-term transportation funding, they got the legislature's attention,” Cameron said.
“While the short-term crisis has been averted, the longer term issue of highway tolls and gasoline taxes must ultimately be addressed. Rail commuters pay on MNRR the highest fares in the U.S. but those who chose to (or must) drive are not paying their fair share,” he said.
“My hope is our next governor and legislature will get to work on this issue and its profound impact on the state's future,” Cameron said.
Darien is served by two Metro-North stations, Noroton Heights and Darien.