DOT: No cuts in commuter rail or bus service

September 30, 2011 4:18:28 PM PDT
The Connecticut Department of Transportation announced Friday it won't cut commuter rail and bus service and will replace proposed double-digit fare hikes with a series of more modest fare increases.

The announcement followed seven public hearings this summer where rail and bus users spoke out against the original fare increases.

"We held hearings around the state and listened carefully to our customers who consistently said that reductions in service would be an unfair hardship," said DOT Commissioner James Redeker. "Furthermore, they made it clear that anything beyond a modest fare hike was unacceptable. We have responded to our customers and, I believe, have come up with a reasonable fare structure that will move evenly share rail and bus operating costs between riders and taxpayers over the next three years."

Under the new plan, rail and bus fares will increase 4 percent at the beginning of each of the next three calendar years. Commuters on the New Haven Line and Shore Line East had faced a 16.4 percent increase. It was a 10 percent increase for bus riders.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, and Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, the ranking Senate Republican on the General Assembly's Transportation Committee, voiced their opposition to the three years of 4 percent increases, saying it will still be hardship given the other state tax increases.

"Less than five months after passing the largest tax increase and most expensive budget in state history, the (Gov. Dannel P.) Malloy administration is already demanding more money from our beleaguered commuters to cover expenses that should have been anticipated during the budget-setting process," McKinney said.

Redeker said operating costs are still increasing and he's trying to more fairly distribute the costs of covering operating expenses between riders and taxpayers who subsidize the services. Rail fares have not increased since Jan. 1, 2005, he said, and riders are paying less that their historical share of the cost.

In addition to the 4 percent increase, rail fares are also scheduled to increase an additional 1.25 percent on Jan. 1, 2012, and 1 percent more on the first day of 2013 to 2018 because of previously approved legislation to help cover the cost of new M-8 rail cars that are being put into service.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, monthly half-price bus tickets will be made available for senior citizens and the disabled.