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August 01, 2016

Don't Blame Malloy for the Latest Fare Hikes

Sure, it was sleazy of Governor Malloy and the CDOT to release news of a proposed 5% fare hike on Metro-North on a Friday afternoon in July, hoping nobody would notice.  But the
more I dig into the proposal, the more I realize the Governor and CDOT are not to blame.

It’s the Connecticut legislature that’s really responsible for this fare hike.

Lawmakers this session left the Governor with a $192 million budget shortfall and every other branch of government has taken budget cuts and layoffs as a result.  Now it’s transportation’s turn to feel the pinch.

Pol’s on both sides of the aisle tell me Malloy could have saved millions by facing down the state employees’ unions and their rich benefits package.  Could’ve, maybe should’ve… but didn’t.

So now we’re looking at a 5% hike in train fares on Metro-North and Shore Line East and a 16% boost in bus fares starting in December.  Plus closing ticket windows, reduced maintenance and fuel savings.  And that’s just on the transit side.

Highway work will also be cut, hiring postponed and less salt purchased for the winter.  Service areas will be closed overnight and the volunteers who work in the Visitor Centers will be fired. Welcome to Connecticut!

So when you calculate the impact of all these cuts on your commute, by road or rail, call your State Rep and Senator and ask “why”?

Why are they allowing the Special Transportation Fund to run dry due to the dwindling revenues from the gas tax?

Ask Senate Majority leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and the usually pro-transportation Senator
Senator Bob Duff
Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) why they have opposed alternative funding mechanisms like the VMT (Vehicle Miles Tax), calling it “
dead on arrival” before it was even explained, let alone studied.

Ask your elected officials what their plan is to pay for our existing transportation network, let alone expand it by the $100 billion Malloy has suggested.  They won’t have an answer.

Why?  Because they are running for re-election this November.  And none of them has the guts to tell you the truth:  we will all have to pay more to drive or commute by rail… as you’ll find out after the election when they approve new taxes.

What can we do in the meantime (aside from holding them accountable during the campaign)?  There will be public hearings in September on the fare hikes and we should all turn out.

It will be political theater, but cathartic.  Commuters will rant and the folks from CDOT will listen and then do what they proposed.  Aside from cutting train service, a fare hike is about the only option.


And, of course as upstate lawmakers constantly remind us, those of us living on the “gold coast” are all millionaires, and we can afford it, right?

5 comments:

Unknown said...

Jim - sorry but I have to disagree. The fault is squarely on the shoulders of CDOT who squandered $5m in the past year over the Stamford rail station garage. Had they not done so, we would not have this much funding to find by adding another tax/fee to the back of our weary taxpayers.
"The DOT then spent $1.3 million to repair it, jamming most of the 1,370 commuters with monthly passes into the adjacent garage addition, which has 1,200 spaces. Most of the rest, along with all the commuters who park day-to-day, used the nearby Harbor Point Gateway Garage.
The DOT then subsidized the higher cost of parking for daily commuters by paying Harbor Point a total of $1.7 million. Adding insult to injury, the DOT lost $2.7 million in parking revenue while the old garage was closed."

Springdale User said...

The "service cut" will be self imposed, by ability to pay. Many of those least able to pay this fare hike are unlikely to be receiving a wage increase this year. While talking about encouraging people to use transit by building affordable apartments close to the train, the fact is the train was already barely affordable for that group of users.

At the very least, discretionary use will be eroded to some extent if it works out cheaper per person (in a fuel efficient vehicle, of course) to drive a car to the city on weekends rather than use the train. For those who must take the train,

What is the projected reduction in ridership due to the fare increase?

Is it possible to post a list of legislators and their votes on the key votes that lead to this proposed increase? As you say, the election is just around the corner and some may wish to use the increase as one factor in deciding their vote.

JIM CAMERON said...

Springdale User: I hear you, loud and clear. Especially about making TOD (transit oriented development) less attractive as transit becomes less affordable.

CDOT does "model" fare increases. In the past they have told us that any dip in ridership attributed to the fare hike is more than made up for in new riders.

The stats show that ridership usually GOES UP, despite fare hikes.

Go figure.

Springdale User said...

What I would like to zero in on re: the representation that "ridership" goes up when fares go up is 1) any shifts in the economic makeup of riders and 2) what has gone on in the overall economy at the time of these ridership increases?

Are there any losses in any income category, or gains in others? We need to understand the granular details of past rate increases in order to have a clearer picture of the implications of the upcoming fare increase.

These "increases in ridership" do not occur in a vacuum. To suggest there may be a correlation between fare increases and increased ridership, of course, would be specious -- we need to see what the underlying economic conditions were, and we must also understand if ridership would have increased EVEN MORE had the fares not been raised (toward, you know, the goal of increasing mass transit use).

Darien still has a $3/day parking fee. Springdale's daily parking fee is $3 but recently was proposed to go up. That fee increase is on hold, but could take place. (The number of daily parking spots is limited and monthly spots go unfilled tho supposedly sold out with a years' long waiting list, but that is another story). A significant portion of riders may come from North Stamford or the area between High Ridge and Long Ridge Roads, not a mass transit-served area. They will not be walking to the Springdale train.

Some commuters will thus face a double whammy: the monthly parking is unavailable to them, the daily parking rate may go up significantly AND the train fare is going up.

Our government cannot choose to be serious about mass transit except when it isn't and then expect to be taken at its word that it supports the greatest possible use mass transit, and TOD is all about getting people to use the train.

Richard Powell Councillor said...

Great post, really interesting