FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a vocal critic of the fare hikes on Metro-North Railroad and CTTransit buses that took effect Jan. 1, wants to ensure all extra money collected be earmarked for the mass transit systems.
Lavielle, a member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, said Friday she plans to introduce a bill to the legislature when it convenes Feb. 8 to make sure that happens.
“My bill is designed to prevent people paying higher train and bus fares just to help balance the state budget,” said Lavielle, a Wilton Republican who also represents part of Norwalk in the 143rd District. “I want to ensure that any money raised from these increases be used specifically for the systems where the fare hikes have been made.” The bill would mandate all additional fare funds be used for train and bus line operations, maintenance and improvements.
"Balancing the state budget should not be yet another economic burden placed on the backs of hard-working people who use our trains and buses," Lavielle said.
Metro-North raised its fares on the New Haven Line for the first time in seven years on Jan. 1, with the cost of tickets rising 4 percent each year for 2012, 2013 and 2014. Those increases are in addition to the 1.25 percent increase in 2012 and 1 percent that will be added each year until 2018 to help pay for the upgraded M-8 rail cars now going into service.
In Wilton, for example, the fare for a one-way ticket to New York City rose from $13.50, to $14.25 on Jan. 1, and in Norwalk, from $13 to $13.75.
Lavielle said the fare hikes were only supposed to take effect as a “Plan-B backup” if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy failed to gain concessions from state unions to help balance the budget.
“What I don’t understand is why the fare hikes were still implemented even after there was an agreement with the unions,” Lavielle said. “The fare hikes were introduced as a budget balancing mechanism, and when the unions agreed, Plan B was supposed to be scrapped.”
Lavielle said she has lined up at least 20 co-sponsors in legislature for the bill, which has also gained the support of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council.
“During the public hearing process, I opposed the newest, additional increases,” Lavielle said. “I believed and still do that they are financially onerous for commuters who take mass transit every day, at a time when the economy is uncertain and most people’s resources are stretched.”
But, she added, “I was also concerned about how the money would be used. If commuters and other mass transit users have to pay more, they should get better, faster, and safer service in return.”