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Fare hikes proposed for Metro-North riders

July 19, 2011 3:21:41 PM PDT
Connecticut rail commuters are on the verge of what could be a hefty fare increase -- a mass transit proposal in the governor's new budget. On average the increase could cost over 500 dollars more a year for some commuters. That's an increase some believe is just too much.

"This is not a fare increase. It's a tax increase. And it comes with no improvement in service," Jim Cameron, Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said.

On the New Haven line a 15-percent fare increase is being proposed, and on the Shoreline East from New Haven to New London, a 14-percent fare hike is sought along with the elimination of weekend service.

The increase could put a strain on Takeeda Davis, who is just starting a new job.

"I don't think it would be good at all because money is tight right now," Davis said.

A commuter with an average three hundred dollar monthly ticket could pay an additional 45-dollars each month or $540 per year according to the Connecticut. Rail Commuter Council.

"These are just extraordinary cuts and increases in costs that have no justification except for the fact that commuters are an easy target," Cameron said.

Connecticut Department of Transportation, which oversees the railroad, responded through a spokesman: "There has been no fare increase since 2005. Bottom line: we cannot continue, given the circumstances, to not touch rail fares."

"My view is that there are probably other places where he could cut spending rather that essentially raise taxes on commuters," commuter Gary Holmes said.

Commuters are also frustrated with the rollout of new trains, a year and half behind schedule.

Service improvements are slow to come too, they say.

The elimination of weekend service on the Shoreline East could affect New Yorkers.

"Those trains are very popular with New Yorkers who have summer homes up around Stonington or Mistic or they use the train as a jumping off point to get up to Newport," Cameron said.

Cameron said he's advising angry commuters to still contact their state legislators. The legislature's Appropriations Committee is expected to hold hearings on specific items in the budget-balancing plan on or before Aug. 15. It's unclear whether lawmakers will ultimately make any changes to the plans submitted by Malloy, the Judicial Branch and other agencies.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said commuters should take the proposed rail fare hikes seriously.

"The presumption has to be that most of what the governor has proposed will go into effect, in the absence of a union agreement. I think every proposed cut has to be taken seriously," he said. "Clearly, I think that's obviously one that's going to be unpopular. But there's lots of them that are unpopular."

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