Last week, Connecticut’s state unions overwhelmingly ratified a cost-saving deal that will avert thousands of employee layoffs and Governor Malloy’s “Plan B” budget, which would have enacted severe budget cuts, including to transportation. The “Plan B” budget included service cuts and fare hikes on bus, rail, and paratransit. However, even with an agreement in place, the possibility of these fare hikes and service cuts remain.
ConnDOT is still holding public hearings throughout the state, and reports indicate that Governor Malloy is inclined to proceed with the fare increases and service cuts, which would go into effect on November 1, because he is worried about cuts in federal funding.
On the table are increases of 10% on buses and paratransit, and 16.4% on Metro-North and Shore Line East (this is in addition to already planned annual 1% fare increases between 2013 and 2018). Weekend Shore Line East service would be completely eliminated, and bus service cuts would take effect in Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, New Britain, and Bristol.
At a public hearing on the hikes and cuts in Stamford yesterday, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Connecticut coordinator and senior planner, Ryan Lynch, called on Governor Malloy and ConnDOT Acting Commissioner Jim Redeker to withdraw the proposal and instead find a balanced approach to transportation funding, saying that:
We support funding for transportation that balances the burden between drivers, riders and other entities that benefit from Connecticut’s transit network. In other words, transit fares should only go up if gas taxes and other sources of revenue, like congestion pricing, do as well.
Lynch also pointed out the fare hikes on CT Transit riders would be particularly inequitable. Bus riders make less than half of what those that drive to work alone make, yet the Governor and the General Assembly withdrew a 3-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase from the budget earlier this year that would have raised significant transportation revenue. ConnDOT says that transit fares haven’t been raised in 5-6 years, but neither has the gas tax. In fact, even if the proposed 3-cent/gallon increase had passed, the tax would still have been 12 cents/gallon lower than in 1998.
Image: Shore Line East train in New Haven. / Adam E. Moreira.