Commuters Plan To Speak Out About Use Of Revenue From Fare Increases
Transportation Committee To Hold Hearing Monday Morning
By DON STACOM
March 11, 2012
HARTFORD —— Complaining that money from their rail and bus fare increases will be spent on highway repairs, commuter groups and transit riders are expected on Monday to ask the General Assembly to intervene.
A new schedule of fares has CT Transit bus riders and Metro-North and Shore Line East rail passengers paying 4 percent more for tickets this year, with more increases planned in the next two years.
As part of his 2012-13 budget, though, Gov.Dannel P. Malloyannounced earlier this winter that he intends to put the extra revenue for this year — projected at $11.5 million — into the state's Special Transportation Fund. The news angered passengers, who had anticipated the extra money they've been shelling out would be spent improving the rail lines and bus network.
When the DOT last summer was promoting the concept of raising fares, its managers regularly emphasized how they needed more money to run trains and buses. Malloy's plan would put it into the Special Transportation Fund, which pays for rail and bus operations — but also covers bridge replacements, highway repairs and repayment of long-term transportation bonds.
Charging transit riders more to pay for highway work amounts to a hidden tax, according to Jim Cameron, chairman of the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council. Commuters are expected to make their case to a transportation committee hearing at 10 a.m. Monday at the Legislative Office Building.
The state transportation department describes the situation differently. Riders already receive significant benefits from the Special Transportation Fund, which pays the subsidies that keep rail and bus fares from being even higher, according to the DOT. The fund has been hemorrhaging money in recent years, and Malloy's use of the fare increase money is part of a plan to keep it solvent.
Cameron's group and others have called on commuters to press legislators to stop Malloy's proposal. About two dozen legislators from Fairfield County and eastern shoreline towns put forward HB 5067, a bill that would require money from transit fare increases to be spent exclusively on maintaining or improving the transit systems.
The transportation committee, however, is scheduled to hear a much weaker bill, HB 5459, which requires only that the DOT report to legislators next January how the fare increases have been spent — and how they've affected ridership. Commuter groups are hoping to persuade the committee to endorse the provisions of 5067 instead.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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