Metro-North may increase fares



Taking the train into New York City may soon get more expensive.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has proposed a 15 percent increase in fares on the Metro-North line from New York to New Haven. At the same time, Amtrak announced that it was increasing the number of trains servicing its Springfield-New Haven line and reducing fares, in some cases up to 50 percent.

Metro-North has been forced to increase fares to meet its operating expenses. Len Lapsis, CDOT’s supervising transportation planner, said Gov. John Rowland’s proposed 2004 budget includes an overall fare increase of 15 percent on the Metro-North line. The cost of trips between Grand Central Terminal and Connecticut stations will increase from 12.5 to 17 percent depending upon where the ride starts.

There have been no fare increases in the last five years.

“The Department and the State now find themselves in the position where it is necessary to turn to those who use the New Haven Line to contribute more toward funding the operating deficit of the service,” CDOT said in a document explaining the proposal.

While the exact numbers are subject to change, a one-way coach fare from Grand Central Terminal to New Haven, which currently costs $15.25, will now cost $17.50, a 14.8 percent increase. The monthly commutation fare will increase from $319 to $370, a 16 percent increase, the document said.

Lapsis said the department will hold three public hearings on the proposed increase, with the first held April 22 at Union Station in New Haven. After the hearings, the staff will make a recommendation to the state commissioner of transportation, who has final authority. The department will then notify Metro-North.

“It could be possibly as early as July 1, but not necessarily,” Lapsis said. “A lot of it is based on timing.”

While Metro-North is proposing to increase its fares, Amtrak’s reduced prices are already in effect. The cost of a one-way ticket between cities on the Springfield-New Haven line has been reduced by $5 to $15, depending on the cities traveled between, and the price for monthly passes have also been reduced. A monthly pass from New Haven to Hartford, which was $221, now costs $108.

Amtrak will also add five new trains to the line starting April 28, spokesman Dan Stessel said. The new trains join the 11 others currently on the route to make a total of 16 trips a day, eight in each direction.

“For commuters out there, this is outstanding news,” Stessel said.

The fare reductions do not affect Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line, which runs from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

The governor’s budget proposal also includes a 25 percent increase in fares on CT Transit, said Philip Fry, the service’s assistant general manager for planning and marketing. Fares would increase from $1 to $1.25. Fry said a public hearing process will provide more details and its possible the legislature may increase the state subsidy instead of raising the price.

“It will be a lengthy process,” Fry said.

Officials at Shoreline East, the other train service operating out of Union Station, said they have not decided on any fare increases.

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