Rail fares to rise, students unfazed

feb20trains1

That Saturday trip to the Big Apple is going to be more expensive come next year.

Under a plan announced last week by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Shore Line East and Metro-North will raise fares in Connecticut by more than 15 percent over the next three years to cover rising operating costs. Though the plan has elicited an outcry from some customers, 36 of 40 Yalies interviewed said the fare hike will not reduce their train usage.

The Metro-North train from New Haven to New York City — a trip taken regularly by Yalies — will see its price raised 4 percent each year until 2014, followed by an additional 1 percent yearly until 2018. This translates into an increase of approximately 75 cents at the start of 2012, from $14.00 to $14.75 for a one-way off-peak ticket from New Haven to New York, although this price will jump to $17.00 by 2012.

Yohanna Pepa ’14, who travels to Manhattan three or four times per semester, said the change will not affect her future travel plans.

“No, I won’t take Metro-North less often,” Pepa said. “One to two dollars more won’t be that much of a difference … [and] it’s the only way I’m able to get between New Haven and New York.”

Nico Barawid ’12, who travels to Manhattan weekly for an internship with the United Nations, said he thinks most Yale students either receive a travel stipend or do not go to New York frequently enough for the fare hike to matter. DOT Commissioner James Redeker said in a press release that this plan makes fiscal sense as fares have not risen since January 2005, while operating expenses have grown by 12 percent in that time period.

More than half of 30 students interviewed who expressed an opinion about the change said they support the fare increase, though some had reservations about the method of raising revenue.

Native New Yorker Lauren Phillips ’12 said that though she supports the fare increase, which she hopes could be one step toward an expanded public transportation system, there are better ways to bring in money to cover rising costs.

“I know they need to raise funds, but it’s sad that it’s public transportation that is facing this fare increase because it’s such an essential service,” Phillips said. “I’d rather see them raise money in a more sustainable way, like through bridge tolling.”

The fare hike was first suggested in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s June “doomsday” budget, which was to be implemented should a deal on wage and benefits concessions with state labor unions fall through. Although a deal was eventually struck, the plan to raise fares persisted.

Opponents of the hike argue that, since that the deal was struck and the state budget is now balanced, there is no need to raise fares. Some critics, including state Rep. Gail Lavielle, say that the DOT’s plan will hurt workers already struggling to make ends meet.

“These new 4-percent annual increases are badly timed, onerous and inappropriate for our hard-working commuters, many of whom have no real alternative to using mass transit to travel to work,” Lavielle said in a press release. “These new increases will add even more to commuters’ daily expenses.”

The plan will also raise Connecticut Transit bus fares from $1.25 to $1.30 per ride starting in January 2012, with additional 4-percent increases in 2013 and 2014. In addition to compensating for ever-increasing operational costs, the extra revenue brought in after the first three years of the DOT’s plan will help to cover the $1.1 billion the state spent on 405 new railcars this year to reduce crowding.

The new fares will go into effect beginning Jan. 1.

Comments

  • morse_14

    How the hell is bridge tolling “sustainable?” It simply shifts the tax from people using the service to those who don’t use the service!

    I understand that you’d like to subsidize public transportation, but don’t play it off as anything other than preferencing those who have the option to take the train rather than being forced to drive to work because of a lack of infrastructure.

  • redman

    People who criticize public transportation subsidies, conveniently forget the subsidies that automobiles get.from the government in support of the road infrastructure.