The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that it will not make any cuts in commuter rail and bus service and that it is initiating a series of modest fare increases beginning January 1, 2012 – the first in seven years. In addition, the DOT announced that monthly half-price bus passes will be available to senior citizens and people with disabilities, also on January first.
“We held hearings around the state and listened carefully to our customers who consistently said that reductions in service would be an unfair hardship,” said DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker. “Furthermore, they made it clear that anything beyond a modest fare hike was unacceptable. We have responded to our customers and, I believe, have come up with a reasonable fare structure that will more evenly share rail and bus operating costs between riders and taxpayers over the next three years.
“We have held the line on fare increases since January 1, 2005,” Commissioner Redeker said. “During that time, however, operating expenses grew by 12 percent due to inflation. I believe it is now reasonable to impose some modest increases. I also believe it is the right thing to do to begin offering discount bus passes to our deserving senior and disabled riders.”
After first proposing a 16.4 percent rail fare increase and a 10 percent bus fare increase, the DOT is now calling for far more modest increases. Under the department’s plan, rail and bus (including ADA paratransit bus service for people with disabilities) fares would go up 4 percent at the beginning of each of the next three calendar years (January 1, 2012, 2013 and 2014). In addition, as part of previously approved legislation to help pay for the new M-8 rail cars now being put into service, rail fares would increase another 1.25 percent on January 1, 2012, and an additional 1 percent on January 1 of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The DOT, which oversees the state’s rail and bus services, held seven hearings over the summer on possible fare increases – including 16.4 percent for the New Haven Line and Shore Line East, and 10 percent for CTTransit, the bus service. Those percentages, as well as some service reductions, were proposed before an agreement on the state budget was reached.
“While operating costs continue to go up, now that state budget issues have been resolved, we can live with something less from the fare box,” Commissioner Redeker said. “I am also pleased that we will not have to reduce any service.”
Commissioner Redeker said his strategy is to more fairly distribute the cost of covering operating expenses between riders and non-riding Connecticut taxpayers who fund the subsidy. In the almost seven years since the last fare increase, that distribution ratio has gradually changed, so that riders are paying less than their historical share, according to the Commissioner.
The state has ordered 405 of the new M-8 rail cars for use on the New Haven Line – all of which should be delivered by 2014 – at a cost of $1.1 billion (with Connecticut’s share being $746 million). New Haven Line service is operated by Metro-North Railroad under a contract with the DOT. Currently, there are more than 130 trains with M-8 cars operating each week.
Commissioner Redeker also announced that a task force has been formed to examine the operations of the state’s two Connecticut River ferries. The ferries operate on a seasonal basis between Glastonbury and Rocky Hill, and between Chester and Hadlyme. Task force members will provide input on service schedules, expenses, fares and other revenue and marketing opportunities. The Department will have a new plan in place by the time the next ferry operating season begins in the spring of 2012. Commissioner Redeker stressed that ferry operations will continue.
- New Haven Line (to and from Manhattan)
- New Haven Line (one-way station fares)
- Shore Line East
Fares on the New Haven Line cover approximately 70 percent of the cost to operate the service between New Haven and New York City. The balance, known as the rail subsidy, is split between Connecticut and New York, 65 percent and 35 percent respectively. In Fiscal Year 2011, the operating expenses were $365 million.
Fares on the CTTransit local and commuter express bus services cover about 25 percent of the total of approximately $175 million in overall bus operating expenses. Fares on the CTTransit ADA paratransit system cover about 6 percent of the approximately $30 million of overall paratransit operating expenses.