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Connecticut Commuters Complain As They Brace For Larger Train Fare Hike

John Beaver said commuters will have no choice but to accept a proposed five percent fare hike. He's pictured at the Noroton Heights train station. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Pair of trains meeting at Noroton Heights train station in Darien. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- A plan to increase train fares on Metro-North drew a mixed reaction at a pair of train stations Tuesday.

Poll
Do you agree with the state's plan to raise train and bus fares to help balance the DOT budget?
Final Results Voting Closed

Do you agree with the state's plan to raise train and bus fares to help balance the DOT budget?

  • Yes, we all have to help
    9%
  • No, this fare hike 'came out of nowhere'
    91%

While waiting at the Noroton Heights train station to catch an afternoon train into Manhattan, John Beaver said there was little that ordinary train riders can do to fight the proposal from Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

"Five percent is not going to make you drive," Beaver said. "Five percent is not going to change your commuting habit. It's just going to make you a little more angry."

Metro-North riders will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets after the state announced a plan Friday to raise train fares 5 percent across the board later this year to help balance the DOT budget.

They also proposed a 25-cent increase in CTTransit bus fares, from $1.50 to $1.75.

The increases are set to go into effect on Dec. 1 and would generate about $5.9 million in new revenue.

"These are not decisions anyone takes lightly, but are nevertheless necessary to avoid significant reductions in service," Malloy wrote in a letter to the legislative leaders. "I believe we should let this be a reminder as to what happens when transportation funding is cut -- our economy suffers, and because our systems deteriorate, consumers face higher costs and lose more time in traffic."

Though he said train riders will pay up, Beaver questioned the railroad's labor costs.

"These conductors, they are making either $100,000 or close to $100,000 per year — come on — collecting tickets? This stuff should all be automated," Beaver said.

"The actual service, Metro-North service is fantastic, relative to New Jersey or Long Island, man this thing works," he said in praise of the train service in Connecticut. "Very rarely are you ever late."

At the South Norwalk train station, a Trumbull resident who gave only his first name was noncommittal about the hike.

Tim, a former Darien resident, had been a regular commuter into New York City but that ended when his job as a software engineer was cut. Tim was waiting to catch a train to go home after a job interview.

He said there was little that could be done about the increases and said it was something he could live with.

"I'm not really happy about it, but I'm not really opposed to it," Tim said. "It's not a whole lot, but it is something."

The fare hikes are part of a plan to close a nearly $37 million cut in the DOT budget. The plan also makes cuts across the boards to go with the 5 percent fare increase on Metro-North's New Haven Line, including on the New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury branches, and on Shore Line East.

The increase would be combined with a 1 percent previously scheduled fare increase that covers the purchase of the new M-8 rail cars.

Another $7.2 million would be saved by closing under-used ticket windows at the Greenwich, South Norwalk and Bridgeport stations.

Click here to read more about the fare hikes along with other budget-balancing items on the Daily Voice.

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