A Good Turnout for CTDOT Forum on Metro-North Fare Increases

February 28, 2018

I had the chance to speak against these proposals, as did dozens of area residents. Fare hikes and service reductions will have a serious negative impact on families and businesses in Stamford and all of Fairfield County. Thank you to the folks who expressed the same views because you are reaffirming to my colleagues in the Legislature that our transportation infrastructure is an integral part of economic and job growth. (Stamford Advocate, Feb. 28, 2018)

Below are my remarks:

Testimony of Rep. Caroline Simmons re: Metro North Fares

Commissioner James Redeker and representatives of the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Metro North Commuter Rail Line:

My name is Caroline Simmons and I represent the 144th Assembly District of Stamford in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Thank you for taking the time to come down to Stamford to listen to views from the public and for all the work you are doing to try to improve our transportation infrastructure. However, on behalf of my constituents, I am standing up today in vigorous opposition to the proposed 10% fare increase on Metro North customers starting on July 1st 2018 and the subsequent increases of 5% in July 2020, and another 5% in July 2021, for a cumulative total increase of 21.28%. In addition, I am standing up against the 14.3% proposed bus fare increase that would take effect in July 2018.

This proposed increase is on top of fare increases in each of the last three years and I have heard from so many constituents and commuters who are rightly outraged, and I share their outrage. The cost of living in Connecticut, and especially in our region down here in Fairfield County, is so high and too many people cannot afford to live here anymore.

It feels to many of us that taxes keep going up, but services are going down. Especially with respect to Metro North, where commuters are already underserved by the railroad and on top of these proposed fare increases, there will be service cuts to the New Canaan Branch Line, New Haven, and three other branch lines. Riders face overcrowding, delays and safety concerns, and on top of all of this, they now are facing a major increase in their commuting costs. Moreover, with increasing traffic delays on our major highways, we should be doing everything we can to incentivize people to take the train, in order to help get more cars off the road, and this price hike will do the opposite.

While we need to invest in our transportation infrastructure, I am pleading with you that you do not make those investments on the backs of commuters, and that you look to alternative savings and efficiencies within your Department, or that we look at other areas of savings and efficiencies across our state. I have heard several alternative creative proposals from constituents, including idea like adding more advertising space on trains and bringing back the food carts in order to bring in more revenue.

And most importantly, we finally passed a constitutional amendment to create a transportation “lockbox” last session, so that the state would stop raiding those transportation funds for other purposes. This will be on the ballot for voters in 2018 and this will help protect transportation funds to be used for transportation projects.

Fiscal discipline in protecting transportation funds is essential, and this lockbox would ensure that we are not wasting taxpayer dollars that are intended for infrastructure improvements in the first place. To conclude, I am asking DOT to reject the proposed fare increase on Metro North commuters and instead to look for alternative savings. Thank you.