Another hike set for Metro-North travelers

A 5% fare hike goes into effect on Metro-North’s New Haven Line, on Wednesday, Jan. 1. This will make a monthly ticket from the Derby-Shelton station to Grand Central Terminal more than $400.

The increase affects tickets that include travel to or from any Connecticut station and some travel on the line between Rye and Port Chester, N.Y.

Tickets bought before Jan. 1, will be honored for up to six months, depending on the type of ticket.

“Though many commuters may be surprised by this fare increase, the actual decision to raise rates took place in 2011,” State Sen. Toni Boucher said. “The issue of raising rail fares was hotly debated by many of us in Hartford and throughout the district. I did not support it due to lack of assurances that the additional funds would not be diverted and would lead to rail service improvements.”

The increase was eventually instituted by the state Department of Transportation, which owns the New Haven Line, under the direction of Governor Malloy in the first year of his administration, Boucher, the ranking Republican on the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

“The more than 16% fare hike on Connecticut commuters has been taking place since 2012 and will continue through 2018,” she said.

Travel from Shelton to Grand Central Station

Currently, one-way ticket prices from the Derby-Shelton train station are $18 for peak and $13.75 for off peak. Tickets purchased after the increase will go up to $18.90 and $14.44 respectively. Monthly fares from the same station are currently $125.75 for a weekly ticket, raising to $132.04. Monthly tickets are $393, raising to $412.65.

From Fairfield: One-way peak tickets are $15.75, raising to $16.54; off peak tickets are $11.75, raising to $12.34; weekly tickets are $109, raising to $114.45; and monthly tickets are $341, raising to $358.05.

“This fare increase is the third in nine years,” James P. Redeker, the state Department of Transportation commissioner, said this month. “During that time, operating expenses continued to grow due to inflation and service has been increased on weekdays and weekends on both the New Haven Line and Shore Line East. We held several hearings throughout the state prior to adopting the phased implementation of fare increases over three years.”

Rail fares were set years ago to increase by about 4% at the beginning of 2012, 2013 and 2014. Then, the General Assembly passed an additional 1% tax to help pay for the M-8 rail cars, which for the past few years have been replacing cars up to 30 years old.

This becomes a compounded average increase of 5.04% for Jan. 1, according to the DOT, for all Connecticut rail fare types, including weekly and monthly UniTickets (combined bus/rail tickets).

“The fare increase places further economic burdens on commuters,” Boucher said. “Even more importantly, a commitment that these fare increases would lead to better service has not been kept in light of the service delays and complaints my office has been receiving from constituents. Rail riders tell me that they expect improvements to substantiate these rail hikes.”

Boucher, a longtime state Senator who has also created an exploratory committee to run for governor, said the Malloy administration needs to put more pressure on Metro-North, which operates the state-owned line that has been criticized for poor service and safety problems including three derailed trains in the past half year.

“These critical rail lines have enormous impact on our state’s economy and changes in costs or service are immediately felt,” Boucher said. “Any deterioration of that level of service and safety of our commuting public should be taken very seriously and addressed with the state’s vendor, Metro North.”

“This rate hike also adds to the concerns on the part of many that money from the special transportation fund is regularly diverted to fill holes in operating budgets while commuters rates continue to climb,” she said. “I would encourage the administration to refund the $91 million to the special transportation account so that transportation fees can be used exclusively for transportation needs. Commuter fare increases should be tied to maintenance, oversight and better service as was originality intended.”

For years, the Malloy administration has used money from ticket fares to help offset the state’s budget deficits.