Sen. Kelly opposes Metro-North fare hikes

Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) today submitted to state transportation officials the following statement in opposition to Metro-North fare hikes:

“I strongly urge the state to reconsider the Metro-North 5% fare hike proposal on the New Haven commuter rail line.

“This is yet another hit to the wallets of families in communities I represent. In the last few months we have heard of hundreds of layoffs between Optimum and Sikorsky. I hear from families all the time who are struggling to make ends meet, who worry about what job opportunities are within reach, and who feel that unbearable transportation issues in our part of the state make everything so much more challenging. Increasing rates on Metro-North customers yet again is another punch in the gut at a time when our communities need a ladder up and out of despair. We need to create opportunities and reduce burdens. But these fare hikes will do neither.

“With hundreds of layoffs at local companies, many people are turning to look for work in other cities such as New York. But families have to balance the cost of transportation as a deciding factor in whether or not they can afford to work at a place they must commute to. After seeing rate hikes of 4% in 2012, 2013, and 2014, the prices continue to rise and each year more and more families simply cannot afford it. That means they may turn to traveling on the roads, which adds to congestion. It could mean they lose out on good-paying work opportunities.

“A percentage fare increase also most negatively affects people in my district who live further from New York City than the rest of Fairfield County. The further from the city you are, the higher your fares become.

“Unlike going to a ball game where you pay more for the better seats closer to the field, Metro-North works in the opposite way. The further you are, and the more of a commute you have every day, the more you end up paying. It’s unfortunate that our middleclass communities will continue to face the highest rate increases of all.

“Less money in people’s pockets means they have less to support their families and contribute less to the local economy. Raising rates this much at this time will negatively impact our community and have a trickledown effect on the economy as well.

“I understand the funding struggles CTDOT faces. But I want to remind the CTDOT that Republicans have proposed a transportation finance plan that would generously boost funding without new taxes or tolls, all by prioritizing how our state spends its money.

“I think we can all agree that a safe, reliable transportation system is key to a building a strong state. That often starts with a reliable funding stream, which the DOT currently lacks. If we want to better transportation the right way we need to create a stable funding source that does not push burdens onto residents.

“We have to stop leaders from swiping money that is meant to fund transportation for other uses. The solution of raising rates again and again is not sustainable. It is also completely unaffordable for many families.

“I urge the state to consider the burdens faced in local communities as jobs leave our state and underemployment continues to grow. Increasing rates at this time only worsens the problems faced by many. We must look at other solutions, many of which Republicans have proposed.

“Another rate increase is not the answer to sustainable funding. “