by Natalie Dest
For those without a car, traveling around the state may become more difficult if a recent proposal from the Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding the mass transit system is approved.
With a series of public hearings, this proposal is intended to raise fare prices on both rail and bus lines that run throughout the state, in addition to reducing services for disabled community members.
The proposal, which is intended to deal with the current transportation financing issues, also calls for a “reduction of weekday off-peak service on Shore Line East, Danbury, Waterbury and New Canaan branches and elimination of weekend service on these rail lines,” DOT spokesman Judd Eberhart said.
Considering the proposal goes into effect, a rail fare increase would take effect in three phases, according to the DOT’s website. A 10 percent increase on July 1, 2018, 5 percent on July 1, 2020, and 5 percent on July, 1, 2021 will take effect if approved for a cumulative total of 21.28 percent.
A 14.3 percent, or 25 cent, bus fare increase and rail service reductions will take effect on July 1, 2018, in addition to a $1 increase on car fare for the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury and Chester-Hadlyme ferries.
These sudden increases are due to the shortfall from the State Transportation Fund. There’s an estimated $60 million dollar budget shortage for rail and transit accounts for the state of Connecticut. Due to the major financial crisis that Governor Dannel P. Malloy and the Commissioner of DOT James P. Redeker are facing, the DOT’s in desperate need for $1 billion over the next five years in revenue.
The exercise to change fare prices or services are encouraged for public input and action by the General Assembly to promise the long-term financial competence of the Special Transportation Fund, which is heavily supported by gasoline tax and numerous other revenues.
Malloy has emphasized that without this revenue toward the funding, there will be not only transit fare increases, but cutbacks on road and other transportation programs as well.
Some ideas the governor has been pushing on lawmakers to do in order to enact new revenue measures has been increasing gasoline taxes, expanding the number on electronic highway tolls and an increase in sale taxes on transportation—all ideas that the legislature has rejected previously.
A state bus ridership study has found increases in passengers boarding most CTtransit districts between the years of 2007 and 2014. Hartford’s transit district led the state with more than 15 million passenger boardings in 2014, according to the Hartford Courant.
It is commuters such as those in the study, specifically the significant amount in the state’s capital, that can be heavily impacted by this increase in public transportation fares.
“If the DOT makes the fares so high, it will most likely reduce transport,” CCSU Political Science Professor and former City Council Member Jason Jakubowski said. “[Connecticut] really [doesn’t] know if this will ultimately help the DOT receive their revenue.”
It is an unknown prediction as of now if these fares will even be approved and put to action, depending on the stance of the DOT’s proposal. Malloy, Commissioner Redeker and the DOT encourage members of the communities to contribute public comments and opinions at their public hearings.
Information will be provided by CTDOT regarding the fare and service proposals, in addition to the Service and Fare Equity Analysis at these public comment periods. The SAFE process will help evaluate the proposed changes to help determine if they will have a severe impact on minority populations and if they are a burden to low-income populations.
The public hearings will be running from Feb. 16, to March 9, with time and locations posted on the DOT’s website.