What gets raised for Metro-North Railroad should stay in Metro-North, said one local legislator.
When rail passengers ring in the New Year they will also ring in . Because of that state , wants to ensure the increased ticket price is only used for operations, maintenance, and improvements on the line. As such Lavielle plans to introduce legislation next session to protect the funds.
“I want money from fare increases to only be used for Metro North operations and improvements. Right now there are no stipulations on how that money could be used,” said Lavielle, who is also a member of the General Assembly’s Transportation committee.
In September the Connecticut Department of Transportation announced rail and bus fares would increase 4 percent starting Jan. 1. The increase would be spread over the next three calendar years. Aside from the New Haven Line, Shore Line East will also have raised rates.
For New Haven Line commuters, the new increases come in addition to already scheduled increases of 1.25 percent on Jan. 1, 2012, and 1 percent on Jan. 1 of each year from 2013 to 2018, designed to help pay for .
Initially the New Haven Line wasn’t supposed to have fare increases beyond those already scheduled. Yet, when the state employee unions rejected a concessions package designed to address a $1.6 billion shortfall, the governor’s office announced its “Plan B” budget. That budget, nicknamed the doomsday budget by some, included a 16.4 percent rail fare increase, followed by a 1% increase each year through 2018. The Plan B budget also included several service cuts.
Eventually, the unions approved the concessions. Yet, the fare increases, unlike many other “Plan B” proposals, weren’t dropped, Lavielle said.
“If passengers have to pay more, which I don’t think they should, they deserve to get something for it,” Lavielle said.
That something is an assurance the money won’t be used for anything other than rail and bus related expenditures.
“There is a history of the state raiding the special transportation fund when it’s convenient,” she said.
Right now there are no guarantees to prevent the state from reducing its own contribution to Metro-North’s budget by the amount collected from the fare increases, and using the money to fill other budget gaps, she said.
“If she’s talking about putting the special transportation fund in a lock box we don’t have a problem with that,” said Kevin Nursick, spokesman for DOT.
Lavielle said she’s most concerned about service on the New Haven Line and its branches, because most of her constituents live there. However, she expects the bill would apply to the scheduled mass transit fare increases for all bus and rail passengers.
According to the state DOT, operating costs have risen 12 percent since 2005 and rates have remained the same. If it’s to keep current service levels it must increase rates.
Lavielle will present her plan to the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council next week.
“You could certainly say the Council is interested and will take up her idea next Wednesday,” said .