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Lavielle: Metro-North crisis shows need for commuter pass policy

HARTFORD – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), wants Metro-North to set a clear policy that extends the validity of commuter tickets when shutdowns of more than 48 hours occur.

Her statement, issued Friday, was spurred by the current disruption of the Metro-North rail service along the New Haven line. A major power failure has stopped the operation of electric trains along the line. Metro-North has patched together rail and bus service that includes diesel engines to provide reduced service during the disruption, which could last weeks.

“The rail service outage that began on September 25 has affected thousands of commuters throughout the entire southwestern part of the state,” said Lavielle, who is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation. “The service alternatives provided are difficult and cumbersome, and many commuters have stayed home or driven to work, taking the advice of the DOT and Governor Malloy. They aren’t using their tickets, and it’s not fair for them to lose the money they spent.

“This outage may last three or four weeks,” added Lavielle, “and if it had happened just a few days later, commuters would have been stuck with monthly tickets for October that they couldn’t have used. These tickets cost hundreds of dollars. Commuters put up with enough. They deserve reassurance that they won’t lose their money if rail service is disrupted for any length of time. However it’s done, they need a policy to protect them now.”

During the 2013 legislative session, Lavielle introduced a bill that would have required the validity of monthly and weekly rail tickets to be extended after outages lasting 48 hours or more. The bill, which was supported by testimony from the CT Rail Commuter Council, the Southwestern Regional Planning Association (SWRPA), and many commuters, received a public hearing, did not pass, according to a press release from Lavielle’s office. Both Metro-North and the CT DOT had raised practical objections, the release said.

“If this incident does not lead to a policy change, I will raise the issue again in next year’s legislative session,” said Lavielle. “But I hope that commuters won’t have to wait that long for an answer.”

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