Jim Cameron is the founder of Commuter Action Group
It’s not by chance that they chose a summertime Friday to slip this bad news over the transom, hoping nobody would notice. Well, I noticed and made sure that commuters did as well.
The Governor’s proposed 6% fare hike seems to be his attempt at revenge against the legislature for not approving the budget he wanted… and more recent efforts to thwart any discussion of new funding sources like a Vehicle Miles Tax.
In January the Governor’s own Transportation Funding Task Force made a number of recommendations to make up for the shortfall in the gasoline tax’s revenues which fund transportation.
- Raise the gas tax 2 cents a year for 7 years
- Raise the sales tax another .5%
- Congestion mitigation tolling
- Value capture of appreciating real estate near transit oriented development
- Study the idea of a VMT (vehicle miles tax) to replace the gas tax
- Annual fare increase of 2.5% on Metro-North
This being an election year, nobody in the legislature wants to be seen as endorsing a new tax. But when CDOT initiates even a study of VMT, lawmakers reacted like their hair was on fire, rejecting the idea before it was even explained, let along studied.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), usually the Governor’s biggest supporter, says…
“I do not support a mileage tax. The Department of Transportation can study it nine ways to Sunday, up, down, sideways and diagonally. It is an unproven idea and the Senate Democrats will not advance any future proposal to consider a mileage tax for a vote.”
Shame on him. I’d say that Senator Duff is as responsible for this fare hike as the Governor.
What alternative does this leave for the Governor? If its not a fare increase it would be a cut in service. Commuters want neither!
Keep in mind that ridership is up 3.1% year to date. That’s equivalent to a 3% revenue increase. Service, though safer, is plagued with delays. Our trains are full… standing room only in rush hour… because we did not order enough new cars. And yes, our fares on Metro-North are already the highest in the US based on fare-box return ratio. In other words, more of the actual cost of the ride is covered in fares than subsidies than on any other railroad.
But the Governor, CDOT and Metro-North need to explain why this fare hike is needed, aside from pointing accusatory fingers at legislators. I hope the upcoming public hearings are more than the usual political theater, ie that CDOT will actually listen to commuters and consider revising their proposal.
Commuters on Metro-North are a captive audience. We really have no alternative to taking the train and Hartford knows that. Plus, the upstate perception is that everyone living on the “gold coast” is a millionaire, so “they” can pay up. That’s clearly not the case.
My hope is to keep commuters fully informed of these fare hike plans… to encourage them to reach out to their state elected officials with their comments… and to turn out in large numbers for the public hearings that are planned.
Email Jim Cameron at [email protected]