Opinion: Governor’s proposed commuter fare hike may be revenge mileage tax rejection

Jim Cameron
Jim Cameron

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.

Check our social media for commuters’ reactions: Facebook  and Twitter


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]



  1. DrewT

    This fare hike shows once again that Dan Malloy is out of touch and believes that he can rape the commuters as he has done in the past! He thinks that the since the majority of the NH Line is in Fairfield Co. That we all have this unlimited pot of gold to keep bailing out the state! It’s not going to be happening this time!!!

  2. Missy Conrad

    After the mid-term national election in 1992 when the Republicans took over the US Congress during the first Clinton Presidency, they promised more money for mass transportation & funding for childcare in exchange for welfare reform. These promises have not been honored.
    Our poorest citizens & residents & those of us who care about the environment rely on mass transportation. This is a worthwhile service of government. Even rich kids want the independence that mass transportation provides. Support for mass transportation & care for our families would help soothe the insecurity that is suffered by so many people in our United States. Check out afsg.org’s “One Minute for Peace.”

  3. Ken Werner

    Let’s talk about the advisability — and inevitability — of a vehicle mileage tax. The Obama administration and the auto industry have worked hard to improve the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) for all of the vehicles each auto company sells.

    That necessarily means that gas tax revenues have declined even though miles traveled have stayed constant or increased. And it is miles traveled that affects highway wear and tear, not gallons of gas sold. As CAFE continues to improve, and as more electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles enter the vehicle mix, total gallons of gas sold — and highway tax revenues earned — for each thousand miles traveled will continue to decline, and bridge and highway repairs will be increasingly underfunded.

    Although a per-gallon highway fuel tax made sense at one time, it is clear that time is past. We now need a rational revenue system to fund the repair and maintenance of our state’s transportation infrastructure, and like it or not, such a system must be based on miles driven, not gallons consumed.

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