Proposed fare increases draw scrutiny

HARTFORD — Some Connecticut commuters might have to dig deeper into their wallets to get to work if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority realizes proposed fare increases. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed his dismay with the proposal, especially in light of MTA’s assertion that it has realized a savings on expenses.

In July, MTA released its proposed 2015 budget and four-year financial plan, which included fare increases in 2015 and 2017. In a letter dated August 14 to MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, Malloy said Connecticut’s 2015 budget assumes no fare increases for Metro North’s New Haven line.

“It should go without saying that Connecticut expects Metro North to control expenses and to live within the adopted budget for 2015,” Malloy wrote. The governor also demanded an accounting of MTA’s reported expense savings.

“In the financial plan released last week,” Malloy wrote, “the MTA touts significant expense savings, but calls for fare increases in 2015 and 2017 that could impact the New Haven line. Those points don’t seem to add up. I would like a full accounting of Connecticut’s share of the proposed savings that were reported in the budget plan. Please provide the requested information to Commissioner James Redeker of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The MTA noted in a release dated July 28 that although it expects to save $1.3 billion in 2015 and $1.5 billion in 2017, it also faces whopping labor-cost increases over the next several years.

In addition to governing public transportation in southeastern New York, MTA is under contract with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to provide service lines in New Haven and Fairfield counties. Those lines are major sources of transportation to and from work for in-state Connecticut commuters and Connecticut residents who work in New York.

For example, Metro North’s New Haven rail line originates in New Haven and culminates at Grand Central Station, New York City. A typical route includes stops in Milford, Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, among other cities. A single one-way peak-time adult ticket for the entire route — from New Haven to New York — currently costs $21.50 if purchased before boarding. (The on-board one-way fare is $28.) Riders also have the option of purchasing multi-trip passes at discounted rates.

Among upcoming MTA expenses, according to the four-year financial plan, is a negotiated settlement with labor that amounts to a $260 million yearly increase, on average, for labor costs. Expenses also will include “a series of investments in new service, improved service quality and enhanced safety for customers and employees,” according to the MTA.

Among other delineated MTA expenses include $20 million annually for new subway, bus and commuter railroad service; $125 million between 2015 and 2018 for new maintenance and operational necessities; and $363 million for employee, customer and public safety investments.