Fairfield legislators testify in opposition rail fare increases, talk commuter opposition, and propose alternatives

In a concerted effort to stop the CT Department of Transportation’s proposal to raise Metro-North fares by 5% this December, State Representatives Brenda Kupchick, Laura Devlin joined by House Republican legislators, State Representatives Gail Lavielle, Mike Bocchino, Dave Rutigliano, Fred Camillo, and J.P. Sredzinski and State Senator Tony Hwang, testified at the public hearing held Wednesday at the UConn Stamford Campus Auditorium.

Over the last few weeks, the legislators have met with early morning rail commuters on the train station platforms and riding the trains, and speaking with them about the unfair increase. At the public hearing, Devlin, Kupchick and Hwang along with their House legislative colleagues presented signed petitions containing more than 1,700 signatures of constituents who join in the opposition to the proposed hikes.

Rep. Kupchick said, “Spend a few days and weeks with Metro North commuters and they will tell you, enough is enough. We are ready and willing to collaborate with the legislative leaders and the Governor’s office in order to stop this fair increase from imposing a further daily financial burden on commuters.”

‘Metro North commuters are a captive audience that have faced year over year fare increases to improve service and invest in infrastructure, with very little result. This rail fare increase does neither and is nothing more than an additional tax on those trying to get to work or to school. There are other solutions than balancing the budget on the backs of commuters and we have presented some of those today. It’s amazing to me that while we see businesses and jobs flee to lower cost states, Connecticut has no compunction about further hikes in taxes, fees or fares,” said Rep. Devlin.    

Sen. Hwang said, “The fare increase is just another tax on the back of the working middle class. This financial burden comes with no additional infrastructure or rail service improvements and that is unacceptable.  Combined with proposed rate increases in utilities, health insurance, this fare increase might just be the last straw that breaks the back of Connecticut taxpayers.”

At the public hearing, the Fairfield legislators presented a letter addressed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, legislative leaders and CTDOT Commissioner James Redeker to Commissioner Redeker following her testimony. In the letter, Lavielle and 17 other House Republican legislators write about their objection to the proposed fare hike, explaining that rail commuters are being “forced to pay for gaps in the state budget that was passed by the legislative majority this spring.”

The letter stated, “The increase is unfair, and it is unnecessary. In a year when majority legislators and the administration have insisted that the state budget includes no new taxes, it imposes a new tax on one group of people who, as a result, have no choice but to spend more money just to be able to go to work.”  

The lawmakers explain in the letter that the DOT acknowledged from the start that the proposed fare increase has nothing to do with either service improvements or cost increases, but rather, is due exclusively to a $37 million cut to the agency’s budget as a direct consequence of the 2017 budget passed by the legislative majority last May.

State Reps. Mike Bocchino (R-Greenwich), Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton), with Fairfield legislators Rep. Laura Devlin, Sen. Tony Hwang, Brenda Kupchick and Monroe Rep. J.P. Sredzinski ready themselves to testify at the DOT hearing on Metro North fare hikes.

State Reps. Mike Bocchino (R-Greenwich), Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton), with Fairfield legislators Rep. Laura Devlin, Sen. Tony Hwang, Brenda Kupchick and Monroe Rep. J.P. Sredzinski ready themselves to testify at the DOT hearing on Metro North fare hikes.

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