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Protecting Commuters: Public Hearing on Stopping Future Unfair Fare Increases

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Many of you told me how upset you were last year when the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced another Metro-North fare hike beginning December 1, and you were right. The increase represented neither service improvements nor rising costs, but were, rather, a means of making commuters pay for a deficiency in the overall state budget.

Because so many of my constituents commute to New York City and other places for their livelihoods, I refused to let this happen without a fight. I formed a group of 18 legislators who worked together to circulate a petition, which many of you signed, on the morning trains and online. And we submitted a concrete proposal to the governor and legislative leadership for an alternative to the fare hike that would have generated revenues without imposing new obligations on commuters or taxpayers.

Majority legislative leaders never responded to our proposal. One likely reason: they didn’t have to. This is because the Connecticut DOT, an executive branch agency, can act unilaterally under the governor’s authority to increase mass transit fares, and the legislature has no accountability for these decisions.

That’s why I have introduced a bill that would require legislative approval to increase rail or bus fares.

This legislation, HB 5773, is aimed at protecting commuters from fare increases that bring them no benefits.  Although it wouldn’t prevent every future increase, fare hike proposals would be subject to floor debate and public vote, a process that of course takes time, and, above all, would make every supporting legislator accountable for their votes to increase mass transit fares.

This Monday, January 30, at 11:00 A.M., the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing in Hartford for H.B. 5773 in the Legislative Office Building, Room 1E.

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Here’s how you can make sure your opinion on this bill counts:

Submit your written testimony on this commuter protection bill at tratestimoney@cga.ct.gov, and please be sure to copy me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov.  Your testimony can be as brief as you like. Just include your name and town. Refer to the bill as HB 5773 and mention it in your subject line.

If you’d like to testify in person, the hearing will be held on Monday at 11 AM in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building.

For a copy of the bill, click here.

I’m here to help with any questions, so please call my office at (860) 240 8700 or email me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.