June 10, 2009

Contact:Juliet Manalan
Connecticut Fund for the Environment
203.787.0646 ext. 128, 860.841.5759 (mobile)

Connecticut Fund for the Environment, State Leaders, and Advocates Hold Press Conference On Governor’s Transit Plan

New Haven – Connecticut Fund for the Environment, a New Haven-based environmental group, joined by House Speaker Chris Donovan (D-Meriden), Mayor John DeStefano, Transportation Committee Co-Chair Representative Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill), Transit for Connecticut Coordinator Karen Burnaska, Environment Connecticut Program Director Chris Phelps, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Connecticut Coordinator Ryan Lynch, and other advocates, gathered on the New Haven green today to speak out about Governor Rell’s proposal to hike public transportation fares. Under the Governor’s proposed budget, bus fares will rise 40 percent and rail fares tick up 10 percent.

“The Governor’s latest budget represents a particularly onerous burden on bus riders, especially given this economy,” said Karen Burnaska, Transit for Connecticut advocate. “This is the wrong direction for Connecticut and moves the state further from efficient, streamlined transportation that keeps roads free of congestion, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan said, "At a time when working families are looking to leadership for relief, Governor Rell is once again blocking their route to recovery. A 40 percent increase in bus fares is crippling for many. Rate hikes like that hit those who can least afford them the hardest. Why does the Governor want to increase the gridlock on our roadways when what we really need are green policies and green solutions that help get our families and our state moving again?"

Advocates say the Governor’s budget, unveiled several weeks ago, discourages transit ridership at the same time Connecticut is grappling with the far-reaching implications of a citizenry heavily reliant upon cars. Beyond the commuter hassles of gridlock and wasted time, the transportation sector contributes 40 percent of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it a key component to reaching the state’s climate change goals –10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

“Efficient and affordable mass transit systems strengthen our economy and cut global warming pollution,” said Environment Connecticut Program Director, Christopher Phelps. “Connecticut is in an economic and environmental transportation hole. Unfortunately, rather than provide leadership to strengthen our transit systems, put people back to work and cut global warming pollution from transportation, Governor Rell’s fare increase only digs a deeper hole.”

Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional transportation policy watchdog, reports that in 2008, bus ridership is up 5% from 2007 to 34 million rides.  Trains have seen similar boosts in ridership: the New Haven Metro-North line is up 3.9% to 38 million rides in 2008, and Shoreline East ridership is up 12% to 58,400 rides for the same timeframe.

"Governor Rell's attempt to balance the State's budget on the backs of the approximately 34 million bus riders in Connecticut will negatively impact those that can least afford it," said Ryan Lynch, Connecticut coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "Bus riding commuters in Connecticut, on average, earn an income that is less than half of that of those that drive alone to work.  These same transit riders often have no other transportation option other than the bus.  This is a regressive tax that is not only inequitable and unfair, but one that will harm the fledging economic recovery of Connecticut."

The legislature is expected to convene in special session to deal with transit and other pressing budget issues.