Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Testimony of Ryan Lynch, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Public Hearing on Fare Hikes and Service Cuts

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Stamford, CT

Good evening. My name is Ryan Lynch, and I am the senior planner and Connecticut coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit transportation policy organization dedicated to creating a more balanced, environmentally-friendly and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

These proposals are simply the wrong way to fix the State’s budget woes and promote sustainable transportation.

These fare hikes and service cuts come at a time when CTTransit ridership is up 3% from last year, Metro-North ridership is up 2.7% and Shore Line East weekend service, the service slated to be cut under this proposal, is up almost 14% over last year. This increase in Shore Line East weekend ridership is even more incredible considering there have been fewer days of operation than in 2010.

The 16.4% fare increase on Metro-North will increase the percentage of rider contribution to a ticket from 68.1% to 74.7%, one of the highest rates in the country. In comparison, Metro-North’s sister agency, the LIRR, had a farebox recovery ratio of 30% in 2010 and Massachusett’s MBTA Commuter Rail service had a farebox recovery ratio of approximately 50% in 2009.

At a time when transit ridership is increasing, raising the cost of transit service and cutting access to transit is the last thing policy makers should be considering.

From a job creation and economic development perspective, cutting funding to pay for service, maintenance and repair, is particularly misguided. That’s because this type of funding creates the most jobs out of any transportation investment. In fact, the proposed $4 million cut in aid for bus service alone could cost 165 jobs.

The hikes in fares and cuts in service to CTTransit are particularly disheartening. Cutting bus service and raising fares is a prime example of transportation inequity. This is particularly true in Connecticut where bus riders make less than half of what those who drive to work alone do. Earlier this year legislators were apoplectic at the possibility of raising the gas tax three cents, a hike that would have not even gotten the gas tax back to 1998 levels, but there has been nothing but silence now that an 8% fare increase is being proposed on those that can least afford it.

We support funding for transportation that balances the burden between drivers, riders and other entities that benefit from Connecticut’s transportation network. In other words, transit fares should only go up if gas taxes and other sources of revenue, like congestion pricing, do as well.

Failing to do so will only increase congestion on our region’s roadways, hurt the environment and hinder economic development.