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New Year, New Costs for Commuters

Fare hikes and benefits cuts face mass transit users in 2012.

The New Year comes in with more of a whimper than a bang for commuters as we face an onslaught of rising costs and reduced benefits:

STATION PARKING:  Greenwich commuters will see a 20 percent rate hike next fall, raising annual permits from $488 to $540 for covered lots and from $270 to $335 for outside lots.  Town officials blame the price hike on neighboring towns raising their rates and the fact that 72 percent of proceeds is paid back to CDOT as rent.

I’d predict that this ‘arms race’ of each town escalating prices in retaliation for their neighbors price hikes will only increase this year.

The solution?  Have CDOT run the parking (which they own) at uniform rates and rules from town to town.

BUS FARES:  Norwalk Transit raises fares 25 cents a ride effective January 7th.  The agency says the fare hike, the first in nine years, should prevent service cuts due to higher operating costs.

METRO-NORTH FARE HIKE:  Connecticut fares on Metro-North jump 5.3% January first.  And they’ll increase by the same amount on New Year’s Day in 2013 and 2014, with another one-percent fare hike in 2015, 2016 and 2017.  These fare hikes can be laid at the door of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy who first proposed them as an alternative to state employees’ wage concessions, then kept them after those unions caved.

In my view, these fare hikes are really no more than a tax on commuters, though some in the Legislature are actually hoping to locking the additional revenues into the railroad’s budget instead of seeing the monies swept into the black-hole of deficit reduction.

PRE-TAX TRANSIT BENEFITS:  Perhaps the biggest blow to commuters came with Congressional inaction on renewing the pre-tax benefits to users of mass transit.  Until now, subscribing employers could give workers $230 per month in pre-tax credits to buy train tickets and subway fares.  That benefit now drops to $125 a month.  But those driving to work see their pre-tax benefit for parking jump to $240 a month.

This is yet the latest attack on the transit-dependent Northeast by the “black state” (ie asphalt-dependent) Republicans whose sense of liberty seems dependent on single occupancy vehicles over moving with the “masses” on transit.

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