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Proposed Fare Hike Riles Bus-Riders
by Thomas MacMillan | Sep 19, 2013 10:21 am
Posted to: State, Transportation
Starting in January, Desiree Aseme may have to pay an extra 20 cents to take the bus to her bible study group—and she’s not happy.
Aseme (pictured) was waiting at the corner of Temple and Chapel Wednesday for the Z bus to take her to bible study. She said her hours as a nurse’s aide have been cut back, so every dime counts.
Aseme was one of a number of bus riders who reacted unfavorably to the news that the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to raise the fares on its bus service, CTTransit, throughout the state. One-way fares would go up from $1.30 to $1.50. Monthly passes would go up from $47 to $54.
James Redeker, state commissioner of transportation, will make the final decision about raising the rates in October or November, according to Ricardo Almeida, the DOT’s transit manager. In the meantime, the department is gathering feedback about the proposal online and through a series of public meetings, including one held Wednesday evening at the Hall of Records on Orange Street.
Almeida (pictured) kicked off the meeting by explaining the reasons for the proposed increase. He said the costs of operating a bus system are increasing faster than inflation. That includes the cost of fuel, labor, parts, and workers’ health insurance, he said.
About 20 people showed up to testify about the rate increase, nearly all in opposition, and many with gripes about the service under the current prices.
Lynn Stankiewicz and Janet Seignor, who live at Riverview Rest Home in Fair Haven Heights, said a fair increase would hurt people on disability the most.
For a round trip, “$2.60 I can afford but $3 I can’t,” Seignor said.
Leigh Busby (pictured), who said he was homeless for eight years and is now a student struggling to make ends meet, said the DOT should crack down on people who share monthly unlimited cards. He said he sees people pass them out the window of the bus to riders getting on, cheating CTTransit out of another fare.
The DOT has full control over bus fares because it owns CTTransit. Bus service used to be provided by a private firm called the Connecticut Company until 1976, when the state bought the company and changed its name to CTTransit.
Safe streets activist Mark Abraham urged the DOT to look at the problem with a wider lens. Transportation barriers are the biggest obstacle to people getting jobs, he said, and a fare increase will only make it harder.
State Rep. Roland Lemar said he is opposed to the planned increase. He said it’s not affordable. “The impact on working class families would be severe.”
If the DOT is to increase fares, it should also improve services, like putting GPS units in buses so people can look on their phones and see how far away the next bus is, Lemar said. Almeida later said the department is working on a system that would allow people to do that. He said he doesn’t know when it will be up and running.
“I don’t think most people have the slightest idea how desperately poor some of our poor people are,” said Elaine Kolb (pictured). She said transportation is a basic part of what it means to be a human being.
“This can’t be done,” Kolb said. “People will not survive, and if they do survive, they will not have a life worth living.”
New Haven traffic tsar Jim Travers also testified against the proposed rate increase. If it has to happen, it should lead to the addition of more routes, he said.
David Winston said he takes the bus from Westville to North Haven every day to work at Best Buy. He complained that the buses are late and slow and the drivers are rude. “You want to raise the prices but you’re not giving me the same service,” he said.
Almeida did not respond to any of the testimony. During a break in the hearing, he said that the last fare increase was in January 2012, when the one-way fare went from $1.25 to $1.30. It was scheduled to increase by a nickel again in January 2013, but the state determined it “could get by without it.”
Now, just nine months later, things have changed. “We need to keep a balance between the budget coming from the state and the revenue,” Almeida said.
He noted that the fare did not increase at all from 1994 until 2004, when it went from $1 to $1.10. It also didn’t increase from 2005 until 2012, when it went from $1.10 to $1.25.
Almeida said Redeker could decide to phase in an increase over two or more years.
Only one woman at Wednesday’s hearing said she had no problem with a fare increase. After the meeting, another woman, waiting for the bus at the corner of Elm and Church, agreed that the proposed fare hike is reasonable. “Everything else is going up,” she said.
Other bus riders interviewed Wednesday said a fare hike would pose significant hardship.
“It keeps going up!” Margaret Robinson said of the fare. She was waiting for the bus at the corner of Chapel and Temple streets. She said she uses the bus to get from her home in the Brookside housing project in West Rock to her job at the Jewish Home For The Aged. “People don’t have the money. It’s hard on poor people.”
“People are going to stop getting on the bus,” predicted Kashonia Gaskins (at right in photo).
“I work in East Haven,” said Audrey Deinkes (at left), who has a job at a KFC. “I’m not paying $3 for no bus” there and back. She said she’d walk before she paid that much.
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posted by: BenBerkowitz on September 19, 2013 8:07am
The DOT should not raise rates before they put GPS on the buses and take credit cards. Both of these things will increase ridership overnight reducing the cost for everyone.
bad enough the price for the bus is high…but raising the fare will have fewer riders..keep it were it is..we can’‘t afford no more…
The Governor has to draw the line on transport fees, and allow the State to pick up the slack. Also, the card readers should be able to reject two swipes from the same unlimited card on the same vehicle.
Do I agree with bus fares increasing, no. Do I agree with gas prices increasing, no. But they do anyway, it’s just life. I complain everyday about the price of gas. I can barely afford to put gas in my car but I find a way. Unfortunately, everything in life goes up. I didn’t get to go to a town meeting and oppose the gas hike. People need to get from place to place, so just like I suck it up and find a way to pay for gas, they’ll find a way to pay for the bus fare increase.
Luckily Toni.Harp will fix this with a phone call to her buddy Goverbor Malloy…
This is an incredibly unbalanced article and I’m disappointed in the responses by Roland Lemar and others.
What needs to be looked at is the total financial impact to bus riders, not simply the cost of a fare.
If DOT keeps the fares down, they’re going to have to make up that difference somewhere, and if the past is any indication, they will do it through service cuts.
This means that folks who rely on the bus may find themselves forced to either make fewer trips (this includes reduced work opportunities and shifts) or they will have to use taxis. In this sense, the debate is not about a $2.60 bus ticker vs. a $3.00 bus ticket. It is about a $3.00 bus ticket vs. a $15 cab ride; or a $3.00 bus ticket vs. working fewer shifts.
I saw this first hand when I worked in retail. The bus didn’t come on Sundays so you’d see $8 per hour employees dropping $20 on taxis to get to work. So of their 8 hour shift, about 2.5 hours went straight to transportation.
Costs go up over time and buses are no exception. In an ideal world we would allocate more money to public transportation and less to cars, but that hasn’t happened yet. In the meantime, we shouldn’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
If a 40 cent increase can maintain current service levels, that’s much preferable to keeping fares where they’re at now and cutting service. And if you think DOT won’t cut service, that’s a bet I’ll take any day.
What about smaller buses for off peak. 1/2 the buses run at 1/4 capacity lots of times.
No one likes that the price of gas or a ride on the bus goes up. Indeed, it is not “news” or noteworthy that people are protesting the fare hikes. To be fair, the fare hike is expensive - approximately $2.80 per week per household member assuming one round trip bus ride per week - but that pales in comparison with rising gas prices, which fluctuate much more. It’s also worth noting that the CT fare is still less than the 2009 national average: http://most-expensive.com/public-transit-us. Really, CT does a good job of subsidizing public transit.
Now, there are those who found the minimum wage increase to be a minor event or something that should not be celebrated. To those people, I ask that you consider how much harder it would be for a poor family to cover $2.80 per week, per person without those additional wages. Senator Harp and the legislator
Didn’t Harp already improve the increase in this hear’s budget?
As a very frequent bus rider I can’t say I’m surprised that a fare hike is proposed, and I can’t honestly say I don’t understand it. Costs go up. But I do hold, as I ALWAYS have, that the level of service we receive for what we riders pay is not just. I was pleased when the route that goes past my house added Sunday service; that was a step up from zero. Now the thing runs by once an hour from about 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
But it would STILL be SO NICE to see: more frequent service, and GPS tracking (which I think every rider with a phone would regard as essential—it would make life a LOT easier).
It would be good if you could use plastic on buses to buy passes, not just to pay a one-way fare. But my view is that buses should always be able to take cash, and limiting methods of payment is not beneficial to anyone. I wonder if there’d be a way to install a kind of ATM on buses for buying bus passes —put in a credit card, get a ten-ride pass, then and there. Because it’s not always easy to get to places where they sell the passes (the booth at the Green isn’t open all the time), and not everyone’s organized enough to order them online. (This may be an incredibly bad idea, I’m not sure. There are pros and cons, for sure.)
I think Wooster Squared is right. If the alternative to a fare hike is cut service, then we have to take the fare hike. But the state has GOT to make information about the service more accessible, and they have to make service BETTER and not WORSE.
Very good points, but it seems that Lemar and all of the others who testified spoke not just about the impact of fare increases, but also about the need for better service including more buses on weekends.
History shows we get both: higher fares, and worse service. The State does a disservice to people who aren’t wealthy when it continues to raise fares without providing better service. I don’t think the Governor and legislature, who keep approving fare increases, realize the impact that they have, because the people who mostly get hit are young working parents who don’t go to the same parties that they do.
This is a done deal, of course. Thanks again for nothing, Malloy, Looney, Harp, and others. Your votes are slowly destroying our State.
“What about smaller buses for off peak. 1/2 the buses run at 1/4 capacity lots of times.”
That sounds awesome. Any transport guys here have an opinion on that?
Are half buses even an option? Buses are generally bought en masse from the same design across the country. It seems acquiring smaller buses would cost more money. Not to mention there would then be more buses requiring upkeep costs. To an extent, they’ve done the inverse of this, creating the mega-buses for the busiest routes instead of making more buses run.
But anyways, the rate is going to go up, and they’re probably going to reduce service or routes again later, which in turn will lead to less ridership on anything that isn’t the core lines, which will lead rates having to go up more, which will lead to…...
Also, Metro-North rates I think are going up again soon. Good god it’s already $40 to get to New York and back, and that’s only if both trains are off-peak.
Meanwhile, on the shoreline east commuter rail service, residents of some of the most prosperous towns of the shoreline, seniors and the disabled get a 50% discount on their train tickets and free parking. The cheapest fair is $1.50 for seniors/disabled to get into New Haven to transfer to NYC for plays, a day of shopping,or a Yankees game. These poor people depend and need the bus for their survival. The wealthy get to keep their money and the poor have to give it away. Why not subsidize bus service by increasing fares on the Shoreline East service? No, I’m not stereotyping residents of the shoreline as being wealthy. Stop by once in a while and see for yourself.
Yes you are stereotyping people on the coastline as being rich. Yes, people right near the coastline may be wealthier, but Shore Line east serves the entire eastern part of the state, not just communities in Madison and Clinton. Also that $1.50 fare is a one ticket from Branford to New Haven, for comparison, a one way senior/disabled ticket from New Haven to West Haven is $1.25. Shore Line East tickets between New Haven and New London are on par with Amtrak prices, the subsidy per rider is just substantially higher because of its much lower passenger volume. If it wasn’t Shore Line East wouldn’t exist period. I mean for comparison Shore Line East carries 2,300 people a day on average vs 112,000 for the New Haven metro north line. Shore Line East is the epitome of the government actually spending money on mass transit projects to keep people off the highway. Now the question is do you want the government to actually invest in public transport or just in your own public transport.
Also, on the subject of buses, driving, bus fares and gas costs, Mark Abraham(a director at datahaven) posted this on his twitter earlier
Typical #NHV County bus commuter earns $27K/year, down from $30K in 2008. Typical driver to work earns $42K, down from $44K in 2008.https://twitter.com/urbandata/status/380791601905143808
The issue here is not whether it is appropriate to raise bus fares (it is not), but rather is the State treating all commuters fairly?
The answer to that question is no.
Bus and train fares have increased (while service has decreased) at the same time that gas taxes have decreased and road construction and improvements continues. Commuters on the State’s mass transit systems are paying an increasing share of the costs of those systems while drivers on our highways are paying less.
The state could charge tolls on some of our highways and level the playing field a bit as NY, NJ, and Mass have long ago chosen to do, but the suburban majority in Connecticut will have no part of it.
Bring back a true regional government and a State Legislature which looks after the interests of the whole State and not just those of their individual communities and maybe we will see a decent transit infrastructure that provides services where it is needed most.
Until then, the State will continue to raise fares on mass transit to subsidize the roadways to the suburbs.
How long were they at the current rates? It’s called inflation.
$1.50/ride would be fine with me IF (a) the stops were actually labeled with the routes that stop there, where they go, and when they arrive, and (b) I thought CT Transit was actually making ANY effort to increase bus service, optimize routes, and/or improve on-time performance.