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Norwalker Feels 'Stuck With' Train Fare Hike

NORWALK, Conn. – There's "no choice" for Norwalker Manisha Mhatre or other riders of Metro-North: it's going to cost significantly more to commute by railroad come January.

Metro-North Railroad will raise its fares on the New Haven Line for the first time in seven years on Jan. 1. Costs for tickets will rise 4 percent each year for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Those increases are in addition to the 1.25 percent increase in 2012 and 1 percent that will be added each year until 2018 to help pay for the upgraded M-8 rail cars now going into service.

Mhatre smiled after she got off the train in East Norwalk but was fatalistic about the hike. "You know what? We don't have a choice," she said, adding that it was more bad news for the middle class. "We are actually helpless because the salaries are going to stay the same. And we don't have a choice. It's like taking advantage of the already half dead, and they are killing us. This is the time to give some relief to the middle-class people, but unfortunately nobody is listening."

It's time for fares to go up, according to state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. "We have held the line on fare increases since Jan. 1, 2005," he said Friday. "During that time, however, operating expenses grew by 12 percent due to inflation. I believe it is now reasonable to impose some modest increases."

For example, monthly passes from East and South Norwalk to Grand Central will rise from $284 to $299 when the new year arrives. One-way, peak-time prices will increase from $13 to $13.75.

Metro-North and the Department of Transportation originally planned to raise fares by 16.4 percent starting Nov. 1. But after hearing commuter complaints at a series of public hearings this summer - and with Connecticut's budget now more secure - the state settled on a 12 percent increase over three years.

"While operating costs continue to go up, now that state budget issues have been resolved, we can live with something less from the fare box," Redeker said. "I am also pleased that we will not have to reduce any service."

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