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Westport Commuters Brace for Higher Train Fares

WESTPORT, Conn. – Starting in January, Metro-North commuters in Westport will have to shell out more green to travel to and from Grand Central station. But despite the impending fare hikes, Raul Chavez-Fields said taking the train will still be cheaper — and less stressful — than driving to Manhattan.

“Driving into the city under the very best of circumstances is at least two hours and 15 minutes of dead time,” said Chavez-Fields, a Wilton resident who periodically travels out of the Westport station. “Then, you have to deal with the costs implied, like gas to and from the city and toll fares, which runs you a minimum of $7 each way. Once in the city, you have to pay for parking.”

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

In Westport, commuters who travel from either station pay $308 for monthly passes. Once the new year arrives, they’ll pay $325 for monthly passes. One-way peak prices will increase from $14.25 to $15.

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

“We have held the line on fare increases since Jan. 1, 2005,” DOT Commissioner James Redeker 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.”

Metro-North and the DOT originally planned to raise fares by 16.4 percent starting Nov. 1. But after hearing commuter complaints throughout the summer at public hearings and with the state 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.”

Like Chavez-Fields, Westport resident Dan Gross said he hopes higher fares will translate into higher quality service. “[The fare increases] will be more tolerable if the service and experience are rising in tandem with the fares."

What do you think of the fare hikes? Will you take the train less?

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