State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) is circulating a petition to commuters in a concerted effort to stop the proposed 5-percent fare increase for all Metro-North and Shoreline East trains, which would take effect on Dec. 1. For Metro-North commuters, the fare hike would be combined with a previously scheduled 1-percent increase, making the increase 6-percent in total.

A release from Lavielle’s office calls the proposed fare increase “…a direct result of the $37 million in cuts imposed on the CT Department of Transportation (DOT) by the administration as part of the 2016-2017 revised state budget passed by majority legislators last May.” In its announcement of the proposed increase, the DOT said that it expected the higher fares to generate $5.9 million.

“I will not let this go forward without a fight,” Lavielle says. “Commuters are not getting any improvement in their transit service in return for this increase. Instead, they’re being forced to pay for problems created by irresponsible management of the state budget. Metro-North passengers in particular already had to swallow 5-percent increases in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and 1-percent increases in 2015 and 2016. Because many commuters have no alternative for getting to work, they are hostages to these increases, and this is a hard hit to their household budgets. This isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.”

To help rail passengers make their voices heard, Lavielle says, she and her colleagues have created a petition and over the coming days will be riding the trains to collect signatures from concerned commuters.

“It’s not enough, however, just to protest. That’s why I am working together with several other members of my caucus to go the extra distance to help commuters voice their concerns and to propose other feasible ways for the state to address its budget issues that will not impose yet another unfair sacrifice on hardworking people who must use the trains every day,” she says.

The petition has also been made accessible online.

The CT DOT has announced that public hearings will be held this month in six communities, including Stamford, New Haven, and Waterbury. Lavielle plans to attend at least one of the scheduled public hearings and present the signed petitions on behalf of those Metro-North and Shoreline East commuters opposed to the fare hikes, along with a letter to DOT commissioner James Redeker, CT governor Dannel Malloy, and legislative leaders proposing alternative budgetary solutions for avoiding the fare increase.

The full public hearing schedule is posted on the DOT website. The DOT is also accepting public comment by email through Sept. 15.