NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– It is just a worst-case scenario but it is putting a scare into people who rely on the state’s mass transit system. The State Department of Transportation was asked to see what would happen if it had to slash its budget by ten percent.
Mass transit would probably get hit the hardest. About a third of CT Transit buses would stop running, and the buses that do run would cost 25 cents more. Fares just went up 25 cents this month.
“It’s already bad enough nowadays,” said New Haven resident Luis Rodriguez as he waited for a bus near the New Haven green. “You’ve got to run around scrounging up change, and even when you’re short, sometimes they don’t even let you on.”
It is the state that is coming up short right now. The budget deficit is up to a projected $1.4 billion. That’s why the DOT was told to do this budget exercise and show what it would look like in the unlikely event it had to slash its budget by 10%.
For one thing, that commuter train line connecting New Haven, Hartford and Springfield would be delayed for two years. There would be major service cuts to Shoreline East service. The Waterbury and Danbury branches of Metro North would stop running on weekends, and all train riders would see a 5% fare hike. That’s around a dollar more each way from New Haven to Grand Central, and it’s the latest in a string of increases.
“I just think it’s a little much all at once,” said Michael Mann of Westbrook as he waited for a train at New Haven’s Union Station.
“I wouldn’t like it, but it’s still the best bargain out there,” said North Branford resident Bill Esposito of Metro North service. “Saves a lot of wear and tear on the car.”
Car drivers would feel the cuts, too. Those rest areas, mostly along I-91 and I-84, that have already cut their hours, would close entirely. So get used to the porta-potties. And in winter weather, the DOT would no longer be able to pay private contractors to help plow state roads. That would mean around 200 fewer plow trucks.
With so many cuts hitting mass transit, some feel the state is balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.
“That don’t make sense,” said Carl Wallace of New Haven. “What about the people that are barely working? What about the people who are barely making it? Barely getting by?”
When we asked how likely it is that these cuts would actually happen, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick implied he would be very surprised if the DOT had to institute this plan. He said it is simply a way of showing state officials what a ten percent cut would look like as they work on putting the next budget together.