State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) has introduced legislation (HB 5249) to provide for wi-fi access on Metro-North trains. The proposed legislation is one of many transportation bills she is putting forward to improve the overall experience of commuters and other rail passengers, according to a press release from her office.
Besides requiring Metro-North to provide wireless access to passengers, HB 5249 would also allow a private contractor to provide the service, the release said.
“Our hardworking commuters travel for hours every day on Metro-North, and they want to spend their time productively,” said Ms. Lavielle. “While Metro-North did call for competitive bids from service providers several years ago, the process has been moving very slowly. Commuters have seen a steep spike in their fares, and they have a right to expect service improvements. Many have written to me about the need for wi-fi, and I hope it will be possible to speed up the process. There should be no roadblocks related to funding, because as I understand it, an arrangement with a private contractor could allow Metro-North to provide wireless service at no cost to taxpayers.”
In addition to the proposed wi-fi legislation, Ms. Lavielle has also introduced the following bills designed to improve rail passengers’ experience:
• HB 5127 would extend the validity of weekly or monthly tickets after any rail service outage of 48 hours or more.
• HB 5129 would allow people with permanent disabilities to park in spaces reserved for the disabled with permits that do not have to be renewed.
• HB 5130 would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop, in consultation with towns and cities on the New Haven Line, an inventory of all available train station parking spaces and active parking permits, as well as a plan to increase rail station parking when demand exceeds availability.
• HB 5184 would protect commuters from rail fare increases during prolonged periods of stagnation in personal income.
• HB 5301 and HB 5320 require revenues from mass transit fares to be kept in the Special Transportation Fund and used for transportation purposes. HB 5301 specifically requires revenues from rail fare increases be used for rail operations, maintenance, and service upgrades.
“I have opposed the recent annual 4% rail fare increases for a number of reasons,” said Ms. Lavielle. “One is that they are financially onerous for commuters who take mass transit every day, at a time when the economy is uncertain and most people’s resources are stretched. But I am also concerned about how the money from a fare hike is used. Diverting the money for other purposes, like balancing the state’s budget, is not fair to commuters and other mass transit users. If they have to pay more, they should get better, or faster, or safer service in return.”
Ms. Lavielle has also introduced several bills that would improve service on the New Haven Line’s Danbury branch.