As the state lawmakers prepare to deal with the estimated $1.2 billion it will cost to upgrade the New Haven rail facility in order to make room for the new M8 cars, a report by the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council shows overcrowding remains a problem for its 55.000 daily commuters.

The Council’s annual report shows that rider complaints have risen and that riders fear a fare increase may be imminent given the current economic conditions coupled with the lax ticket collection by conductors.

The report says overcrowding and standing-room only situations continue to be the norm during many peak hours, particularly during the evening rush. However, while ridership increased as gas prices soared last summer, it had leveled off in the fourth quarter due to job cuts in New York and the economic depression.

The report says there has been a slight improvement with some of the bathrooms, but there still tends to be an odor in every bathroom car.

“While 2008 saw no fare increases and actual increases in rail service, the year
ahead does not bode as well,” the report states. 

“MTA, the parent of Metro-North, is threatening “Draconian” cuts in service and fare increases for New York State riders. While MTA only sets fares in that state, Connecticut may see cuts some in trains and possibly a fare increase, depending on legislative action.”

A fare increase of 1.25 percent is expected in Jan. 2010, followed by 1 percent in each of the subsequent six years. The fare hikes will help pay for the new M8 rail cars

The Connecticut Rail Commuter Council has delivered the report to lawmakers and Gov. M. Jodi Rell.