State urged to aid Stamford rail parking
Connecticut's appointed commuter watchdog group called on state transportation officials to give preference to developers who offer plans to preserve Stamford train station parking within steps of the platform.
"There is still time for them before they put a project to bid to revamp the criteria," Cameron said.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation is reviewing applications from developers made through a recent process which would qualify them to submit proposals to redevelop the area around the station in downtown Stamford and add parking, said Gene Colonese, head of the DOT's rail division.
"But there are a lot of interests besides parking involved, including making it a more effective hub for all commuters, including bicyclists, walkers, and people riding buses," Colonese said.
Colonese spoke with council members during their regular monthly meeting Wednesday night at the Graybar Building on Lexington Avenue.
Materials provided to developers applying in that process asked them to devise plans that maintained commuter parking within a quarter-mile of the station, Colonese said.
"I understand the parking is great today, with the ramp right into the station," Colonese said. "I'm not saying it won't be there tomorrow, but our main goal is to guarantee that we end up with a station that works for everybody using it."
Since delaying a plan to demolish and replace a structurally deficient 800-space garage at the station in 2008, the state has intermittently wooed private partners to develop a mix of residential, commercial, or other space at or near the station property they own in return for building parking at the bustling station.
Metro-North and Long Island railroads have also brought in an additional $8.5 million in revenue since late 2010 from a $10 refund processing fee and reducing the validity of one-way and single round-trip tickets from six months to two weeks, said Daniel O'Connell, Metro-North's vice president of planning and analysis.
Members of the commuter council have consistently opposed the policy, which was enacted last year as part of a plan approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to raise fares to make up hundreds of millions in shortfalls caused by declining real estate tax revenues that support transit service.
"It sounds like a lot of cash and I'd like to see more information on how they estimated that," Cameron said.
Metro-North is also in the nascent stages of negotiating a memorandum of understanding with a technology company to offer riders an option of buying their train tickets via a smartphone or other device, O'Connell said.
O'Connell said he expects a pilot program testing the paperless ticket technology to begin in 2013.
"It will very likely be similar to the system which you see on Amtrak where the conductor is able to scan the ticket with their current ticket vending machine," O'Connell said.