PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Turnpike Authority's board has voted to phase in its changes to its commuter discount program. A lot of people were upset to learn that the MTA was replacing its commuter program with a different plan designed to spread discounts out to more people.
From November 1 - June 30, families who make 30 to 39 trips a month will receive a 25 percent discount off the EZ-Pass toll rate. Those who make more than 40 trips a month will get a 50 percent discount. The MTA made a point of saying that people can put up to 4 EZ-Pass transponders on one account. So, for instance, a husband and wife who take separate cars to work can combine their trips towards a discount.
Starting July 1, 2013, the Turnpike Authority plans to change to the discounts that caused a lot of people to speak up in anger at a public hearing two weeks ago:
30-39 trips/month = 10% discount
40-49 trips/month = 20% discount
50-59 trips/month = 30% discount
60-69 trips/month = 40% discount
70+ trips/month = 50% discount
The board also voted, though, to look over the numbers in about 6 months, and determine whether it can apply heavier discounts. Executive Director Peter Mills said, "Our guess is that we may not be able to, but we may be able to do something in between the phase-in program and the permanent one that goes into effect July 1st."
21,000 customers currently have a commuter plan. The MTA is estimating right now that phasing in the change in discounts will reduce revenue by about $650,000 in the 8 months before the permanent rates take effect.
A handful of people came to speak out against the change Thursday. Marcia Doucette, who commutes to Scarborough from Lewiston, says she'll be paying hundreds of dollars more per year under this plan. "I feel they're listening," Doucette said. "But I don't feel that they're going to change anything. I feel like they're gung ho about keeping their rates what they're going to be."
Still, others said they were glad that the MTA would be taking a second look at its revenue in 6 months to see if there was a way to help commuters.