As the former vice chairman of the Parking Authority of Fairfield, a current District 1 RTM member and a daily Southport train commuter, I have a great deal of respect for the authority and its management team.

I am, however, concerned that the authority has proposed to increase the annual parking permit fee at the Southport train station by $15, while the fee increase for the town center train station would be $5 less.

I believe this is unfair to Southport commuters for the following reasons:

Southport commuters have access to 47 percent fewer peak a.m. trains to Grand Central Terminal and 33 percent fewer peak p.m. trains for the return trip compared to commuters who use the town center station. This also results in Southport commuters having access to fewer express trains and no direct express trains with the first stop being Southport.

The Southport train stationhouse is only open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, while the center stationhouse is open from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The Parking Authority has no publically disclosed plan to invest additional monies at the Southport train station that I know of, beyond some potential future landscaping enhancements. Conversely, a number of improvements have recently been made to the center station (e.g., security cameras, staircase canopies, brick walkway replacement and parking-lot directional arrows) and others (e.g., staircase and ramp resurfacing) are on the drawing board. All of which are good things and sound improvements for commuters who utilize the center station.

While it is good to be reminded that the parking authority is self-funded through its fee and rental income, any decision to raise the price of parking for commuters should also include a discussion of the need to do so and how these additional monies will be used.

If the parking authority does need to raise its fees to cover expenses and to make the necessary strategic investments in its facilities, then Southport commuters should not bear the brunt of the proposed increase.

Moreover, the parking authority has a responsibility to try and make proportionate investments to the Southport train station in a similar fashion as it has and plans to make at the center station.

Michael Herley

RTM District 1