Tired of paying $3 or more for a gallon of gasoline? Well, your pain has just begun. For decades, we’ve lived — and driven — in denial, somehow assuming we have the “right” to cheap gasoline, and therefore, low-cost transportation. Now it’s time to face reality and consider what will happen when — not if — gas hits $10 a gallon, not because of taxes, but because we will use up the planet’s petroleum. Here are some predictions:
At some point, once informed by the outcomes of studies, action is needed. Over the past two decades, there has been a stream of studies on the importance of the state’s transportation infrastructure — all concluding that additional investment is essential. … Four studies, four warnings about the consequences of doing nothing and four sets of similar recommendations. It is time to act — during this legislative session — to restore the State Transportation Fund to meet our immediate needs and to commit to a diverse and sustainable stream of funding to meet our long-term transportation, economic and quality-of-life needs.
In recent weeks I’ve been criss-crossing the state talking to folks about our transportation crisis: the proposed fare hikes on trains and buses coupled with service cuts on the branch lines, and the multi-billion dollar spending cuts at the Connecticut Department of Transportation. I call it the “Winter of our discontent” magical misery tour. From Woodbridge to New Canaan, from Old Lyme to West Haven, I’ve talked to crowds large and small, explaining what’s going to happen July 1 and why. Most folks knew something about our impending doom, but they all left unhappy about the cuts’ specific impact on their lives.
Don’t look now, but someone is joining your travels: Big Brother. You assume you’re alone, traveling in your car to and from work? No, you are being watched. All along I-95 TV cameras are looking for accidents and slow downs. Though there are specific state laws prohibiting the use of those cameras to write speeding tickets, they can follow your car by model, color and license plate number. Many local cops’ cruisers have license plate readers, scanning every plate and sending its information to a national database that can alert the officer to outstanding warrants, lack of insurance and other stoppable offences. Some departments store their scan data for weeks, others for years. Now, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is contracting with a private company to have access to a billion license plate records, allowing the agency to know where you were and when.
Automobile accidents are fourth leading cause of death in the world. If these new technologies save a single injury or death, I say bring it on. I will gladly get ready for the future knowing that we will need to adapt to thrive and survive. But not everyone in our state is ready to embrace change. For those of you who may not have been paying close attention, Tesla – the electric car manufacturer that has been leading the charge against climate change – is trying now for the fourth year to gain the ability to sell its vehicles and other products here in Connecticut.
Though maybe not the most glamorous means of mass transit, Connecticut’s 12,000+ local and commuter buses form a vital link in our transportation network. “We’re not just a service for the needy few,” says Greater Bridgeport Transit’s CEO Doug Holcomb, the feisty young leader of one of the state’s largest and most successful bus systems. In other words, single-occupancy car drivers’ perceptions notwithstanding, it’s not just poor folks and the car-less who must rely on the bus. According to Holcomb, 90 percent of GBT’s ridership is either going to school or work. Like rail commuters, some bus passengers own cars but prefer to take the bus for any number of reasons.
“Commuting on Metro-North is like getting hit with a two-by-four. Service is getting worse and now you’re hitting us with a 10% fare hike.”
Those comments came from Jeffrey Maron, Vice-Chairman of the official Connecticut Commuter Rail Council (CCCR), a usually mild mannered, two-compliments-before-any-complaint kind of guy. (Maron and I both served on the predecessor Metro-North Commuter Council).
Why does gasoline cost 52 cents a gallon more in Greenwich than Bridgeport? Is it because folks in Greenwich are richer and can afford it? Or is it because it costs gasoline station owners more to operate in that tony ZIP code? While both factors are probably true, the reason gasoline costs more in some towns than in others is because of something called “zone pricing,” an industry practice that does all but set the price for the commodity that is charged by distributors and passed along to their customers.
It should have been done by now. 2018 was the expected completion date of the new railroad tunnels under the Hudson River first proposed in 2009. At the time the $9 billion project was the biggest infrastructure project in the country. Now it’s just a footnote to history. Why do rail tunnels from New York’s Penn Station to New Jersey matter to us here in Connecticut? Because they are the weakest but most crucial link in the northeast corridor, the $50 billion heart of the US economy. Imagine trying to get to Philadelphia or Washington without Amtrak running through our state, into those tunnels and to points south.
Response to Jim Cameron: Jim, as a person who really does know the truth, it would benefit us all for you to tell the whole truth, so we can really learn from the past and fix the problem. Past administrations on both sides of the aisle have raided the Special Transportation Fund to the tune of $1.5 billion and counting as raids continue today. If you really want our roads and bridges fixed, first we must stop the raiding.
Once again Connecticut legislators are scouring every crevice for new sources to cover our over-budgeted projects. Monday multiple House Democrats yet again purpose the installation of tolls. State rep. Tony Guerrera , House chair of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, states “I promise you if we do this, this state will thrive.”