“Our infrastructure is crumbling:” It is an expression we hear often in Washington —but what we do not hear as often are concrete plans to address our nation’s failing infrastructure. Both of this year’s presidential candidates agreed that we need to make substantial investments in rebuilding and expanding our infrastructure. In his acceptance speech, President-Elect Trump said: “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”
U.S. Rep. John Larson recently proposed the construction of underground highway tunnels into Hartford. Since there already are many road expansion proposals, we need to stop prioritizing road expansion and start prioritizing mass transit that reflects the needs of Connecticut residents in a 21st Century transportation system.
“I’m afraid to get back on the train,” said the trembling woman, obviously shaken and possibly injured in the Hoboken terminal train crash of a NJ Transit train in September. The shock of what she had seen was slowly sinking in and she was wondering how she was going to resume her life and its daily train commute after this horrific experience.
When it comes to our horrendous traffic, especially on I-95, everybody wants to find blame with someone other than themselves. “Who are these people and why are they driving now, on “my road?” they ask.
Every week I bump into someone on the train or at a store who says… “Hey… You’re that train guy!” Who knew that this job would come with such notoriety? But while nobody seems to want my autograph, they all want to talk about their favorite transportation problem, usually in the form of a question. Here are a few of my favorites, by category:
“If our trains and buses rely on the Special Transportation Fund as it exists and is funded today, we will be back for more hearings like this for years to come. What we need is systemic change in how we fund transit. Yet I know of nobody in Hartford with the guts to be honest with commuters and taxpayers about what is coming.”
Days before the Connecticut Department of Transportation opens public hearings on a proposed 5 percent fare increase on Metro-North, Gov. Dannel Malloy held a media event to promote good news about “improved service” on our highest-fares-in-the-nation railroad. What? A return of the bar cars? More seats on crowded trains? No, nothing that monumental: just a new e-ticketing app and word that bike racks have been installed on our trains.
If you’re looking for family fun this summer, consider visiting one of Connecticut’s many living museums celebrating our rail heritage… All of these museums are run by volunteers who will appreciate your patronage and support. They love working on the railroad and will tell you why if you express even the slightest interest in their passion.
In a recent opinion piece, lawmakers were blamed for the deep budget cuts impacting transportation and increasing Metro-North fares. That blame is half misplaced. You see, the op-ed wrongly grouped Democrat and Republican lawmakers together, and failed to recognize the stark differences in our approaches to improving transportation in Connecticut.
Sure, it was sleazy of Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut Department of Transportation to release news of a proposed 5 percent fare hike on Metro-North on a Friday afternoon in July, hoping nobody would notice. But the more I dig into the proposal, the more I realize the governor and CDOT are not to blame. It’s the Connecticut legislature that’s really responsible for this fare hike.
I recently have returned from more than three solid hours at the Old Saybrook office of the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. At the end of my long half-day’s journey into trauma, I came within an eyelash of having to come back another day. Warning: this tragicomic tale is not for the faint of heart.
There has been quite a lot of coverage lately about Connecticut’s interest in a mileage tax. Most of it focuses on how bad a mileage tax would be for the state. I agree, it would. People in Connecticut just can’t take on one more tax, and on top of that, a mileage tax raises too many privacy issues. But I don’t think that’s what the real story is. The story is really about trust, transparency, and inappropriate use of scarce resources.