In his May 30 submission, Robert Hale of New Haven submits that Connecticut DOT “remains wedded to investment decisions that prioritize private vehicle use instead of transit.” The fact that 64 percent of the ConnDOT operating budget is eaten up by transit subsidies (even though only about 5 percent of Connecticut commuters take transit to work) says otherwise.

The money for these transit subsidies comes mostly from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees – things paid by owners and operators of motor vehicles. These vehicle operators are led to believe that these taxes and fees are paid for the privilege of using the roads and bridges they drive on, and in return, the money will be reinvested into said roads and bridges. Instead, the money is spent on transit (or other non-road purposes).

That hardly seems like a car-centric approach to transportation. This is also one of the main reasons for the push for tolls, but I digress.

Hale writes regarding the Hartford line railroad that “the schedule still contains several two-hour gaps and a four-hour gap in northbound service during the midday.” Has he considered that the reason for that could be a lack of ridership? Why should trains or buses be run if there are little to no riders? After all, at an April 4, 2019 Office of Policy and Managment Finance Advisory Committee meeting, ConnDOT representatives stated that statewide transit ridership has declined by about 6 percent. This is consistent with a national trend, and helps explain all the empty transit buses I see driving around the Greater Hartford area.

Some transit advocates have argued that spending road tax money (fuel taxes and registration fees) on transit subsidies benefits car and truck drivers because they believe it gets people out of cars and onto trains and buses, thus reducing highway congestion. The fact that Connecticut has some of the worst traffic in the country, despite spending 64 percent of the DOT’s operating budget on transit subsidies, proves that theory wrong.

Hale suggests getting rid of an Interstate highway as a way to ease traffic. What?? Interstate highways allow cars and trucks carrying our freight to move unimpeded at a rapid pace, save for traffic backups.

Converting a highway to a boulevard with traffic lights, stop signs, turning lanes, etc., will exacerbate all of our traffic problems. The real way to address the traffic bottleneck on Interstate 84 in Hartford would be to fix the chokepoint where three through lanes constrict to two through lanes in both directions. To be more explicit, the state should widen the section of highway in question. Either that or build some version of a Hartford bypass, where the highway goes around the city, which would free up land to have the proper number of lanes to accommodate the through traffic. But to date, transportation planners involved in the I-84 Hartford viaduct project do not appear interested in doing that.

Yet in other states, new highway lanes, roads, and bridges are being built. This allows people and goods to move faster. Not to mention, building new roads creates good construction jobs. The economies in those states benefit by those decisions. If only Connecticut would have a more road-centric approach to transportation, or economy would likely benefit.

Instead, Connecticut is looking at a one-two punch of anti-vehicle transportation policy that will not help the state’s economy. Some policy makers want to charge congestion price tolls for the highways that we already have. Essentially, they want to make it too expensive to drive on these highways, because that is ultimately the goal of congestion pricing.

Secondly, Connecticut seems content to keep trying the same approach that has failed to yield any positive results, which is to spend road tax money (including the proposed toll revenue) on transit, and hope and pray that the next time is the charm. That hasn’t worked out so far.

While Hale believes that state transportation policy favors motor vehicles, I can only wish that were actually the case. Our economy would likely improve if we made it easier for cars and trucks to travel in Connecticut.

Joseph R. Sculley is President of the Motor Transport Association of CT.

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7 Comments

  1. Considering more than 85% of CT residents use their car more than public transit. Shouldn’t they have a car centric approach. And why if we are doing tolls should that money used by cars be used for trains or buses. Why should us drivers subsidize public transit. We don’t use it. We drive

    1. Brilliant comment! Yes, why on earth should people that don’t use public transportation have to pay for it?!? To extend this further, why should people that don’t have children have to pay taxes to pay for schools?!? AND why should perfectly healthy people have to pay taxes to help those with disabilities?!? Yes, just a bit of sarcasm here 😉

  2. Well, those who keeps voting Democrats apparently LOVE to share their hard earned money with the state. Keep it up. We are still far away from 95% tax … But the way it is going in about 25 years that will become a reality if the state officials run out of taxpayers’ money.

  3. Ralphie- Evidently you do not understand the difference between “Operating budget” and “Capital Improvements”. Also airports are no longer part of the DOT. Here is a link to the States current budget. Of the $660 million total operating budget, $220 million is spent on rail operations and $170 million is spent on bus operations.

    You are correct that he did not address Capital Improvements which do get some Federal Funding.

    https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/OPM/Budget/2018_2019_Biennial_Budget/GovMalloyOctoberBudget10162017pdf.pdf?la=en

  4. How about going after all those vehicles registered out of state if you want more transportation funding for cities and towns. Look at all of the revenue being lost there.

  5. <> No it doesn’t. Study after study have shown that adding lanes doesn’t reduce congestion.

  6. Looks to be a bit creative with the stats. What would that 64% drop to if it also included all moneys towards Debt Services and Maintenance on motor vehicle infrastructure, as well as cost equivalent to emissions from automobile traffic? And underutilized buses? – how about some of the underutilized roads and expressways in some of the more rural parts of CT ?

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