At an August 13 press conference on Union Station retail, the only specific transportation item discussed by Richard Andreski of Connecticut DOT was his agency’s plans for a second parking garage. This was supposedly a conference on transit-oriented development! These latest comments add to a long line of episodes showcasing a stubborn bias toward automobiles and a disregard for competent delivery of mass transit service or construction projects.
Buses left out
Not once discussed during the August press conference was any bus improvement. The long-suffering, overdue Move New Haven plan received no mention. Union Station, like the rest of greater New Haven, still lacks real-time bus information promised for 2016; the only schedule showing when buses are supposed to come is located in the shelter by the curb. The station even lacks a machine or window selling bus tickets.
On average, CT Transit New Haven spends around $4.50 on each passenger trip. At that cost, moving the same amount of people to and from Union Station as cars would fit in the state’s proposed new garage would cost some $3 million a year. In other words, the $60 million that DOT is raring to sink into structured parking would pay for 20 years of bus service to move the same amount of people.
The state of good repair excuse
Bar none, the most common rebuttal given by transportation bureaucrats against rail improvements like the governor’s own 30-30-30 plan is some version of, “We have our hands full maintaining the line we have now.” Data indicates that the real problem is that our transportation managers are just bad at their jobs.
The Connecticut-DOT-owned portion of the Northeast Corridor received $3.1 million per mile for state-of-good-repair work last year. The UIC, the international standard-setter of railroads, found that eight European countries spend an average of less than one tenth that: $277,000 per mile in 2015, which was worth $293,000 per mile in 2018. (The report is also attached to this piece.) European railroads also do most of their maintenance work at night—very much unlike here, and it gets done faster even with shorter windows.
In Paris, along the RER C, the poles that hold up century-old catenary over 110 miles of track are being replaced over 1.5 years of overnight work. Thereafter, the wire that delivers power to the trains is to be replaced over a further four years of overnight outages. The vehicles being used to run the wire are expected to replace nearly a mile of it per nighttime window. Along the New Haven Line, replacement of 220 track miles of wire and selected poles has taken 20 years and still has no firm end date. That is with 20 years and counting of 24/7 track outages along some segments of the railroad.
Exorbitant capital costs
Among other egregious examples chronicled by Connor Harris, the latest estimates from DOT call for $4 billion for replacing three rail bridges whose combined length is under a mile. Compare that to Pennsylvania, which replaced the Crum Creek Viaduct for $400 million/mile.
What does Giulietti think?
The signals coming from Commissioner Joseph Giulietti give little reason to believe he is capable or interested in taking CTDOT from where Jim Redeker left it to where it needs to go.
Regarding Union Station, he has written off the possibility of anything besides parking existing beside Union Station despite legions of examples to the contrary. He also penned a ridiculous editorial trying to defend wanton mismanagement of public construction dollars. Reform and a culture of excellence start from the top. The governor and legislature need to get CTDOT a management team that comprehends that. The current one clearly does not.
Robert Hale lives in New Haven.