Call me a curmudgeon, but I’m getting cranky about transportation these days. For example:
Face masks: Why is it so hard for train and subway passengers to wear a face mask? Does the MTA really need to do a PSA campaign (with pictures!) showing that a mask around your neck or not covering your nose and mouth isn’t protecting anyone? Apparently so. Non-compliant passengers are either stupid or uncaring, or both.
Here’s the solution: Just like the old days when Metro-North had smoking and non-smoking cars, let’s have masked and unmasked cars. Let the unmasked idiots ride together, get sick and stop commuting, freeing up more space for the rest of us.
There’s an app for that: The LIRR has a nifty new app that riders can use to see which cars on their train are crowded and which ones aren’t, encouraging social distancing. If Metro-North really cares about social distancing, bring that app to our trains, now.
Coffee, tea or nothing? The airlines say they want us to fly again, but they’re doing little to make us feel safe. They proclaim that passengers should wear face masks, but they don’t enforce the rule. They say they’ll keep middle seats empty, but don’t. They can sanitize each plane ‘til the cows come home but it won’t protect us from one unmasked, asymptomatic bozo.
Now the airlines have suspended drink and food service, instead handing out plastic bags with small bottles of water and a few snacks… but no booze. Passengers can BYO food, but not alcohol. I guess the airport bars, if they’re open, will be really busy as passengers self-medicate before their next flight.
Traffic and trucks: As I predicted, as New York City opens up commuters are opting for the relative safety of their own cars instead of taking the train. That means traffic on our highways is building again, approaching pre-pandemic levels of congestion.
Meantime, where are the Connecticut State Police? Why are trucks driving faster, often in the left hand lane, with impunity? And why does I-95 sound like a speedway at night, with muscle cars and motorcycles defying the speed limit and common sense as they treat the interstate like a drag strip?
Amtrak cuts: There’s good news (some) and bad (lots of it) about Amtrak.
On-time performance is getting so good that some trains are arriving ahead of schedule. That shows how padded the old timetable has been.
The other good news is that Amtrak’s next generation of Acela is undergoing testing and should be in service by 2021. Too bad there won’t be any passengers to ride them.
Though train service from Washington to Boston is slowly returning, ridership is not. At least not yet, especially in other parts of the country. So the railroad has announced it is cutting daily service to just three days a week on long distance runs outside of the Northeast, starting October 1.
My rail fan friends are going nuts over the announcement, but to me this makes sense. If there’s no ridership, why run shorter but still near-empty trains? While the Northeast Corridor trains used to come close to turning a profit, the long distance trains have always been a money loser. So in tight times, let’s prioritize and put the trains where the passengers are.
Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media. Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien Representative Town Meeting.