I hate to fly. It’s mostly an irrational fear of turbulence and crashing… little stuff like that. But in recent years, the whole experience of air travel has turned from uncomfortable to unbearable.
Jim Redeker has the best job in transportation. And the toughest. As Commissioner of Transportation for Connecticut for the past six years, he’s guided the agency through hundreds of millions of dollars in spending while managing three competing taskmasters: his boss, Gov. Dannel Malloy… the legislature, which controls his budget… and commuters / drivers who depend on his product. Redeker has successfully managed all three.
Our obsession with automobiles is not only creating gridlock and ruining the quality of our air, but it’s eating up our real estate and sending land costs upward. Because, once we drive our cars off the crowded highways, we assume it’s our constitutional right to find “free parking.” Why are Connecticut’s towns slaves to antiquated zoning mentalities that assume all humans come with four tires rather than two legs? Why do we waste precious land on often-empty parking spots instead of badly needed affordable housing?
It looks like the fate of Uber (and Lyft, the other popular ride sharing service in Connecticut) will be decided in Hartford in a lobbying war, not in the competitive marketplace.
Nobody likes the idea of paying tolls. But tolls are coming back to Connecticut and I just wish that lawmakers in Hartford would be honest with us about why. We are running out of money for the Special Transportation Fund, that’s why. And none of the re-funding alternatives are attractive: vehicle miles tax, sales tax, gas tax and yes, tolls. But tolls on our highways would not be a tax.
Enjoying a speedy (148 mph) ride to Boston recently on Acela, I started thinking about the differences between Amtrak and Metro-North. Both are railroads, but each has a different mission. Still, there are a few things Metro-North could learn from its national counterpart.
If we want to get cars off of the highways, we need to turn drivers into rail commuters. But even the most motivated would-be rail rider faces an immediate problem: the lack of rail station parking.
Building and maintaining our highways is expensive. But here’s a quiz question: on interstates 95 and 84, what costs a half-million dollars a mile to construct? The answer: sound barriers. Why are we spending that kind of money to enshroud our interstates simply to protect the peace and quiet of their neighbors? Didn’t they know that living that close to a highway came with the twin costs of increased noise and air pollution along with the benefits of proximity to the highways?
Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to widen I-95 to alleviate traffic congestion and has commissioned a $1.2 million study to support the idea. But I found a similar study from 2004 that looked at the idea and rejected it for a number of reasons. Why are the governor and CDOT re-studying the same issue and spending valuable tax dollars to do so? Because the first study rejected their widening idea completely and they don’t like that answer.
Imagine you’re in a store and you see somebody shoplifting. You’re embarrassed to say anything or to make a scene, but inside you’re pissed-off. You pay for your merchandise, so why should that guy get it for free? And if he’s ripping off the store, doesn’t the merchant actually make you pay more to make up for that loss? It’s morally wrong and it’s just not fair. Yet this is what happens every single day on Metro-North when conductors don’t collect all riders’ tickets.
“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.
Could it really cost $1 billion to replace the 562-foot Walk railroad bridge in South Norwalk? Or is there a cheaper alternative that the Connecticut Department of Transportation is hiding from us?
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.”