Total Page Views for "Talking Transportation"

December 23, 2015

Transportation Predictions for 2016

Everybody writes “year in review” stories.  But rather than dwell on the past, I’ve got the guts to predict the future!  Here’s what will happen in 2016 in the transportation world.
METRO-NORTH:    Slowly but surely, the railroad will drag itself out of the quagmire it’s been in since the Bridgeport, Spuyten Duyvil and Valhalla crashes.  On time performance will hold strong even through the winter, thanks to the dependable new M8 cars and mild weather.  Ridership will continue to climb, causing further crowding and SRO conditions on some trains.
STAMFORD GARAGE:     After waiting for its chosen developer (and Malloy campaign contributor) JHN Group to sign a contract two and a half years after being tapped for the massive TOD project, CDOT will pull the plug on its deal and replace the old garage on its own (taxpayers’) dime.
TOLLS & TAXES:   Governor Malloy’s quest for $100 billion to pay for his 20-year transportation plan will prove universally unpopular when his Transportation Funding Task Force finally issues its recommendations (originally due after Labor Day) in January. The panel will call for higher gasoline and sales taxes, tolls, motor vehicle fees and a slew of other unpopular ideas.  The legislature will react by slashing the Governor’s unrealistic plans, reluctant to have its fingerprints of anything the Task Force suggests.
EMINENT DOMAIN:          Governor Malloy will try again to impose state control over transit oriented development, reintroducing his stealth bill to create a Transit Corridor Development Agency (all of whose members he would appoint) with the power to seize any land within a quarter mile of a rail station. 
FLYING:       Returning to profitability, airlines will continue to squeeze more seats onto fewer flights, making flying an ordeal.  Frequent flyer rewards will be harder to get as desperate passengers will pay to ride in business or first class, leaving fewer seats for upgrades.
AMTRAK:     Acela will become increasingly popular, allowing the railroad to raise business fares.  Last minute seats will be harder to get, but the railroad will still refuse to expand service by buying new railcars.  Traditional “Northeast Corridor” trains will still be jammed as the railroad tries to compete with discount bus carriers.
HIGHWAYS:           With an improving economy and inadequate rail station parking, people will jam I-95 and the Merritt Parkway in even larger numbers, increasing commuting times further.  Gasoline prices will continue to decline thanks to cheap oil, sending even more people to the roads.
UBER WAFFLES:     State and city authorities will come down hard on car services like Uber and Lyft, imposing on them the same regulations and taxes now born by taxis and limos.  After “leveling the playing ground”, Uber-type services will raise fares, passing those costs on to passengers.

Will all of my predictions come true?  Check back in a year and we’ll see!  Meantime, happy traveling in 2016!

December 07, 2015

It's All About Transportation

While this column often is a rant about failing commuter rail service or an occasional rave for overdue investment in our highways, when you think about it, transportation is really an issue that affects many aspects of our lives.
JOBS:          If it wasn’t for transportation, 99% of us wouldn’t be able to get to our jobs.  It is thanks to Metro-North and yes, even I-95, that we can live in one place and work in another.  Imagine how your life would change if you could only live within walking distance of where you work.
These towns are in a "food desert"
FOOD JUSTICE:     The East-End of Bridgeport, our state’s biggest city, is a food desert.  For 35 years there has been no supermarket, forcing residents (a third of whom have no cars) to spend 45 minutes taking two buses just to go to the store.
A lack of transportation has meant fewer nutritional choices and increased risk of obesity and diabetes.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING:          Daily commuters on our clogged highways are not masochists.  The only reason they must commute is that they cannot afford to live where their jobs are.
A recent report showed that housing in lower Fairfield County is the most expensive in the nation.  You need an income of $70,000 just to afford a two bedroom apartment in the StamfordNorwalk corridor.
Take, for example, that poster-boy of affluence, Greenwich CT.  This 67 square mile city of 61,000 has 5545 town employees… teachers, cops, firefighters and the like.  However, 67% of those workers don’t live in Greenwich, but commute daily from Danbury, Bridgeport, Westchester and even Long Island.
They spend an average of 103 minutes per day just getting to and from work, paying more than $2000 a year for gas.  Combined, they add 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, just by their commuting.
In a city where the median home price is $2 million, the average Greenwich city worker makes $65,000.  And because these teachers, civil servants and such have to come so far, they have to be paid more salary.  The average teacher in Greenwich earns $12,338 a year more than their counterparts elsewhere in the state. 

The Greenwich schools spend $10,000 to $15,000 recruiting and training each new teacher.  But after five years of commuting (75% of the 912 teachers don’t live in Greenwich), they burn out, leave and find jobs elsewhere.  Between 1998 and 2007, 581 teachers left Greenwich for reasons other than retirement and 81% of them had less than eight years on the job.
EMS workers in Greenwich have it even worse, averaging 151 minutes (2 ½ hours!) commute time.  Just how fresh and ready for life-saving work do you think you’d be with a commute like that?
Our Governor is right:  investing in transportation will mean more than saving time on our daily commute.  Quality transportation means better access to jobs, to housing and food.