Our state government certainly moves in mysterious ways.
The Connecticut legislature
seems unable to even discuss the crucial replenishing of the Special
Transportation Fund to keep mass transit rolling… but they found hours to
debate the merits of declaring pizza the “official state food”. Really?
Kudos to the nine
lawmakers who voted “no”, not because they don’t like
pizza but because they saw this issue as a waste of time.
Also in the “waste of time”
category were the recent series of virtual public hearings (May 18, 19, 20
& 25) by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The topic… service reductions on Metro-North
and CT Transit that have already been implemented.
mind-numbing hours of Zoom hearings were planned,
accompanied by hundreds of pages of legally mandated reports and analysis. I can’t even imagine the hours of work that
went into their preparation, and for what?
There are no
fare increases planned and no further cuts in
service beyond what was ordered months ago.
So why are they having public hearings on a moot issue? In fact, if Metro-North gets its dreams
fulfilled and ridership returns, schedules will have to be adjusted again, potentially
triggering more hearings.
If the decisions have been
made, why ask the public their opinion after the fact? Does anybody really think that anything that
gets said at these hearings will evoke a change of plans by CDOT or
There has been one silver
lining to the pandemic: it’s got state
government using virtual platforms like Zoom to better engage with the public. It
used to be that you’d waste a day driving to the Capitol in Hartford, sitting
through hours of others’ testimony and finally get your three minutes to speak.
Now you can attend the political theater
of meaningless hearings without leaving the comfort of your own home.
To their credit some
legislative committees held 24 hour-long hearings on such important issues as
mandatory student vaccinations and forced re-zoning, allowing hundreds of
voices to be heard. But again, let’s not
be naïve enough to assume that anyone’s testimony changed votes.
Sure, attending, watching or
(if you were lucky enough) testifying on these matters may have been cathartic,
but they didn’t change a darn thing.
Lawmakers were only going through the motions, just like CDOT will do in
But here’s an idea: attend
these virtual hearings and register
to speak. Not
about these already-decided matters about fares and schedules, but about
anything you’d like to say related to commuting.
Use your three minutes to ask
why Metro-North is still running its trains slower than it did a decade
ago. Query the Commissioner of DOT about
what happened to Governor Lamont’s illusory plan known as “30-30-30”. Ask why Metro-North conductors aren’t enforcing Federal rules on
mask wearing to keep passengers safe. Or
how long the railroad can keep operating with 20% ridership and who’s going to
pay the bills.
There are so many questions
that could be asked. Don’t expect
answers. These are public hearings,
not a dialogue with decision makers. Officials
will be in listen-only mode, probably chanting some secret mantra to fend off
the verbal barbs and anger of those testifying.
These hearings won’t change
anything, but they may make for fun viewing and a chance to vent your