Expanding Rail in Connecticut

speakout
By Nick Fabiani, who writes the blog CT-6

I figured in light of all the recent news on rail lines, it’d be important to talk about how this will affect Connecticut. Take a look at this:
picture-2

That’s from President Obama’s high speed rail plan. If you’ll note, it makes some changes to the current Northeast Corridor (the blue line).

The Northeast Corridor is currently the ONLY high speed rail line in the country, but as anyone can tell you, that doesn’t mean much. As an avid train rider, I can’t put in words my disappointment with the Acela system between New Haven and New York. However, Obama’s plan serves to change some of that. Under his plan, existing rail lines will have their tracks updated, so that they are legitimately high speed-capable. From the New York Times coverage of his announcement:

“Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination,” Mr. Obama said. “It is happening right now; it’s been happening for decades. The problem is, it’s been happening elsewhere, not here.”
 
The Federal Railroad Administration defines high-speed rail as any train traveling 90 m.p.h. or faster. In Japan, the Shinkansen trains average about 180 m.p.h. The TGV train in France uses special tracks to sustain speeds of 133 m.p.h. on the Paris-Lyon route.
 
The Acela Express operated by Amtrak is capable of a speed of 150 m.p.h., but track conditions and other rail traffic bring its average speed to just over half that.

And this country serves to benefit greatly from high speed rail…especially Connecticut.

Connecticut will get a great deal of money in the next Highway Funding Authorization bill for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because we use public transportation. We must fight, like Massachusetts, for the right to use this federal funding to build commuter rail lines.

One of the biggest problems in Obama’s rail line plan is that it doesn’t connect Bradley Airport to either New York or Boston. I was thrilled to see the plan calling for a connection FINALLY between Springfield and Boston, which would serve to connect Hartford to Boston via Springfield and Worcester, greatly helping the entire region. But we may have finally found an ally in the fight to connect Hartford: Chairman of the House Transportation Committee Rep. James Oberstar:

Bradley could pull in a lot of those short-haul flights going to New York and Boston’s airports, but only if you have high-speed trains to get people to New York and Boston.

Strong words from a man in power.

But imagine how much the economy in Connecticut will be helped by another line connecting Boston and New York, traveling exclusively through Connecticut, connecting through Hartford. And imagine how much it will help ease traffic if we could have stops in Waterbury, New Britain, and Enfield. By connecting the major non-rail cities in Connecticut, we can ease traffic and bring in more people to revitalize our economy.

Fortunately, most of this fight is going to have to occur on the local and state level. Once the federal money is appropriated, we must be willing to stand our ground and fight for rail lines that connect our major cities, instead of just catering to the shore. Heck, even light rail right now would be a huge boon. Lines such as Metro North and Shoreline East have proven to be immensely successful. We need to extend service to connect more of Connecticut through rail.

Advertisements

9 responses to “Expanding Rail in Connecticut

  1. Couple of points.

    Rail is damned expensive on a per rider basis. Way more than roads. Is there any evidence that that many people would ride high speed rail from Danbury to Waterbury to Hartford to Enfield? I mean, how many take a bus between these cities? Buses are much cheaper than rail. Any time rail is expanded, it seems bus service gets cut.

    Next issue is parking. If we are going to build high speed rail along these lines, we’ve got to commit to put in enough parking so that the people that do want to ride the train actually can get to the train station. On the Metro North line on the shore, parking is a huge issue: each local town controls the parking permits for its stations, and refuses to offer permits to out-of-town residents, and usually severely restricts parking for its own residents. Through local zoning ordinances, they prevent multi-storey parking garages, so it’s impossible to expand capacity, and they complain that increasing parking would result in more traffic in their town. So if we build additional rail, then we need to have the state, not the local towns control parking, or we need to tax only residents of the towns with stops. I kind of resent that I’ve got to pay taxes for Metro North, but that I am basically prevented from actually riding on it because I can’t get a parking permit at the stations.

    But seriously, for this high speed rail, what’s the estimated cost and estimated annual ridership? The ratio of these things for new rail projects (light rail or high speed rail) is usually frightening.

    For light rail in Phoenix, this blog points out that the cost of the high speed rail is about 3 times as high as if they simply bought everyone who rode it a prius and bought them enough gas to drive 10,000 miles per year.

  2. Let me know when they replace the smoking cars; until then I’ll drive.

  3. CTcentrist

    More roads, less rail. If the rail option doesn’t work out, what will they propose next, a horse and buggy renaissance? How about a little less lining of the pockets with money from the rail lobbyists, and more creative thinking?

  4. Just because rail is old, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the devil. Look at cities like Washington, DC, which have managed to cut down on huge amounts of traffic (Yes, it’s still bad) by connecting all of the surrounding major cities on one light rail system. It’s worked tremendously. And it’s cheap. You’re telling me a light rail system wouldn’t work?

    As for commuter rail, metronorth is wildly successful. An expansion of that and similar services (Shoreline East), as well as addition of lines would most likely be as well, especially if we connected cities like New Britain and Waterbury.

    Like it or not, Connecticut already does rely on rail. Just telling everyone to drive isn’t good for the economy of the state, isn’t good for the environment, and isn’t as efficient for anyone.

  5. wtfdnucsailor

    SE CT leaders have been trying to get Shore Line East extended to New London more than twice a week or even on to Westerly for a number of years. The barriers have been very frustrating. The State and AMTRAK don’t seem to be able to come to an agreement on the use of AMTRAK lines. The CT driver won’t give up the auto unless rail transport is frequent and inexpensive.

  6. If I could get a seat on the train every morning, I’d use MetroNorth for my commute on a daily basis. It’s a lot more relaxing to sit and sip coffee and read for 20 minutes than to spend 45 minutes stopping and going. Of course, being able to park at the train station would certainly be helpful as well.

    We always take the train into Manhattan for entertainment and shopping, unless we’re buying something very large/heavy. We used to travel by train to Boston and D.C. but the cost, coupled with the frequency of delayed/cancelled trains has made that an unappealing option. If time is important, it’s often better all around to catch a commuter flight out of Westchester airport.

    I love train travel and would definitely travel by rail more often if I could count on getting to my destination when I needed to be there. I’d probably go more places in CT (Hartford, etc.) if they were easily and directly accessible by train — and if I could count on transportation once I reached the destination.

  7. CT-6 I almost thought you were talking about the death penalty

    “good for the economy of the state, isn’t good for the environment, and isn’t as efficient for anyone.”

  8. each local town controls the parking permits for its stations, and refuses to offer permits to out-of-town residents, and usually severely restricts parking for its own residents.

    Is this true? I know that my town sells permits to people from neighboring towns, and my understanding is that they don’t have any choice in the matter (i.e. that the state requires it).

  9. Is this true? I know that my town sells permits to people from neighboring towns, and my understanding is that they don’t have any choice in the matter (i.e. that the state requires it).

    In New Canaan, the town Website states, “You must be a New Canaan resident to purchase a Commuter (annual) Parking Permit.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s