Yesterday, Ned Lamont released his plan to get Connecticut moving again. To mark the occasion, he took a ride on Metro North from Stamford to New Haven, accompanied by his running mate Mary Glassman and State Rep. Brendan Sharkey. Together, they walked through the train, stopping to chat with commuters and also taking time to discuss Lamont’s transportation plan with reporters (and blogger) in attendance. The New Haven Independent, New Haven Register, and the Stamford Advocate all published good articles about yesterday’s train ride.
I had a chance to read through the plan myself, and it is full of ideas that are hard to disagree with. Increase the frequency of rail service from Hartford to Springfield, prioritize transportation infrastructure (like bridges!) repairs and maintenance, and to boost the number of flights to and from Bradley Airport. Dan Malloy touches on a lot of these themes in the transportation section of his own website. Ned and Dan are not the first gubernatorial candidates to talk about the importance of improving transportation in Connecticut, making it next to impossible for either candidate to reinvent the transportation wheel. And in my opinion, it’s the regional perspective that he would bring to solving our transportation problems as governor that makes the Lamont plan shine. Here’s an excerpt:
We can’t address transportation in pieces. We have to look at the big picture: people and products move around the entire region, not just within our borders. Yes, Ms. Johnson works in New York, but how does she get to New Brunswick for those Friday morning meetings? Does she have to switch from Grand Central to Penn Station? Yes, those manufacturing parts rode on trains from Upstate New York, but didn’t they come off ships in Newark? Why did they have to loop upstate and then down to Waterbury?
* I will work with other governors to create a Northeast Transportation Authority, stretching from Washington to Maine, with responsibility for road, rail, ports, and airports.
The Authority will improve existing routes, streamline transfers, and clear chokepoints. In the shorter term, it will help make our network seamless-why can’t CT Transit, MTA, PATH, NJ Transit, and others share a single “smart card”? In the longer term, the Authority will be a magnet for federal funds and allow states to pool resources, so we can achieve great things-why can’t the train go New York to New Haven in an hour?
In speaking with Rep. Sharkey on the train, I learned that when many people think and talk about transportation in our small state, they carve it up into chunks. Folks in Fairfield County want to see less congestion on 95, people in Waterbury and Danbury want more transportation options, and those of us in the I-91 corridor want to high speed rail to connect New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. Those regions of the state (and their transportation concerns) are interrelated, and addressing any of them would have a positive impact on the others. Taking a wide view on the transportation problems that the state faces as a whole would go a long way toward alleviating them. Lamont’s plan does one better, and not only looks at what can and should be done within Connecticut’s borders, but proposes thinking of our state in its regional context. What if we could work with neighboring states on streamlining travel between Washington, D.C. and Portland, ME? It would probably mean more federal funding for transportation infrastructure improvements in Connecticut.
Ned Lamont talks about the regional aspect of his transportation plan
Transportation is a tough nut to crack, but I think that the regional approach is the best way to crack it. Connecticut is a small state, but it sure doesn’t feel like if when you need to get from Hartford to New Haven or Bridgeport.
The regional aspect of the plan, while most interesting to me, is not the only highlight. For instance, Jay Dockendorf asked Ned what he’d like to see the future of commuter transit look like in Connecticut:
“I want to see people using their iPads or PDAs to check train times, able to access every single rail line with an electronic pass they’ll be able to electronically bill,” [Lamont] said of the scene to come in New Haven’s Union Station lobby.
“And it’ll be busier, and you’ll be able to bring your bike,” added Mary Glassman, his running mate for lieutenant governor. Glassman, who’s been campaigning on two wheels this year, joined Lamont on the train ride Tuesday.
Mary O’Leary’s report in the New Haven Register touches on how improving transit in the state will bring people to Connecticut:
State [Rep.] Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, joined Lamont and Glassman for the ride and said he is backing the team because of its transportation plan. He is a big supporter of upgrading the state’s ports by connecting them to rail lines to move goods.
“People don’t want to move to this part of the state because it’s too hard to get around,” Sharkey said, but taking traffic off the roads will change that.