Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Train Service to the Dirty Water? Yes Please!

Yesterday, a couple of Connecticut lawmakers said there should be commuter rail service between Hartford and Waterbury. Could I agree with them more? The answer is no. It's not that I love visiting the Dirty Water so much (I don't), or that I am frequently flummoxed by congestion on I-84 west of Hartford (I am not), but what I do love is having a rail connection to other parts of the state that is not in the avaricious grasp of Amtrak. If there were a train to Waterbury, you could go there and take Metro North to Bridgeport or New York or anywhere else on the shore, which would advance immeasurably the cause of freedom.

Naturally, the first response from the Commissioner of the State Transportation Department was to urge patience, caution, and other behaviors of dubious usefulness. He says we're already working on a New Haven-Springfield commuter rail link and the Hartford-New Britain busway, so we can't go crazy with this BeatWater project. (Because the last thing we want is adequte public transportation all over the state, all at once!) Of course, in real life we're not "working on" the New Haven-Springfield thing so much as we're deadlocked with stupid Amtrak over the use of its rails. So what the Commissioner should do is go to Amtrak, grab them by their fat heads, and say, "If you don't make me an offer I like on the use of your stupid rails, I will deal with some freight company, create a link to Waterbury, and steal away from you all of your coveted business between Hartford and New York!" That would be the way to show them what's up. (Except it wouldn't work at all because they're clearly not motivated by good sense or profit, so maybe he should tell the folks at Amtrak that they should help the Springfield-New Haven project go forward because it will help them be better at volleyball.)

I guess what I am saying is that any project that connects Hartford to the world via public transportation and simultaneously connects Amtrak to fuck you via deez nuts is OK in my book. Call your legislator or your governor or Santa Claus and tell them you support the BeatWater Commuterama.

So, after writing this post, I read Rick Green's column, in which he says that the Commissioner of DOT, Joseph Marie, is a super-champion of rail transportation and bike-friendliness and helping old ladies cross the street. So maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt and suppose there's a good reason he's so cool to the BeatWater Commuterama. I mean, is there a good reason to oppose the project? I (foolishly) looked at the comments on the Courant's website, and the posters who oppose the project don't offer much that's coherent (awesomest nonsensical argument: the commuter line would only be used by unemployed people anyway, so let's not build it). What do you say, dear readers?


Anonymous said...

It'd be great to have Hartford-Waterbury service. Only there are two problems:
1. The corridor is distressed. It will not connect rich with poor, employers with employees. Rail already runs from Waterbury to Bridgeport--and look how poorly both cities are faring. The I-91 corridor and New Haven area are in much better shape than Waterbury. They potentially offer greater synergies with Greater Hartford and Springfield--all that's needed to realize these benefits is good transportation among them.
2. The rails to Waterbury are in much worse condition than those to New Haven: curvy, single-tracked, utterly devoid of any stations, etc. It would be more expensive to upgrade them! (Still, rail is a better solution than the busway.)

El Presidente de China said...

As to point 1, I'm not sure I follow you. I mean, sure, Waterbury and Bridgeport are depressed economically, but that doesn't mean people don't need to travel up and down the Naugatuck Valley, or from the Valley to points along the shore. If anything, poor people are more likely to need to travel to find some work, and less likely to be able to do so in private cars. Hartford and Springfield are also both quite impoverished, but people in those places still need to go places.