Monday, July 6, 2009

The High-Speed Rail Line Will Be Constructed Out of Newsprint

Enthusiastic as I am about rail commuting and the construction of a useful rail link between Hartford and New Haven (and, well, Springfield too, I guess), I am starting to feel like the Courant will cover the 65 miles with column inches before Amtrak, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and federal stimulus money cover the distance with actual rails and stations. Today, another breathless update on this project, in which CT DOT chief Joseph Marie tells us it will take but five years.

What, too cynical? Yeah, I don't know what's come over me. I just really want there to be a good rail link, but I don't want to get my hopes up, because, you know, I lived a life of disappointment at civic improvements that always seem to come right after I move away: A slew of waterfront parks, bike access to the Manhattan Bridge, and a bike path on the Williamsburg Bridge that doesn't have big holes in it all came to New York shortly after I left; Super-super bike friendliness and bike nerd culture mecca status came to Portland shortly after I left there; during all the time I lived in Boston, all I got from the Big Dig was delays, cost overruns, and constantly changing jersey barrier arrangements all over the damn place, and now that I'm gone they have a sweet downtown park and you can actually see the North End from downtown. With my luck, the day that bullet trains with a bike-parking car start going from Hartford to New Haven twice an hour every hour, my beloved wife will get a professor job in Anchorage or something.

Anyway, my pessimism notwithstanding, things are looking up for the train. And, in perhaps the most encouraging sign, public opinion may be turning in favor of more rail lines. How do I know? Pure science: At the time of this posting, not one of the 11 comments to the Courant story contained a rant about how driving is our James-Madison-given 10th Amendment birthright or how people who ride bikes are terrorists (both of which, by the way, are true propositions).

Oh, and one other thing: Amtrak, my dear, justly maligned quasi-public agency, I realized two other ways that you are lousy: (1) When I go to one of your automated ticket machines, I can only buy tickets that originate or terminate at the station where I'm making the purchase, so if I'm waiting in Bridgeport for the Metro-North train to New Haven, I can't buy my New Haven-to-Hartford ticket ahead of time. (2) You actually require all passengers to sign their tickets. Why do you do this? I have seen conductors stand and wait while passengers search for a pen in order to sign a ticket. This is dumb and unnecessary and you need to cut it out right now.


Rich said...

When I took the shuttle to New Haven (in order to catch MetroNorth to complete my journey) on July 4th, I was dreading the upcoming awkwardness with the conductor because I forgot a pen. To my shock, he took my ticket without a signature.

Also the train was actually early into Hartford. On-time trains? Cheaper fares? No subsidizing the pen industry? Things are looking up with Amtrak.

murbike said...

Thanks for bringing all of the improvements to NYC, Boston and Portland. I've never ridden in Pland, but if it's like the other two, then it's great.

Are you planning on taking your talents somewhere else so that The Hartbeat can get some rail transpo?

chillwill said...

reminds me of the Hartford Monorail...