NB Politicus

Take That Bristol: The Case For Buses Over Rail

Posted in economic development, transportation by nbpoliticus on November 30, 2010

Buses Are the Answer: Developing a vibrant bus network would cost peanuts, compared with high-speed rail options.

Trains will never
Leave the gate;
Buses seem
A wiser fate.
With all due respect to President Barack Obama and the $8 billion he’s dishing out to the states for high-speed rail, it’s too late.
Fast trains have been overtaken by gradual events. America has become too populous and too spread out to allow enough rights-of-way to be acquired ever again.
Unlike Europe and Japan, we didn’t develop compact cities and towns. Instead, we sprawled them all over the countryside. OK, there’s plenty of room to run new lines in Nebraska and Idaho, but try Illinois or Georgia. It won’t work.
Still, the principle of getting travelers off planes is sound. Osama bin Laden has seen to that. Air travel has always been plagued with traffic congestion, mercurial fares, skyrocketing fees, baggage loss, bad weather, and mechanical glitches. Now there are unpredictable security lines as well. How many of us relish a plane trip anymore? Automatic check-in has helped, but not enough. What to do?
One alternative to shorter flights is, as I’ve argued before, the bus. Yes, the much maligned bus.
New bus systems have already captured the fancy of transit riders in Cleveland and the San Fernando Valley. Other burgeoning bus hotspots around the world include Beijing, Bogota, Brisbane, and Curitiba. Increasingly, these schemes are staving off additional subways wherever roads are wide enough to provide an exclusive lane.
But it’s not just local ridership that’s growing. Long-distance coach travel is swelling too. “Chinatown buses,” for many years a cheap option for traveling between major Northeast Corridor destinations such as Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, have expanded to 30 cities, reviving the ghost of Greyhound past.
The Interstate Highway System laid the foundation for long-haul bus service during the Eisenhower administration. Most countries didn’t have that kind of historic culture-altering, budget-busting initiative.
Back then, it was called the “Defense” Transportation Act, as was every other boondoggle of the day. It didn’t do much to deter the Soviets but it sure was great for road builders and automakers.
As fate would have it, it could also now be great for buses. We just need a little additional subsidized infrastructure. So let’s think what federal transportation subsidies could do if reallocated.
Since express buses can’t creep into every city, they need a dedicated terminal out on the interstate for picking up, dropping off and transferring passengers to other routes. They also need local transit services in each city to meet the express and scoot its arrivals into town. For the system to really succeed, it requires nifty new vehicles with real rest rooms, TV, internet, snack bar, and an attendant to approximate existing train and plane rides. And unlike trains, we even have American companies that can still manufacture these buses.
Of course such a system would cost money. But the cost would be peanuts compared to new rail lines, expanded airports, or added highway lanes. Amtrak, for example, wants to spend $117 billion over the next 30-years on high-speed rail just on the East Coast.
And the benefits would be huge. Like trains, buses with their more frequent schedules and convenience could attract air travelers away from short air hops and draw drivers out of their cars for the longer hauls.
Nor would these buses have to speed to reach their destinations in a timely fashion. Highway speed limits are high enough. More important are the low fares, convenient schedules, comfort, reliable connections and easy access.
Sure, high-speed trains have advantages, especially over longer routes. But it’s time for our nation to face reality. There’s no money and no lobby for trains and ‘they’re not likely to appear.
Express buses are a far cheaper, better bet for getting large numbers of riders off those short-trip airplanes.
OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.
from Other Words, formerly Minuteman Media: a project of the Institute for Policy Studies


Shared with permission under Creative Commons

Mayor’s Blame Game Makes Getting To Yes On Downtown Development Difficult

Posted in Uncategorized by nbpoliticus on November 24, 2010

The Stewart Administration remains intent on branding City Council Democrats as naysayers over bonding and construction of a new police station at the corner of Main and Chestnut streets.

The Mayor’s latest pronouncement reported in this Herald story over the timing of bonds for a police station  portrays the Council as getting in the way of financing the station that the Mayor  narrowly views as the linchpin for downtown revitalization.  The police department most certainly needs a new facility but making a public safety edifice the centerpiece of economic resurgence to the exclusion of other ideas has many residents and officials scratching their heads.

Majority Leader Phil Sherwood countered that the Council has given approvals to move forward with a new station every step of the way. When more than $30 million of public money is being put up, however, Sherwood and the Council would be shirking their responsibilities if they did not ask questions and do the oversight that is required of them.

More troubling in the Herald story is the assertion that an estimated project budget on how development funds will be expended by developers is not being shared nor has it been made public:

“During the last council meeting (Phil) Sherwood and (Michael) Trueworthy advocated for clarity on the details of the project and asked the mayor for a budget on the project. Stewart told council members the figures are projected and are public knowledge. Both aldermen said they have yet to see a budget on the police station but it is reportedly over budget. Both agree that the bonds are of a great benefit to the city.” 

The way forward on downtown development is for the Mayor to engage the Council and the public in a  transparent way as planning and design proceed.  A big picture on downtown development that draws on the city’s educational, business, health care and cultural assets, needs to emerge if real progress and development is to be achieved.

A continuing back and forth between the Mayor and Council gets in the way of getting to a good vision for the future of downtown. And Stewart’s continual sniping, his latest statement on bonding included, is no help at all.

Rep. O’Brien Opponent’s Negative Campaign Is Repudiated By Voters

Posted in Uncategorized by nbpoliticus on November 8, 2010

The voters of Assembly District 24 covering parts of New Britain and Newington not only re-elected State Rep. Tim O’Brien last Tuesday by an overwhelming margin. They rejected a malicious campaign by Republican challenger Cris Carillo.
Carillo, a pawn in a GOP attack strategy, relied on mailers developed by New Britain-based CT Republicans that stamped the word “guilty” over O’Brien’s face for taking “our hard-earned money” accompanied by misleading statements on the state budget. It should be remembered that Carillo attacked O’Brien for not delivering enough state aid for New Britain while calling for major cuts in state spending. Though a novice he learned how to talk out of both sides in a hurry under the tutelage of the state and local GOP leaders who’ve made personal attack politics their stock in trade.
In a second mailer against O’Brien the face of convicted murderer Steven Hayes appears and asks: “Do you think O’Brien would still try to repeal the death penalty if his family or someone close to him was brutally victimized?” That appalling statement was due to O’Brien’s opposition to the death penalty, a position held by the Catholic Church, among others.
These vile messages, paid for by the taxpayers under the Citizens’ Election Program, got Mr. Carillo exactly 26% of the vote in New Britain. They also sullied young Mr. Carillo’s reputation and character in the minds of most voters who responded to O’Brien’s issue-based and positive campaign with a strong vote for his representation against a well-financed opponent.

This may be good time for some disinfectant to remove any leftover literature over at Republican State Central on Ellis Street.  (from www.newbritaindemocrat.org)

This mailer used by the campaign of Republican Cris Carillo in New Britain to attack State Rep. Tim O;Brien. The Republican State Central Committee, based in New Britain, used it as a template against other Democratic legislators around the state.