Busway Advances: Rapid Transit Wins Over Purchase of 28,000 Jeep Patriots

Last week the arguments against Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along the I-84 corridor were less about choosing rail over buses and more about opposing any public investment at all in commuter transportation.

On April 29th, the state Bond Commission approved $90 million for the New Britain-Hartford bus way, the lion’s share of state investment in a $567 million project in line to receive $455 million in federal transportation funds.

GOP State Senator Andrew Roraback, in a Hail Mary salvo before the bond vote, equated the cost of  Central Connecticut’s first legitimate initiative on mass transit as the equivalent of purchasing 28,000 Jeep Patriots for  every resident of New Milford, one of the towns in his district.  Roraback’s ridiculous comparison didn’t exactly advance environmentalism nor rail.  Think of all those Jeeps (22 city/28 Highway) on I-84 and their carbon footprint in 2020!

Public transportation needs to encompass more than folks in the Northwest Hills hopping into their SUVs and getting a more convenient train into New York. It needs to be about working people getting to their jobs in cities. It needs to be about the Hartford student without a car being able to get to his CCSU classes on time.

Using fuzzy math, State Senator Jason Welch (R-31) told a constituent that the Busway will be a “boondoggle” and that light rail could be built at “10 percent”of the cost of the BRT.  Welch’s opposition clearly led him to start making up numbers on a light rail system. Say what you will about the BRT, but building rail infrastructure in this region, especially light rail, won’t be cheap.  At best a rail alternative is a $1 billion idea that is up to a decade away before any environmental and economic return on investments could be realized for the region.

There is an abundance of research on the costs and impact of rail versus BRTs.  BRTs have been shown to be flexible and effective as part of public transportation systems in metro areas around the world.  Certainly BRTs are not the end all for what a good transit system should be like in central Connecticut. But it is a start at reducing auto use and revitalizing urban areas which should be the priority of policymakers whether they come from cities or suburbs.

We’ve heard better arguments from opponents of the BRT than those made by Republicans Roraback and Welch this past week.  A boondoggle would really be occurring if the Governor had said no to the Busway thereby throwing the more than $65 million already invested in the project down the drain.

It makes you wonder. Had the Busway started in Bristol or Waterbury would these same opponents west of New Britain still be opposed? Or would they be hailing it as a necessary investment of public transportation dollars as economic stimulus (jobs) and every bit as good for the environment as any train?

Hearing on FY 12 City Budget May 12th at Slade Middle School

Now that the Stewart administration has put a $216 million budget on the table officials have set a public hearing for Thursday May 12th at 6 p.m.   The hearing will be held at Slade Middle School, not the high school as originally announced.

With federal recovery act funds gone and a best-case scenario of level funding for state education aid, the operative word is “layoff”from the brass at the Board of Education and the Mayor’s Office.

At City Hall, Mayor Stewart says $11 million must be saved via layoffs or related reductions in or to the work force.

Prediction: Busway Will Get Go Ahead Today

The Governor has scheduled a Monday afternoon announcement about public transportation and whether CT will complete the New Britain to Hartford busway. Proponents Mayor Pedro Segarra and State Rep. Tim O’Brien are going.

Because of new jobs and giving guv cover and credibility with labor, Courant’s Rick Green in CT Confidential says it will be the busway.

There are immediate prospects for hundreds of jobs to build the roadway along the railroad bed sinking the hopes of the rail crowd and the wishes of the towns of Bristol, Newington and West Hartford.

Remembering Rev. King and the Labor Movement – Again

Ultra-conservative radio host Dan Lovallo was distorting the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. the other day.  He joined a caller in bashing labor unions by objecting to unions’ honoring and remembering King for his strong support of organized labor generally and public employee unions specifically.  It’s all part of Lovallo’s and his drive-time competition’s (Former Public Employee John Rowland)  steady trash talk against many who work in the public sector.  Lovallo’s distortions aside, the anniversary of Rev. King’s assassination on April 4th is a sad and irrefutable reminder that King gave his life for both civil and economic rights, especially the right of public employees to bargain collectively. In this season of attacks against labor rights in the public sector Rev. King should be remembered for his close allegiance with labor. It’s something if you are of a certain age you don’t forget:

04 APRIL 2007

39 Years Ago Today

I remember exactly where I was on April 4, 1968. Thirty nine years ago today the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. 

That week day, like many others in my senior year in high school, I drove to Bradlee’s Department store on the Lynnway in Lynn, Massachusetts to punch in for the evening shift earning some money before entering Boston University in the fall. 

The news spread quickly that Thursday evening that King was dead. It didn’t take long to realize that my shift as a retail clerk would be different from all the others. The store quickly emptied out. Not a customer in sight all night. No need for Mr. Silverman, the shaken and somber store manager, to send me out on outside carriage control. The bullets in Memphis were enough to bring a normal business day to a halt in Lynn and most of the nation. Just five short years before I had come home from junior high on a late summer day to watch King deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech – an event that would inspire so many of us to become active in politics and protest. 

There are many good remembrances of what King said and stood for on his national holiday In January every year, but not so much is being said on this anniversary of the day he died. It’s worth remembering on April 4th and throughout the year why King was in Memphis on a day I will never forget. 

By 1968, Rev. King was widening the concerns of his movement. In Where Do We Go From Here? King opposed a Vietnam policy that had begun to break the nation further apart. The lunchroom sit-ins and battles over accommodations and voting rights were giving way to a broader agenda. He was planning a new march on Washington – “the Poor People’s Campaign” — when he decided to take up the cause of 1,300 Black sanitation workers in Memphis, a city of southern segregation, where the white power structure opposed the right to unionize and the Mayor vowed never to bargain in good faith in a way that would give the sanitation workers their dignity. The strike and a citywide economic boycott were a cause King knew he could not ignore.

King’s prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech on the eve of the assassination is his best known from Memphis. But two weeks earlier, on March 18th, King galvanized support for strikers by saying: “So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs…..One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive.” Following King’s assassination, the Memphis power structure gave up its intransigence – recognizing the union, awarding pay raises and instituting merit promotions. 

King’s campaign for striking sanitation workers reaffirmed his greatness at the hour of his death and resonates today in the cause of social and economic justice. That is worth remembering most from the day he died.

from  http://nbpoliticus.blogspot.com/2007/04/39-years-ago-today.html