A friend of mine got hit by a car last week walking on Norton Avenue. He’s OK, but could have been killed. Speeding on our roads is linked to over 38,000 deaths each year in the U.S. That’s almost 730 deaths a week — 100 a day. If a hundred people die in a plane crash, we go nuts. (Never mind that COVID deaths average about 1,400 per day).
Some big changes are coming for pedestrians and motorists alike starting this week: a new set of Connecticut laws giving far more power (and, hopefully, safety) to those traveling on foot vs. vehicles. Long before we had cars (or even horses) and trains, folks took to the roads on foot to get where they were going. But with motorized transport came the inevitable conflicts. Why the new laws now?
Why is Metro-North shooting itself in the foot? While adding more trains and encouraging (no, praying!) that commuters will come back to the rails, the railroad is still refusing to make those passengers feel safe by enforcing the federal and state mask rules. Sure, they’ve been passing out masks on trains, but what good are they if they’re not worn? I hate to keep harping on this issue, but we’re talking about a serious public health threat. Unmasked passengers, even if they’re vaccinated, can be asymptomatic and spread the COVID-19 virus to hundreds of fellow riders in a matter of minutes, let alone the hour-plus ride to NYC in a sealed tube.
New England is home to many railroad “firsts,” but none is more impressive than the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first cog rail line. And it’s still running, at a profit, 152 years late, using some of the original equipment. Unlike most railroads, “The Cog” doesn’t pull its coaches along a relatively flat line with flanged wheels on two parallel tracks. A cog railroad’s locomotive directly connects its gears to a center rack of iron teeth, pushing the train up the mountain very slowly, but surely. On a normal railroad the train can handle a 2% grade (or climb) at best.
The lives of thousands of daily passengers on Metro-North are being jeopardized by the railroad’s refusal to enforce federal and state safety rules requiring face masks, according to the Connecticut Commuter Action Group and the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council in a joint announcement. Here’s most of the news release from the two groups:
Writing to Governor Lamont, the leaders of the independent CT Commuter Action Group and state-created CT Commuter Rail Council appealed to the Governor to safeguard passenger safety by having authorities issue citations to those refusing to wear masks. “Metro-North says it wants passengers to come back to the trains but their refusal to issue a single ticket to mask scofflaws says the opposite,” said Jim Cameron of the CT Commuter Action Group. [Cameron is a Darien resident.]
“Metro North clearly needs to do a better job with mask enforcement if they wish to motivate and convince riders that rail transportation is safe to use. The Commuter Council continues to make that request however nothing seems to change.” noted Jim Gildea, chairman of the state-created CT Commuter Council. Both advocates called on the Connecticut Department of Transportation to require Metro-North, the state’s vendor, to enforce the masking rules. To date, not a single citation has been issued to offenders by MTA Police, despite the rise in cases of the COVID Delta Variant.
What do Metro-North and the Merritt Parkway have in common, I mean, aside from often crawling at a snail’s pace? Well, both seem to be hotbeds of unenforced safety rules. Anybody who has driven the parkway knows that its 1930s design cannot accommodate trucks, but they are there all the time. Tom Lombardo, a fellow board member on the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, recently conducted an unscientific survey to quantify the problem. In a single hour one weekday morning he logged 212 trucks, buses and commercial vehicles traveling in both directions on the highway.
These days getting there doesn’t just mean moving yourself from point A to B, but the logistics of moving stuff from dozens of locations to your doorstep. And nobody does that better than Amazon. Want a new pair of jeans? Click once and they’re delivered the next day. Need a new printer?
The town Department of Public Works released this list of 14 Darien streets and parts of streets to be paved this summer:
The work is expected to be done between this coming Monday, July 26, and Aug. 16, weather permitting. Here’s an excerpt from the department’s news release:
Preparatory work will precede paving on all of the above roads. Dates listed above include milling and paving. Road surfaces will have raised structures during these dates.
Despite promises to keep their passengers safe during the pandemic, data from Metro-North Police shows that not a single citation was issued to violators of the facemask rule on the commuter railroad in the last nine months. — an announcement from The Commuter Action Group
“Kudos to CTExaminer.com reporter Brendan Crowley for his FOI request for this
data, filed in late May,” said Jim Cameron of The Commuter Action Group. “As an advocate for riders’ interest I’ve heard almost daily reports of unmasked riders on trains… reported details to the railroad and seen no action taken. This data confirms their ‘safety measures’ were a sham.”
As the CTExaminer reported today:
Transit workers have issued 38 summons for refusing to wear a mask on
public transit since MTA instituted fines on Sept. 14, 2020 — that number
includes riders on New York City subways and buses, and the Long Island
Railroad Since the beginning of 2020, MTA reported that it had issued 772
citations on Metro-North trains, but none for failing to wear masks.
In 1955 a New Haven Railroad commuter train could run non-stop for the 36-mile distance from Stamford to Grand Central in 48 minutes. Today that Stamford-to-NYC run takes 59 minutes at best, despite Governor Lamont’s long-promised dream of a 30-minute trip time. But now there’s a new effort to speed up the New Haven line: CDOT’s ambitious “Time for CT” $8-to-10-billion plan. It promises 10-minute faster running times from New Haven to New York City by next year and a 25-minute quicker run by 2035. While some dream of a new high speed rail system running from Washington to Boston at 200+ mph speeds, CDOT and Metro-North are taking, in my view, a much more realistic approach to fixing our existing system.
Metro-North Railroad is welcoming you back with a “Summer Saturdays” program:
Between Saturday, July 3 and Saturday, Aug. 28, Metro-North will honor all monthly tickets for travel to and from all Metro-North stations, regardless of what stations are printed on the ticket. Monthly ticketholders traveling on these Saturdays will be able to bring up to four additional travelers with them for only $1 per person each way. This means a Metro-North customer whose monthly ticket is only valid between Grand Central Terminal and Yonkers could ride as far away as Poughkeepsie, Brewster or New Haven. — an announcement from Metro-North
“Bring your friends and family, hop on board and spend your summer with Metro-North,” said Metro-North President Cathy Rinaldi.
The summer travel season is starting with a vengeance. After a year of quarantining, we’re all anxious to get back on the road again. But where to go? And what can you expect when you get there? A recent mid-week mini-vacation to the Berkshires taught our family some important lessons.
Planning an early getaway on Friday, May 28 for the long weekend? Metro-North will operate a regular weekday schedule on Friday, but we are increasing capacity by adding train cars — so your weekend starts when you want it to. — an announcement from Metro-North
If you’re returning on Monday, May 31, we are running regular weekend service that day (not that anyone wants to think about the weekend ending yet). Wondering when to go and return? Check the schedule.
Metro-North Plays With COVID-19 Disinfecting But Won’t Enforce Mask Rules: Cameron on Transportation
Is it safe to get back on the train to New York? Casey (not her real name) thought so when, a couple of weekends back, she wanted to see some millennial friends in Manhattan for brunch. But boarding the Saturday morning train she immediately started to worry and texted me. The train was jammed, she said. Very few empty seats.
How would you like a plan to remove thousands of trucks from Connecticut
highways, clean up the air and create new jobs? Who wouldn’t? It’s a win-win-win plan that you’d expect Governor Lamont to
embrace, especially in this time of TCI (the Transportation Climate Initiative). The solution? Invest in our state’s freight railroads.
Hurrah! It’s finally “infrastructure week” in Washington. In his first 100 days as President, Joe Biden has delivered a plan that his predecessor just kept teasing us with for four years: a complete rehabilitation and expansion of the nation’s infrastructure. Of course, Biden’s “American Jobs Act” goes way beyond just rebuilding roads, bridges and rails. It also covers our water supply, electrical grid, internet, sea and airports, our housing stock and our very jobs.