Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

I Can’t Imagine the Cruise Ship Industry Disappearing. At Least, I Hope Not: Cameron on Transportation

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Have you ever taken a cruise? According to that industry, something like 28 million people worldwide took to the high seas last year. But that still leave 80% of Americans who have never cruised, enjoying the midnight buffets, spas and casinos at sea. Obviously, cruising has lost its allure since the megaships became epicenters of COVID-19 outbreaks, trapping passengers in their cabins for days as some ships searched for a port that would let them dock with their contagious human cargo. Even before the current pandemic cruise ships were notorious hotspots for simpler bugs like the norovirus which caused “acute gastrointestinal illness.” It’s hard to share a confined space like a ship without touching surfaces that harbor the virus.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

With Sparse Highway Traffic, Speed Pedals Get Closer to the Metal: Cameron on Transportation

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I’ll admit it: I love driving fast. I’ve even been known to drive faster than 55 mph on I-95, but who hasn’t? (And I’ve never been given a ticket). When the road’s not crawling along bumper-to-bumper at rush hour, driving the speed limit almost seems unsafe, you’re getting passed so often. A couple of years ago I had a reporter “ride along” on I-95 with a state trooper.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

How Train Conductors, Bus Drivers Cope with COVID-19 Threat: Cameron on Transportation

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“In my 30 years in the transit business I never thought I’d be asking people NOT to take the bus,” says Doug Holcomb, CEO of Greater Bridgeport Transit, the operator of 57 buses carrying 5 million passengers a year. But not this year. Like most transit agencies, GBT is asking people to stay home and to ride their buses only if it is essential. So ridership on those buses has dropped 65%. On Metro-North the ridership is down 90 to 95%.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Telecommuting Won’t Replace Train Commuting, the ‘Economic Backbone of Our State’ — McGee: Cameron on Transportation

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When it comes to transportation, Joe McGee is often the smartest guy in the room. If I want a vision of our state’s mobility future, he’s the first man I turn to. McGee served as then Gov. Lowell Weicker’s commissioner of economic development. For years I worked with him on the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council. And until recently he was the Fairfield Business Council’s vice president for public policy, specializing in the intertwined issues of transportation and economic development.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

What a Conductor’s Seen in Four Decades on Trains: Cameron on Transportation

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Did you ever wonder what it would be like to work for the railroad? That’s what Paul Holland did for 39 years, first with Amtrak, later with Conrail and finally as a conductor on Metro-North. His self-published “My Life As A Rear End” pays tribute to his time in cabooses, but it’s his commuter rail stories that kept me laughing. Like the colorful crowd from the psychiatric hospital on the Harlem line who would escape — often in their pajamas — and ride his trains, obviously unable to pay. Or the many times he was assaulted by knife-wielding thugs only to be rescued by his 6-foot-7-inch cross-dressing frequent rider “Rocky.”

Over the years, Holland collected his stories, often scribbling them on seat checks.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Do You Commute to Norwalk? Check Out Transit District’s Ride-Share Program

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You can’t beat the convenience of on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft, but wouldn’t it be great if a similar ride-sharing service was available locally and for free? We’re not talking about existing ParaTransit services for the disabled or even some Connecticut communities’ senior transport services. No, the newest “microtransit” services are much more for the masses. Such a service has met tremendous success in Norwalk, and will soon launch in Westport and several other eastern Connecticut towns. In Norwalk
The Norwalk program is called Wheels2U and is run by the Norwalk Transit District using the agency’s paratransit minibus fleet.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

The Biggest Problem With Tolls in CT Is That There’s No Support for Them: Cameron on Transportation

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Maybe the NoTollsCT folks (and the recent Hearst editorial) are right: The current toll proposal should be scrapped. Mind you, I’m still pro-tolls and have been for years, but the governor’s latest plan is so insipid and compromised as to be a waste of time. It raises too little money, doesn’t toll millions of out-of-state cars, and most importantly it seems that most people don’t want it. Nor do they trust it will be limited to trucks. I once described NoTollsCT founder Patrick Sasser as a “bully” because he threatened to oust any legislator that voted for tolls.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

A New System to Warn Planes of Air Turbulence, Preventing Injuries: Cameron on Transportation

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“Buckle up, folks. There’s some bumpy air ahead,” the pilot said on a recent flight. No need to remind me; my seat belt is always fastened, as “bumpy air” — a euphemism for air turbulence — is my worst fear in flying. It’s the whole “fear of death” thing. Intellectually, I know that modern aircraft can survive all manner of stress from changing or violent winds, but can I?

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

What Can We Do About Train Horns on the New Canaan Branch? — Cameron on Transportation

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Trains make noise, especially when they blow their horns entering stations and at grade crossings. But for folks who live near the railroad branch lines, which have dozens of such crossings, the noise is too much. Those neighbors crammed a Stamford meeting this week seeking solutions. What they got was an education — and maybe some hope. The New Canaan Branch has seven grade crossings in a two-mile stretch, each requiring (under Federal Railroad Administration safety regulations) 10 seconds of horn blasts at 110 decibels.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

CT’s Longest Rail Branch Line Has Only 1,000 Riders a Day — and Abysmal Service: Cameron on Transportation

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Remember Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian always complaining that he “gets no respect”? That’s how Waterbury line commuters (and local officials) feel. Their little branch line gets no respect. In fact, the Waterbury branch of Metro-North is the longest of three branch lines — 27 miles from the mainline (at Devon) to Waterbury. It carries about 1,000 passengers a day, the same as a single 10-car train on the main line.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

What’s Happening With Buses in This Transit Agency Is Simply Electrifying: Cameron on Transportation

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The new year will bring some big changes at Greater Bridgeport Transit: The introduction of two new, all-electric buses to the fleet. GBT runs 57 buses, 35 of them diesel-powered and 22 hybrids. The diesels get 3.2 mpg and the hybrids just 4.5 mpg, which means the busy transit agency must buy over a half-million gallons of diesel fuel a year. It’s a very busy transit agency, carrying over 5 million passengers a year (about 17,000 a day). Fares have been steady since 2010: $1.75 for 90 minutes on any route, $4 a day or $70 for a monthly pass.

Joseph Giulietti in 2015

Transportation Commissioner Giulietti on Why CT Needs Tolls: Cameron on Transportation

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State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti is about to finish his first year on the job and his plate is more than full. It’s overflowing with controversy. Last week, in part one of an exclusive, no-holds-barred interview, he spoke of his challenges in speeding up Metro-North, coping with the overbudget, behind-schedule Walk Bridge replacement and ordering new rail cars. This week, in part two of our conversation, he speaks of the biggest issue of all: Getting the Legislature to pass truck tolls to raise money to replenish the Special Transportation Fund, which pays for transportation in our state. I asked the commissioner if Gov. Ned Lamont had “bungled” this initiative by his constant flip-flopping on what to toll and where.

Merritt Parkway James Farm Road Bridge

Merrit Parkway Conservancy Supports ‘No Truck on Highway’ Warnings on GPS Apps

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The Merritt Parkway Conservancy appreciates and fully supports U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s strong initiative requesting providers of GPS navigation software to add no-truck warnings for roads where trucks are banned. For most of the last 80 years, you could drive your car on the Merritt Parkway with reasonable confidence that you were safe in a stream of other cars, protected by prominent signs at each entry point prohibiting trucks. — text from the Merritt Parkway Conservancy

And it is safe to say that 95 years ago, when Congressman Schuyler Merritt advanced his vision of separating car and truck traffic with a new route restricted to cars through his Fairfield County district he never imagined a future when artificial intelligence would invite trucks to join you in the flow, unleashing them as unguided missiles, threatening your life, limb and your surrounding environment. But that moment arrived during the past decade, and this is the problem that Senator Blumental’s positive action aims to remedy — getting trucks off the Merritt Parkway where they do not belong — by convincing the GPS service providers to fix the problem they originated and have refused to correct to date. GPS software can be programmed to prevent routing trucks to prohibited roads, and responsible carriers subscribe to such commercially available accurate systems. But most free apps loaded on smart phones—now the navigational norm and widely popular—are not.

Joseph Giuletti, Connecticut Transportation Commissioner ConnDOT square thumbhnail

CT Transportation Commissioner Says Faster Train Times Coming, Delivery Late for New M8 Rail Cars: Cameron on Transportation

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Joseph Giulietti is finishing his first year as commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. He’s been busy and less visible in recent months, so imagine my surprise when he offered me a one-on-one, no-holds-barred interview. “You’ve always been fair, Jim. You’ve hit me hard, but you’ve always been fair,” the commissioner said. That’s music to my ears, and I hope he feels the same way after reading this column.