Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

On Your Next Flight, Don’t Drink the Coffee, Tea or Unbottled Water: Cameron on Transportation

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You should never drink coffee or tea prepared on an airplane: You may get very sick. That’s the bottom line, according to recent studies by Hunter College’s NYC Food Safety Center about the safety of airplanes’ water tanks, which, it turns out, can be harboring some nasty contaminants such as E. coli and coliform. Some suggest you shouldn’t even wash your hands in on-board water. Airlines are only required to flush and clean their on-board water tanks four times a year. But when they fly to exotic destinations and get serviced between flights, they take on local water, which may not meet U.S. standards.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Ferries on Long Island Sound Just Don’t Work for Commuting : Cameron on Transportation

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Just when I thought Gov. Ned Lamont was getting it together to launch a thoughtful, considered “take two” on his transportation vision, bam — along comes another nonsensical idea. It wasn’t enough that he tried to sell us on the zany, physically/fiscally impossible 30-30-30 vision of faster train speeds, now he is (literally) refloating the idea of “high-speed” ferry service from Bridgeport and Stamford to New York City. Such ferry service wouldn’t take cars off of Interstate 95. Those drivers aren’t going where the ferry does. And if they haven’t already opted for the train, why would they ever take a ferry?

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Jim Cameron Loves Reading Timetables. This Column Is More Interesting Than Doing That. — Cameron on Transportation

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I love reading timetables. Not the new ones on smartphone apps, but the old printed ones. Reading about a train or plane’s journey on paper is almost like taking the ride itself. Growing up in Canada, I was fascinated with the two major passenger railroads, the quasi-government owned “crown corporation” Canadian National Railroad (CNR) and the private Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR). Both ran transcontinental trains from Montreal and Toronto to Vancouver, a journey of 70-plus hours — if they were on time.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

You Can Catch a Ride on a Helicopter: Technology First Flown in Connecticut: Cameron on Transportation

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Have you ever flown in a helicopter? They seem such a glamorous (if expensive) way to travel, bypassing the traffic en route to the airport or sightseeing over rugged terrain. But do you know the helicopter had its first flight ever right here in Connecticut. It was the creation of Russian immigrant and inventor Igor Sikorsky, 80 years ago. Sure, Leonardo da Vinci made early drawings of a vertical flying machine, but that was in the 1480s.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

A New Acela This Way Comes — on Amtrak’s Outdated Northeast Tracks: Cameron on Transportation

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I’m a big fan of high-speed trains, which means I often ride Amtrak’s Acela to Boston or Washington. It’s the best train in North America, though it pales in comparison to true HSR (high-speed rail) in Europe or Asia. While Acela can hit a top speed of 150 mph, it does so on only 34 of the 457 miles between DC and Boston. Over the entire run, with congestion and station stops, it only averages about 70 mph. But its 20 daily runs are highly popular, especially with business travelers on expense accounts (the fares are roughly double usual coach fares).

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Beware: Commuting Is Hazardous to Your Health — Cameron on Transportation

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It shouldn’t come as much surprise to learn that commuting, especially by car, is hazardous to your health. Research now shows the longer your drive, the greater the risk of obesity, heart attacks and even low birth-weight babies for moms-to-be. At fault are a number of factors. Your Enemies
Stress

Being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels, increasing your risk of a heart attack during your drive and for an hour after. Getting angry when someone cuts you off only makes things worse.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

U-Pass Program Provides Big Traveling Discount to Public College Students in CT: Cameron on Transportation

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Imagine having an unlimited-rides pass on all public transit in Connecticut, including Metro-North. Then imagine this pass only costs $20 a year. Such is the reality of U-Pass, the transit pass given to almost 15,000 community college and state university students in Connecticut. Not only does U-Pass give them affordable access to mass transit, in some cases the pass is a life changer. “If I didn’t have U-Pass, I wouldn’t be able to go to school,” says Sabrina Morales, a 21-year-old part-time college student from Stratford.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Let’s See Some Statesmanship on CT Transportation Policy and Financing: Cameron on Transportation

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How’s your commute going?  Traffic getting worse?  Trains still running late?  As we all get back to work after the summer, commuters’ frustration level is rising as it seems nothing is being done to fix transportation. Lawmakers in Hartford couldn’t be persuaded to meet to debate tolling this summer, knowing full well the votes weren’t there, so they just kicked back.  But it seems that some on the governor’s staff were busy this summer trying to “reboot” his transportation plans.  It’s to be billed as “CT 2030”. May I be so bold as to offer a few suggestions to the Governor’s team? BE HONEST WITH US: Admit that Governor Lamont created this transportation crisis by reneging on a legislative plan to put $170 million in auto taxes into the Special Transportation Fund. By law, that didn’t violate the STF Lock Box rule but it sure did so in spirit.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Customer Service at the Stamford Station — an ‘Ambassador’ But Not Proper Signage: Cameron on Transportation

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Anthony Scasino is an ambassador, not for a foreign country, but for Metro-North. He doesn’t have a consulate or embassy, just the Stamford train station as his headquarters. Scasino is one of six Customer Service Ambassadors (CSA) who work at the railroad’s busiest stations — White Plains, Harlem, 125th Street, Fordham, New Rochelle, Croton-Harmon and Stamford. After a six-month trial, the CSA program is now permanent and may be expanded. Scasino has worked for Metro-North for six and a half years, having previously been a ticket agent at Stamford.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

The Hardships of Pioneers — as 1929 Airline Passengers: Cameron on Transportation

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How does this sound: Fly coast-to-coast in just 48 hours for only $5,200? That was the pitch for the first commercial, transcon air service in 1929 operated by TAT, Transcontinental Air Transport, much later to become TWA. Founded by aviation pioneer Clement Melville Keys, the firm worked with Charles Lindbergh to also secure lucrative mail contracts. But these flights were a first for passengers. TAT was mocked as “take a train” because their service combined rail and air service to make it from New York to Los Angeles.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Hell Without the Brimstone on an Amtrak Train Without Air Conditioning: Cameron on Transportation

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It was the railroad trip from hell: the hottest day of the year, stuck for five hours on a sold-out Amtrak train where only half the cars had air conditioning. The ride to Washington days earlier had been uneventful, almost on time and pleasantly cool, even though I’d made the mistake of taking a Northeast Corridor train, not Acela. Its older Amfleet cars, though recently refurbished on the inside, are still 50 years old. But coming back from Washington on a torrid Sunday, by going cheap for the slower, less expensive train, I got what I paid for. Put another way, I didn’t get what I paid for.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Some of Connecticut’s Lousy Air Quality Comes from Transportation: Cameron on Transportation

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Do you know how bad Connecticut’s air quality is? According to the American Lung Association, all of our state’s counties receive a grade of “F” when it comes to the ozone. On hot summer days, the sun’s rays combine with auto, truck and power plant exhausts to create an invisible blanket of ozone over our state. When it combines with fine particulate matter, it turns into a grayish haze, making breathing difficult.

Sure, we can blame states to our west whose pollution blows our way, including those “clean coal” meccas of West Virginia and Ohio. But before we point fingers, maybe we should consider what we are doing ourselves to worsen the problem.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Fairfield County’s Transportation Gem — The Merritt Parkway: Cameron on Transportation

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Former Gov. Dannel Malloy used to joke that southwest Connecticut has two highways: “One’s a parking lot and the other’s a museum.”

He was obviously referring to Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway. I agree with his first characterization, but he’s wrong about the second. The Merritt Parkway is not a museum but a transportation gem — a unique, historic highway we should preserve and cherish. Sure, the traffic on the Merritt can be brutal, but it’s not because of its design. It’s because of the 90,000 vehicles that use it everyday.

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Scranton’s Steamtown Museum, for Kids and Train Enthusiasts: Cameron on Transportation

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Not all national historic sites are cited on mountains or historic battlefields. In nearby Scranton, Pennsylvania, there is a unique national park that celebrates a machine and its effect on this country’s history: Steamtown is all about steam-powered locomotives. When we think of fast trains today we think of sleek, electric-powered bullet trains. But in the early 1900s, the fast trains of the day were all pulled by giant steam engines, some of them weighing almost 150 tons and capable of speeds up to 125 mph. These mega machines were the jumbo jets of their day, pulling long trains over great distances, both freight and passengers.