TALKING TRANSPORTATION: Fare Hikes, Collapsing Bridges, Microtransit

By Jim Cameron

Lots of transportation related stories to catch up with, so here goes:

WATCH NEW JERSEY: Commuters in the Garden State are in for some expensive travel as NJ Transit just approved a 15% fare hike, its first in nine years. The reason? Reduced ridership, just as we have seen on Connecticut trains. The NJ Transit agency said they could either raise fares or cut service (both of which have already happened here in Connecticut).

The NJ Transit fare increase begins July 1 st , just after New York City’s new congestion pricing scheme takes effect, so Jerseyites heading to Manhattan will pay more whether by car or train.

New Haven’s Union Station

NEW HAVEN STATION: Over 1.7 million Metro-North and Amtrak passengers use New Haven’s Union station each year. And while the 100-year-old station has been restored, it still sits in a comparative wasteland of parking lots and empty land. Now the city is launching a major redevelopment plan to gentrify the station with shops, cafes and high rise mixed-use buildings nearby… true TOD (Transit Oriented Development). But be patient: they have neither the funding, the zoning revisions or specific plans at hand.

COLLAPSING BRIDGES: How disappointing to see Connecticut media regurgitating the same old stories about the sorry state of our bridges following the ship collision in Baltimore that destroyed the Key Bridge. It wasn’t old age or rusting steel that took out the Baltimore harbor bridge: it was a 985-foot container ship weighing over 100,000 tons traveling about 9 mph. Given its momentum, it’s doubtful that any protective barriers (had they been built around the base of the bridge) could have halted the vessel. Nor do ships of that size come anywhere close to Connecticut ports. So yes, some of our bridges are in need of work. But no, in our state “the ship will not hit the span.”

MICROTRANSIT: At the same time they’re cutting rail service, CDOT is funding
nine new Microtransit pilot programs: on-demand, door-to-door shared ride
services akin to an Uber. Commuters will find such rides useful for the first / last
mile problem getting to / from train stations, while seniors and those with disabilities will now be able to travel in their local communities at lower cost. The $19.5 million trial will run for two years in Ansonia, Derby, Shelton, East Windsor, Enfield, Groton, New London, Stonington, Middletown, Madison, Milford, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford and Trumbull.

Isn’t it interesting that the Governor can find money for populist projects but he refuses to adequately fund existing services like Shore Line East?

EATING CROW: My thanks to the many of you who alerted me to an error in last week’s column “Too Old to Drive?”. I was wrong when I said that Connecticut limited the duration of driver’s license renewals to two years after age 65, as in California. Not so! Older drivers can request two-year license renewals or go for the standard 6 to 8 year renewals. And they don’t have to renew in person or pass vision or dementia checks.

So, I got my facts wrong, for which I apologize.

JIM CAMERON has lived in Darien for over 30 years. He serves on the Darien RTM and is Program Director of Darien TV79. He served 19 years on the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council, four as its Chairman. In 2014 he founded a new advocacy group, The Commuter Action Group which advocates on behalf of Metro-North riders. His newspaper column “Talking Transportation” runs in several newspapers as well as Greenwich Free Press. Archives can be found at   

You can contact Jim at [email protected]